Some days I cope ok, or I tell myself I do. But then there are the days that I don't. And those days actually stretch past a day, into multiple days and I think that's what you'd call a slump. Anything can trigger a slump. For me it's been a comment someone's made, normally someone who doesn't know me well and asks if I'm having another child or if I have "just the one". It could be a song, or hearing other people's pregnancy news. Or passing a milestone, like an event we'd planned to have our baby with us at. And then there's the unforeseen triggers, things that I have no idea why they set me off - I get so angry so quickly at stupid things and then I hate myself for it.
Since agreeing to see a psychologist earlier this year I've been learning about what the impact of my physical journey has had on my mental health. Specifically, my central nervous system. As I understand it, your body has this memory of trauma, so you may not even be aware that your brain is trying to protect you from potentially harmful situations. Hence the panic attack when I had a gastrosocopy. I've learnt that my "down days" are actually my body trying to recover from what I'm told is a "cluster of traumas", to get back into a restorative mode. It's understandable to think that just getting through a normal day is overwhelming at times. I know that I'm not depressed - I'm only just above the "warning" level - definitely not warranting medication. I still find joy in my son for instance. I can occasionally laugh. I can enjoy a good meal, a sunny day.
The biggest concern, however, is my body's stress response. I'm "off the charts" for that one. Things that previously wouldn't have phased me now provoke a physical stress response - a tightening in my chest, a lump in my stomach, breathlessness, extreme anger and frustration. At the moment I'm trying to understand how to recover from this. How to "retrain my neural pathways" to think positive thoughts in stressful situations, to visualise positive responses to things. It's definitely not a quick recovery. Like the rest of our bodies, the brain is a muscle that needs to be worked. The rest of my body lost muscle, tone and conditioning through my extended period in bed last year. Similarly my brain lost control of my emotions. My subconscious took over in regards to protecting me from another traumatic situation. So I need to think of my brain as another muscle to exercise - add it to my daily to do list. Getting over a trauma - a loss of someone close to you, an accident, even a break-up can take much much longer than anybody anticipates because the brain is designed to protect us - fight or flight, right?
Our society prides itself on pushing ourselves - who works the most hours, has the most stress, can fit the most into their schedule. We're a culture of copers. But why? Why are we doing this and what effect is it having on our mental health? I'm learning that I need to start putting myself first. Stop saying yes for a change, work on "refilling my tank". It's another part of my journey, the part I didn't anticipate. Feeling physical anxiety and stress is something I've never had to deal with before and now it engulfs my life, my mental recovery is this elephant in the room, it's living in with us and we didn't invite it to stay. It shapes all the interactions between us as a couple, it dictates how I react to situations with my son, how I respond to requests from friends & family. But the biggest thing I'm learning is that it's okay. It makes sense that my mental state is tied to the awful physical recovery I've had and continue to have. It's normal to feel this way, we just don't often talk about it or have the ability to deal with it. Grief and trauma happens to all of us, but how we recover from it and move on with our lives is what matters.
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We are a family of 3. This blog is the story of how we almost became 4, why we didn’t, and what we are doing to recover from that experience.