There was a time not too long ago when I’d spend hours in the bath every night once I’d put Paige to bed. I’ve always done two things when I’m overwhelmed, one is sleep, the other is get in the bath. I think it’s because it’s the only place where no-one can ask anything of me, and I have a chance to think. I would watch countless self help videos, searching for ways to cope with the loss I felt when my relationship ended.
Looking back on the last year, I’ve realised I spent most of it in a daze. I don’t think I functioned properly for months. I watched some old videos I took of Paige and saw such a difference in myself, a clear before and after version of me. In the videos before, I noticed how carefree I sound, being silly with Paige and exclaiming loudly at the smallest achievements. She was always giggling and babbling away, she was such a happy baby.
I tried so hard to fake it afterwards. I went through the motions like I was dragging myself through quick sand. I tried to smile for her, to embrace the moments that made my heart beat, but it was so hard. I continued to take videos, and when I watch them now it feels raw. I can see the anxiety in my face, I seem distracted and over protective of her. I’d get through the day on auto-pilot, struggling not to break down in front of my baby. Sometimes I didn’t manage, and she would see me cry. I was letting her down, and that pain was worse than the heartbreak itself.
I just wanted to be the good mum I’d always been and I knew that I was failing. So every night I would give her a bottle, rock her and put her down to sleep. Then I’d spend the rest of the night searching for ways to fix my head and my heart, steps to take to help myself so I wouldn’t be broken anymore.
It’s been such a slow process. I’ve been frustrated with myself at times for not having more will power, or for letting things get to me when I shouldn’t. But I persevered, and recently I’ve started to feel like my old self again, which is what I’ve been striving for. And then there are these rare, sparkly moments where I feel like my old self, but better. This is so new that I hardly dare talk about it in case it goes away, or I lose it somehow, but every now and then I get a glimpse of who I am becoming.
This version of me is a brand new and improved model. I’m still very emotional, my heart feels too big for my body and is easily impacted by the world around me, but I’m strong. I’ve never felt strong before in my life. The new, shiny me appreciates everything that she has been given. She worries less about the future, and has moved away from what happened in the past. She lives in the moment, and because of that, she is free.
It may not seem like much, but it’s such a huge step in the right direction that I can’t help but feel proud. I had been treading water for so long, but I’ve found that being grateful every day has kept us afloat. Instead of dwelling on things that seem unfair, or focussing on the challenges I’m faced with, I try to acknowledge all the positives around me. I’ve realised how much there is for me to be thankful for. From the big things, such as my family for every reason you can possibly imagine, to the small, like having time on my commute to sit down, close my eyes and listen to Ed.
I write them down, these things I’m grateful for, just a few every day, and I can see how blessed I am. Life can be tough at times and every single one of us has a story. Concentrating on the areas of my life where I’m so incredibly fortunate has helped me to be more at peace with mine. I couldn’t stand being riddled with anxiety, so to feel calm again, even when things are as stressful as ever, has been life changing. Not only for me, but for my little girl.
I’ve been taken aside a few times since Paige started nursery 7 months ago. They were concerned that she wouldn’t participate, she played alone and was easily upset by those around her. I know deep down that my stress affected her. I still feel indescribable guilt because of it. But the last few weeks they’ve noticed a change in her. They told me they’ve never heard her laugh so much. She’s gaining confidence and is starting to interact more with the other children. She has started to talk more, and she dances. I love that she dances.
Hearing how she is blossoming has made me realise the connection we have to each other. The change in her seems to have coincided with me finally managing to move forward and stop letting the bad stuff crowd my brain and bring me down. Maybe it’s coincidence, but if I’ve had even a tiny part to play in Paige’s happiness, I’ll work on myself forever to bring her more.
For every storm you face, I know that being grateful can help you gain some perspective, as it has done for me. It will wrap a silver lining around the clouds that you are under, until the day finally comes when the clouds disperse, and you can see the sun.