REAL STORIES | It’s the most unbearable time of the year….
First and foremost, I’m writing this not because I want pity, but because I know I’m far from alone at this time of year.
Since being diagnosed with postnatal depression, which manifested itself into on-going depression and anxiety instead of fading away as it does for most, the festive season is one of extreme highs and lows for me.
Apparently I fit into the “decreasing depression” subgroup – my symptoms have improved but have never resolved completely. I’ve always had an anxious nature. I put it largely down to my childhood – my parents divorcing which brought with it all kinds of drama but that’s another story. I describe myself as anxiously confident. To the outside world I’m Lyndsey -the joker, the life and soul of the party. The first to grab the microphone, to jump on the podium, to host the party, to get on the table and dance. But there are always situations in which I feel completely out of my comfort zone.
I’ve learnt to deal with my anxiety quite well in the last 12 months. Starting my own business has had a huge impact on my confidence in situations that, beforehand I wouldn’t have dealt with quite so well. And a little anxiety isn’t all that bad. It fuels me.
The anxious OCD lunatic in me wants everything to be perfect at Christmas. I bask in the glory of a perfectly trimmed tree. I host several festive events at ‘Thomas Towers’ as we affectionately call our house and home. Christmas tree-decoration crafting, cheese and wine nights, Christmas Karaoke nights, ‘oh-let’s-just-all-pile-back- to-ours-after’ nights. Quite a few of those actually.
I plan Christmas with precision. I insist on hosting the lot so I have full control over everything from the food and the table decorations to the music and the order in which the presents are opened on Christmas morning. I’m a Christmas control freak fuelled by anxiety and OCD. The same applies to my Children’s birthdays, Halloween, and any other occasion.
On its own, this silly side of me is just about bearable. It’s quite comical really. My husband thinks I’m crazy. I get the pre-Christmas pep-talk – “calm down”. “Don’t go over the top Lynz”. “Chill out” bla bla bla. My husband’s pet name for me is the Red Setter.
All whilst I’m up to my ears in making gingerbread houses with my children, choosing the perfect gifts, making homemade crackers, baking homemade mince pies, Christmas puddings and so on. Short of brewing my own beer and growing my own Christmas tree, everything at Thomas Towers over Christmas is home-made where it can be. I’m sucker for nostalgia.
Depression is another story. However wonderfully nostalgic, festive and perfect the run up to Christmas day feels, there is still a black cloud that hovers over my head. I know I’m drinking far too much which is never a great combination when you are on meds for the illness. I’m eating too much food, spending too much money, and ultimately when the presents are unwrapped and the Christmas dinner has been eaten I’m going to crash.
I know that on Boxing Day, when I wake up with yet another Christmas drinking-induced hangover, this one isn’t going to be so easy to work through. I know the guilt will kick in – I’ve eaten too much, I’ve drank too much booze, I’ve spent too much, I hate myself… and the black cloud will hover over my head well into the New Year.
I struggle without routine. At Christmas every single element of routine in my life is thrown out of the window. My cleaner skips a session. My children are at home when usually they are in childcare / at school. I can’t throw myself into my work because I’ve promised my husband that I’ll put it to one side. Just for a week. But that week after Christmas, through to 1st Jan, is a huge struggle for me.
I struggle to get out of bed. I struggle to get out of my PJs. I put my kids in front of the TV and I look at the mess around me. Toys everywhere, a fridge full of crap, tatty Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling, a wilting Christmas tree, a floor that needs hovering, washing to be done, a dishwasher to empty… and that black cloud is tangible.
I try to push it away; build up some sort of positivity and energy to get off my arse and clear the toys up, put the washing on, dress my kids and get them away from the TV and out into the fresh air. And I do. But it’s a struggle. And inevitably there’s cross words between the hubby and me because I’m a ‘miserable cow’ and need to pull myself together.
Oh of course many of my friends will be bewildered at this post. All my social media posts suggest that my life is perfect. I have two beautiful children, and wonderful husband, an amazing house. Every day I post picture-perfect images of me and my brood doing something wonderful together. This is my way of dealing with my demons. And I have plenty of them.
Those that really know me know that I struggle. You know who you are, and you, along with my husband and my children are the ones who I focus on when I’m in the shower, not wanting to get out and face the day.
This morning I dragged myself out of bed. I can’t say it was easy. It wasn’t. A lot of me wanted to stay curled up in my duvet all day like I did most of yesterday when my husband took my children out to the park for fresh air. I certainly didn’t want to paint my face, do my hair and face the outside world. But I did. We headed to Yorkshire Sculpture Park over in Wakefield.
There are a few activities that really help me channel my depression positively. Walking and photography are two of them. Today I found my sanctuary at Yorkshire Sculpture Park – the pictures in the gallery above say it all.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a very very special spirit-lifting place. The views, the calmness, the lake, the open space and scenery and the sculptures have really has an impact on my mental state today. I’m feeling in a much better place.
If you, like me, struggle a little at this time of year, try and get outside – somewhere wild and open. It really is the best tonic. Aside from a Gin and Tonic.
So glad I took my Nikon today.
Happy New Year
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I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressured than ever in more ways than one.
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