The life and times of a knicker frown and how it’s not easy to turn upside down.

IMG_0383Its mental health awareness week and the theme is survive or thrive. For a long time I have thrived. For a long time I barely survived. I thought I was taking a nose dive but I came through giving everyone high fives.
For a long time I talked about recovery from my maternal mental illness. Postpartum Psychosis stole my mind, my breath, my clothes ( I went through a stage of ripping them of in wild abandon) and almost my life. I spent 6 weeks after the birth of my son consumed by such fear and terror, that the only way out I could see was to not be alive anymore. The feelings I experienced made me feel trapped in everything- shut doors, closed windows, zipped up coats, the steam in the bathroom after a shower – all signified me not being able to breathe. I would dream of escaping the house to feel free and when I did , I still felt smothered by the air. The clouds showed me I was trapped in the world and I wanted to cut through them and float away. Away from the pain of feeling so frightened of my own mind. I felt betrayed by nature and wondered why my own thoughts were playing such evil tricks on me. Why was it telling me I was scared of my baby? Why was it giving me visions of being buried alive ? Why did it seem intent on destroying me, my family and my life?
But recover I did. Medication, a nice extended break in the psychiatric mother and baby unit, 87 hours of 3 different types of therapy, meditation with practical mindfulness books on the bus, books on how to handle becoming a mother in the loo so I could learn about my mind whilst doing a wee and booby feeding my then toddling child and the healing nature of time allowed my mind to return. It took around 3 years to feel like me again. I looked like me , if 2 stone heavier, I drank gin like I had used to ,I could dance to my ragga ragga ragga mix tapes like I had pre child and finally , my mind was thinking and feeling almost like I had before.
I was recovered from the psychotic episode that had affected my life so terribly when my son was born. But I didn’t emerge fresh as a daisy – I emerged with battle scars and a little rough around the edges. I no longer wanted to fill the garden with endless juice extractors or thought my mouth was covered in cling film but I did feel a little scared of life. I felt pants of panic in my chest I never experienced 3 years previously. My hands had a slight tremor like I previously thought only affected my mum because she was old. My right shoulder developed an almost unstoppable twitch that people would stare at in work while I spoke to them and would occasionally say ” are you cold Eve as your arm is jumping? ” and my mother would insist I see the doctor on a daily basis as she was “concerned about that twitch because surely everyone is looking at it” . My scalp itched and flaked with my new friend psoriasis and I would twist my eyebrow hairs with my fingers.

In 2013, I was formally diagnosed with PTSD as a result of my psychosis. The flashbacks to my illness and the effect it had had on my life was becoming a total ball ache as everyone around me had to adjust how they lived their life to suit my fears  – I couldn’t go in lifts so would happily walk up 9 flights of stairs to get to a ministerial meeting in work and find myself arriving after everyone else. I would walk in in my 6 inch stilettos, my pink fluffy pen, a receipt to write notes on as I forgot my note pad and my lipstick in hand , panting like a dog on heat with sweaty boobs.I couldn’t sit in cars that didn’t have doors at the back meaning I would plonk myself in the front seat of people’s cars and pissing off someone’s wife or husband. I couldn’t sit on planes or buses unless I was in an aisle seat. Getting on a cheap airline flight turned into a bartering game as I attempted to negotiate moving seats with a plastic spoon wielding two year old. I couldn’t get the tube from certain stations with my pram as I didn’t want to get in the elevator . I couldn’t go to the toilet on trains or in shops as I didn’t want to lock the doors in case I got trapped. My son became a well practiced 3 year old ninja , who would do his wee first and then stand against the door with our shopping bags aspiring as a barrier so no one would walk in . If they attempted to , he would yell” wee alert going on in here and you don’t wanna see that lady” if anyone attempted to push the door.

EMDR followed. I followed my therapists finger around the room to regress to my traumatic thoughts and worked hard to remove and replace them. It worked. I found myself (almost) free of the trappings of feeling trapped and on with my life I could go.

Kind off. Diagnosis number 3 was for Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I had become used to catastrophising about everything in life. My chest had become over familiar to thumping like a rogue finger in a DJ booth and panic attacks became such a normal part of my life that I could have put them down in the occupation box on a form.

Over the last 3/4 years, I have worked reallllllllly hard to handle my anxiety and most days , I feel like the Eve I was before 2010. I am medicated and will always be so to keep my mind in this place because I recognize this place and like it.  But a few times a year , I turn into doomwatch and a cloud of anxiety comes over me that scares me , as it feels like it will never go.

When those times hit, I feel like I cry a river of tears whenever a door is closed. My forehead buries itself into the towels in the bathroom, my back burns as I slide down the wall. The worry and panic that I experience tell me that I will always feel like this and the feeling that this will never ever go whizzes around me and wraps me up like metaphorical Egyptian mummy. The are moments where it feels okay – I wake up and don’t have the pounding in my chest. I find Johns feet with mine and wrap them around them to feel safe. I snuggle into my little boys squishy little arms that are all warm and his sweaty hair and feel like it’s all okay, that I am loved. But then in the day at some point, it seems like all hope is lost. Like the really is no way out. The mood is up and down like a broken knickerband and as much as I keep pulling my pants up, they fall down again. But I won’t allow my pants to come completely off,as if they come off, they have won. The pants need to stay on. They may roll down occasionally but I will pull them back up. They might get to my knees or my ankles but there is no way they are ending up off. I won’t let that happen . I won’t let anxiety win.

Today I feel like I am surviving and thriving. My pants are firmly on and up but I won’t lie – they are rolling down a little at certain points in the day. I cuddle John , I snuggle Joe, I spend on hour in the cross trainer staring at Dr Pimple Popper on You Tube, I do what I can to get me through the day.

My mind at times may wander but I know that I’m okay. My pants are pink with a bow on and they aren’t going anywhere . Even if I have to wear them over my tights or leggings to stop them rolling , I will do it.

Like an anxious superhero.

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