2011 was an extremely difficult year for me. In December of 2010, days before Christmas, I moved my family from Hobart to Launceston. The move was in order to take up a new teaching position, which I knew would be an exciting path to take. However, it had its negatives. I was 5 months pregnant with my second child. My husband had to quit his part time cleaning job. My home business client base was almost entirely in Hobart. My company support was in Hobart. My mothers group was in Hobart and most importantly my best friend was in Hobart.
In the first few months I felt under pressure (from myself) to build my business in Launceston, to maintain and strengthen my business in Hobart. Keep up my contact with friends and supports groups in Hobart as well as establishing new ones in Launceston. I had to find access to midwife programs, new GPs, new child health clinics. And I had to do all of this whilst teaching full time in a new school, waddling around after my 2yo and financially supporting my husband who instead of finding work returned to full time Uni. I was panicked by the fact that I had to push out my maternity leave as much as possible to stay financial, so I worked under a medical certificate for an extra month.
I stopped work at Easter and I gave birth on the 29th of April to a beautiful baby boy. I went home the next day just over 24hours after the birth and a week later I was taking on both kids so that my husband was freed up to study. It was my choice but I felt the pressure.
Three months later I returned to work for the start of the final term and grieved for the fact that my baby had to go into daycare 2 days a week (I took a full 12 months off with my first child). I was fortunate enough to be able to continue nursing him during the day, either by driving down to the centre in my lunch break or having my husband come in with both kids to my workplace. Thankfully my work was flexible and accepting.
I hadn’t worked my home business for the 3 months directly following the birth of my son but was suffering from the guilt of its neglect. Yet again, I attempted to launch my business in my new home city and reconnect with existing clients, and I have had some success but of course not to the extent that I’d like. So all at the same time I returned to full time teaching, restarted working my home business and began the grieving process for the loss of time with my baby.
In itself the process was not un-doable, nor, I am sure, am I the first but of course it is never that simple. Prior to even giving birth I was dealing with an intense sense of isolation, that I had no friends, no support. That I was alone. Of course I wasn’t but it’s hard to reach out. No one ever realises what you’re going through unless you paint a lurid picture and then they just think you are exaggerating. Ever aware of not wanting to seem, overly dramatic, needy, whiny, or ungrateful, I didn’t bring up what was going on with anyone. Sure the occasional bitch here and there about specific incidents but what I really wanted to do all year was just unload. Thankfully I was so flat out before the birth that I was almost too busy to know what was going on with me emotionally. Unfortunately, directly after the birth I was still busy but had a lot more time (and a lot less sleep). I very quickly spiralled into a deep depression. Miserable, detached, in a state of feeling surreal all the time. When people dropped by it was show time! Oh everything was all peaches and cream. Let’s face it, no one wants to drop by for a baby visit and be confronted with a sobbing mess, it’s just a little awkward.
The pressure never let up and as it got closer to the time that I had to return to work my anxiety levels and sense of guilt spiked. Although I went into show time mode, it only got me through the hours of 8.30am-4pm week days. As I tried to pull it together, the guilt piled on. I was keenly aware that I wasn’t being the best mum and up there with the worst wives. Finally the term ended, Christmas hit and then the year was over.
I’d love to say: “And then I was better.” I cannot. I still feel intensely isolated and lonely. I still feel like I’m doing this the hard way on my own, and I still feel that I’m falling woefully short of what I should be achieving for myself, for my teaching, for my home business and most importantly for my family.
I am a new me though. I’m still here. I haven’t walked in front of traffic, as I contemplated so many times. I am making progress to be a better mum. I made my daughter an amazing castle cake for her third birthday. And through carefully purchases, cleaning, and rearranging, the house is starting to feel like a nice home (no more boxes and pile of clothes in dark corners!).
Frustratingly I am an emotional roller-coaster all day, everyday. Some days I wake just wanting to sink back under the covers never to emerge again, then I recover, I may even feel perky by the afternoon. Other days I feel nothing in particular as I wake and then I descend into chaos and misery. There is no predicting it. For a week I didn’t get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning and then would have a wakeful sleep until the sun streaming in and the crying of my children could no longer be ignored. And before you think they were being neglected, they were in the watchful care of their father.
So the roller-coaster continues but I’m working on levelling things out. Depression can by no means be “snapped out of” but I know the particular type of depression that I suffer is very often contingent on my situation. If I have any hope of breaking out of it, I have to change my situation, and no one else will change it for me. In this instance I truly am on my own. So on my good days, I seize the moment.
Moments to seize are presenting themselves more often (or I’m starting to notice them). The year is a new one, and I’m determined to get myself somewhere else emotionally and professionally. In fact it is the Chinese Year of the Dragon and supposedly an ideal time to get busy.
I was lucky enough to attend a friend’s debut as a director with the direct sales company that we started with in the same year. She is an amazing woman and her talk was inspiring to say the least. It really hit me then that if she could do it, so could I. Yes I could argue all sorts of reasons why my circumstance was different but ultimately it doesn’t matter because I want to make the decision. Over the dabbling around the edges, I’ve decided that I really want to move beyond a hobby and use my business as a way to reconnect with myself and my family.
The very next day I read an article about business in the year of the dragon and I felt just that little bit more buoyed. Not that I particularly believe in such things but there’s something affirming when the universe seems to be sending you a message.
Having made a decision to commit to change, I began to plan that change. This can be a dangerous thing. I am a master of planning! I can plan for every eventuality. I can plan multiple steps ahead regardless of the fact that the path is contingent on certain things happening. I can plan things out, right down to the minutia. The old saying “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” doesn’t quite work for me. My problem doesn’t lie in the planning. Sadly my problem lies in the action, or lack of it.
I love the saying “Nothing changes until it changes” which might seem like a bit of a “well duh!” statement but we often wish for change as though it comes from on high. E.g. I wish the house was cleaner; I wish I was more organised; etc. When in fact these things won’t change unless we commit to action that will change them. Not exactly profound, I know, but true nevertheless.
The plan began. I pulled out my much neglected “Dream Book”, found a clean page and drew a line down the middle. On one side: what I don’t want in my life. On the other what I do want in my life. I listed everything from the abstract to the concrete. The second page was basically a summary of the previous list under headings with dot pointed behaviour and actions required to make it happen. So for example a number of my want and not want could be summarised by Energy and Time. Next to that I dot pointed 20minutes on the treadmill, more sleep, develop routines and apply them consistently, diary and to do lists. Such basic and obvious things but when you’ve lost your way, you need to return to the basics.
The next day I wrote to do lists, lists of people to call, things I needed to get to make plans work (like an address book to have with me at all times so that I can write my fortnightly postcard or letter) and I designed a fortnightly schedule with everything on it, work, social time, blog time, home business time, exercise time, family time, you name it, it’s there.
The last thing I did was set a day that it would all start. Today. And I made today happen, even though I had a little voice the whole time telling me how I could postpone almost everything in my schedule and on my to do lists. Today is day 1 of the new me. They say it takes 90days to establish a behaviour as a habit, or break a habit. I know it wont be easy because I know my weaknesses only too well and I know that life with young children is impossible to predict but I am determined to change my circumstance and reach my goals. Hopefully, I’ll get a few early wins to boost me up and if not I always have my schedule.
Wish me luck and watch this space. Regular blogging is written on my schedule.