Mental Illness

We were in for a big Christmas this year, 13 people in total. Some of whom I hadn't yet met. I was given months worth of warning to prepare myself and I did all of the regular things to avoid an overwhelming rush of anxiety come D Day. The plan was that we were headed to a Xmas Eve party with family, which is an hours drive from our house, then to stay in a hotel the night, then to arrive back in the morning for present opening and Xmas lunch.

Fast forward a few years from my first brush with depression and it seemed like I had picked up the pieces and re-stacked them nicely. From the outside, all appeared well. Now a single Mum to my 7-year old I had purchased my second property which was a beautiful and spacious 5-year-old home in a semi-rural location. I had a high paying management role in a career that I had been steadily growing through over the past decade. I was travelling a lot for work, both nationally and internationally which I enjoyed but as a parent, it wasn't ideal to be working such crazy hours. The commute through Auckland from home to school, to my office, was a 1.5-hour journey, each way. The stress piled on and again I started to indulge in a little too much wine in the evening to "relax". It was less a relaxation and more a band-aid for the inner turmoil and desperation I was feeling.

My first depression diagnoses, post-natal depression to be specific, was in 2009. I think depression was present in my life prior to this, but this was the first time that I had the "label" and could start to think about what that meant. At the time I was struggling. I struggled with pregnancy, I struggled giving birth, I struggled to recover from birth and I really struggled with a newborn. Sadly, I was not graced with the maternal instinct that it seemed to me, everyone else naturally had. My instincts pushed me to learn everything I needed to know, to cover the basics, but I always felt like I was failing and not doing things well enough. I had a lot of guilt about not really knowing what to do as a Mother. I had a lot of peoples' opinions, often differing opinions, flying at me constantly which added to my stress. I found my self-doubt often creeping in and it was hard for me to work out what was right or wrong and I ended up second-guessing my every decision which caused a lot of confusion and conflicted feelings in my mind. My confidence was near zero. Unless of course, it came to things I was passionately decided about like safety and health. I would not budge when it came to "safety first", no matter what type of pressure other people would put on me to "go with the flow" if I thought there was an element of danger, I wasn't having a bar of it. I was also always very staunch in my views around healthy foods, nothing processed or high in sugar was the way I wanted my little girl to start off life, and develop healthy habits. This wasn't met with approval by all, but I made my views very clear and this made me feel a little in control.

I have suffered from anxiety all my life. I had no idea what it was for the first 27-ish years. I thought it was just the way everyone felt all the time. I think it started as social anxiety when I was younger and grew to higher-level anxiety with age and different life experiences—steadily growing with each perceived danger that cropped up. I notice the pattern now, and it seems to come and go, sometimes from triggers but often appearing for no good reason at all. Like a giant zit on your face; it appears all of a sudden, causes havoc and then goes away again.

Being out of control is the thought that makes me sick to my stomach. I'm quite aware that I have no actual control over anything. Yet I still make it my mission every single day to play pretend and try as hard as possible to micromanage every last happening in the vain hope that I may sway the outcome of all daily interactions and keep myself comfortable. Comfortable and more importantly, safe.