Baby Steps

Asking for help was hard, almost as hard as admitting to myself that I needed to. Walking into the appointment with a counsellor three months later wasn’t any easier. I knew I would have to talk through everything that brought me to this point in April, and the things that have happened since. To acknowledge their reality and begin the process of working out how to cope with their implications moving forward rather than just dealing with the practicalities as they happen and ignoring the toll they are taking on me.

I cried. Pretty much solidly for the whole appointment, which ran over a fair bit. In the space of an hour and a half, I managed to say two positive things about myself, and over one hundred negatives, many of which were repetitions of the same thing: I am failing. Failing my son. Failing my partner. Failing my parents. Failing at school.

Why? Because I can’t fix everything. I can’t change what has happened and I can’t change the future. Because I’m tired of trying to be everything everyone expects of me. Because I’m angry that I can’t be everywhere all at once, supporting everyone who needs it at that time. And most of all, I am furious with myself for forgetting to look after myself too and ending up in a position where I feel as though I’m failing everyone at everything.

What would I say to someone else who told me that?

  1. What happened isn’t your fault.
  2. You have done everything you can to support those who’ve needed it, except yourself.
  3. You can’t physically be in two places at once.
  4. You don’t know what the future holds, make the most of now.
  5. You need to look after yourself or you won’t be able to support anyone else.

So rationally, I know what to tell myself when my anxiety begins to sky rocket. My first homework task is to keep telling myself that I can not only manage the school holidays, but that I need the break to recover. I not only deserve time for me but I need time for me. And it’s ok to need it and take it too.

It shocked me to be told, in the counsellor’s opinion, I was on the brink of exhaustion. That getting up everyday and going to school is my way of avoiding dealing with the grief and anger that is bubbling under the surface, but the effort required doing that is unsustainable. By keeping myself permanently busy, I’m doing more and more harm to my mental health.

The fact I am struggling to sit and read, my normal go to relaxation, because I can’t focus is a huge red flag. And that is homework task number two. I have to plan in reading time everyday as a reward for doing what I need to do. That should help remove the guilt for doing something that is just for me. Only it isn’t just for me. It’s to improve my own knowledge of children’s books which equips me better to support staff and children in book choices. And reminding myself of that whenever the negative voice harps on will help to shut it up.

It’s time to change my internal voice, to remind it to be kind and respectful, and I have a few mental scripts to help get me started. It’s going to take baby steps. It’s going to take honesty from me to accept what I can reasonably expect of myself. Right now, I feel exhausted. My head is pounding, I feel sick and shaky, and I am intermittently crying. Tomorrow, I start my homework in earnest.

Today, I’ve accepted and embraced the help I need to improve my anxiety, even though it was hard. And for doing that, I’m proud of myself. And that’s homework three. Acknowledging the good that I do, whoever it is for, but most importantly, when it’s for myself.

#ItsOkToNotBeOk.

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