The pause button

I was feeling pretty damn good after my success earlier this week in managing my symptoms and focusing on doing the things that I know are good for me.

Fast forward a few days, and that success seems like ages ago.

Ugh.

Tonight was pretty shitty and I felt out of control with my family – my kids in particular.  I sometimes feel like my current life is exactly what you would not recommend for someone battling my mental health struggles.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m blessed with a wonderful, supportive husband, and three very good kids.  Honestly, truly, great kids.  But…they’re kids.  And they peck at me. And peck, and peck, and peck. 

This afternoon I was feeling anxious – lots to do including preparations for my daughter’s 7th birthday party on Saturday.  (Birthday parties for the kids are a big trigger for me with my childhood emotional Stuff, but that’s for another post.)  So I’m busy, and feeling distracted, and suddenly there are three kids who all need me at the same time.  I need to have a conversation with my older daughter about her apparent lack of focus at school lately.  Her sister needs me to give her a practice spelling test, and oh by the way, she can’t find the paper she needs for that.  And then there’s the youngest, a 4 year old boy, who wants me to read a book and see his army men and geez we really need to work on getting him to stop sucking his thumb.

In the middle of all of this, I start to feel suffocated.  And really kind of panicky, like I’m no longer fully in control of my reactions to them.  My one attempt to reel myself in was to sit on the bathroom floor and try one of my new whizbang meditation apps.  Okay, I’m feeling better, maybe a smidge more grounded…but then I head out into the tornado of life again and my little meditative reset button doesn’t stand a chance.

Eventually it got to the point where I knew I was completely overreacting to the kids but I didn’t know how to stop it.  And I just wanted them to go away – in part to reduce the overall mayhem in my head, but even more so that they would be protected from me and my unreasonable reactions to their normal kid stuff.

And then I start to fall apart, and they sense it, and they wonder what’s wrong with Mommy.  They ask me what’s wrong with Mommy and I don’t know what to tell them.  That I’m overwhelmed?  That I have a lot on my mind?  That I’m having a hard time dealing with all of the demands for my attention?  None of these answers seems even remotely adequate.

I wish that I could be better for them.  I wish that I could take the lessons I learned earlier this week and apply them to the tornado that happened to me today.  I wish that I could have stopped it before it got out of control.  I knew that I needed a break, and in an ideal world, I would have pressed the pause button on Life so that I could exercise, or meditate again, or do something else magical that would push away the anxiety.  But how can I do those things when there are kids to be taken care of, and dinner to be made, and the regular duties of Life to be handled?

In these moments of reflection it seems as if my anxiety and my depression could only truly be managed in a bubble.  Maybe it’s just that I’m such a newbie at developing the tools I need, that I can’t find them and operate them and have them work in the middle of a tornado.  I hope that I can become more skilled at using those tools…because there is no pause button for Life, and I don’t want to keep having nights like tonight.  My family deserves so much more.

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4 thoughts on “The pause button

  1. Oh, that sounds really stressful, big hugs for you. But realising what's going on in the middle of it and trying to take action to avoid it is a great first step towards dealing with it better (rather than having no awareness at all because you're so caught up in it and next thing you know you're having a melt down) so try not to beat yourself up too much about your reaction, these things take practice.

    A friend of mine had twin babies when her first child was a toddler. I remember her telling me that her strategy when they were both being demanding was to change scenery. Go out, go in the garden, put them in the pushchair (stationary in the house) for 10 mins, change rooms, do the most you can at that time to make it different as a change of scene often “reset”s them.

    Sometimes this works for me. I'm trying to cook tea and sort out the laundry and the kids are acting up and it's all setting off. Strategies that have worked are: Give the children chalk/bubbles and send them into the garden, task the older one who can read with reading 5 pages of a book (knowing that once into it he wont be able to resist reading more), rejig my own tasks – abandon anything that will wait for later, change what I'm cooking to something simpler, text my husband and tell him he needs to pick up a takeaway on the way home, sit down on the floor and play a game with them and abandon all thoughts of getting anything done until I have a second adult around. Nothing works everytime and some options aren't always appropriate. Getting ready for school is always a stressful time in our house and cannot be put off to later but sometimes I manage to step out of getting stressed mode and do something unexpected, like sing my request to clean teeth etc, or tell them that once they have their shoes on they get to tell me what I need to do.

    Woah, I wanted to express sympathy and I seem to have written an essay full of advice, sorry! Good luck with the birthday party preps and keeping it all in perspective (extra kids + cake and candles = birthday party, the rest is fluff).

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  2. No apologies necessary! Thanks so much for all the suggestions and thoughts. It seems like maybe I need a set of strategies for how to deal with the kids when I'm in this mode and a full escape isn't possible. I'm going to have quite the full toolbox with all of the tools for managing this, and tools for managing that… 🙂

    I also think that your chaos sounds so much more civilized when you're trying to “cook tea”. We don't do tea here but it sounds so lovely! 🙂

    Love your summary of kids' parties, too. So true and thinking of it helped me with perspective yesterday – thank you for that!

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