Confessions of a Former Perfectionist Mom

When I thought about becoming a mom, I imagined things being a bit messy but still fun. I imagined kids being noisy, toys everywhere and maybe a couple of pets adding to the mix.

This is what I got- but I didn’t count on anxiety, depression and other things happening. I became a perfectionist mom and I didn’t even realize it. I wasn’t happy, I didn’t even like myself at one point.

Bear hug quote

Becoming Someone Else

Things started getting out of control shortly after Lily began First Steps therapies for her developmental delays right after her first birthday in 2009. She had occupational, speech and physical delays- she needed speech therapy until she aged out of First Steps at three years old in 2011.

I was deeply anxious about getting things right with her after feeling like I had messed up. I felt like I hadn’t spent enough time with her. I blamed myself for having her at 37 weeks. (This was not a reason for her delays)

I wanted to get things right. I wanted to be a better mom. I paid close attention to what her therapists did and said. I made sure the boys were occupied during the sessions to avoid interruptions, the house was clean and that dinner was ready to be made as soon as they were over.

I had the sessions scheduled for the same time every week. In fact, after speech therapy ended, we felt weird on Wednesdays at 4 PM because Denise wasn’t coming over anymore. It was like something was missing.

This somehow spread to more than just trying to set up a routine and keep things smooth. I felt the tension between Matthew and I build in this time and he was in denial. To avoid more of his anger and lower my anxiety, I started cleaning more, to the point that I had a sheet on my refrigerator detailing what had to be cleaned each day. I wouldn’t go to bed for the night until it was done.

It was the only thing I could control. If something wasn’t done before Matthew got home, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t sit down and eat dinner. I’m glad the kids barely remember this time because all they would remember would be me running around the house cleaning up behind them as they made a mess.

As Lily’s delays were resolved, Julian’s behavioral issues became obvious. In fact, the two issues overlapped for a time. I barely functioned because I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. The fights got worse, no matter how clean the house was.

I kept the house spotless but it wasn’t enough. I worked full time, cooked, cleaned and took care of the kids. It was never enough. Running around after three kids wore me down. I just wanted out.

A Turning Point

I had a mini-stroke in 2013. This was brought on by a migraine that went terribly wrong- you can read about that in Invisible Changes According to my (then) new neurologist, I needed to make some serious changes in my life and fast. I was only 30 and way too stressed out. Being a perfectionist was not working for me.

Confession #1: I probably should have gone to therapy at this point but… I got there in 2015. I wasn’t into self-care nearly as much as I should have been. I was just trying to keep going. I did, however, toss that damn cleaning sheet and have never made another one. I’m lucky if the kitchen floor gets wet mopped once a week. I’m still pretty intense about cleaning my countertops and hate vacuuming but the house doesn’t look bad.

Dr. Plato also recommended doing what makes me happy. I realized that keeping my house spotless was not making me or the kids happy because I was constantly yelling at them (yes, yelling, something I am still working on) to keep things clean all. the. time.

This is also not a thing anymore, and their rooms are slightly less than clean. I have a teenager and two preteens so I will let you imagine what these bedrooms look like. Confession #2: I make the kids clean their rooms once a week. Lily’s room looks like a kid’s version of the show “Hoarders” whether it’s clean or not, so this just helps keep it down a bit.

I clean daily, and I run a daily tab in my head of what I did get done in my head. This gives me a small sense of satisfaction so that I don’t feel useless. I also developed a routine of not cleaning anything after 8 PM. If something isn’t done by then, it’s just not getting done.

The first tip was something that my former therapist helped me with, because I hate the idea of feeling useless, and this helps a lot now that I am staying at home. The second one was a rule that I started to help me sleep better (and more) at night because one of my biggest migraine triggers is not sleeping well. Confession #3: These things help me from slipping back into being a perfectionist and counts as self-care, so yay for me.

Avoiding the Hole of Perfection

  • Set limits for yourself. If that means you have to set a time to stop a task, do so. It is worth it.
  • Remember that you are worth more than what you get done each day. I forgot this- big time. I thought my worth was only found in what I was able to get done each day and how well I could do it.
  • You are not a failure if you don’t do something perfectly. I would get so upset over not getting the living room spotless or one of the kids’ rooms was dirty hours after I got it cleaned. Life happens. Everything isn’t your fault.
  • Self-care is important. It is okay to take 15 minutes a day to focus on yourself. The dishes can wait while you read, do a face mask, or nothing at all. You’re worth it.
  • Some things can wait. It is also okay to not do those dishes at all in the afternoon- let them wait until after dinner. Let the kids help or even your partner. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

It may be a bit difficult to try being easier on yourself, but the weight off your shoulders is well worth it. Perfectionism, as a mom or not, can put a damper on your daily life.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? How do you deal with it?

Twin Mummy and Daddy

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Watching Your Words: Talking to Someone with a Mental Illness

It can be hard to know what to say when you are talking to someone with a mental illness. You don’t want to insult them, minimize their experience, or otherwise offend them. Who would want to do that? If you haven’t been around a lot of people who have a mental illness, it can be difficult to know what to say.

My entire career has been centered around this, but I can’t call myself an expert. Everyone slips up. I’ve said the wrong thing to people and felt bad about it. I’ve apologized and learned from it. I have issues with anxiety and depression (currently both are majorly impacting my life), and it seriously hurts when people around me don’t even try to understand what I am dealing with.

It can be difficult for me to even get out of bed, shower and eat without my brain telling me to stay in bed with my dark thoughts. When people minimize my feelings, it just makes me want to crawl into a hole and stay there until everything fades. This is just one part of how I feel and how I see things. It’s different for everyone.

I see you quote

Take Time to Think

Empathy goes a long way when talking to someone with a mental illness. Think carefully before you start discussing what’s going on- they may not be feeling their best, or even if they are, it’s still a tough subject.

I don’t like talking about my anxiety and depression, and I only do so when I really need to. When I do, it’s more about the current issue I’m having- if I’m having a bad day and I just want to be left alone, panicking over things that are going wrong, or even struggling with staying sober. The main issues behind my anxiety and depression? I’ll pass. This goes for a lot of others.

Trust doesn’t come easily to people with mental illness. We have seen people come and go, sometimes unexpectedly. We become guarded. We don’t like letting people in, some don’t let anyone in. This has its own set of issues.

If you want to discuss what’s going on with us, please do so gently and judgement-free. We get enough of that. If you don’t know much about anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc., please ask. Try researching it on Google.

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Do’s and Don’ts

These tips may help you navigate the discussion of mental illness with someone you know.

Do:

  • Say “I am here for you if you need to talk” This can mean so much to someone, with or without a mental illness. Three of my closest friends have varying degrees of mental illness and we are there for each other, no matter what, any time of the day.  We are each other’s support system. This can be a huge amount of comfort- knowing someone is there for you. I am incredibly lucky to have these friends. Just listening to someone can be the best thing you can do.
  • “You’re not weird” Some with mental illness, especially severe mental illness (SMI), feel as if they are “weird” or “nuts”, but those that are close to them don’t see them that way. Reminding them of this can help them know that they are capable of being a person with a life outside of their illness.
  • “You deserve to be happy” This may encourage someone to seek help sooner than later. It may remind them that they don’t deserve the self-stigma they put upon themselves. Happiness is for everyone.
  • Ask them if they are in treatment and if they are, how it is going. If they are not, encourage and/or help them find help. This can be incredibly helpful to someone who may be struggling.
  • You’re awesome for fighting this battle” Sometimes a little bit of encouragement can go a long way.

Don’t:

  • “Snap out of it” I hate this phrase so much. I wish I could snap my fingers and be much happier, but that’s not how it works. Even with two years of therapy and learning coping skills, I still have terrible days. It just doesn’t work like that. Sometimes I can stop the anxious thoughts, sometimes I can’t. It snowballs and things so badly from there. I don’t enjoy this.
  • “It will be better when the pain goes away” Um..no. This isn’t how it works. The pain comes back and sometimes it’s a lot worse, so what happens then? Life isn’t magical like that, so until unicorns show up and cure depression, I don’t see this happening.
  • “You’re just looking for attention” If I wanted attention, I’d find a much better way to get it. Depression and anxiety both suck. I definitely don’t want attention because of it. I’d rather be left alone when either make an appearance. I don’t know anyone with a mental illness that uses it for attention.
  • “But you don’t look sick” UGH. I get this one a lot because I have RA, and in fact, I’m annoyed by that. Do I need to get a cane or electric wheelchair? Carry around a copy of my labs? I digress, but you get the idea. It’s basically the same with mental illness. It’s invisible. You can’t see it. There’s no way to tell unless someone tells you and even then, millions of us manage to maintain hygiene daily. Those that don’t are usually severely sick, and that is a whole different issue.
  • “I went through the same thing..” Unless someone asks, don’t do it. This isn’t a competition. Sometimes your perspective can help, but most of the time, it looks like you’re trying to compete and that’s not helpful.

 

It is so important that we think before we speak on delicate topics, especially something like mental illness.

Coffee talk

Do you have any tips to add? Do you have any experiences to share?

Recommended Reading: Book Review: “Struck By Living”

Mental Illness and Relationships

Information courtesy of Time To Change 

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Photos courtesy of Pinterest

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How to Include Gratitude in Your Life

November brings Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season. Most people take time to reflect on the year and get ready for the next. Many choose to count their blessings and share joys with others. In the middle of this, gratitude can be found and shared.

Tis The Time for Thoughts

Including gratitude in your life can be very beneficial- there are benefits to your well-being. It’s a rough world out there, and many of us can use ideas to incorporate healthy thinking. These are just a few benefits of being grateful:

  • Higher self-esteem. When you realize what you have and you are content with that, you tend to feel better about yourself and your life. Many people have fallen into the hole of believing that everything they see on their friends’ social media is what their life is really like. Who knows? The friend with a huge, gorgeous house might be struggling internally and not want to show it. It’s easier to show off the house than her feelings. Comparing ourselves to others can drag us down and make us forget what we have. It can even improve your mental health- decreasing depression and increasing happiness.
  • Better, stronger relationships. When friends/couples show more generosity towards each other, it builds stronger bonds over time. This becomes a nice feeling that many like to hold onto. It feels good to be acknowledged and to do so for others.
  • Less aggression, more empathy. Considering the current state of the world, this could be a very good thing. Empathy can be a hard commodity to come by (look at comments on hot topics on Facebook, for example). Being grateful for what you have in your life can decrease your ability to retaliate against others or participate in other non- aggressive behaviors.

A Sprinkle of Gratitude

You don’t have to shout from a mountain or take out a billboard to declare how grateful you are for your life. There are smaller and more impactful ways to do so: (and you might already be doing these)

  • A small gratitude journal. This can be as small as jotting down the highlights from your day.
  • Thank those that help you out- baggers at the grocery store, bank tellers, etc. This can go a long way in making someone’s day.
  • Thank your family members/friends that are always there for you– drop a text, card, whatever you may think they will like. It will be appreciated more than you know. I used to get my mom a card every week when I was in college at EKU to tell her thanks for sending me to college. She still has them, 16 years later.
  • Mediate. While doing so, if you want to try something new, reflect on your blessings and the good things about yourself.
  • Send a kind, brief email to your child’s teacher. They do a lot and barely get any recognition.
  • Donate/volunteer. Is there a non-profit that you believe is helping the world? Do you want to help animals, kids or other groups? Donating is good, and if you can, in person volunteering is so much more rewarding. I’m in my second year of volunteering for the AFSP. Many shelters, food banks, and soup kitchens need volunteers this time of the year. Some offer opportunities for families.
AFSP walk

At this year’s Out of The Darkness walk in Louisville

Enjoy the holiday season and all that it brings!

Is there something that you enjoy doing to show gratitude? Share in the comments or on social media.

Information from Chopra

Psychology Today

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Pictures from Unsplash

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My Random Musings

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Shank You Very Much

A Guide to the Holidays: Staying Emotionally Healthy

The holidays can be a difficult time for many people. Many deal with stress and/or depression, grief, or other issues like toxic family members. Some even go through the holidays alone. This can be especially hard. It’s important to know how to stay emotionally healthy during this time so that you can enjoy the holidays and possibly be able to help someone you know.

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If You Are Alone

This situation is caused by different factors- distance, family issues, financial issues, and so on. There are ways that you can make this a positive time of the year:

  • Reach out. Many people will offer to extend an invitation to someone they know may be alone for the holidays. Let them know if you are available, offer to bring something. If you have friends who wouldn’t mind an extra person, ask if you can join them for a celebration.
  • Create alternative traditions. “Friendsgiving” potlucks have become popular in the last few years among those who aren’t able to see their families. I’ve gone to a couple, and it’s a lot of fun. Everyone brings a dish, decide on a fun activity, and let the fun begin.
  • Pamper yourself. Do something you enjoy- a day at the spa, nails, a new book, shirt, etc.
  • Help others. This can take many different directions- volunteering at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, etc. This can help remind you of how fortunate you are and it’s a good experience.
  • Travel. If you can afford it, go out of town for a couple of days. If you can’t, try a “staycation” and go places in your city that you haven’t been to.
  • Self- care. Check in with yourself daily- feelings, hygiene, etc. You don’t have to be cheerful 24/7 during this season, alone or not. If you realize you are having a hard time, reach out. Please see my Resources page for more information.

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For Those That Are Grieving

Grief is a hard process any day of the year. The holidays can be harder on someone that is grieving than most people realize. If you are grieving or will be celebrating the holidays with someone that is, these tips may be helpful.

  • Take care of yourself. Grief can affect people differently. Depression can cause a person to not care for themselves as they did before the loss. Self-care is important, even the tiniest steps like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, etc.
  • Don’t rush the process. It may take years for a family to feel like holiday gatherings are “normal” again after a loss. Do not rush through your grieving process for others. Everyone grieves differently and this should be respected.
  • Plan ahead. Do you really want to host Thanksgiving this year? Can someone else do it? Think about where you are in the grieving process and how comfortable you feel hosting holiday events. It might not be for you this year, but in a year or so, it might be okay again.
  • Share stories. This might be hard, depending on the situation, but it can also be helpful. Sharing stories can be good, however, when they focus on the good times with the person, acknowledging that they are missed.

If you are going to a gathering with a family who has had a recent loss:

  • Offer help. Maybe the family needs help with shopping, cleaning, decorating, etc. This can be a huge relief to them. It’s one less worry in an already tough time.
  • Ask how everyone is doing before attending the gathering. It may be a somber or joyous gathering, but you will not know unless you ask beforehand.
  • Respect the right for everyone to grieve. This is very important.

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Holiday Cheer or Holiday Stress?

There’s a lot of pressure to spend lots of money on presents, spend time with family that we may or may not get along with, get our kids everything they want and so on. How do we remain, or even get, cheerful about the holidays? How do we deal with the stress?

  • Tune out the noise. The holiday specials, songs, and movies can be a bit too much. If it becomes too much, turn it off. I can’t stand the radio stations that play nothing but Christmas music- starting before Thanksgiving.

Can we get through Thanksgiving first? It’s a bit much for me to hear this music for over a month, so I don’t even turn it on. I am stuck with it when Matthew and I are in the car together because he loves it- there’s a thing called compromise.

  • Set limits for presents. This can be a number of presents, price, or even both. We have four birthdays within 2 weeks after Christmas, so we really try to watch how much we spend. (Those birthdays are mine, Matthew, my father in law, and Cameron.) Plus, there’s the battle of making sure each kid has the same number of presents. Kids need to know that money doesn’t come easily and that they may not be able to always get what they want.
  • Toxic people need to be shown the door. Not everyone in your life is meant to be there, and that includes family. Your time is valuable- why spend it with people who don’t value you? Be realistic about what you can handle.
  • Be grateful. The main message behind the holidays is counting our blessings and being grateful for what we have. It may be a good idea to make a list of the things you are grateful for, no matter how small they are. This can be a bit of a lift, especially on the harder days.
  • Have fun in moderation. You will feel a lot better if you don’t overeat, drink too much or overdo other activities. Everyone has their limits- don’t go past them or you may disappoint yourself.
  • Take care of yourself. This can be a very hectic time of the year, and self- care can slide to the bottom of your to-do list.

Example: If you’re a perfectionist, it’s okay to let things go a bit. You can find the perfect gift for everyone, but if you’re so stressed out finding it, you’ve lost the fun part. It becomes a drag. Try loosening up a bit- don’t spend hours online looking. If you need to, take a break after an hour and come back to it the next day. Start shopping earlier to relieve some of the stress.

  • Say no. This is okay. It’s possible to become overburdened with parties, work, and other activities. Saying no lessens that burden. It’s important to remember your needs.
  • Nourish yourself- physically and emotionally. Don’t entirely skip the good foods, because there are plenty out there. Try a smaller portion. Treat yourself. Try taking a bit of “quiet time” each day to read, write, draw, anything that helps you rest your mind a bit. You will feel much less smothered by the demands of the season.

Do you have any tips for a stress-free holiday season?

All pics are from Unsplash

Information from Psychology Today

My Random Musings

Five Ways to Avoid Holiday Meltdowns

Meltdowns are not a fun event, no matter what day of the year it is. Most of the time, they can be avoided, but sometimes, it’s entirely out of our control. To learn more about meltdowns, you can read The Truth About Shutdowns and Meltdowns

Give thanks

Bringing Down The Stress

The holiday season can be a stressful time- starting with Halloween and ending at New Year’s Eve. This can depend on which holidays your family celebrates- some families don’t celebrate anything at all, some celebrate everything.

Isn’t that neat? My family celebrates Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Chanukah. My mother is Jewish, so we go to her house every year to have some fun over the eight nights. It’s fun but can get a bit tiring, so we go at our own speed.

Things can be a bit more stressful if you run into family members that don’t understand your child’s special needs- especially if they don’t want to. There is a difference between not knowing and not wanting to know. This topic is a bit more detailed in Helping Your Family Understand Your Child’s Special Needs

Overall, there are ways to help your family get through the holiday season in a way that everyone can remember fondly.

Upset child

Five Golden Rings…I Mean, Tips

  1. Avoid places with crowds, loud noises, etc. Many kids with special needs do not like the line to see Santa. It’s loud, bright, and if you’re Julian, there are germs everywhere. Some kids do not do well in crowds, because it’s too cramped, things move too fast, and sensory issues can be caused by very small things that we are not aware of. Some places are becoming more aware of this and are offering sensory-friendly gatherings, so look around in your area.
  2. Be flexible. This is most likely the most important tip. Flexibility is a requirement in parenting, but in this case, there’s more of a need. Things can change in a second with our special needs kids, and this is okay. Things can become just too much for them, and they need the ability to find a quiet spot to calm down in or leave entirely. Bring two adults to events so that one can stay with the other children, bring adaptive equipment, etc.
  3. Watch out for wandering. This can occur when a child needs to escape quickly from a situation they do not want to be in- a loud party, for example. Keep an extra-close eye on your child near doors and other routes away from your location.
  4. Keep up your routine. Most kids are on a break for a week before and after Christmas. It’s important to keep up a daily routine- eating and sleeping as close to usual times as you can. Kids do better when they know what is going on. It keeps their anxiety low and they are less likely to get off-track with behaviors.
  5. Take a break if you need it. If things get to be too much for you and/or your child, it may be time for a break. Don’t go to the next party. Don’t worry about the next celebration. Stay home, watch a movie and snuggle up with your family. This can be more fun than going out and potentially creating more stress.

Christmas gifts

The holiday season is upon us, the weather is getting colder. Let’s make great memories with our families.

What tips do you have to prevent meltdowns with your kids?

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

Information from CBS

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