I saw a great commercial where a mother storms past her misbehaving children and shouts "Somebody needs a time out!!", she proceeds to go into her own room and slam the door.
I have come to realize that the relationship that is of primary importance to me is the one with myself. I cannot be expected to be the best I can be for others if I am not nurturing my body and spirit. While parenting is very rewarding at times, most of the time it is about giving of yourself and not receiving. It takes a lot of work (and may not even be possible) to not let parenting drain you of all of your energy. There is definitely value and character building in this as well though, so I think it serves a purpose. How though, do you work in some me-time at a time in your life where you can't even take 5 minutes in the bathroom to poop without a little person coming to search for you? When you do carve out a bit of time for yourself, how best should you use that? I have been known to waste HOURS on my computer accomplishing nothing but wasting my minutes away. Sometimes you need this too!! I know though, I feel much more fulfilled when I use my time in a productive manner.
I have fortunately been lucky that both of my children have been good nappers (not good night sleepers but that is another story). As soon as possible, I tried to make their naps at the same time in the afternoon. I LIVE for that hour or two in the afternoon when the house is silent, the children are contained, and I can do whatever I want!! I try NOT to do housework during that time for a couple of reasons. A. I need to recharge my batteries after being with the little boys all morning. B. I think it is good to involve my kids in housework and as an added bonus they like "helping".
Reid, my 4 year-old is reaching a point where he doesn't always NEED a nap. He still gets 2 hours in his room and it is his choice whether he sleeps or not. We all need a break from each other by the afternoon. I like that I know he has 2 hours of down-time with no TV or craziness. I also like knowing that he made the decision whether or not to sleep. Surprisingly, he still usually sleeps.
In the past few months, I have also developed another strategy. This is something I would have NEVER thought possible, but I actually try to get up and showered BEFORE the kids get up. There is a lot to be said for the first sounds you hear when you wake up not being "mommy I want..." For a while I had a great thing going with my neighbor. We would walk almost every weekday morning. That made me HAPPY!! I was able to start the day out with peace, exercise, and adult conversation. Plus adding someone else in the mix guaranteed that I would actually get up and not fall prey to the lure of more sleep that tends to happen when I only have to answer to myself. Getting out of bed early in the morning is almost torture, but once I am up I am always grateful to myself.
Exercise is a HUGE one, and one that helped keep me sane in my worst times. I would put Eckhart Tolle on my IPod and walk for 30-45 minutes around my neighborhood. I can tell my anxiety is waning now because I don't HAVE to exercise to feel in control of my sanity. I have always been lucky to be thin, so have never had weight as a huge motivating factor to exercise. Now that I have realized how amazing I feel after a good walk though, I am drawn to it. I am greatly looking forward to daylight savings time in a couple of weeks when I can get an evening walk in before dark!! My other favorite form of exercise is yoga. I am looking forward to the fall when both boys are in school so I can pick that up again. There is something amazing in that yoga somehow manages to work you out and relax you.
Another thing I have started doing to try to get quality time with myself is meditating. I put the kids down for their nap and I go into my room and set a timer for 21 minutes. I sit on a pillow and try not to fall asleep, since that is what my body thinks it should do when I stop moving!! I researched meditation a lot because I had a hard time finding how to do it. The simple answer is, just sit down and try to stay present by focusing on your breathing. This is impossible, so the goal is to catch yourself when you start thinking and be aware of it. I have really been pleased with the results from adding this into my day. We are so bombarded with images and activity all day that we have forgotten how to just sit and be. We ALL have attention deficit disorder it is no wonder that our kids also do!! To me meditation organizes my brain a bit, allows me to be aware of the thoughts that are circulating, and when I stand up I am more clear-headed and peaceful. I will warn you though, 20 minutes seems like 3 hours sometimes!!!
Another aspect of my life I am trying to work on, is trying to find ways to tap into my creative side again. I picked up my guitar yesterday. I don't realize how much I miss my music until I pick it back up again. Music was my whole life for much of my younger years, so when I start playing guitar or singing it is like coming home (well it would be if I didn't need LOTS of practice!!). This is great because it is a way I can nurture myself but also involve my children. They also love music and I hope one day will play their own instruments.
Finally, I am trying to write as is obvious. Writing is very similar to meditation to me. It gets all the circulating thoughts out of the way and makes mental space, which is my goal!!It is my hope that I can write as therapy for myself, but also maybe something I write will help someone else which is an added bonus!
I think it is really easy to view nurturing ourselves as more work, but this work will pay off in the short term and in the long term. Ignore your messy house for a bit and take 20 minutes to just be.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
After I had my second child, all of my issues came to a big fat head. After running on a pretty consistent level of anxiety for my entire pregnancy over whether or not I would have a c-section, I was hit right smack in between the eyes with a postpartum anxiety disorder. Of course I didn't know that at the time. At the time my body was just overcome with fear and dread, stuck in a constant fight or flight response with nowhere to unload it. It took me a few days of being in the hospital diagnosed with preeclampsia to realize that my illness was not consistent with my diagnosis, I was just mentally sick, which to me was much, much worse.
I have continued to experience "episodes" of extreme anxiety. They are unpleasant to say the least, and bring with them a host of awful thoughts and moods. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. It has been a long 2 years of soul searching, pain, and suffering. Would I trade it? It's hard to say, I wish it hadn't been necessary in order to get me where I am today, but in truth, it has been the biggest blessing and teacher of my life.
Throughout this time, while I had a prescription in my posession, I resisted taking an antidepressant . I used an occasional medication to help me fall asleep. It seemed apparent though, even when the only thing I wanted was to be put out of my misery for a couple of days, that it was not the answer for me. It would MAYBE help control the symptoms, but it would not alleviate the cause. Plus, to me the potential side effects were scarier than my experiences. (I feel the need to say that this is MY experience, I do not condemn any woman for her choice to take medication).
My sons birth coincided with Oprah and Echkart Tolle doing weekly lessons on Tolle's book "A New Earth". What I learned from this helped save me from plunging into the deapths of despair or ending up in a mental hospital for a cool down session. I started to believe that I had the power to alter the patterns in my brain that caused me to spiral into these anxiety attacks. What I have learned is that your thoughts are more physiological than anything. You have NO control over your thinking 99% of the time and your thinking is what determines your moods. The whole key is to be present and be aware of everything happening at any given moment, including the thoughts swirling around in your mind. While it is not too terribly complex of an idea it is VERY hard to put into action.
2 years later as I sit here, I feel like my life is pretty much perfect. I still have my times when the negativity creeps in, but they are shorter and less pervasive. Now that my eyes are open to this notion of presence, I see it being taught everywhere and I believe that this is the secret to living a joyful and peaceful life. Presence is making me a better mother, a better wife, and a better nurse. I still have so far to go though, and the challenges of being a full-time mother give me lots of field training. No one really sits down and gives you a parenting manual because there isn't one right way to parent, but I believe you can be assured that if you are truly present you will be the best parent you can be.