I’m giving myself permission to feel what I’m feeling. I’m not trying to avoid it. I’m not feeling guilty about it. I’m just feeling it.
It’s not sadness, but it’s not joy. It’s not numbness, but it’s still. Very still.
And I’m crying a lot. Usually at anything related to children. Photos of children, children at the beach, movies of my son. They make me cry because they’re simply so beautiful.
This pregnancy is making me feel sore overnight, nauseous in the morning and tired in the afternoons. These physical things are impacting my emotional health.
I noticed the nausea makes me feel anxious, or increases my anxiety. In my attempts to be more mindful, I’m observing the physical impacts of my emotions and I’ve been noticing that anxiety sits as a painful knot in my stomach and makes me curl my toes. The knot in my stomach is very similar to pregnancy nausea, which is why I feel more anxious even though I’m probably not.
My emotions (anxiety) impacts my physical (knot in stomach / curl of toes) and my physical (pregnancy nausea) impacts my emotions (makes me feel more anxious).
Daring greatly talks about the common ways people avoid feelings of being vulnerable. There’s things like drinking, drug-taking and other addictions and foreboding joy, which is where you always think the worst is going to happen.
So I decided to observe what I do.
Something pretty scary happened to me this week. I’m just a few weeks into my fourth pregnancy and I started to bleed. You’d probably say I’m, well, experienced in miscarriages so I called it. I told myself that I’d lost the baby.
It was devastating, and for a moment I felt quite vulnerable. But vulnerable is uncomfortable and I quickly numbed the pain. But I didn’t numb it with drinking or gambling or anything else that Brené Brown gives as examples, I numbed it by turning the negative into positive.
Having a baby now is a bad idea anyway, I’m way too busy
If I lose this baby, then maybe I’ll have a summer baby next, which is much better
My pelvic floor needs more recovery, so this is a good thing
I’ve always been known as a positive person. Always the optimist. I can always see the good in a bad situation.
But by doing this, am I actually numbing the pain and avoiding this necessary state of vulnerability?
As for the miscarriage, I’m still not sure either way whether I’ve lost the baby. I have a scan on Tuesday that will answer my question. But in the meantime I’m trying to open myself to the possibility (and the painful vulnerability that is exposed in the process) that maybe this pregnancy is not to be.
I’d been avoiding seeing a specialist for a complaint I’ve had for 2 years now. But getting my balance back also involves looking after my health, so I forced myself to go see the doctor.
I’ll spare you with the details of the complaint, but the specialist sent me away with homework: daily exercises and instructions to fill out a food diary. I’ve been committed to doing both, something that I’m not sure would have happened if I hadn’t decided that 30 days ago I would make my health a priority.
The food diary has been an interesting exercise. It really made me think about what I eat (and if we’re going to be completely honest, I probably ate better for the days I was keeping the diary). I had a lot of assumptions about my diet that turned out to be untrue. Especially around how much water I drink (“Of course, I drink 2 litres per day!”) and how much fibre I get (“For sure, I only ever eat brown bread!”).
The daily targeted exercises are already showing results too, just a few days in.
To get my balance back, I wanted to focus on my physical health, not just my mental/emotional health. I’m a strong believer that the physical is connected to the mental (and vice-versa).
I knew my changes needed to be subtle. Because I’m trying for a baby, high intensity exercise and crazy diets are not the way to go (and I don’t want to lose any weight, especially not quickly). So I decided to increase my activity through things like yoga, swimming and walking and to cut out any of the high fat/sugar/salt/preservatives that I found would make me feel terrible the next day.
But what I’ve stumbled across is that this type of ‘focus on physical health’ is very difficult to measure. It’s almost impossible to see results other than how I feel, which could be related to any number of things I’m doing to get my balance back right now.
I feel good, but is that because of what I’m eating? I’m enjoying walking, but is that just because I’m not stressed or rushed like I used to be?
Today I cooked a piece of rainbow trout and ate it with a salad and some sour dough. It was fantastic. I took the dog for a walk and felt energised afterwards.
Moods and feelings are difficult to measure. So maybe measuring is something that I need to let go. Stop the analysing and stop the goal-setting and stop the feeling of guilt when I don’t achieve. I think this is something that needs to be explored further.
I spent most of my life trying to avoid getting pregnant. All up, I’ve spent about 12 months trying to get pregnant. Two recent miscarriages and then yesterday I got the news that yes, I’m pregnant again.
I want another baby, I really do. But the instant I saw that second line appear on the pregnancy test, I didn’t get a wave of excitement or happiness or joy… I felt dread.
Here we go again.
‘Try not to worry about it, that’s the worse thing you can do.’
These are the voices in my head.
But how can I not worry? How can I not think about the terrible year I’ve had with anxiety and depression and my life spiralling to a place that I never want to go back to? How can I not be afraid of that place?
Those close to me understand. They didn’t congratulate me. They just gave me a hug.
But all the others who don’t know my history also don’t realise the harm they’re doing. At the moment it’s just medical staff and doctors (‘Congratulations! Great news!’ or even ‘I’ll cross my fingers for you’) but the more time that passes the more people will comment. It’s the way of society. A pregnancy is always a good thing, right?
People are just being nice. They think that crossing their fingers will give me the hope I need.
But I know that hope doesn’t help. I hoped the last time and that didn’t help. In fact it only made the fall worse.
This is not the way I should be feeling at the news of something I want so badly, but unfortunately that’s just the way it is.
Yesterday I was driving into town for my yoga class and I was stopped at the traffic lights. My mind began to wander and I remembered that I needed to buy a dress for a friend’s wedding. So I picked up my phone and began Googling images.
I have to admit I do this quite a lot. Sitting at the traffic lights is boring, right? A perfect opportunity to do some quick texting or Facebooking or tweeting, right?
HONK! Someone beeped their horn. I looked up thinking the lights had changed, but they were still red. Then I saw that hanging out of the window of the car next to me was a man, gesturing madly at me to put down my phone.
My initial reaction was ‘how dare he tell me what to do!’ but he was so passionate that I put my phone down and looked straight ahead.
Maybe his sister had been killed texting and driving. Maybe his child had been killed by someone who was texting and driving. Maybe his marriage had ended in divorce because his wife could never down the phone.
Or maybe he just understood the importance of mindfulness.
All of these thoughts went through my mind while I was still at the traffic lights. The man in the car next to me was right: I wasn’t living in the moment. I was trying to multitask and I was doing neither task well. Maybe he beeped his horn because he cared about my physical health, or maybe it was for my mental health.
Or maybe he was just a jerk.
It didn’t matter. He’d made me think differently about how I could more enjoy my drive to yoga.
The lights turned green. As I drove off I waved to the man and mouthed the word ‘Thank you’.
I finished reading The Happiness Trap today. The last section was all about values and goals.
I realised that health is something I value highly, because without health it’s hard to live by any other of the values I might have (relationships, creativity, learning).
So the book asked me to set some goals, including an immediate goal that would help me work toward my values today. I decided that I would go for a walk as part of my long-term plan to introduce regular exercise into my week.
That was it: one walk. Could be around the block, could be further. I didn’t specify.
But alas! That little voice in my head was doing everything to stop me.
It’s too hot. It’s literally 32 degrees outside.
How about you go for a swim instead and forget about the walk?
Everyone’s due home from work and school soon. You can’t go out now!
What does it matter if you miss the walk today? No one’s going to know…
And this is exactly what the book warned me would happen. That pesky voice.
So I thanked my mind for sharing these wonderful insights with me, then put my shoes on and walked right out that door.
I didn’t really feel like doing gardening. I’ve been sick with a cold and feeling in a bit of a slump following a busy weekend. But the hedges needed trimming so I grabbed the garden shears and gloves and headed out into the yard.
And it turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.
It was good for:
My mental health – our old house didn’t have any hedges, so I had to learn a new skill. At first it was difficult and slow going, but at the end I was trimming like a pro.
My physical health – it was hard work cutting, sweeping and carrying buckets of branches to the bin.
My social health – I got to spend some much-needed time chatting to my dog about life, and he loved the company.
My environmental health – the finished product looks fantastic and when I look out the back now I feel satisfied for a job well done.
It gave me confidence that I can do it again and a real sense of satisfaction.
And to think I was going to spend the day on the lounge.
It’s been two years since I stepped into a yoga studio. I’ve known all this time that my body and mind were craving the balance, strength and relaxation that I felt back then. So I signed up for a month’s unlimited visit pass and had my first class today.
The minute I sat on the mat I felt better. It was a combination of the familiar rubber smell of my yoga mat and the fact my hips cracked giving me instant relief.
The class was hard. Two years ago I was doing post-natal yoga and before that it was pre-natal yoga… quite different to the hot power yoga class I did today. It was challenging for my mind and body and the relaxation at the end was fantastic.
I’m not going to set any goals. There’s part of my over-achieving self that wants to say I’ll go to yoga 5 times a week and be able to do a Reverse Arrow by November. But I know that’s one of my problems: I set goals, then I don’t achieve them, then I beat myself up about them, then I get depressed. Then because I’m depressed I achieve even fewer of my goals.
After the yoga class I felt great. It’s been a while since I’ve done any structured exercise and a long time since I’ve pushed myself physically.
I’d already established that what I was eating was affecting my moods. In an attempt to eat more basic and whole foods I’ve been cooking more, making meals from scratch.
And it works. When I have no preservatives or processed foods, the next day I feel so much better. I have energy, I get out of bed more easily in the morning and I’m less likely to snap at my family.
Yesterday I made banana bread. My son loved measuring out the ingredients and mixing them in the bowl. And I loved watching him do it. The finished product was delicious, but it was the actual process of cooking that soothed my soul.