It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. My brain has been playing catch up to my life for the past six months, and the tension that’s created has meant sitting down and forming a cohesive blog post that I actually believe in is difficult. There’s about five draft posts waiting to be published, covering friendships, three year old tantrums and clingy 18month olds, but I started then couldn’t face making them public.
I want to be honest in my writings, but my instinct is to always lean towards a positive outlook on my topics (which is a great quality to have) except it’s not always a true reflection of what I’ve been experiencing…it’s the rational part of my brain telling me, you’re overreacting, everything’s fine, calm down, whilst my emotions are raging inside and screaming “I’m not coping!”. This inner tussle came to a head a few months ago when our neighbour decided to turn the sub-woofer up and rattle our windows. With my inner dialogue in conflict, the children whinging, wanting ‘cuggles’, fighting or asking for food, and an ignorant teenage neighbour I wanted to run…far. Honestly, I wanted to put the house on the market, move somewhere remote…preferably with a cave and hide from everyone and everything forever, living off foraged berries. That thought is still appealing to me.
Feeling trapped, not getting enough sleep, and probably not eating very well and the stress that comes with motherhood became rolled up into one intense and focused reaction to our neighbours sub-woofer. I’m going to go into positive spin here (because it’s the reality this time), I’ve asked him to turn it down, and he is very polite and obliging – and rarely plays it…and if his mother is home then it never goes on – it’s now been three weeks with no incident. Considering all that, I rationalised my response was possibly over-the-top, but this only served to make me feel worse, because I didn’t know how to control my response and I wasn’t coping, it felt like the source of all my problems was coming out of a sub-woofer.
Leaving the house became stressful, I would spend the whole time anxious that I would return and the bass would be playing. If I stayed home, any passing car playing bass made my heart race. I would peer out windows trying to anticipate the faintest sound of music somewhere imposing into my home, the place that was supposed to be my sanctuary. I felt like a crazy person, and the anxiety wasn’t going away, just settling into the background of daily life. I wasn’t parenting well, I was testy and fidgety, always trying to be busy…I couldn’t sit down and relax with my girls. One morning, the music came on and I panicked that I wasn’t going to cope, so at Immy’s vaccinations that morning, in tears, I found the courage to tell the doctor how I had been feeling. I wanted a referral to a professional, someone who could help me with coping skills. If I couldn’t control my environment, perhaps I could control how I reacted to it. The doctor didn’t want to refer me, she said I was doing fine, my girls were both happy and well and she didn’t want to put any labels on me. Feeling humiliated I left wondering how I was going to beat this thing.
At this point I went online and found Mind Health Connect who were partnered with the MindSpot Clinic, they have an online screening assessment which I completed (all free). Two days later a MindSpot psychologist phoned me up and we spoke for an hour, at which point she confirmed I had been experiencing depression and anxiety, it wasn’t about the bass, or the neighbours, they were triggers, I could be helped. MindSpot run an 8 week online course that focuses on cognitive behavioural therapy [CBT]. I refused to be ashamed and opened up to my husband, then my best friend, she listened without judgement and has provided such needed support, and finally my parents. I wasn’t on my own anymore, and no one was telling me to ‘just relax’ or giving me sympathetic but bewildered looks.
It took a few weeks to start the course though, and in that time I also turned to Jesus for help (the only real source of power and hope I’ve ever known). I realised I had been running this life on my own terms again – forgetting the teachings of the bible that I knew to be true. Without this crisis in my life I may not have come back to the source of hope, love and joy that has sustained me in the past. I woke up one morning and the following phrase popped into my head out of nowhere “resist the devil and he will flee from you”. That afternoon as I opened up my bible to continue reading the book of James the following verse jumped out at me…
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
It was the encouragement I needed, the devil was attempting to steal my joy, attacking relentlessly with negative thoughts about my environment, my friendships, my identity, then compounding it all with shame so I wouldn’t tell anyone. But Jesus was speaking to me…which meant he could beat this thing. I was feeling stronger, balanced, which in turn made me feel silly for signing up to this CBT course with MindSpot.
Then two days later I had a panic attack. For 15minutes I heard the sound of bass coming through our lounge room walls, it stopped soon after starting, but my mind didn’t. I felt the familiar feelings of anxiety creeping in, heart-racing, nausea. Then as I started to share with my husband what was happening it over-whelmed me. I sobbed and sobbed, I felt like a small child curled up in the foetal position wanting to hide. He wrapped his arms around me and stayed present.
I’m now in week 5 of this online course and I’m learning to be kinder to myself. Challenging negative thoughts, practicing controlled breathing and being obedient to the Holy Spirit. I still get anxious, and I haven’t been exposed to the bass music for a while so I get concerned about how I might cope with that. It’s a process, exposing fundamental thought patterns and beliefs which have contributed to my responses.
In this time I’ve had two other close friends experiencing their own mental health struggles, one with anxiety, another with depression and PTSD. And even though it sucks, this experience has enabled me to have more compassion for others and a larger fear and wonder of God. It hurts, but my weaknesses are a good thing and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt this past few months, it’s not to be ashamed of them but to be happy.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)