It’s been a while since I talked about my crazy brain. It’s a sensitive subject but worth discussing. Bear in mind that I am not a medical professional or a mental health expert; I’m just sharing my own experience. (And I have a lot to say…sorrynotsorry for the incredibly long post.) I am happy to talk with you if you need a friend who understands, though, so if any of this resonates with you or you have questions, by all means send me an email or leave a comment. We all need to talk about mental health in a more open, non-judgmental way. Whatever your version of “crazy brain” looks like, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
As for me? I’m in the thick of it right now. These pictures I’m sharing? Totally staged. We’re really baking, sure, but this is not how it usually goes. I would so much rather bake by myself than with my kids, and half the time Margot’s not wearing any clothes. But it makes them happy to help. (And it makes me happy to have children who are dressed and look presentable.) So here I am, setting my anxiety aside for a few minutes to let them help me bake banana bread.
That’s my life right now. Managing the crazy brain just enough so I can try to be an engaged and pleasant person. My triggers are hard to avoid at the moment, and my usual coping mechanisms aren’t always available to me. I’m lucky to get a five minute shower every day. I’m REALLY lucky to wash my hair. If I can do yoga before I shower? Best. Day. Ever.
So while I do have a lot of good days/hours/moments–like in these photos–often I have to focus on simply keeping everyone alive.
And that is okay.
It’s okay if I lower my expectations and my standards for a while if it helps me get through this phase intact. If my marriage is in good shape, my kids are safe and healthy and know they are loved, and my home isn’t burning to the ground, that’s good enough for me.
(Okay, my standards are not quite that low…but they’re also not a whole lot higher.)
I expected this. Not that I wanted it–crazy brain isn’t exactly something I welcome with open arms–but I am hardly surprised that I’m having a hard time these days. The deck is kind of stacked against me.
I have a hard time with babies. I’ve felt this way with all three of my kids. I can’t breathe for all the love I feel toward them, but goodness, they’re difficult little slugs for the first year or so. Call me when they’re somewhere around 9 or 10 months old; that’s when I start really enjoying them again.
I am not sleeping enough. It’s just comes with having a baby. But being sleep-deprived does terrible things to me. Not only is my brain mushy and my body worn out, the depression demons are much louder when I’m tired. My confidence and self-esteem plummet. My ability to make decisions is greatly diminished. I yell a lot. It stinks.
Too much noise makes me extra anxious. The baby shrieks. A lot. And the girls talk. A lot. And when everyone is talking and shrieking and singing and yelling and clamoring for my attention all at the same time? Shut it down, y’all. Me and my crazy brain just cannot deal.
We’ve been sick off and on over the last couple months. And moms don’t get sick days. So I’m running on little sleep, feeling pretty icky myself, and having to put drops in one kid’s eyes while yelling at another to cough into her sleeve and go wash her hands, then pinning down a third to suck copious amounts of mucous out of his nose, then doing the ninety-third load of laundry in a week. Or something along those lines. I don’t know. It’s all a blur.
Summer is coming. All I want to do from May to October is wallow like a hippo in some cool water and sip iced lemonade while the air conditioning blows over me. Alas. I have children. Who want to do stuff. Doing stuff with children in the summer in Phoenix is hard. It just is. I’ve got plans in the works so we don’t get cabin fever, but just thinking about how difficult it’s going to be gives me preemptive anxiety. (Yes, I definitely made that up, but also it’s totally a thing.)
My social life is not serving me well. I’m a social introvert. I really don’t want to be around all the people all the time, but I definitely need to be around my people sometimes. Problem is I keep misjudging my capacity for socializing. I need to spend more time with the people who fill me up and less time with groups that leave me drained. Quality over quantity.
So that’s where I’m at. It’s not ideal. Sure, I’m surviving–we all are–but it could be better.
Something needs to change, I know that. I need more quiet time to myself so I can better handle the less quiet times with my little ones. I’m trying to figure out how to eliminate some of the stress and minimize my anxiety triggers. Read more. Yell less. Eat well and make time for exercise. And I really want to set myself up for success this summer before Mila starts school.
Honestly, just identifying problems and planning ahead helps me feel better. That way I know what I can control, and therefore fix, and what I cannot control, and therefore must accept and accommodate.
Two final thoughts:
First, I am incredibly grateful for the medication I take. I guarantee I would not be handling things as well as I am if it weren’t for that. Medication means the difference between a tired, sometimes grumpy, but functional Jen and a yelling, anxious, potentially dangerous Jen. The first one can see the beauty and humor in spite of the stress and exhaustion. The second one just wants everyone to go away so she can sleep forever. I prefer Jen #1.
Second, my issues with what I call “crazy brain” may sound trivial to you. That’s okay. Compared to the mental health struggles many people face every day, yes, mine are pretty minimal. When someone is struggling with anything, though, the last thing they need is to be told, “Oh, just you wait! It gets so much worse!” or “At least it isn’t fill-in-the-blank!” or “You think that’s bad? Let me tell you about MY problems!” That’s not helpful. And I don’t say that just so you’ll leave me nice comments. I say it because I hope you’ll be kind to yourself and those around you.
Everyone is carrying some kind of burden or another. A little empathy and validation go a long way.
So. Anyone else out there feeling pushed to their breaking point lately? Just me? What are you doing to cope? And how can I help? <3
All photos by Lydia of Photography Hill. I have quite a few more from this session that I want to share, so don’t be surprised when they pop up again. Lydia is currently booking sessions in Portland, OR, so if you live in that part of the world and need some great lifestyle or bloggy photos, I highly recommend her.