If I'm running you know that there must be something pretty bad chasing me, because I don't run for no one. But the beast that is chasing me has the scent of blood and I'm having trouble keeping out of the way of those terrible teeth and claws that, should they dig in, are mightly hard to shake.
My beast doesn't hide under beds or in dark closets, nor in deep holes in the ground or abandoned warehouses. My beast is a hidden monster that is unpredictable, well hidden and often well disguised. My beast prays on all sorts of people; young and old, strong willed or not, intelligent or less so, regardless of gender, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of sexual orientation. It can creep up on the fun loving 20 something as easily as the career minded 40 something.
You could call my beast the great equaliser.
In the interest of good sense I named my beast Bessie, in an attempt to perhaps trivialise her a bit. It sounds nicer than what it's actually called, but for the sake of you all, I'll just call Bessie Beast what it is. It is the crippling disease called depression. The horrid illness called Anxiety. Two sides of the same coin, inextricably linked.
Bessie and I have been battling for a long time. She has almost conquered me more than once, but I've always managed to claw my way back. I thought I'd finally let her go, wishing her all best with a 'F*ck off, Bessie' and an all too dramatic door slamming.
But here I am, waiting and watching, feeling that familiar ache in the pit of my stomach and I know Bessie is lurking. I thought, given I had achieved my dream of adding another baby to our family, that I might have shielded myself from any further toggles with the Beast.
All this is a rather long winded way of saying I'm struggling a bit right now. Hugo is here, and somehow he's suddenly 8 months old and too adorable for his own good. He also has me rather merrily wrapped around his little finger.
I realised things were bad when I was howling and sobbing whilst trying to get Hugo to go to sleep one night not long ago. I have become an anxious wreck about his sleep and it is making me crazy (er). I can have all the best intentions about keeping calm, but after 40 mins of him crying, I'm usually bawling right along side him.
Depression and Anxiety are so insidious. You can't see them from the outside, you can't examine them. My practical mind likes to find solutions, but when one can't see the equation it's really hard to do. Years of battling with Bessie have honed my skills somewhat. I know some of my triggers and I do my best to counter them.
When two of your main triggers are sleeplessness and lack of control over outcomes, and you have a small baby, there's not much you can do in terms of avoidance.
My mood goes in ebbs and flows; deliriously happy hanging out with this gorgeous little human and his equally gorgeous slightly larger brother that we have made, and then horrified that I can't even get him to sleep properly. Then I get to have a chat with Madam Anxiety, let's call her Annie, just because I like alliteration:
Me: "Just go to sleep, Hugo"
Annie: "What if he's sick/hot/needs a new nappy/hungry? You can't just leave him like that!"
Me: "He has no temp, was fine before sleep, isn't too hot, has a new nappy and isn't due for a feed. He's fine...I think...maybe he is sick and I just don't know?"
Annie: "I'm sure he's sick. Probably has a sore throat/ear/tummy...you should get him up."
Me: "But he's sleepy and needs a sleep. I know that's what he needs. Unless he is sick, and I put him to sleep and he gets worse and something awful happens..."
Annie: "Something awful might happen...you're not immune just because it's happened to you before. Awful things can happen."
Me: *Picks Up Baby* or *Baby sleeps and I check on him 40 gazillion times despite the breathing alarm and the baby monitor*
Then I feel absolutely shitty that I can't even handle this one, relatively small part of parenting. I know in my head that it's no big deal, that he'll work it out, but in my heart I feel like a failure and then that leads to depression creeping up behind me and clawing up my only sports bra.
I want to feel better, and I know I can head in the right direction. Facing up to the fact I feel anxious and depressed is a good start, I know. Having a village of other supportive mums and another step in the right direction, and having an awesome partner and kids can only help too.
I know I'm lucky. I know I could very easily have not had any kids, let alone these two beautiful boys. When Annie tells me that I don't deserve them, that I've battled with Infertility and Child Loss because I wasn't meant to be a mum, I try hard to thank God that I had people who told me I was Brave enough, Strong enough, just Enough to keep going. When Bessie reminds me that I feel fat and ugly and worthless, I am lucky I have a family who think I'm beautiful even though I'm wobbly.
It's possible that Bessie and Annie will stick around. It's possible that one day Bessie or Annie might visit you. Please know, I will come riding in to battle with you. I'll jump on my glittery, jazzed up charger and strap on my lance and help you fight that Beasts who haunt you. Because I believe in you, too. You are strong and brave too. You are enough. I'll totes vouch for you.
I can and will beat my Beast again. Because I am worthy, and I know this demon. I can keep it at bay again. Maybe I'll offer Bessie and Annie a cuppa? Maybe they're just scared too. I know I am. Being a parent is scary, and hard work sometimes. But I know it's worth it. I know that my village can help me raise great kids.
But for now, I'll keep running.
Feel free to wave as I speed past.
And to give Bessie a kick up the wazoo.