Motherhood and mental health
Just over two years ago I was nearing the end of my third pregnancy, baby boy number three who was due in August but born in July, at the same time my husband was about 8/9 months into his stint at changing jobs within his profession which meant that he was away during the week and home some weekends if that, leaving me home alone, with our two severely autistic children who at the time were totally non-verbal and showing no signs of any improvement.
Middle was always my hardest child during that time, not even because he was naughty but because 2 years later what we suspected came true, as well as his autism he also had ADHD, and when your living like a single mother at the time, with another disabled child and pregnant I was honestly exhausted.
I had to do every appointment, school meeting, ante natal checks, housework, university work, you name it single handily. But as long as my kids were looked after and catered for, I could deal with only washing my main areas in a quick pathetic attempt of a shower before crashing on the bed hoping to go asleep at the same time as the kids. But it just never happened for me.
It sound ridiculous saying that, “attempting to go to sleep the same time as the kids never happened for me” Like it’s this grand gesture of my life but it really didn’t, as a matter of speaking when the dust settled and the kids were soundly asleep, left with myself and my thoughts I had every intent of relaxing, but instead one night it started with feeling like I was having a heart attack. I was convinced, in fact the next morning I was shocked I woke up because I knew exactly what I had felt.
As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months I started to become scared of going asleep, all of which was triggered by this heart attack feeling, whatever this was only came to me of an evening, so no one knew what I was going through because during the day I was absolutely fine, but during the long hours of the night I would be on my own, in my room, sobbing because I was convinced I was dying.
As the pregnancy progressed my body was changing, of course it was, my heart burn was horrific, but I convinced myself I has stomach cancer and I was dying, if I had a headache, I had a brain tumour, it was ridiculous. In the end I told my GP that I needed to see a psychiatrist, I was starting to annoy myself.
I went to see him and I broke down, everyone see’s me as a strong person but you have to be when you have children, never mind children who required round the clock care whilst they were awake due to their limited understand of life and what was around them and daily living etc. He said “do you know why you’re here” I said “Of course I do, I wanted to be here so you can help me because I am terrified of going to sleep in fear of dying” He looked at me but he never judged me, after her asked why I told him “My children are totally non-verbal and cannot do anything for themselves, they rely on me for everything, I am their care giver, their chef, their taxi, their cleaner but most important of all I am their voice, so if I am not here or die in myself whilst my husband is away who will find me? Who will they be able to alert with no voice? HOW WILL THEY SURVIVE UNTIL I AM FOUND” He got it, he said it was the most extreme rational anxiety he had ever come across, but I definitely had and still to this day have severe health anxiety.
Now fast forward 2 years, I am now one week off being 7 months pregnant and we are currently living through a pandemic, COVID-19 to be precise and from around 18 weeks I started to feel a little shift- hormonal changes no doubt but I requested to speak to my psychiatrist again, apparently being pregnant and living at this present moment has triggered my health anxiety off again, albeit not to the extent that it was over 2 years ago but I am a firm believer in grabbing the bull by the horns and tackling a issue head on and that is what I intend to do.
A lot got said and it was a different psychiatrist (but under the same team), much I won’t go into because this is a fragile part of my life that I feel should be handled with care, but she mentioned that I have this separation anxiety where my children are concerned, but I feel as a mother who has children who are disabled that is a HUGE misconception of how we are. When you have children who cannot express themselves due to whatever reason (Mine being that my one of my children are still non-verbal) of course we are going to worry about when we are not around, life is not as easy as it seems for mothers, fathers and caregivers like us, there have been plenty of times where I have spent days trying to figure why my child has not stopped screaming, won’t eat, or sleep. Times where I have picked my child up with a bloody face and no one has an explanation why other than “He just likes to play on his own but is very active” Great, he can’t tell me what happened and neither can you, the nursery manager.
I thinking having children like ours you are forced into an imaginable position that no one can truly understand unless they are in your exact position, because you explore a grieving process, a healing process, a process where you are confused, searching for answers, times where you feel vulnerable and times where you feel like you can change the world for the better of you and your little family. Having children like ours you need to do things not all parents do and it can be a cruel world where you also have to fight judgement of others who can’t see the invisible disability that is crippling you day in and day out whilst you try to do you absolute best for your child, raising kids with disabilities you need to have on a suit of armour, and I do think, if I am not here who ever has my kids will they fight as hard for them as I have? So yes, I am crippled in health anxiety in fear a dreaded illness with leave my children motherless and yes the thought of that can consume me so much that I can’t sleep of a night and yes I worry if I am not here will they be looked after the way I do. But this normal for parents like me, don’t judge me on having mental health issues, get to know me, understand me and know what is going on, If you know someone who has children or children who are disabled check in on them, being a parent is super scary, there is no handbook out there on how to get it right and you are honestly just winging it, but know you feelings are valid as are others and if you need to talk and get help do it, you deserve it and owe it to yourself after all you do.