Monday, February 27, 2012

Spinning Plates

I originally wrote this in July 2010, but it's only NOW - Feb 2012 - that I feel that it is the right time to publish it...out there...

Amazing if you can do it. Even more amazing if you can maintain it. As a Mum of two children under the age of three and back to work - full time, I feel that spinning plates is a good metaphor for my fast-paced life right now.

For me, there are always lots of plates in the air above my head. Each plate representing different things I’m trying to manage in my life. One plate for working full time, one plate for being a housekeeper, one for being chief cook and bottlewasher, one plate for going food shopping, one plate for dogwalking, one plate for being a wife, two plates for being Mum and an entertainer. I have to keep them all spinning - or risk one or more of them falling and breaking.

Four weeks ago, all of my plates stopped spinning and fell to the floor. Not knowing what was going on, but feeling completely helpless, confused, frustrated and exhausted, I visited my GP for help. I’m sure I infuriated everyone in the waiting room as I was much longer than the 15 minutes they normally allow for an appointment, but after a long tear-filled discussion about how I had been feeling for some time, how my husband didn’t understand me and everything in life was his fault, she asked me to complete a standard health questionnaire.

Some of the multiple choice questions were scarily to the point. Thinking about whether I had ‘thoughts about ending my life’ brought it home to me how serious these feelings could potentially get. After completing the questionnaire, being ordered to take two weeks off work to rest and relax and handed some information about anti-depressants, I realised I was being diagnosed with depression. The Doctor suggested it could be anti-natal depression maybe as a result of the health problems we experienced with Harriet early on, but whatever the reason, it came under the umbrella of ‘depression’ and that in itself was a bit of shock to someone like me who has always felt in control, self-motivated and quite jolly and upbeat.

However, I hadn’t realised that I had managed to continue with this ‘mask’ whilst working, but at home I’d become the wicked witch of west with a bad hangover. Everything at home was going wrong and I just blamed my husband. Even when I knew it wasn’t his fault. I still blamed him and I couldn’t admit I knew I was wrong. If I think back, it must have started some months ago. The first sign being my periods stopping and I then sent out a search party for my libido but even the search party didn’t return! Stupidly I thought I was going through the menopause, but after being tested negative for that in May, I forgot all about it. Now it all makes sense and the missing piece of the puzzle has been found.

Two weeks after seeing the GP, I returned for a review and the Doc signed me off again for another two weeks, ordering MORE relaxation, but also said I had to get regular exercise to make my natural endorphins start working again. I love running, but it’s hard to get yourself motivated when your’re lacking in the very one quality you need! The Doctor handed me a prescription for anti-depressants with the a list of side effects as long as the Great Wall and I’ve now been taking those for two weeks.

So far, the only side effect I’ve experienced is continual yawning, so I’m constantly apologising to everyone in the queue in the post office and the lady at the till at Asda. They must think I’m so rude, but I don’t feel like I can say ‘sorry, it’s my medication’ just incase they order a white van and a one way ticket to Loonyville. Anyway, I think I was actually living in Loonyville up until I had a break from work! The other side effect is unfortunately lack of libido. I say unfortunately because it IS unfortunate - for other people. I, on the other hand, still have a libdo sunning itself somewhere on Libido Island, so it’s not really a problem for me. Anyway, I want to concentrate on getting my head back in working order. Make sure all the nuts and bolts are tightened up and the cogs are rotating correctly and then we’ll think about where my mojo has moved to.

As a result of this life-changing event in our lives, we’ve had to rethink our future. It’s clear that working full time AND running a house and bringing up two children is too much for me to take but even now, saying that feels weird, but since being signed off, my relationship with Jerry is no longer strained and I no longer feel angry or short-tempered. I still really can’t understand why I couldn’t make it all work, but I’m having to admit that I just can’t. I tried and I failed. And that’s how it feels if I’m honest. I feel like I failed. Friends and family will tell me I haven’t, but they can’t deny my feeling and that feeling of failure for now is real. Maybe it’s as a result of setting myself high expectations and I fully admit that, but I’m not going to waste time analysing the whys.

I’m now looking forward to making our lives more balanced and if that means reducing my hours at work, or even looking for a new part-time job, then if that what it takes, I’ll do it. It also means I’ll be able to spend more time with Drew & Harriet and that can’t be bad.

For many people, achieving a good quality of life IS dependent on striking a good balance between the demands of employment and responsibilities at home, combining their career with being the primary carer of their children. Factors at my office such as the advances in information technology, the quick response time expected, the importance attached to high levels of quality customer service, the provision of a blackberry so I can be constantly available and the pace of process change with its resultant adjustments all demanded my time. This coupled with the ever-advancing development of our two children and everything that goes along with that was too much.

So, I’m on the long road to recovery, and it might sound odd, but I’m glad this happened to us. This could have continued on for much longer and who knows where what situation we could have found ourselves in. We now have a golden opportunity to relook, rethink and rejig our lives. Create for ourselves a perfect balance of work and family. We know we might not get it right again, but there’s no reason why we can’t relook, rethink and rejig it again ‘til we get right.

As much as I thought I was, I just ain’t Superwoman.

(But I’m sure I’d look great in the outfit. Who knows maybe that’s the secret to my mojo returning!)

Written in July 2010