My Best Self Project (always ongoing)
Until about 2017, I was seriously on the edge.
I don’t think anybody knew how close to the edge I really was. Although I hardly hid it well.
I’d like to say on the surface I appeared to have it all under control….except I didn’t. I’d burst in to tears in front of total strangers, spend endless nights wandering around the house unable to sleep and feel overwhelm so huge that it took every ounce of energy (and I mean every ounce) to even face the day.
I turned to food, caffeine and booze for comfort, and as you can imagine, this didn’t lead anywhere great.
I struggled to cope day to day with the enormity of one major thing. Motherhood. I woke up one night and said to my husband… “I have absolutely no idea how to do this”.
Not only that. I really didn’t like myself all that much any more.
Post Natal Depression or Quite Simply, Completely Overwhelmed?
Post-natal depression has been mentioned to me a number of times, and I completely understand why. I was totally and utterly depressed for years.
However I have my own theory.
What people don’t tell you about having children is that is completely transforms your life in every imaginable way. When we got pregnant I was living a life I loved – glam holidays, a job as a Personal Stylist and Shopper that I loved and was respected for, disposable income, purpose to my day, fit and healthy, and shopping, dining out and exotic travel were a pleasure we indulged on regularly. Anything I wanted to do, be and have was up for grabs. I had the freedom to do anything.
Cut to life after kids and I didn’t know who I was any more. Everything I’d worked so hard to build in my life disappeared overnight. And I mean OVERNIGHT. My life was quickly unrecognisable, and I think for some of us Mums, this is a huge shock. Couple it with post-traumatic shock after a terrifying birth, and you have a great recipe for total depression.
I LOVE being a mum. My girls are incredible and I’m so super lucky. But let’s get one thing straight. I have many more talents that just being a mum. Not putting those talents to good use makes me feel unfulfilled. I also have many things in my life that bring me joy. Not being able to partake in those, also makes me sad.
So in saying that, the challenge of becoming a mum isn’t actually motherhood itself (although that’s bloody hard-going as a stand-alone job.) The challenge is finding a way to balance motherhood with all the other things in your life that bring you joy. Oh and not feeling guilt for it! I’m definitely still a work in progress here!
Here’s a Baby. Good Luck.
The things I loved – work, meeting people, exercising, energy, sleep, eating well, cooking, travelling, shopping, dressing well – all of a sudden felt like they had been stripped away from me, and although I adore and love my kids with emotions so strong they can’t be compared to anything, I’m just going to say it as it is. Being a mum is tough. Especially if you actually really loved a lot about your life before-hand, and struggle staying at home all day, doing endless chores and feeling very, very lonely. It all felt very intense and overwhelming.
I used to quite like doing my washing. All of a sudden in was ALL I did. I used to love taking my time reading new recipes and then cooking them together with my husband over a glass of wine on a Saturday night whilst we talked about our week and listened to music. Now it was a good night if we a) manage to cook anything or b) get more than two mouthfuls down our neck. Eating together was laughable. What is it about babies who know the exact moment you sit down to eat your dinner?!
Of course I’ve not mentioned, you’re not meant to actually say any of this stuff are you? There’s the complete guilt of feeling this way and feeling like a total weirdo when you speak to people who are like ‘isn’t being a mum just the best feeling on earth! I just want to keep having more and more and more!’. Err no love, I think we’re having pretty different experiences here as you can see from this vomit stain here, and the fact that my child is screaming, and if you tell me your kid sleeps through at 6 months, I’m quite likely to butt you in the face.
After you give birth you’re just meant to post endless photos on Facebook of your cute kid and be #blessed when inside you’re thinking ‘just make this baby stop crying for 5 f**kin minutes!”
Nobody wants to sound ungrateful when it comes to their children. Nobody. Including me. But let’s be honest for a second. There are days when you really want to post #helpme. #please
It didn’t help that for the first 2 years of her life, my daughter didn’t seem to enjoy my company or enjoy any of the places I took her or activities we did. In true Nicola style, I took this to mean it was me. Completely my fault. I was crap. I just didn’t seem to get the mum thing. Whilst everyone else seemed to be doing play-dates and coffee, I was following Sienna around a playgroup not getting chance to bond with any other parent as she tried to open the fire-door…repeatedly. ‘Playdates’ became so frustrating and confusing, and I was embarrassed by my lack of ability to interact with my child. I simply gave up and went it alone. Not great if you’re already feeling like a failed mum.
Just after Sienna’s first birthday we got pregnant again as I had always wanted two children. We thought better to get it all done and dusted whilst the nappies and bottles are flying anyway. Right?
I’m a big believer in intuition. I think mine is pretty good. I’m fairly in tune with myself and I have vivid memories of saying to my husband ‘we need to have another baby’, and him looking at me, like ‘are you mad?!’
I was already struggling as a new mum, and to think about having another baby when you’re still dealing with a 1 year old, probably not a great idea. All I can say is something powerful inside me said ‘it has to be now.’
Our second daughter came along 22 months after our first child. Once Mischa turned 1 and all seemed to be progressing just like any neuro-typical child I finally accepted something. Sienna’s condition (what we now know to be Autism) wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t a bad mother. I just needed to change my perception and learn more about how to parent a child with a condition I knew nothing about. I also now powerfully believed in something. Autism may not be curable, but I believed there were so many things we could do to help her get more fulfilment from her life. The question changed from ‘if’ (hope) – to ‘how (belief) ?’
The Penny Drops
Little did I realise back then, that parenting IS completely different with a neuro-typical child. People flippantly said to me ‘my kid has tantrums ‘ or ‘my kid doesn’t really speak’ like I was some neurotic mother who was over-reacting.
They had absolutely no idea what I was talking about or going through, and I started to find it really difficult to relate to mothers of neuro-typical children. I felt so misunderstood, and it felt as though everyone thought I was over-reacting to the usual kid stuff that all parents go through. Nobody really wanted to listen, but I knew I was right.
This was of course, all BEFORE we started to realise it was autism. We just knew things weren’t the same for us. Once the A-word entered our life, then I dealt with a whole new set of emotions – denial – searching for any other possible explanation (and there are lots out there!), anger (with everyone) , bargaining (please help me to do something), depression and finally acceptance, which coincided beautifully with Mischa’s 1st birthday.
That was when all the hard work, research, phone-calls, sleepless nights all started to come together and solutions started to be implemented. A plan was formed.
A plan for our daughters to grow up happy. A plan for me to get more fulfilled. A plan for our family to thrive. It would take work (and there have been many bumps, twists, turns in the road) but I’ve never wanted to work so hard for anything more in my life. What is worth more than happiness?
And So It Began
From there I started on a journey to re-build, reinvest and reconnect with myself once again.
I realised I couldn’t remember the last time I actually felt happy. I knew how to fake it – to smile and pretend – but inside I was deeply depressed. I had become a human doing, not a human being. Things that used to bring me joy, didn’t anymore. I literally struggled so badly to feel that emotion of happiness that I used to revel in daily. I desperately wanted to be back there!
I felt so completely lost, totally misunderstood and alone. My confidence had fell through the floor – I felt ashamed of what I’d become, which in my head, was an out of shape miserable frump, with shit clothes and no energy.
Comparing yourselves to others on Facebook is never a great way to feel brilliant about yourself, but for me, it was more looking back at who I once was and thinking ‘how have I ended up as this person then? A person who I have no respect for whatsoever.’
This had to be the first place to start. I needed to feel more connection with myself and the world again.
I spent a long time working on myself (and continue to do so… hence The Best Self Project – the journey is continuous).
Starting with things that I knew would make the biggest impact on how I was feeling… regular hair appointments, learning about autism and ways to help, eating a bit better, making friends, moving more, and ensuring that all the building blocks were being put in place to ensure our daughter with autism would have just as many opportunities as her sister and any other kid. This was going to be a lifelong commitment – a marathon, so I needed a new approach, NOT a quick fix. Goodbye faddy diets.
Since then I’ve whipped myself in to decent shape, secured our daughter an EHCP (Educational Health and Care Plan) qualified as a Personal Trainer and Strategic Life Coach with Tony Robbins at the Robbins-Madanes Institute, took over as Managing Director at our family business and have grown the company from 3 to 8 staff in less than 2 years and tripled the turnover, made time for wonderful husband, family and friends, cooked about 1000 nutritious meals for my little ones (!), took a holiday on my own to Dubai, had many successful family vacays, took a trip to Ibiza with my friends, set up The Best Self Project and most of all LEARNED HOW TO ENJOY TRUE QUALITY TIME WITH MY KIDS and HUSBAND.
So here I am…Still on a journey….Still have bad days. Sometimes there are tears, but they are drowned out by the joy and the sense of control I have over my life now. A sense that the confidence is returning. I still question myself about a thousand times a day. I doubt myself. Am I good enough? Can I do this? What do I know?
But you know what. I’d rather keep trying, feeling like I’m contributing to the world, and always look back on the person I was yesterday, knowing I am better today.