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.
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