Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Yes, I’m advocating drug-fuelled competency

on November 30, 2014

This weekend I have felt like a competent parent.  Like Ofsted ratings, this classification system is somewhat misleading.  Unlike Ofsted ratings, where ‘good’ means ‘satisfactory’ and ‘satisfactory’ means ‘you wouldn’t really choose to send your child here’, ‘competent’ is about as good as it gets when it comes to parenting.  You may have a moment of brilliance, elation, where your child tells you you’re the best mummy in the world, or you feel you’ve exceeded all your expectations of yourself, but this feeling lasts minutes at best before your child breaks down in tears because you’ve given them the cup they asked for when they really wanted a different one, or tells you they won’t be your best friend any more because, well, really, who knows why?

So ‘competent’, for a whole weekend, is pretty good.  Yesterday we had a lazy day, pancakes for breakfast, then a trip to the park to climb about in the woods, eat ice-cream, play on the swings and visit the animals in the aviary.  Then home for homework, tea and bed.  No shouting, no nagging, all reasonableness and patience.  And both girls slept in their own beds until 6 am (I made a half-hearted suggestion that they might like to go back to sleep for another hour, but really felt I’d had as much sleep as I could reasonably ask for).  Today we made it to our Quaker meeting in good time and they (mostly) behaved well, apart from Small Girl having a wee on herself and one of her friends during the Children’s Meeting.  And we chose Big Girl’s birthday present, braved two lots of Christmas Markets and played on a playground and walked home, all with not too much complaining, and then they watched Frozen and we ate hot dogs, and they went to bed, and to sleep.

So where has this competency come from? Well, back in September I started taking anti-depressants.  I’d felt tired since my operation in July and had been waiting for it to clear, and had no energy – starting to think desperately about bed at 8pm – and no motivation to do anything.  Nothing was fun any more.  I thought perhaps there was something physically wrong with me, my thyroid or my iron levels, and then I had one of those days where I cried all day about nothing, and felt like a shit parent, and thought perhaps my children, and the rest of the world, would be better without me looking after them.  Recognising those symptoms, I made an appointment to see my GP, who did some blood tests to rule out any other causes, but agreed that it sounded like depression.

Within a week I noticed improvements.  I had not realised quite how bad things had been until they got better.  I went downstairs into the cellar, where I dry my laundry, to collect socks for Big Girl’s school uniform, and thought I would take all the other pairs of socks upstairs to put away.  This was the first time in a while that I’d done anything other than the absolute minimum necessary for that day.  And the next day I realised I was encouraging the girls to walk home from school by playing games (I tell them they must absolutely not walk *that* way, pointing in the direction of home, and they run off in gleeful disobedience.  It’s the joy of reverse pyschology, where we’re all in on the joke) rather than nagging, shouting and begging.  I was still tired, but now functioning.

And then a couple of weeks ago I got on the bus and felt that everyone was talking about me, and that they all hated me.  I was rational enough to know that this probably wasn’t the case, but the paranoia was still quite disconcerting.  I felt incredibly anxious about work and struggled to make decisions or cope with any jobs which involved two or three different steps to complete them.  So I rang my GP again, and she suggested that I try a different dose.  And here I am, finding life is working, and that I can be a better parent and a happier person, and I’m more able to cope with setbacks. (For example, this week Ex-Husband texted to let me know that he has got engaged to the woman he effectively left me for. I did appreciate the thoughtfulness of him letting me know himself rather than leaving me to hear from someone else, and then I hoped they would both fall into a hole and die.  I quickly amended this to hoping she would fall in a hole and die because I like getting child maintenance and child-free weekends from him, and I’d be sad to lose them.  However, though it did give me a wobbly day, and I’m sure there will be a few more if they ever actually get married and I have to listen to my children talk about being ‘Daddy’s bridesmaids’, there was no crying, and now I’ve moved on.  Not quite to the point of not writing about it on my blog, but enough that it’s only a small aside.  Go me!).

I am quite pragmatic about anti-depressants.  My life can be challenging at times – I’m a working single parent to two small children and I don’t have a car.  If my brain stops working as it should, I need to do something about it, so I can function well.  If, for whatever reason, my brain is not keeping enough seratonin for long enough, I’ll take some medicine to help it get back on track.  I wonder if there comes a point where brains get so overwhelmed or worn out by long-term stress or sleep-deprivation that they just stop functioning effectively, and need anti-depressants to remind them of what they are supposed to do.  (This may be made-up science, also known as ‘not science’.  I’m not a biochemist).

I hope that at some point my brain will regulate its own chemistry without help, but for now I’m happy to have fun with my children, and cope with mean people making snide comments when I queue-jump the enormous line of people waiting for the toilet to avoid an unpleasant incident (“She’s going to do a poo.  Would you like to do a poo in your knickers?”), and face the prospect of marshalling twenty mini-princesses at Big Girl’s birthday party next weekend, and ensure we have enough food in the house and our clothes are washed and we have Christmas presents for lots of the people we love, and all the other things which make up life in our house. And I’m happy to have the help I need to achieve that.



3 responses to “Yes, I’m advocating drug-fuelled competency

  1. nights7 says:

    Good for you for doing what you need to do to be the best parent you can be. That’s really all any of can hope to do.
    I bet there is some real science that backs up your hypothesis about long term stress & sleep deprivation depleting the brain…but who has time to look that up anyhow?

    • I’m always amazed by new parents who have time to do in-depth research on things like whether to immunise or not, before the first lot of injections at about 8 weeks old. I remember the first weeks just being a blur of trying to feed and sleep, and a lot of crying. Maybe all my research was about how to get your baby to sleep…

  2. Merlin King says:

    there are plenty of research papers showing the negative effects on both mind and body of prolonged stress. Constant exposure to cortisol is not what we are designed for. The fight or flight response is supposed to be short lived to get us out of danger. Having it constantly switched on is deleterious.
    If you have an infection then you take antibiotics. If you have depression then you take antidepressants. It is a disease not a failing. You are being brave by facing it and you are doing the right thing not only for you but for those around you.
    As for the engagement, you know he’s a flake. When the going gets tough he bails. Just think, that’s her problem now.

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