I'm very lucky that on the whole I do enjoy my work; I love the challenge, to feel useful and to be creative, I like being uber organised and having a daily 'to do' list, and most of all I like the freedom of being my own boss, working my own hours to suit family life, and of course, earning a living in the process!
The major down-side however to this self-employed life I now lead, is how much of a time-sucker it is, and how much more of a juggle my life has become. I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that juggling two kids (one who is still at home full time with no childcare), one at school and all that entails, plus a career that currently consists of working for/on 11 different clients/projects, a house to clean, clothes to wash and relationships to maintain, that life is full on and sometimes I feel like I don't know if I'm coming or going. It has also meant a LOT less time for myself, far less time to cultivate my many varied interests and hobbies, and in turn hardly any time to pour into my own blog and social media.
What is it they say about plumbers having the worst heating in their own home, and electricians having broken lights and appliances? It's like that with me - I spend so much time doing everyone else's blogs, social media platforms and PR, that I have no time, energy or inclination left to do my own!
I don't want my little corner of the internet to die a death though, and so I am going to try to find time to readdress the balance a little, and fit in some chunks of time for myself again. I need it. I've come to realise the longer I am without it that I crave an outlet, albeit this blog, or a creative project for myself (I love crafting/sewing etc) and I need some of it back in my life pronto. Not just for my own enjoyment but for my own mental health too, which has definitely been suffering lately.
I read something on a Mental Health Awareness page on Facebook the other day which said...
Illustration by the talented Beth from Doodlebot Illustration (@doodlebotillustration on Instagram)
"We get told to put on a brave face...but sometimes the bravest thing is to take the face off."
and it really resonated with me. My whole life I've been the Queen of Putting On A Brave Face - stiff upper lip and just get on with it - power through, man up, just keep going, and in turn I've learnt the hard way that sometimes you just can't - you hit a metaphorical wall and you burn out. Over the years I have learnt to recognise the signs of that burn out - and at that point I try and give myself a break: I attempt to avoid stressful situations and emotional triggers for the anxiety I often deal with. Today I hit the wall. I was in tears before 8am because I just couldn't ask the kids for the 20,000th time to get dressed or put their shoes on, or finish their breakfast...I am tired (even after 9 hours sleep last night, which for me is unheard of), I'm worn down, fragile, over emotional, on the edge - and if I don't do something to readdress things I will topple down the rabbit hole I've been down too many times before.
So this rambling blog post is my first attempt in a while of taking off my brave face and saying 'I'm not really okay at the moment'. I know I need to be proactive about making myself feel 'more myself' and getting my mental and physical health back on track.
I had a bad shoulder injury for most of last year which really took its toll on me - and this paired with my already terrible lower back (3 slipped discs, joy!) has been hard to bear at times. The constant pain, and being consistently uncomfortable grates and grinds on my physical and mental wellbeing too, as well as the juggle of everyday life.
Annoyingly, the same shoulder now seems to have some sort of pulled muscle (separate to my injury last year) which in turn is causing inflammation and a trapped nerve down my arm - with all sorts of weird sensations and pins and needles down my right arm. As you can imagine, this is not helpful when you spend a large proportion of your time working at a computer and chasing after small children. It's also not great for someone like me who suffers from quite bad health-related-anxiety (stemming from when my son Bert got incredibly sick with sepsis when he was 18 months old) ever since then I've had some major issues around illness, getting sick and the worry that either the kids, Liam or I will fall ill. So having unexplained pains and symptoms I've never experienced before, has set off a whole new bout of anxiety related to illness which at times can be very hard to deal with/escape from.
Of course, I've seen the GP and he reassures me the shoulder symptoms are most likely caused by a pulled muscle from working out or swimming, or a combination of the two, and that rest and Naproxen will do the trick eventually, and I know I have to have faith that they know what they're talking about, but logic doesn't come into it when anxiety knocks, and so I work hard every day to keep it at a level, and to not let it take over.
As well as readdressing the balance for my mental healths sake, I also want to get my physical health back on track - so I have started using My Fitness Pal calorie counting app again, to get some more control back with my diet and to ensure I'm making better choices and hopefully shifting some tiber in the process. Since having Connie two years ago I have crept up to a UK size 14/16, and I'd love to get back into my size 12 clothes again! I have a whole wardrobe of nice things that are uncomfortable or won't zip up, and that's doing nothing for my confidence/happiness and in turn, my mental health. And so for me, I need to make some changes - work is important, and very necessary, but so is my health and happiness and I need to find a way to make it all work together in harmony as best I can. I've had two weeks off of the gym now, and will likely need another week or two, and then I also hope to get back to my twice weekly gym sessions, which are a big factor in keeping my mental health balanced and on-track.
The final thing I wanted to get out-there was the topic of mum-guilt. God it is such a real thing, and I struggle with it daily - am I a good enough mum? Am I attentive enough to them? Do I work too much? Do they think I'm neglecting them when I'm doing emails and working for clients while they play or watch the TV? Should I work solely when Bert's at school and Connie is napping and then leave the rest until they are in bed, and in turn lose my evenings with Liam? Do I worry about housework too much? Do they think I am obsessed with tidying and washing? Argh! Daily guilt that genuinely does the rounds inside my brain! I know from talking to friends that I am by no means alone in this, and most working parents deal with the same feelings and emotions on a daily basis. But it is so hard to 'have it all': a family, a career, a happy relationship, friendships, a home you're proud of and your own mental health in tact - it take so much work and cultivating - perhaps it's elusive? A big lie we tell ourselves is absolutely achievable when perhaps realistically it isn't and something has to give!?
Whether elusive or not, I am pledging to work harder to get back on track in all aspects of this busy/crazy juggle mum-life.
And I wanted to reassure anyone out there still reading that I still care about this corner of the internet and the community we made - I've just been very time-poor and floundering a little.
Let's hope this is the start of a more balanced chapter.