Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Anxiety - Keeping My Children Safe...

anxiety


Today, I just need to sit and write - I need to get these thoughts out of my head and reach out to other parents to hopefully find some solace, some support...I'm wondering if what I'm experiencing is "normal", if anyone else can sympathise or has any techniques or advice for trying to get this under control. 

I want to talk about anxiety. I have suffered with bouts of quite severe anxiety all throughout my life - most of the time I'm working hard to keep things controlled and not let it take over too much head space, but other times it gets beyond that and I need some extra help and support. In the past medications have set off my anxiety, as well as stress, sad/challenging experiences and times of grief - they all tend to be major trigger points for me, and I've come to better understand ways to avoid these, or to accept my anxiety as a reaction to these harder phases of life. 

Since losing our first baby five years ago to early miscarriage on our honeymoon, and then becoming a parent for the first time almost four years ago, my anxiety has changed - instead of a general feeling of dread washing over me, racing thoughts and a worry that something catastrophic is about to happen - my anxiety is now completely linked to the children - a constant worry that something awful will happen to them, or to me and they'll be left without their Mum. 

My rational brain totally understands that the likelihood of that happening is small - but the irrational side of me just will not listen. 

Sadly, experience and circumstances have worked really hard to prove that my anxieties are justified and especially recently I'm really struggling with it. 

When Bert was 1.5 back in February 2015, he contracted a streptococcus pneumoniae infection in his blood - diagnosed originally as an ear infection, and treated with the wrong antibiotics for a week, he got so bad we took him to A&E where he was immediately admitted and then diagnosed. He was given IV antibiotics for 10 days, and was a very poorly boy. As you can imagine my anxiety while he was in hospital was through the roof, I understood that this was the infection that caused meningitis, and if we'd left him any longer the infection would have spread from his blood to his brain, and god only knows what might have happened! I stayed by his cot-side the whole time and I've never ever felt relief quite like the day we were released from hospital. I thank my lucky stars every single day that we followed our strong instincts that the GP wasn't right, and in doing so saved his life. 

Since then, my worry that something will hurt my beautiful boy has been awfully overwhelming. These feeling of insecurity and worry doubled once Connie came along, as now I have two precious babies to worry about!

Every cough, every sickness bug, every rash I think the worst! Every time Connie tries to walk I envisage her falling and banging her head on something. Every time she eats I worry about choking, and I feel as if I spend my whole existence in a constant state of alert - being their safety blanket, keeping them away from danger. My mind constantly rockets off ahead of me and I see the potential for injury, the potential for contracting germs everywhere. 

Just over a month ago my beautiful 18 year old cousin Billy had a dreadful crash in his racing car (he's an F4 driver) and he almost lost his life, thankfully, the medical team saved his life, but unfortunately he suffered life changing injuries and had to have both of his legs amputated. I am heart broken for him, and for my wonderful family - we are all in shock. He is coping in the most amazing way and every day we are amazed by his incredible bravery - he is an inspiration - facing his injuries head on and not dwelling - I am in awe of him. Trying to explain what happened to Billy to Bert has been really hard, he adores Billster, his racing car driving cousin (can you imagine?) and we've tried to tackle the subject slowly and in as kind a way as possible so that he doesn't get too upset, scared or overwhelmed by the scale of Billy's injuries. We haven't taken Bert to visit Billy yet, as we want to give him time for it to sink in and process in his brain.

His crash, affected me deeply, as it did all of his friends and family. The accident set my anxiety into motion again - all I kept thinking about was my lovely Auntie and Uncle - how they must have felt knowing how ill he was, and how out of their control the outcome was. It made me realise how life is short and we cannot control what happens to those we love, bad things happen to wonderful people, for no reason what so ever. We can spend 18 years protecting our children, and still something dreadful can happen... the realisation that I will spend every day of the rest of life carrying this weight, this intense need to protect my babies, to keep them safe is both scary and so overwhelming. 

Circumstances haven't been kind over the years - from Bert's infection to Billy's accident, to knowing a friend who had childhood cancer, other friends with children who've been diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes, who have lost children to pregnancy related complications and prematurity, to knowing two wonderful and beautifully special people who were mindlessly murdered during my teens and then early twenties...I have been subject to constant brutal reminders of what awful things can and do happen. 

Then I watch the news and all my fears are realised in incidents such as the poor young girl drowning on a water ride on a school trip to a theme park a few weeks ago, and the absolutely horrendous suicide bomber killing all of those innocent children and parents at the Manchester Arena bombing on Monday night...I saw the incident unfolding on Twitter as I got into bed on Monday night, and I couldn't sleep for following what was happening, waiting for updates and more information, I felt sick to my stomach with every article I read, every picture I saw. We live in a sick, cruel world, where innocent children can't even enjoy a music concert without the fear of utter devastation being imminent. There's the disappearance of Madeline McCann...and all of the other dreadful news stories we are faced with on what seems like a daily basis. 

There are smaller incidents too - my friends son was bouncing on a bouncy castle on his birthday and fell at a dodgy angle, fracturing his elbow and is now in a cast - we were at the party, and Bert was bouncing on the very same bouncy castle, and with each bounce (even before the accident happened) I was willing Bert to be okay, not to fall, hoping the other kids wouldn't fall on him or jump on him...

We took the kids to Bert's school for the May Festival at the weekend, and although we had an amazing time, I spent the whole time in a heightened state of anxiety - will he let go of my hand and get lost in the crowd? Will he fall off the pony ride and hurt himself, will he fall funny on the inflatable slide? Will we all get food poisoning from the BBQ if we eat a burger? It is RIDICULOUS to live like this. Every time Bert quickens his pace to a run, I'm willing him not to fall over. 

I try hard to act reasonably cautious in front of Bert and try not to let my over-reactions spill out of me verbally. I don't want to frighten him. I really don't want to make him an anxious child, I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but I do want him to be sensible, to understand risk and to not put himself in dangerous situations. The line is so blurry - I want my children to have fun, play in playgrounds and at parties, climb trees, paddle at the seaside, swim in the swimming pool and do all the things that children should do...but I want to keep them safe at the same time too. Bert is a sensitive and cautious child in nature, he's been like that from day one and Connie so far has been totally different - a daredevil, much less cautious and much more inquisitive than Bert ever was at her age. So I'm not sure whether my anxiety has affected him or not...or whether it is just in his nature to be careful...I'm lucky that Liam is an amazing support and is much less anxious when it comes to the kids - making him the perfect playmate at the park, swimming partner in the pool, the best parent for rough and tumble...hopefully he's the ying to my yang and we even each other out. 

Georgia O'Keeffe Quote - Motivation

Today I'm wondering if I just need to accept that I will live with the constant warning voice in my mind for the rest of my life? Will it get any easier? Have I just been unlucky in terms of experience?

Am I justified in worrying myself senseless - even spending brain power worrying about potential school trips in the future after what happened on the water ride at the theme park the other week ?

A few years ago I stepped away from the news media in all senses in a bid to stop feeding my anxiety...I stopped watching the news on TV, reading newspapers and news websites as it was just exacerbating my anxieties - I decided to bury my head in the sand and pretend the world was a nicer place than it is. It helped ease my anxiety but it made me ill-informed, I became out of touch with the world, with current affairs - and with the dawn of my freelance social media career I can no longer shy away from seeing this news on social media channels anyway. The resistance is futile. 

Today, I dropped Bert of at school and he had his first major wobble - despite having been going happily for almost 9 months, he burst into tears today and didn't want me to leave him. While he was crying there was a loud bang in his pre-school and we all jumped out of our skins - a shelf had fallen from the wall in the school's toilets - throwing hand soap, blue rolls, aprons and nappies to the floor - the crash was loud and thankfully no children were using the toilets at the time - the shelf had clearly been laden with too much weight and had buckled under the pressure. What if a child, my child, had been using the toilet at the time? They could have very seriously hurt themselves - and so my mind begins to race. And then I'm back to the reality of dealing with my crying son who doesn't want to stay at school today. He doesn't want to leave his Mummy. It was so hard to walk out seeing him so distressed, and I stood outside his school in tears afterwards, feeling like a useless mother and worrying myself silly about him. 

I called the school half an hour later and they reassured me that he was fine after five minutes and was now happily playing...but now I'm feeling fragile and overwhelmed. 

What if's are the bane of my life... 

Mrs B xxx


Mrs Bishop and her babies

10 comments:

  1. I think we all feel like that at times but we have to try to keep living. Some times it is harder than others but if we don't just keep moving forward and are always looking over our shoulders then we won't see what's coming next. On the flip side, you have been blessed that everything so far has been fine, try not to focus on the what ifs but be thankful that Bert wasn't in the way of the shelf. It's easier said than done but you will end up torturing yourself with the What Ifs otherwise.

    You are the best parent for your children and no one else could do a better job. X

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  2. I think we all feel like that at times but we have to try to keep living. Some times it is harder than others but if we don't just keep moving forward and are always looking over our shoulders then we won't see what's coming next. On the flip side, you have been blessed that everything so far has been fine, try not to focus on the what ifs but be thankful that Bert wasn't in the way of the shelf. It's easier said than done but you will end up torturing yourself with the What Ifs otherwise.

    You are the best parent for your children and no one else could do a better job. X

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    1. Thanks Emma, so much - you're so right about concentrating on the positives - I try so hard to do that, it helps hugely - I'm so thankful than my cousin survived, and that Bert came out okay after his awful infection when he was small - I can appreciate how lucky we were that the outcomes weren't more hideous but they do act as stark reminders of what could happen, which sets me off. I must try harder to stay in the moment and not race ahead with what ifs, you're so right xx

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  3. Oh honey, what ifs are the stuff of nightmares of all parents. And the events in Manchester are particularly harrowing when you're a parent. It makes you realise how fragile life is. The problem is that we can't control these things, as much as we'd like to. I hope that your anxiety lessens soon and you are able to relax a little lovely. Hugs Lucy xxxx Ps so sorry to hear about your cousins accident. What a hideous thing to happen to someone so young.

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    1. Thanks Lucy, I so appreciate your support. It's tough and life can be so bloody cruel, eh? xx

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  4. I think if I focused on the what ifs I'd either drive myself crazy or wouldn't get out of bed in the morning. I already err on the cautious side sometimes.

    Like you I caught the reports coming in just before I went to bed on Monday. A lot of the reports were still unconfirmed at that point so I went to bed and tried not to think about it. I tucked Jaxon in when I got upstairs and then Jaxon woke up in the night which was unlike him but it did give me an excuse to check on him again. (Even in my half awake state). As the reports of missing children came in yesterday I kept hugging Jaxon lots and lots. I think he was grateful when I went out yesterday and Daddy was on duty because it meant he could have a break from me! My mum told me a while back about how it had been after the incident at a school in Dunblane. I think mum collected us from school that day and squeezed the living daylights out of us both.

    I actually stopped watching the news because I was fed up of all the bad news rather than some good news for once. It seemed even if there was good news, something would be there to overshadow it.

    I try to focus on the good and if I can't I try to bring sunshine. So maybe it's focusing on the good in my life whether that's celebrating a birthday (like today) or Jaxon learning something new. He's turning into a right chatterbox now and I don't always catch what he's said. Bringing sunshine might just be a text to say hi but it could be something bigger like the birthday presents I wrapped today.

    Please don't take this as diminishing anxiety and saying that you should pull yourself together or something like that. It's totally okay to not be okay and the fact that you're opening up and sharing takes strength in it's own way.

    It's our job to worry about our kids. Ask my Mum I'm sure she could reel off a whole list of times we'd worried her. Heck I know one specific example off the top of my head just sitting here writing this. I want Jaxon to be a bit of a daredevil like Chris because I know I'm a wimp and can be so paranoid about what might happen that I don't do things. If that means I have to be support crew for another Land's End to John O'Groats bike ride then so be it l will lol.

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    1. Thanks Han - yes, you're absolutely right and it does help to focus on the positives - I like your "bringing sunshine" idea, lovely. Yes, I know I've worried the living daylights out of my mum too and I know she still worries, so I'm well aware its just something as a mum that I've got to learn to live with xxx

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  5. Hi Lucy, I'm sorry you're having such a tough time at the moment. Thank you for sharing something so personal. It sounds like a completely normal response to a series of horrible events. We definitely all worry about keeping our kids safe. I feel sick to the core about the Manchester bombings and what those poor people are going through. I hugged my kids that bit tighter yesterday too.

    I guess my way of dealing with it is to accept that bad things will happen. I hope to the bottom of heart nothing on that scale, but there will be negative events in my children's lives that I have no control over. I focus on giving them the skills, tools and mindset to cope. It's a lot easier said than done, but a calm response to a fall and a 'it's okay, we'll sort it out' attitude are what they'll internalise and model when they're older.

    We've been through some tough times too. I think the worst was the sudden death of my mother-in-law, nearly 8 years ago now, before the kids were born. It was like a nightmare. But we got through the trauma and learned how to live with the loss. It's still hard, but I think it taught us how strong we are.

    You've been through some awful things, and survived them. Remember how strong and brave you are. Hang on to that. Give your kids the strength to deal with whatever life throws at them.

    Sendings lots of love and hugs, Alice xxx

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    1. Thanks so much for your support Alice, it means so much & you're absolutely right, the key is accepting that what happens in the future is largely out of my control and instead I must focus on equipping the children with the skills, understanding & resilience to be able to deal with whatever life throws at them. I'm so sorry about the loss of your mother in law, dealing with grief is so hard, especially when it's sudden and there's no time to prepare yourself for the worst. Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out to me, it's so reassuring to hear from fellow parents. Xxxx

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  6. You are such a wise and brave soul, Lucy. Like you, I've struggled with anxiety all my life. It's such a waste of time but I also know it's not easy to stop! The mind is extremely powerful; what we focus on expands. We need to start noticing when we are becoming anxious and replace 'bad' thoughts with 'good' ones. All we have is 'now', 'this moment', so any worries about things that may or may not happen in the future simply steal your joy from the present time. A 'mindfulness practice' is supposed to be a really effective way of helping those of us with anxiety who tend to spend too much time in our heads. Taking time every day, even five minutes, to be quiet, tune in to the sound of our breath, to bring our awareness into our body. Using a simple 'mantra' such as 'all is well now' can help me feel calmer. What we are thinking is not real; it is only our thoughts. We cannot know what is going to happen in the future, but it sounds like you have a wonderful extended family and lots of friends, all of whom are there for each other through good times and not so good. When your mind starts to go to 'dark' places, remind yourself of how much you have been through in your life and how much you have achieved - meeting and falling in love with Liam; birthing two healthy children; starting your own business. It sounds to me like you can pretty much do anything!! Whatever happens, know that you will have the strength to get through it. Believe in yourself. Thank you for your blog. Hug those beautiful children of yours x

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