Hey folks! How are we all doing? I’m doing okay. I think. It’s been quite a couple of weeks hasn’t it? I have not been myself at all. And I know I’m not alone.
It all started with the EU Referendum. Now don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into a long ramble about membership of the European Union. But I do want to talk about the after effects of the vote. Not for the country in terms of economic, social and political impact (there are far more informed people than me to do that for you). But the impact on me and those around me. Because if there is one word that sums up the past fortnight for me it is ANXIETY.
I suffer from anxiety on and off and have done for years. It was pretty bad after the births of my two children. I know lots of people who struggle with it to different degrees, and many of us have had or are having CBT to combat it. My triggers are probably not that dissimilar to those of other people, and the two triggers that were set off big time two weeks ago were uncertainty and lack of control.
Now in everyday life we all face plenty of uncertainty and lack of control. I have got pretty good at dealing with these things day to day, but I was definitely not ready for the whole country to be plunged into uncertainty, or for something to happen that was so against what I and my peer group believe in that it felt drastically out of control. As I say, I know I’m not alone. Everyone I know for whom anxiety is a part of their life has been struggling the past two weeks. It’s as though the political climate has blown apart the walls we have built for ourselves and we’ve all been plunged back to square 1 with no warning whatsoever.
It doesn’t help that my youngest has been testing out just how little sleep the family needs. Great timing David.
The thing to do, clearly, is to go back to the basics of CBT. It took me a while to realise that’s what I needed to do, but I have been writing stuff down most evenings and remembering some simple things:
- Only respond to overt judgements about yourself (i.e. things that people actually say). What other people think of you is none of your business
- The most important thing is your immediate family and their happiness and well-being. Make that the focus
- Remember the things that have gone right. Not everything has gone badly
- What is the worst that can happen? Look that full in the face and remember that you can cope. You always have before
The trouble is that, with the political issues being so divisive, we know that other people WILL be judging us. And thinking badly of us. And disagreeing with us vehemently. This is tough stuff in the world of social anxiety. Yet we know what to do don’t we? Far easier said than done, but we need to judge ourselves fairly. What would we say to a friend? What is a fair assessment of our words and deeds? And, hardest of all, if we truly believe that we have done something wrong, we need to own it, deal with it, apologise, move on.
Can’t I just hide under the duvet, popping out occasionally to shout at people on social media?
No. There’s too much to be done.
Clearly having just launched my new website, and having a conference to organise, this is the perfect time to be experiencing crippling self doubt. Helpful! And the difference this time is that so many people are experiencing the same things that misunderstandings and fallings out would be so easy. When tensions are running high and everyone is feeling the strain it is so easy to imagine that someone is annoyed with you, that someone was “being funny” with you. That little sigh, that glance, those few words, that body language…. That’s it, she hates me! Oh I’m so offended! Well, I tell you what I think….. And we’re off! Not content with being furious with roughly half the voting population we start to fall out with our friends as well. No! That’s the anxiety talking! Don’t fall for it!
What has been very apparent is that many people have been going through a grieving process. I posted this on Facebook and asked everyone where they were up to, and so many people identified with it.
I am fortunate that the process was relatively quick for me and acceptance took roughly a week. But the day and a half of depression was really frightening, as someone who has struggled with depression in the past. I was not happy to be back there and I am so very glad it was fleeting. Again, I know I’m not alone.
Yet like with all good calamities, it has also been a time for learning and reflection. Inevitably, with the massive generational divide in the way that people voted, many of us have found ourselves on the other side of the fence from our parents. This has caused a lot of emotional upset and soul-searching, but it has also led me to some realisations. I posted on Facebook about how we must not let what has happened make us bitter, as I had a lightbulb moment when I realised why, perhaps, some of our parents feel and act the way that they do. Strangely enough watching the new Absolutely Fabulous movie brought up some more insights, questions and uncomfortable realisations about the generational divide. I am still processing that one.
The good news is that none of us has changed. We are still the same people, with the same passions, the same annoying habits, the same desires and loves and hates. The same intolerances. The same kindnesses. We muddled along together before and we can do so again. If you are still in the process of grieving then this paragraph will not resonate. You do not want to “muddle along”, you are furious! Or desperately unhappy. But trust me, you will reach acceptance. And you will find a way through, and a way to work with others again.
And we have to. Because there isn’t time for this. There is so much work to be done. Sure, recent political events might make some of the work a bit harder, but when was it ever easy? In the world of maternity and post-natal support, my little niche, there is such important stuff happening, and recent events have not slowed it down. Dr Jo Black wrote this fantastic vision for perinatal mental health support. UNICEF’s Baby Friendly Initiative are calling everyone to ACTION on infant feeding – the time is now. Today, as I write, the #MatExp campaign is holding it’s first workshop on the “Nobody’s Patient” project, and I cannot wait to see the outcomes and pledges. We are keeping on keeping on.
After a few tweaks to the bedtime routine, and a re-commitment to night weaning the youngest, the Calvert family is beginning to get a bit more sleep. Long may that continue. Hopefully this means that I am on my way back to operating at full capacity, and I hope you are too.
We don’t have the time for this nonsense. There is work to be done.