I am creative,
I am also a mum,
and each day I struggle with varying degrees of anxiety and depression...
I wanted to take a moment to share with you my thoughts.
I guess everybody struggles to cope with life at some point. Some more than others... questioning our life purpose and navigating our direction forward.
Some people seem to be able to place these questions in a neat box in their mind. A box that doesn't interfere too much with their everyday life. They seem to be able to take this box out at appropriate times (after work perhaps, or during a sleepless night). They can untie the neat bow on the lid and sift thru the contents, family, friends, relationships (which one is currently in need of more attention?), work...(working more? or less?), religion (important or not?), health, helping others, caring for the planet, giving to charity, recycling, looking after animals, making money (or living on less money).... some people can sift thru this imaginary box and can carefully re-shuffle the order of relevance deciding on a new order of importance... then neatly pack the contents away, re-tie the bow and store the box away for another sleepless night.
Others struggle to keep the box closed! The contents are overflowing!! sometimes interfering with their ability to perform everyday activities. The ribbon for the box is too short, the ends are frayed and as hard as they may try to find an alternative ribbon to tie around this unruly box of thoughts and emotions, no other ribbon seems to be long enough to constrain the contents. They may lay awake for hours sifting thru the contents, trying to re-order and catalogue them.. perhaps alphabetically? or maybe into bullet points of importance?... only to wake each morning and find all their hard work has been forgotten.
I personally fit into this latter category.
If you also struggle like this then take comfort that you are not alone.
Whether you want to label this as a just a"busy mind", perhaps the thoughts of a "tortured artist", or whether this strays precariously over into being "mentally unwell" (or maybe it swings between all three?), Take heart, you are not alone.
Close your eyes for a moment and take a big deep breath....
When I was younger I thought I could do anything, I could be anything! All I had to do was focus and work hard. If I wanted a particular job or career, if I wanted to travel overseas, if I wanted to save money to buy a car. To me it all came down to focusing and working hard. I didn't worry so much about the philosophical questions of my existence. I could work those out later (when I was a grown up).
Becoming a parent forces you to re-consider your world views. Perhaps... just perhaps you now are "grown up"
so have you got it all figured out yet? ..........
I certainly haven't!
I recently asked a friend how they managed to stay so happy? They explained to me how they felt very grateful everyday for being able to live in a beautiful place in the world with relative peace. They had work, a family, a roof over their head and food in the fridge. When the sun was shining who really could complain...
They turned the question back to me "what are you so unhappy about?"
I agreed that I also felt extremely lucky for all the things they had listed... Which in turn made me feel even more guilty when I did struggle with periods of severe depression.
"Depression about what?" they enquired
"Well that's just it, if I could tell you perhaps I wouldn't be depressed"
They didn't understand. For someone who has not experienced mental health issues it its very hard to understand the battle and very easy to dismiss it as bad behaviour, a choice, a bad attitude, a self obsession.
I do my upmost to try to improve my outlook. I try exercise each week, get out of the house everyday, take time to ponder on the good things in my life. I read self help books, have a great husband and a good relationship with my GP. I take anti-depressant tablets everyday (and have done for the best part of the last 14 years).
But I still struggle everyday.
It doesn't make sense...
That is exactly why it is a "mental illness"
But I am starting to realise that perhaps we never "work it out". Perhaps the key is in learning to adjust better to the changes. To relish more in the small things that make us happy and learning to ignore the constant mind chatter that distracts us and throws us off track.
I used to be constantly seeking that perfect balance. Thinking that if I could just manage to find the right amounts of work, creativity, family and friends that I would be happy. Over the years I have written countless lists, or new schedules trying to get my life "on track". I realise now I was wrong. We will NEVER reach this perfect balance, there is no such thing. Just as the earth is constantly spinning on its axis, the seasons changing, so too are our needs and wants. The age old saying "the only constant is change" has never rung home so true. Even if we were to in one magic moment to find the perfect balance it would most probably not work the week following.
Perhaps this struggle has something to do with our pre-conceived ideals about what our life would look like in the future. If growing up we had an extremely strong idea or projection of "who we wanted to be" or "what we wanted to do" and our life didn't live up to those expectations as we thought it would, perhaps this is where our battle began? If we continued to fight against the tide, forcing our life "back on track" (so to speak) as we wished it to be, we might just be creating an endless battle for ourselves.
Does this mean we should give up on our hopes or dreams if they don't seem to be working out as we wished?.... I am definitely not advocating that. But sometimes we need to re-consider something.... SOMETHING REALLY REALLY BIG
ARE YOU READY FOR IT?.....
Here comes a BIG REVELATION....
"Do I really want, what I am trying to get?"
Think about it seriously...
If you could be that career woman, if you could own your own property or business... if you could have all the money in the world...
Really take the time to stop and consider it.
Be honest with yourself. Take the time out to meditate on this thought. What would your life look like then? What would your daily activities look like?
Recently, after a few weeks of severe depression, I sat down and listed a "daily schedule" of what my "perfect self" would do on the "perfect day". As I reached about halfway down the page I ran my eyes over the list so far and started to LAUGH! The woman I was striving to be was SUPERWOMAN! (in fact she put superwoman to shame!). This woman was up at the crack of dawn exercising, returning home to clean the house before the baby woke, achieving goals both career wise and creatively, constantly striving to be the perfect wife and a good friend. The list was UNACHIEVABLE! My goals were equal to an olympic high jumper... except I was an excitable two legged dog chasing my own tail.
So was the answer to let go and allow life to take over? To "Go with the flow?"
Over christmas this year I tried doing that. I packed away my creative projects and put my career aspirations to the side. I focussed on being a mum, attempting to keep the house clean and my baby happy. The outcome?
I was more depressed than ever! I reached a very exhausting low. I felt utter despair, I was lost.
A beautiful friend of mine helped me out of my slump, she visited daily for a week and we focussed on gardening. She helped me to find confidence in myself again, she kindly help distract my thoughts and together we combined our efforts on a task that had no definitive end result. For anyone struggling with depression I would highly recommend gardening as a great active form of meditation. Firstly you get out of the house and secondly you are spending your time in nature. The physical hard work and sweat is extremely rewarding and at the end of the day you can stand back and really see some results.
So the answer lay somewhere in between. I couldn't just "go with the flow" and I also could not set my goals so high. I had to find a balance in between.
The realisation that my goals were too high has flooded me with some relief. Instead of spending every minute of the day when my son is in childcare to scrub the house and pay bills and work on my business AND BE CREATIVE! I am now allowing myself to take moments out for myself to just be. Having a coffee on the deck by myself, taking an afternoon nap occasionally or writing (which I find to be extremely cathartic).
I hope that by sharing my thoughts and my life experiences with you, whoever you may be, that perhaps I can help you with your own journey. I don't by any means think "I know it all" (HELL NO!) and I definitely DO NOT have it all figured out! But I am learning to love my life... the up's as well as the downs. The triumphs as well as the defeats. When I do have dark days I remind myself they will pass and when my days are good I thank my lucky stars. Life is truly a blessing and for that I am grateful.