anxiety

Goodbye old friend?

Phone

 

How do I speak about you as your twilight approaches

The way you fit so smoothly

in the palm of my hand

So many times I’ve held you

My fingers caressing your surface

A reassuring presence in so many ways.

Have my eyes dwelt on your radiant face

More often than on the sweet heads of my children?

I hope not, but I fear

You’ve been with me, so near

In almost every moment these past five years.

Have my fingers moved across your surface

More than they’ve trailed over my husband’s body?

Undoubtedly. How unfortunate.

So how do I say goodbye

To one who’s been so intimate

So close

And yet, also, tethered me to tough times

a symptom? or a cause?

when the wet rope of anxiety

wraps round my wrist

cutting, painful, trapped

dragging down, suffocating

in your glowing depths.

But you were a beacon

on those long, long newborn nights

A conduit of joy

upset, rage and the mundane

So many Moments: captured!

A modicum of comfort in exhaustion and despair

A window to the world, it sounds so trite!

Friends spoke, smiled and sobbed through you

And now, my most ardent hope

Is that your stuttering, failing light

Doesn’t flicker out before I fickle find

Your replacement

(A new galaxy awaits!)

It seems absurd to eulogise a machine

But, my smug little Smarty

Mirror of a thousand selfies

You’ve been with me through such a time

It feels silly-sad to lay you to rest

without some remark

before you go to gather dust in a drawer

is it fitting to bid you

Goodbye old friend?

 

To the mom who blahblahblah

 

20150625_123559 (2)

There’s three different parenting no-nos in this picture alone

I am so bored of mum blogs and clickbait parenting articles telling me what to do, what not to do, 5 things to avoid and why I’m not coping (but here’s how). Yeah right. And the snarky comments. But if you can’t beat em, join em, so here’s my snarky response…

To the mum who said she liked the blog about not judging others then went on to say “except I just get so upset when I see mums like the one I saw today who did xyz” you are an idiot

To the mom who asked about changing her surname and mentioned in a longwinded story that one minor reason was a guy at work who’d asked if she was One of Those Feminists but she explained to him “no and oh how we laughed” you suck – aren’t we all “those” kind of feminists? The kind who believe in equality for women?

To the parents who post up that story about secondary drowning at the start of each summer. Stop it

To the dad who links to the latest pseudoscience story pertaining to something you should or shouldn’t do because it could KILL YOUR BABY or at the very least CAUSE IRREPARABLE DAMAGE even though you no longer have a baby but, like, a 4 year old. You’re just scaring people

In fact, to all the folks who link to stuff that’s supposedly “helpful” but is just some horrible scare story that makes the rest of us feel terrified and/or inadequate: please think before you click share. Please. Just for a moment. We’re not idiots, we could find this stuff online if we wanted to. Who are you helping?

To the people who crap on about how dangerous Cry-it-out is: Are you honestly suggesting that any of your peers would be doing this unless they felt like they really, really, really had to? Do you genuinely think their middle-class children with well-educated parents will end up like those Romanian orphans? OK then, shut up.

To the humans who post all that kind of stuff – who are you hoping will read it? Surely you and all your mates, just by dint of the the fact you’re articulate and social-media savvy enough and you care enough to be reading parenting articles at all, means you’re probably not doing The Thing, or are all too aware of why you are doing The Thing.

Even if all these supposed People Who Are Willfully Doing The Thing exist, they would never read the article you just put up anyway.

I hate this kid-in-danger-from-its-terrible-parents porn that seems to do the rounds. It’s a sick sort of thrill to read this stuff and think Oh My Gosh, these PARENTS! What are they doing?! Thank god that’s not me or anyone I know. In that case, why post it? If you honestly thought a friend or acquaintance was doing this shit, either confront them personally or button it.

IT’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS HOW ANYONE ELSE IS RAISING THEIR KIDS. BUTT OUT. Unless genuine harm or abuse is going on, in which case you should report it. Yep.

My advice (is it completely hypocritical to offer advice after all this? ha): Do what you feel is right for you, your family and your kid/s (probably  in that order). Follow the stuff you like, ignore everything else. If you don’t know what “feels” right, well… you do.

(This is not to say never share any of those parenting articles. I actually like a lot of them, particularly the gentle parenting stuff. And I find some of the advice useful. But all the scaremonger, don’t do this, do that, IRREPARABLE DAMAGE stuff and the passive-aggressive BS comments such as “oh it’s just her kids I worry about” can fuck off).

 

I wrote the above in a fit of pique earlier this week and had been debating whether to publish it when a similar post from my fave mummy blogger arrived in my inbox. Her piece, When did we start trusting experts over our own eyeballs comes across as much less nasty than mine! Which, in turn made me start questioning why I was so angry. Simple answer: fear. These stories about the myriad, unthought-of ways in which I may damage or even kill my kids scares the shit out of me.

Like everyone, I’m far from being the world’s most perfect parent (although I’d like to think I come close to being the perfect parent for my own children) and it’s so easy to focus on all the stuff you’re not doing, rather than thinking about the stuff you are. And, I guess, we have to be ever-vigilant. (Do we? I dunno. Maybe we should just relax and trust our own common sense?). Anyway, I’m about to start babyproofing my house because Baby S is getting increasingly wriggly, and when I start reading safety articles online, well they’re just full of things I haven’t done (and kind of can’t be bothered with) and a whole host of new dangers I hadn’t even considered. Gah! But I managed to steer one child through early childhood without any major mishaps, so… yeah.

I also realise that my reaction to people posting “aggressively helpful” articles is really my problem, not theirs. What one mum sees as “raising awareness” another mum sees as unnecessary scaremongering. So I’m wondering how I can address my attitude to that. I think taking a Facebook holiday when I’m feeling my anxiety rise is probably a good idea. But that would result in an increase to my FOMO anxiety! Once again, life’s tough in the first world.

 

 

Beer and Anxiety

Rhinefelder Beerhalle

I got out of the house on Sunday and went into central Zurich. Hooray! It’s so hard to strike the balance of staying home and resting, and not going stir crazy with cabin fever. It’s been snowing a lot too, which makes going out less attractive. But sometimes you gotta GO!

Anyway, I found a good solution in the form of a trip into Zurich’s old town (Niederdorf) in the snow to eat Cordon Bleu crumbed pork with ham and cheese in the middle) and drink Weissbeer. Did this calm my body or soothe my mind? A bit of both, and well worth it. We went to the Rheinfelder Beerhalle – very old school (we were the youngest people there by a few decades, well, baby S certainly was!) Then we wandered around the cobblestone streets for a bit. None of the shops were open because: Sunday. But it’s actually quite nice to take shopping out of the equation, on occasion.

It’s been good to explore a few more restaurants and cafes with my parents in town. They seem surprised I haven’t been to more local places but who do I have to go with? I’m not much of a one for solo cafe exploration… will that affect my novel writing? I hope not! 🙂

The first two weeks with baby S were just bliss. I felt amazing – so happy and content. I wish I could feel that way always. Why can’t I? Unfortunately anxiety has crept in. I remember this “newborn anxiety” all too well from when P was small – a breathless sort of stressy feeling like I need to get lots of things done quickly before… what? He wakes up? But so what if he does?

I don’t quite know what causes this nasty anxiety, but lately, I’ve been thinking about the Two Factor Theory of Emotion, as you do. I might not be completely undertstanding it correctly but, as I read it, it’s about how sometimes if you experience the physical symptoms of a certain emotion, you feel that emotion mentally. Even though you might not actually be “feeling” that emotion.

So – breastfeeding and early weeks with a new baby. Physically I’m tired, which always makes me cry easily. My chest hurts and my back and shoulders are stiff, which makes me feel kind of stooped and vulnerable. I’m sweaty (a common postpartum thing) and the waterworks are still a bit dodgy (it takes at least six weeks to fully heal –  Sorry if TMI!) And I’m anxious as hell.

But I wonder which came first? Because all these physical manifestations are also symptoms of anxiety. Eg: when you’re anxious, you’re sweaty, stooped and need to wee. Is my brain taking cues from my body or the other way around? Maybe I’m not actually anxious at all, it just feels that way in my body, so my brain is reacting to it!

Or maybe I have a 3-week-old baby and I’m trying to do too much: housework, spending time with a toddler and attempting to crack breastfeeding with a hangover of failure the first time around (bfing is much harder than all the literature says – most things you read seem to say a few days and “no pain”. But when you talk to people in real life it seems as though everyone has issues. Pain can last for more like weeks or even several months, there’s problems with oversupply, undersupply, letdown and engorgement – so many women have these issues that I’m surprised the prevailing attitude seems to be that bfing is no problem. Maybe it’s just that once it goes right, people forget?).

So anyway, perhaps I’m faking myself into anxiety by being a puddle of postpartum and bfing mess. Or perhaps I am just freaking out with a 3-week old. (For the record, I mentioned this physical anxiety theory to my Hebamme/midwife and she said: nah you’re a mass of hormones now and you need more REST!) Either way, the answer is beer. Cheers!

 

Dark thoughts

Hokusai: The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Source: http://blackburnmuseum.org.uk

Depression is like dark water seeping into the crevices of my brain. It drips into the small cracks and faultlines, widening and deepening them through a process of erosion. I shake it out and think I’m free for a moment, an hour, a day, but the liquid is just taking its time to settle elsewhere, sometimes almost without my noticing. It always finds the lowest point. Oh you’re here now?

It can be an evil sea, a cruelly happy tide rushing into a familiar harbour, finding those same rocks and outcrops to smash against like welcoming arms. Wearing them a little lower, a little smoother, offering less resistance.

The waves crash and buffet old and new defences. Some sea walls have crumbled with age and a lack of use, thinking they were no longer required. The viscous, vicious tide smacks into them, immediately finding holes, flowing right through to whet old fears and replenish ancient anxieties.

There are some barriers more recently constructed that I thought were strong. But the dark water finds chinks or merely surges up and over. I should have made them higher, better, stronger. I was an arrogant fool to build them at all.

Some shores it hits are bad habits. It almost feels like a relief to bathe in them once again, to have the bubbling tide race over and across them, caressing them, reinvigorating. The comfort of familiarity, even if in its wrongness. I know this, I have experienced it before, let me just enjoy it for a while before I have to stop again…

A king tide comes, deceitful in its slow buildup. Those gentle waves, at first almost a reassurance – I expected this – suddenly become overwhelming. I’m trapped by the water, I can barely see back to land. My boat is so old, it’s an effort to even think about sailing it. And I’m sure it leaks. I consider swimming but the water: I’m afraid of it. Afraid of its violence, its killing cold, the unfathomable menacing power (which also fascinates). I’m afraid of the effort. I’m scared of drowning. I don’t want to start swimming unless I can be sure I’ll succeed. And what if the tide is still rising?

It’s a trickster, a manipulator, an arch procrastinator. Endless distractions, a monkey splashing in the shallows. It doesn’t want me to sit still, it doesn’t want to be solved. Moments of beauty, boredom, terror, interest, never the main game. Or is it? What is that sunny green field so far yonder but a Fool’s Paradise? Surely the Real World lies in the intelligent complexities, the excitement and the drama of my dark waves? See the truth! The water of life! The drowning stuff! It erodes while it builds, weeping the rocks away to form the stalactites and stalagmites of new structures. Oh it’s clever.

Then when it has gone: how absurd! There was no oily liquid darkness here. What pretty rocks the receding tide exposes, the few small, inky pools left behind just provide important contrast… no lessons? Just a new stretch of terrain to explore.