It's no secret that I've battled with anxiety and panic attacks since having our son, and I've publicly shared that I decided with the help of a counsellor, a naturopath, and my doctor to start medication to get through the day. I've been on anti-anxiety meds before, so I already knew that they don't magically solve all of your problems. They just make you care about them a little less.
Oh, and flatline your libido. That's all kinds of fun (not like I had much of a sex drive anyways as a new mom having panic attacks all the time, but come on, even a faint pulse down there would be great).
Well, 5 months on, my life has completely changed.
By the end of most days, I feel productive, happy, and calm. At ease. And, dare I even say it, I have small pockets of joy in the precious moments that I was too anxious to even see 5 months ago, like when I'm putting Aleks to bed and he's laying in my arms, just staring up into my face and smiling. My heart swells just thinking about it.
Don't let the meds fool you, though, there have still been many, many moments when the chest tightness returns, when I can't breathe, when I feel like the dishes, the laundry, and the vacuuming might just smother me to death. I've figured out that those feelings means that I haven't been taking care of myself properly.
This self-care thing is an entirely new concept new to me. Even though I've struggled with anxiety since graduating from university in 2006, it didn't rule my life. I managed to balance cooking, keeping the house somewhat clean, working 30 hours a week at a "real job", and running my business without too much fuss.
When I got pregnant, I was completely in denial about how much a baby would change our lives pretty much up until the day that he was born. My doula, who is a close friend, kept her serious concerns to herself that I was completely disconnected from the whole process, and only told me after the fact that she could tell shit was going to hit my proverbial fan.
Then Aleks spent his first 4 1/2 months on this earth in the Children's Hospital undergoing several major surgeries and coming home with a colostomy bag.
Is it really any surprise that I pretty much lost my sanity when he hit a year old?
What all of us mothers know is that our children are our greatest teachers, and the best gift that Aleks has given me is to force me to take care of myself.
Screw self-care, this is self-survival!
I very well couldn't just up and leave my life, and spend 3 months on an island being served umbrella drinks from a tanned, tight-bodied pool boy.
Well, I guess I could of. It was tempting, but I couldn't have lived with myself.
So I had to carve out minutes of calm-inducing sanity into my day, because no one was damn well going to do it for me.
Before you start rolling your eyes if you think I'm going to tell you to start meditating for 30 minutes in the morning, I have 3 words for you:
Fuck that shit.
Most moms (myself included) are so new to self-survival, not to mention words like calm, luxurious, ease, or joy, that 30 minutes of meditation is a leetle over my head right now.
It's truly the little things, people!
Let's start with these 3 simple, luxurious treats that'll change you from I-can-barely-cope to cool, calm, superfly mom in just a few hours:
1. Eat une délicieuse pâtisserie (french for gorgeous, you-can't-believe-this-is-actually-going-into-your-mouth sweet baked good): Yes, this holistic nutritionist is telling you to eat a cupcake, or a brownie, or a croissant, or ...
I talked all about the benefits of Vitamin P (= pleasure) in this blog post, and I truly believe it's missing in huge quantities in our lives as moms. We're always giving up things so that our kids can have what they want need, whether it's new clothes, or sweet treats. Now this isn't permission for you to eat your feelings, but sitting down in peace and quiet and taking the time to truly treat yourself with an amazing baked good has it's time and place.
That little piece of gastronomic paradise that you see right there (and at the top of this post)? It's called the Mile High Brownie, and it's from the minds and hands of the amazing mother & daughter team of Kelly Childs and Erinn Weatherbie, who serve up their gluten-free, peanut-free, and vegan treats at Kelly's Bake Shoppe in downtown Burlington, Ontario (just outside of Toronto).
It's OK that it's better than 95% of the sex you've ever had, just don't tell your husband.
2. Clean your make-up brushes: So don't call the hygiene police on me, but I can go 6 months before I clean my make-up brushes. I know, disgusting. Every morning when I use them I say to myself "GOD, these are so dirty, I need to clean them" ... and then I move onto my hair, and then Aleks does something like dump his entire bowl of cereal into the bathtub, and then I forget until the next morning, and the next, and the next, when I say the exact same thing to myself. That day when I finally get my shit together enough to actually clean them it takes all of 5 minutes, and the next morning I'm so happy that my brushes are soft and gorgeous again. Plus, my makeup looks better. Double score.
3. Take a joyride: Let's go back to 2002, shall we? I had just finished my first year of university, and was working in an environmental lab for the summer. I was driving down the freshly paved University Ave in Waterloo, the windows down in my '99 Volkswagen Golf, wind whipping through my hair, rapping 50 Cent's "In Da Club" like a boss. I stopped at a red light, and a car with two relatively cute guys pulled up beside me. They saw a little white girl rapping, and were smiling and flirting with me. You can bet your ass that I put the gear shift in first and blasted off the line, leaving them behind me. I had virtually no responsibilities, and felt 100% freedom. If someone can figure out how to bottle that feeling, they'll be a millionaire. Oh wait, it's called wine :-)
Freedom is what I most miss now that I'm a mother. Even when I'm out by myself, doing what I want for a few hours (which, let's be honest, is usually going to my local Winner's store, where I inevitably end up buying a few cute outfits for Aleks), thoughts from my daily, weekly, or monthly mommy to-do list will leak into my head. So I fill my head with old school rap in the car (now a 2010 Golf Wagon, we need the extra room) with the windows down, and get a taste of freedom that keeps me sane for the next day or two.
If you're anything like me, a list of 3 things will only get you through your kids' next tantrum. Don't you worry (you already do enough of that), because I've got you covered for the next 30 days.
I'm so damn excited to reveal the 30 Day Calm Mom Challenge, and it's totally FREE! Oh, and you'll get a preview of my new colours, photos (even one of me in the bathtub), style, and re-branding.
If you like the 3 simple treats listed above, then you'll totally love the #calmmom challenge. Just click here to head over to the free sign-up page. The challenge starts whenever you're ready ... which, who are we kidding, will be never! Just click here and sign up anyways, and join thousands of other women who have already said yes.
I wanna know: what simple, luxurious things do you treat yourself to?