It's Mental Health Awareness week. In no way do I consider myself to have any kind of mental health issue. I've never been to the doctor about anything other than physical issues (of which I have many ha!). So clearly I don't have anything wrong.

Apart from the anxiety that is. The crippling anxiety that leaves me unable to move, or breathe, or complete sentences. I started a blog post about 2 years ago, after a customer (not in a mean way at all) laughed when I mentioned I suffer from anxiety. Because she thought I was joking, or being melodramatic. I am not sure which. I'm known for both, so I am not surprised. But I felt that it was something that needed to be addressed. I have a couple of friends who suffer from anxiety. Some that are on medication, some not. And most people don't know. It isn't something we talk about.

I didn't post this particular blog post at the time because I wasn't sure it was the thing to post. People want to read about squishy yarny things, not about my issues with breathing when in a supermarket.

Initially I'd started writing the post because that old feeling of not being able to walk into a room on my own was rearing its ugly head. Even if I know that the people inside are people that I know, going in by myself has always been difficult. And when I say difficult, I mean sweating, dizziness, nausea...

The thing is, I'm that one at the party. The loud one who is happy to dance on a table, even without a drink. The one alone on the dance floor because everyone else hasn't had enough drinks to dance like a loon as soon as the music comes on.

I'm the one who wears slightly odd clothing, and always has done. Baby pink bellbottoms were my favourite item of clothing in sixth form. And my Mr Bean Teddy rucksack was my favourite bag. Nowadays you can find me in comfy jeans and a jumper one day, and then green checked leggings with a clashing orange dress the next.

I'm the one who dyes her hair crazy colours, wears wigs and has wacky nails.

 

Blue hair...

 See? Blue hair!

 

So I can't also be the one who has a panic attack about walking into a room?

 

Just like I can't be the one who watches everything start to spin round her as the ground begins to move because she has to choose what to have for lunch in the supermarket, because the idea of making even a simple decision is so overwhelming because the idea that it might be the wrong decision is so consuming.

I can't be the one who struggles to breath when walking towards the nursery to do the school run because I don't really know the other mums. And even the ones who do know me probably hate me, so I avoid playdates at all costs, because they probably talk about me behind my back, and probably think I'm a loser.

 

So I can't be that person. After all, I am the loud, brash, confident one, the one who wears blue wigs.

 

Except I am the one that overthinks everything. Unable to make decisions which makes the most mundane tasks seem insummountable. 

Decisions stump me. And I mean every decision. What to eat, what to wear, which school for the Sconchlet to apply for. Big or small, they end up with me in a complete mess. And over the years it has got worse and worse. I compensate to cope. So if I go to the supermarket to buy lunch, I will come back with most of the options. Better to buy everything than end up unable to breath in front of the salamis.

 

But I decided to not post any of this, because it wasn't a big deal.

 

I revisited the idea of doing a blog post on this last year, right smack in the middle of moving into our shiny new shop, and I started writing this blog post in the middle of the night...

 

It's 2am. I'm clinging on to the edge of the bed unable to sleep so I thought I'd write an update. We only got in half an hour ago. If somehow you've been living on the moon you might have missed that we are moving. Tonight was an epic push to get all the units built...

Once again we had our support team there - I'm totally blown away by the help I've had to turn this unit round. The hours put in to rip carpets up, paint walls, paint furniture, build furniture, sort stock... and not just my regulars, but customers who've only been in once or twice before.

Anyway I digress. I'm clinging onto the edge of the bed because I have a Sconchlet in with me. And she does rather favour clinging to me. Which made me wonder am I a terrible mother for the fact we only got in at 1:30am. Not that she has been up the whole night. As you can see, around 12:30 we gave up...


Sleepy heads...


But the poor thing has been with us every day, having late nights, helping build the furniture...

Everyone has commented on how good she has been. She's just got on with it. After all, this is all she has ever known. Sometimes her bed time is 6:30 like a 'normal' 3 year old. Sometimes it is 9pm because she has had to stay at work with me on a Craft'n'Cake night.

On the whole it doesn't seem to affect her. She's a bright, confident little thing, but I can't help but wonder am I doing the right thing. We don't go in for strict routine and I honestly don't think even if I was a stay at home mam that would be different. But I wonder if she would have a happier time if I didn't have to drag her to work with me all the time.

Obviously the past two weeks are an anomaly. I don't *normally* have her at work until crazy o'clock. But the principle still stands.

Sometimes it's super hard being a parent. Working or stay at home. We second guess everything. We have such an impact on our little people by our actions. Even when we are doing the best we can it isn't always enough.

 

What the above extract doesn't convey, is the level of overthinking in this situation. Everyone worries about their kids. But I am often to be found rocking backwards and forwards, sobbing my heart out over it. And I wonder how many other parents out there feel like this? How many other parents feel like complete and utter failures, and feel like they can't go on, leave the house, do the most mundane task, because the anxiety is so overwhelming. And how many of these parents are we totally unaware that this is how they feel? And how many of these parents do we judge for their decisions, without stopping to think what they are going through and what they are doing might just be a way to get through that day?

 

So I got to thinking, what is it that makes me so anxious? I've always been an anxious person. I remember really vividly before dance classes as a child, when my teacher would pick me up, that I would feel faint and so sick, and get myself into an almost state of crying at the thought of leaving the house, which seemed crazy to everyone because I LOVED dance classes, everything about it. 

Sometimes I think it is worse than it was then, sometimes I think I am dealing with it all much better. But then I think about it and realise actually, I'm not. Take the supermarkets example. I rarely have panic attacks in supermarkets anymore. But really, it isn't being better, I am just diverting the panic.

 

But either way, I suppose the point I am trying to make, is that most people wouldn't know any of this about me. Just like most people wouldn't have the foggiest idea about how much pain I am in on a daily basis. I know this, because when I am in a wheelchair if we go somewhere that needs a lot of walking, the levels of questions it raises is phenomenal. And I honestly don't mind the questions, it is good to talk about it, and it gets people thinking. But if people don't know I'm in pain, they also don't know I'm fighting the anxiety.

Which means that I don't know about the person standing next to me at the supermarket, and how they might also be having their own personal battles right at that moment.

 

So let's not judge people. And I know that is easier said than done. I'm guilty of that. It is human nature. But let's try. Before you make a snap decision about the way someone is acting, stop and think about what they might be going through today.

 

And if you know someone is struggling, maybe ask them if you can help. Ask them if they want to go for a walk. Ask them if they'd like a cup of tea. Talk to them. Let them know they aren't alone.

 

Sam x