Saturday, 3 September 2016

How I survived my darkest days - an ode to Marian Keyes

Today I needed to remind myself of why I write. My writing feels uninspired and meaningless and there are far better uses of my time.

Marian Keyes' books always remind me of the gift, wonder and power of books. In my darkest days of post natal depression I relied on Marian Keyes to drag me through the days. I looked forward to the evening so I could curl up with Marian, read myself to sleep and hope the next day was less torturous.

I love all of Marian's books (first name basis here!) but two books really stuck with me during that period. Every afternoon I forced myself to go for a run with the dog so the endorphins would kick in and drag me through the hell that surrounded me. As I ran, I focussed on the snippets below to reassure myself that I was not alone and that I would eventually emerge from the other side of depression, perhaps battered and bruised but not broken.

From the Mystery of Mercy Close (Keyes, M 2012), Marian's words hit the mark on how I was feeling:

  • Blackness was rising inside me, rolling up from my gut like oily poison, and a heavier outside blackness was compressing me, like I was descending in a lift (p107)
  • I felt so odd in myself, so disconnected from the world, that perhaps it wasn't a good idea to try talking to him. I didn't know how normal I'd be able to be and I didn't want to freak him out (p109)
  • I'm finding it hard to talk to people. I don't really want to be with anyone. But I don't want to be on my own either. I feel weird. Scared weird. The world looks... weird. I don't want to have a shower; I don't care what I wear. Everything feel ominous, like something terrible is going to happen. Sometimes I feel like it already has. (p127)
  • For a moment I was seized with a powerful wish that I'd fall off and bang my head and get bleeding in the brain and be dead before anyone noticed I was missing. (p146)
From The Woman who Stole my Life  (Keyes, M 2014) her words gave me the motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I'd made it out the other side:

  • When you're going through hell, keep going. (p56)
  • Stay alive. Sometimes there's nothing else you can do, but you must do it. (p91)

There were days when I needed these words to find the courage to keep going. 

Revisiting the courage and comfort that I found in these books reminds me of why I write. 

I am not Marian Keyes. I don't delude myself that I have her gift with words. However, by sharing my story and the stories of other strong women, I hope to reach even just one woman and assure her she is not alone.

If you have a way to reach people, do it. You don't know the gift that you might be giving someone tucked away on the other side of the world, just trying to get through the day.

If you by chance are reading the words from the Mystery of Mercy Close and thinking - that's me, that is how I feel, please see a doctor. Please reach out for help. You are not alone.

My sincerest thanks to Marian Keyes for putting her words out into the world, dragging me through my darkest days and giving me the courage to put my own words out into the world.

If you have a book or a hobby that helped you survive depression, please share it with me by leaving a comment below.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Innovation comes from desperation

Innovation comes from desperation

I love that saying. I mentioned it to someone at work and she fell in love with it to. It’s thought provoking.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised its exactly why I started this blog.
I know that by all appearances I have it all. I’m healthy, I have a lovely supportive husband, two delightful and beautiful children and a job that I quite like. By a job that I quite like, I mean I love the people that I work with and I feel that the work I do makes the world a better place, even though sometimes its a difficult and thankless job.
I have all the things that matter to me so why aren’t I walking on little rays of sunshine?
Here’s the answer – none of those things are all about me. I love my kids, but they are at an age where I keep giving. I love my husband, but it feels like having a conversation that isn’t shouted over the top of kids just doesn’t happen all that often (we are working on that). My job is pretty good is far as jobs go, but its definitely not all about me and the weekly pay is sucked up by living expenses. 
I reached desperation point. 
I decided that I had to do something for myself. I love to write. I tried to write a book – I did NANOWRIMO last year and scraped in the 50,000 words (look it up – you write a 50,000 word novel in a month, quantity over quality) but haven’t even read the manuscript I wrote. Big projects aren’t working for me right now.
Writing this blog gives me the chance to give something back to myself. It doesn’t feel like hard work to me, because I’m loving it. I love writing, I love talking about better ways to live, I love researching all things related to living better and I love the marketing side of getting my blog out there. 
A few years ago I finished my Masters in Business Administration, which I really enjoyed (sad I know), but its not something that I use in my day job. Doing this blog  gives me the chance to play around with marketing strategies in social media – something I’ve never done before and I feel great. Sometimes it overwhelms me, but I just dust myself off, adjust my perspective and remember that this is all about me and if this blog goes nowhere that’s ok, its all about fun.
Coincidentally, I've got more energy at the moment than I've had for a long time - even though I get less sleep. Perhaps there's something to the old mantra of filling up your own cup?
I’ve had so much fun with this blog that I’m getting serious. I’ve ordered a domain name and the Busy Bee will be undergoing a transformation. I’ve spent the money now so I’ll be sticking with the blog and you’ll be seeing more of me (although things may be quiet whilst I prepare to launch).
So I am living proof that desperation begets innovation. Add it to your list of favourite sayings too. 
In the meantime, if you want to be kept in the loop about the Busy Bee’s upcoming adventures, follow me on social media or better still sign up to follow me (look on the right hand side of your screen).

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Balance? What Balance? Where did my life go?

I’ve started Facebook group for busy mums that are looking for balance. A place where people can go to be supported and support others. You need to get your booty over there.

Let's face it - mumming is a tough gig. We’re all doing our best and most of us feel like we are stretched pretty thin. This is certainly the case for me, most of my girlfriends and seemingly for a lot of the wonderful ladies I’m talking with on social media. There is no shame in saying we are tired, we are worn out and we aren’t feeling particularly satisfied.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the women I’ve met who take a gamble and back themselves are women who reached the point of no return. Their lives could not or would not continue as they were. Often the trigger for life change is relationship breakdown, job loss or mental health. It's hard to see it at the time, but sometimes these horrible things end up being a great gift. We are pushed so far that continuing on in mediocrity is no longer an option. We realise that we have to put ourselves first in order to care for others and be the best person we can be.

For me, the real trigger to change my life was a very severe bout of post natal depression. Believe me post natal depression is the pits. I will talk more about it another day, but the short version is that I did a LOT of counselling and for the first time in my life I examined my values were and whether I was living my life in a way that aligned with those values or just doing the things I thought I “should” do.

I was doing all the things I thought I should do to appear like I had it all together and be "successful". But I didn’t have it all together. I don’t think many (if any!) of us do.

My favourite thing to do is catch up with a gal pal and debate the meaning of life, whether parenting is really meant to be this hard and where the hell did our lives go. Seriously, some days it seems hard to even remember the woman I was before I had kids.

Hanging out with my gal pals and chatting about these things reminds me of the woman I used to be. When I’m with my gal pals I swear, I snort with laughter and I laugh. I love it. It re-energises me and I usually come out the other side with a new perspective on whatever is troubling me at the time.

So I’ve created a Facebook group that is for these very things. You want to know how to get more balance in your life, buzz on over and let us know what your struggling with. Chances are someone else has already been there, done that and come out the other side a better, braver and happier person person. 

I hope to see you there. Check out the Facebook page here: Balance? What Balance? Busy mums seeking balance

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Versatile Blogger Awards

Last week I celebrated my nomination for a Versatile Blogger Award from 200 Saturdays until Paris. I was completely rapped because I love her blog. She loves Paris and has a kind soul - I can tell from her writing!! Please check it out.

The Versatile Blogger Award is for newer or smaller blogs.  It was created to encourage engagement with fellow bloggers – to lift each other up and support each others’ hard work.   Please join me in supporting my fabulous nominees!!

Hands on Working Mum
I love this Blog. Karla and I share an outlook on life and have collaborated on the challenges of anxiety. She has a mixture of quirky posts and lovely perspective.

All Things Mum Sydney
Michal is a South African cum Australian. Her blog is a mixed bag of humour and practical tips on places to go in Sydney, amongst other things. We have a shared sense of humour.

Just a Mum who writes
So much more than just a mum who writes! This website how a mix of parenting blog posts and short fiction. Everything is beautifully written. Jewel Eliese is a very talented writer and well worth the visit.

Blazing Voice
You should really check this page out. It's like my quest for self discovery and authenticity has been put on a page. Debbie talks about things like conquering that evil, evil demon called fear. It's a really motivating and challenging page.

And now for 7 things about me:
1. I'm planning a new blog and I'm SO excited
2. My dog is named after a chocolate bar
3. I am terrible at drawing (see the bee with no wings!!)
4. I live for my morning coffee
5. I love eating breakfast cereal - any time of the day
6. One day I will write a brilliant novel that will blow everyone's socks off
7. It's possible that I live in a fantasy world (see point 6)

Thanks again to 200 Saturdays until Paris for nominating me and congratulations to these wonderful blogs. Be sure to take a look!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Own your story - Hands on working mum talks anxiety

Last week I mentioned my collaboration with Hands on working Mum on anxiety. I’ve had a big week with family and work commitments, but better late than never - so here’s my interview with Karla.

I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to do this and I hope it brings some comfort to fellow anxiety sufferers because anxiety can be isolating. 

The really interesting thing for me is the physical symptoms, which seem to be different for everyone. For me the big ones are nausea, dry mouth, tension in my jaw and a ball in my chest/throat. I also find it hard to focus.

What tends to be your physical symptoms for anxiety?

The physical symptoms were what caused me to seek some help.  My palms would sweat.  But the worst was the shakiness.  My adrenaline would kick in as if I was in serious danger, but I was simply attending a meeting.  This probably sounds pretty weird, but my head would shake!  It was mortifying.  I was in a fairly high profile position, and had this need to portray the image of having my stuff together.  After it happened a couple times, my fear of it happening again actually caused it.  It was a terrible snowball effect.  

What self-care do you practice to manage your anxiety?

I learned a lot from the Midwest Centers for Stress and Anxiety.  If you look online, many people say it’s a scam, but it helped me.  I had to change the way I thought.  I was constantly beating myself up.  My self-talk was quite cruel.  I’ve learned to love myself and stop ruminating about everything (and I do mean everything).  When I begin to feel myself getting anxious, changing my breathing is very effective:  Breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts.  I do that several times until I feel myself calm down physically.

I also went to counseling for a while, and the most important thing I learned there is to take my thoughts off of myself.  Let’s say, as a manager, I had to give bad news to someone about their employment.  My old habit was to be concerned about what the person would think of me.  I started to take the focus off of myself, and instead sincerely look at how I could help the person.

Do you find it difficult to talk about your anxiety? Is it something that you share with people?

The only thing I still find a little embarrassing is talking about the head-shaking!  But, in general, I talk about I pretty often.  It usually comes up because I see someone else suffering from anxious feelings or negative thinking.  I share with them what I have learned.  It’s generally received positively.  

How do you find that people respond when you tell them about your anxiety?

I think everyone feels anxious sometimes.  In our current society, the problem has become more of an issue.  I tend to think this may be true more for women, as we are expected to fulfill so many roles.  I believe people who struggle with more serious anxiety are generally very sensitive. This is a good quality in many ways, but you have to recognize it in yourself and use good judgment about when you may be taking things too personally.  I’ve been surprised at how many people have some sort of anxiety, whether it be large crowds, being alone, or even a fear of heights.  Because most people can relate, somewhat, they don’t seem to be too judgmental about it.  

What tip or advice would you share with other anxiety sufferers?

The root of anxiety is the desire to control everything.  In reality, we have control over very little.  I’ve said before, the only thing we can really control is our own behavior, and sometimes we aren’t even very good at that.  

Through my journey, my faith grew and I learned to turn things over to God.  I learned to treat myself with the same compassion I extend to others.  Taking care of yourself physically can go a long way in reducing the symptoms, too.  You think more clearly and realistically when you have had enough sleep.  Reducing alcohol is important; I used alcohol in social situations to reduce my anxiousness, but that can backfire in a number of ways.  I’m a big coffee drinker, but when my symptoms were bad, I found that reducing my caffeine helped keep them at bay to a degree.

My first step, that was really life-changing, was to recognize how many negative thoughts I had.  Once I started paying attention to them, I was shocked at how negative I was!  Replacing those thoughts with positive, but realistic ideas changed my outlook.

My enormous thanks to Karla for her time and for being so open and honest. If any readers also suffer from anxiety I’d love to hear from you.

I share a lot of pages on twitter about mental health, so follow me on twitter if you’d like to follow the pages I’m sharing over there: Busy Bee Twitter

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Celebrate the small stuff

As you may by now have realised I have a tendency to aim high. I'm a recovering perfectionist and over-achiever.

Once upon a time I would have thought that anything short of going viral equated my blog to failure. But that would be so, so wrong.

Firstly - I'm learning A LOT. 5 lessons from my first week in blogging talks about what I learned in my first and I'm continuing to learn everyday - winning.

This week, I did a collaboration with Working Mum Karla regarding anxiety. You can find her article about my anxiety on her webpage, and I'll be posting mine with Karla in an upcoming post. This is something I'm really proud of - anxiety can be overwhelming and isolating and it happens to strong people. Let's bring it out of the darkness.

I was also nominated by 200 Saturdays until Paris for the versatile blogger award. Be sure to stop by her blog and take a look around, I think we are kindred spirits so if you like my blog, I think you will like hers too. I feel honoured to be nominated because there are some fabulous blogs out there. Stay tuned to my blog because I'll be nominating some of those fabulous blogs next week.

Finally, I'm having so much fun with this blog. It definitely hasn't gone viral, it definitely hasn't taken the world by storm, but its honest and its fun and I'm proud of myself for putting myself out there. I love the saying "feel the fear, then do it anyway". I felt the fear, I did it anyway and now I'm reaping the rewards.

Celebrate the small stuff, it feels good.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

All the reason you ever need to not tidy your kids' bedrooms

On the weekend Princess Sparkle thanked me for cleaning her room. Yes! Parenting award for me! My 4 year old actually came looking for me to say thanks for making her room look so lovely.

To be fair, Princess Sparkle is a pretty good kid and she loves having a clean room. She often asks me to come in and help her tidy it and she cries when Captain Destroyer then goes and destroys all her (my!) hard work. The two kids share a pretty small room so it gets a bit wild in there (we actually have a bigger room, but I haven't quite gotten around to swapping them into the bigger room. It feels like a lot of work.)

I'm always nagging at the kids to tidy their room. I don't expect them to do the big stuff, but I do expect them to put the teddies back in their teddy bin and the duplo back in the duple box etc. Usually we all do it together (cough cough - either Mr Busy Bee or myself do it and the kids throw the odd thing in the right direction) before bed.

This weekend I went all out. I stripped the beds, sprayed for dust mites (Aren't I marvellous??!! That or its because of Captain Destroyer's eczema, but let's stick with marvellous), put the various containers of toys back where they belong, tidied the bookshelf, vacuumed and mopped. Phew - I'm exhausted just thinking about it. I must admit, it looked pretty good. Clean and sparkly, as Princess Sparkle would say.

When my delightful daughter hugged and thanked me for my hard work, I was awash with gratitude and pride. Yeah sure, I was proud of her but LOOK AT ME I created this wonderful little girl who says thank you. Definitely getting that parenting award.

Then reality knocked on my door. Fair play, Princess Sparkle, you are a good kid and I am proud of you for noticing my hard work and saying thank you. But I started to ask myself, is it really so noteworthy that I cleaned her room? Is she just grateful because I'm actually a pretty crappy parent who doesn't go in and clean their room every day?

These thoughts bothered me for a little while until I stumbled across a idea that I liked.

If you give something away too easily people stop noticing it and they no longer have the capacity to appreciate it. Inattentional blindness - you don't notice it if its always there. If I was the kind of parent who took ten minutes every morning to tidy the kids' room before I went to work, noone would notice that I was doing it and my daughter wouldn't be grateful for it. By being a less than perfect housekeeper, I'm teaching my children to value and appreciate the things I do for them. Princess Sparkle saw the time that I put into making her room nice and she appreciated it, because its not something just "happens" every day.

So next time you sigh at the state of your kids' bedroom, close the door and walk away pretending you didn't notice (everyone does that right? right???) just give yourself a pat on the back for giving your kids the chance to appreciate your hard work when you eventually go back and sort it out.