DAY 43: The far more interesting story

We decided to start trying for a baby at the beginning of 2015, so I also decided I’d keep a journal and write in it every day. My plan was to hand it over to my daughter one day to show her what pregnancy and birth was like and how she first entered the world.

When I fell pregnant in March with an early December due date, the dream had become a reality. I could document every step of the way, ending with the fantastic December birth day finale. How neat is that?

But life doesn’t always go to plan. At a routine 9 week scan we were told the baby no longer had a heartbeat and that I was going to miscarry.

On Mothers Day in May I mourned the loss of my baby and bared all to the pages of my journal.

journal cover
Image by Mary-Frances Main at https://www.flickr.com/photos/rexandsharkey/2859714730

In September I found out I was pregnant again. This one was going to be the one! I wrote all about it in my journal, the hopes and the dreams. There’d been a setback but this time we were ready.

Then at just 5 weeks pregnant, on Fathers Day, I started to bleed. And we lost that baby too.

I fell into a depression. Some days I found it hard to move. Every day I wrote about it in my journal. I wrote about the pain and the negative thoughts and the inability to see any joy in the world.

The very next month, I discovered I was pregnant again. And here I am. Pregnant and terrified, but stronger and more resilient. Whatever the outcome I know I will manage through it.

It’s almost the end of the year, and I’m getting close to the end of my journal. The original dream to have my full pregnancy and birth documented is no longer an option, and the chance of miscarriage again is high.

But, what I realised this week is that the story in my journal, the story of hurt and grief and disappointment, is far more interesting that the ‘perfect pregnancy’. This is the story people will actually read. The story that truly reflects the ups and downs of every day life and death.

xx Eloise

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DAY 38: What a sandwich and my toddler taught me about mindfulness

Today I watched my toddler eat a sandwich. I’d read this article about how when your children grow up you really miss that (crazy and exhausting) toddler phase, and it made me stop and watch my little boy.

He picked up a small triangle of sandwich carefully between his fingers and studied it. He turned it over and switched hands. Then he took his forefinger and pushed it gently into the jam and butter, then held his finger up and studied it. He licked the jam off his finger, swirled it around in his mouth and swallowed. He gave a little nod, then took a bite, chewed it, then swallowed again. Then he just stopped and stared at the sandwich.

Image by Zoha Nve at https://www.flickr.com/photos/benetton/3697763962
Image by Zoha Nve at https://www.flickr.com/photos/benetton/3697763962

Nothing could take his attention away.

My son is an expert at mindfulness. And he’s only 2.

Here I am, significantly older, and trying my hardest to be more mindful. Trying my hardest to stay in the moment and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

Why does growing up force us to be less mindful? As each year passes, my little boy’s mind will be filled with more and more thoughts of the past, worries about the future and concerns about the present. Sadly, he’ll lose that intense pleasure of a simple jam sandwich.

But right now, life is his to be enjoyed. And as part of getting my balance back I’ll try to experience it with him as much as I can.

Right now, he’s spinning around on the spot happily singing the words to ‘Mary had a little lamb’ and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.

xx Eloise

DAY 32: She knows what I’ve been through

I’m lucky to have a lot of people around that care for me greatly. They all say nice things, ask how I’m going, make all the right noises when I tell them how hard it’s been.

But nothing really beats sharing your story with someone who’s been through the same thing.

I ran into a friend yesterday at a school fair. When I first told her about my miscarriages and depression, she opened up and told me about hers. I connected with her instantly. She was always someone I admired in general but to hear that she’d been through the same thing and survived gave me hope and inspiration.

Image by Onnola at https://www.flickr.com/photos/30845644@N04/7293558028
Image by Onnola at https://www.flickr.com/photos/30845644@N04/7293558028

At the school fair, we didn’t even have to get into detail for both of us to understand:

My friend said, ‘It’s so good to see you. How are you?’ (this is not just general chit-chat, she’s asking about something specific without needing to say it, and she genuinely cares)

‘I’m going really well. Focusing on myself was a really good decision.’ (I’m not putting on a brave face at all)

‘That’s great. Wonderful.’ (my friend knows I’m not putting on a brave face, so things must actually be going well and she is genuinely happy about it)

‘See you later.’ (and we mean it)

I ran into others at the fair and had very similar conversations, but they just weren’t as meaningful as this one.

xx Eloise

DAY 30: Something social for Halloween

I must be feeling better. I am actually looking forward to a social event.

Yep, you heard it. Looking forward to it. Feeling good about leaving the house and talking to people. About sharing the ups and downs of the past few months. About being a friendly person that others want to be around.

Tomorrow we’re going to a Halloween party. I’ve been busily sewing a costume for my son (using my new creative space) and tonight I made a Halloween potato bake using sweet potato as little jack-o-lanterns. I’m feeling very ‘American housewife’ and it feels good.

Image by Eloise
Image by Eloise

Up until now, social events have been difficult and exhausting. If I’ve attended any, it’s been out of guilt and obligation more than the joy of it. It’s been all about that ‘should’ word that my psychologist told me to avoid. But sometimes it’s something that has to happen when you have depression, merely to get through day to day life.

But this one feels different. I’m interested to see if I feel exhausted by the end of the day, or if my enjoyment impacts my energy levels too. Then again, I may drop again tomorrow and find it all one big struggle.

But at least I’ll be turning up with a costumed child and an awesome potato bake.

xx Eloise

DAY 25: Changing values at work

I’ve recently been having a big think about my values and how these relate to goals. Previously, I wouldn’t have thought about separating values and goals, but The Happiness Trap made me think differently about things.

Let’s take work as an example. Before I realised I needed to get my balance back, I was pretty sure that I wanted to manage high profile projects and get a promotion. Those were my goals and I thought they were also my values.

Image by Dave Collier at https://www.flickr.com/photos/casamatita/8076585360
Image by Dave Collier at https://www.flickr.com/photos/casamatita/8076585360

But recently I’ve been questioning this. Why do I want to manage high profile projects/get a promotion? I guess I wanted people to look up to me and to respect me. I wanted to show to others that I could do a good job. I wanted to get to the end of my life and look back and go ‘I delivered that awesome thing at work’.

Honestly, though, are they things that I actually value? They’re all based on others’ perception of me, rather than true meaning and personal satisfaction.

So what do I value at work? What aspects to I truly enjoy and get satisfaction from?

I enjoy helping and mentoring others. I enjoy doing a task really well. I enjoy having a to-do list and getting through it each day. I enjoy being organised. I enjoy socialising and laughing and hearing about the lives of others.

Additionally, I enjoy leaving work at a set time. I enjoy being home each night for my family and I enjoy having space on the weekends where I’m not thinking about work. I enjoy my privacy and completely separating work from home.

So they’re my values.

And they don’t align with my previous-held goals.

Something has to change.

xx Eloise

DAY 22: If you’re happy and you know it… what’s so terribly wrong with these lyrics

Living with a toddler, we do a lot of singing. But one song that’s been bothering me lately is ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’.

Are we teaching our children that:

  1. You can only join in if you’re happy.
  2. If you’re not actually happy, you should pretend to be happy just so you can clap along.
  3. Happiness is the ‘normal’ state and anything else is bad.

I’ve been sharing my emotional journey with my toddler and find that he’s very receptive and empathetic about what’s going on. When he’s sad he cries, when Mummy’s sad she cries. There’s really no other way to think about it. He gives me cuddles and spends time with me when I’m sad, just like I do with him. When he falls over and scrapes his knee, his goal isn’t to ‘get happy’, it’s to talk about what hurts and feel comfort. Then usually a side effect of that is that he can stand up and go back to what he was doing.

Image by Adrigu at https://www.flickr.com/photos/97793800@N00/3202240991
Image by Adrigu at https://www.flickr.com/photos/97793800@N00/3202240991

I wouldn’t say he ever really ‘gets happy’ in the moments after falling over.

At a very young age we are conditioning our children to try to ‘be happy’ and stop the other emotions they might be feeling. I know this has had implications in my adult life with me forever seeking perfection and being quite uncomfortable with emotions such as sadness, fear or anger. We can’t continue this way with future generations.

So I’d like to propose new lyrics to the song:

If you’re happy sometimes clap your hands.

If you’re sad sometimes clap your hands.

If you’re happy or sad or afraid or mad,

It’s OK to feel like that, clap your hands.

At least this is what I’ll be singing in my household.

xx Eloise

DAY 21: The stress of socialising when I’m depressed

This week I was all about social health. I was feeling good so I thought I’d get out there and catch up with friends and work colleagues.

I had social events booked for every day this week. Lunches, morning teas, afternoon walks, early morning exercise sessions, social swims at home… my schedule was looking very healthy indeed.

Image by Tony Hall at https://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherphotograph/291353662
Image by Tony Hall at https://www.flickr.com/photos/anotherphotograph/291353662

Except that I, myself, was far from healthy.

My lunch with work colleagues went well, but it was draining. I constantly switched between ‘put on a happy face’ and ‘pour my heart out’. Both states were exhausting. The pretending to be happy was hard because I had to check myself continuously and think about every word that came out of my mouth. The honest expression of feelings was easier at the time but I was repeating stories I’d already said to my psychologist, my mother and my husband so it brought up old feelings that I thought I’d put to bed.

And that night it was as if I’d stretched a muscle and was feeling delayed pain: I had stretched my social health muscle and now I was suffering from it.

It needed rest. I needed to put that muscle up on a chair with some ice. So I cancelled my social plans today and spent the day in bed.

And already I’m feeling a little bit better.

xx Eloise

DAY 19: Therapeutic hedging

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:

  1. 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.
  2. My physical health – it was hard work cutting, sweeping and carrying buckets of branches to the bin.
  3. My social health – I got to spend some much-needed time chatting to my dog about life, and he loved the company.
  4. My environmental health – the finished product looks fantastic and when I look out the back now I feel satisfied for a job well done.
Image by Christian Guthier at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/3963659498
Image by Christian Guthier at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/3963659498

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.

xx Eloise

DAY 12: My lucky day

Today luck was on my side. After months of things going wrong, I saw a significant shift today.

They were small things, like when I ordered a desk for my new creative space but the shop lost it, they re-ordered it at a $50 discount and threw in an additional $50 gift card for the inconvenience. Or how I forgot to buy tissues and then saw them on sale at a completely different shop. Or how when I stopped for lunch at a sushi train the miso soup was simply plain delicious.

clover
Image by Umberto Salvagnin at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kaibara/2545331599

But it got me thinking. All of these things could have been ‘unlucky’ in a different frame of mind.

When I was told that the shop had lost my desk I could have been so upset that I left the store before a discount could even be offered. Or I could have responded angrily and demanded to see a manager. But instead I was calm and polite and the shop assistant responded kindly.

When I forgot to buy tissues, I could have felt stressed and disappointed about this fact and completely missed the ones on sale right in front of my face.

And if I was in a rush and trying to get a quick lunch, I probably wouldn’t have ordered miso soup at all.

I used to think myself as a lucky person, but lately that luck just hasn’t been around. But now I can see that a good mood brings good things, not the other way round.

xx Eloise

DAY 10: Thanks to those who went before me

There’s a very special woman in my family who I’ve felt connected to all my life. From when I was young I’ve known something was not quite right – hushed conversations, ‘episodes’, emotions that I hadn’t seen at home – and as I grew older I learned that she had depression.

In recent years she’s been much more open about it. People in general are talking about it more so the stigma is lifting. She feels confident talking about her experiences with her loved ones.

This woman has helped me immensely. I met her today and she told me even  more about her life, the challenges and the solutions. I can’t believe how hard it was for her in the 1980s living with this disease.

Her challenges are making my journey easier. I am not afraid to discuss my depression with my family and my friends. I know that it’s a disease that very often needs medication, just like any other. And I also know the seriousness of it and how it’s not something you can ignore.

Image by Peter Turvey at https://www.flickr.com/photos/timothyhackworth/2599222788
Image by Peter Turvey at https://www.flickr.com/photos/timothyhackworth/2599222788

So this post is to that special woman. Thank you for clearing the path so I can walk easily behind you. Thank you for helping me avoid feeling the pain that you lived with for so many years.

xx Eloise