I’ve mentioned before that I’m lucky enough to have a very supportive counsellor who knows me well, has supported me, and at times half carried half dragged me, through more than one crisis this last few years. We spoke recently about my first session, about what I was like then. My memory of it is hazy, other than that there was a lot of crying and anger on my part, and the room we were in seemed ENORMOUS. In my mind, we were sitting about 20 feet apart. Turns out there was no more than 5 feet between us, and the room was in fact smaller than the room we work in now. Interesting the way the mind can distort memories.
Anyway, she asked me to think about what the person I am today would say to the person I was then. That’s a tricky one, partly because I find it quite hard to think of how I was then, I don’t like how it makes me feel. I was desperately trying to keep it together. I wanted, in fact I needed, to be perfect, to be the absolute best in every aspect of my life. The best mother, the best wife, the best employee, have a beautifully clean house, be happy all the time………..guess what? In trying so hard none of those things were working out. I was killing myself with guilt all the time. At work I felt guilty because I should be at home, at home I thought about work. I wasn’t able to relax with my son (we just had D at the time) because I was too busy thinking about what else I should be doing. I was frustrated by how much he needed me and felt incredibly trapped and angry. I found it impossible to relax, and was so wound up all the time that I was constantly tired. Anxiety is a huge drain on energy! I would snap at Hubby for nothing, and despite being unable to make time for myself (again, down to guilt – what class of a mother wants time to herself??!), deeply resented every second he took, which was so incredibly unfair. I was desperately lonely, I hadn’t yet met many of the lovely people I now know, and wasn’t aware that I was also very depressed. To conclude, I was not happy, and in my head it was all my own fault.
So, what would I say to that person if I met her today? Slow down. It’s ok to want and need time to yourself. Feck the housework, it’ll just get dirty again. Try not to be so invested in work. Hug that wonderful man of yours, let him know how much you love him! Know that although things are hard now, it won’t always be like this. It won’t always be easy either, but beating yourself up never helps. Mostly I think me now would give me then a huge hug, and recognise how hard things were. More than anything, I think I wanted someone to see just how much I was struggling and make it better, but I couldn’t let it show, and I didn’t know how to look after myself. I desperately wanted to be looked after, I felt like I was drowning. The big difference now? I’ve realised that it’s ok to look after myself. More than that, it’s necessary. If I don’t look after myself, I’m no good to anyone else. There are still too many days when I forget, when guilt or stress or depression or a multitude of other things will take priority. But I’m starting to recognise the signs of when I’ve been neglecting myself, and that’s progress that I’m very happy with. All I have to do now is keep working on it!!