Encouragement For A Tired Mum
What’s the difference between extreme sleep deprivation and Post Natal Depression?
I’m not talking about a little bit tired, I’m talking about extreme exhaustion that renders you unable to think straight, act calmly or even have full control over your emotions and responses. The type of tired that leaves you feeling utterly helpless, overwrought and unable to cope.
I’m no doctor or psychiatrist so I can’t explore the medical or scientific nature of these two things, but it seems to me that the line between the two is fine, and that effects of the two blur that line even further.
The biggest difference is that if you are just tired then some sleep will improve your situation. If you are suffering from Post Natal Depression, or any other form of depression, it’s clearly a lot more complicated. This of course, is quite a big and important difference.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot of late, since I’ve found myself in a better “place” and thus able to cope better with the antics of a 3 year old. I’ve also been thinking about a post I wrote just before Bliss broke her leg, where I wasn’t coping to so well. If you missed it, you can read what wrote here: Help! I Don’t Know What To Do With My 3 Year Old. It generated a lot of support (thank you!) and led to a bigger discussion about smacking. Looking back at the time the smacking aspect seemed huge to me and I wondered Why is everyone talking about smacking? That’s not the point. The point is I’m at my wits end. In fact, it seemed to me that the discussion was so focused on this that I felt compelled to write a follow up post called SmackDown. When I look back at the comments now, actually hardly any of them refer to the smacking in that initial post.
It tells me a lot about the emotional and mental state that I was in that I focused on the smacking comments, and reminds me of just how skewed our perspective can be when we aren’t coping. At the time, it was like an outer body experience; I knew I had the power to change the tone of our house and of Bliss’ attitude by changing my reaction, but I couldn’t find the reserves within myself to make a better parenting choice. It wasn’t so much the theory of parenting that was the problem, but the practice of it.
This is not an excuse for bad parenting, but a reflection on real parenting. As I played that silly game of Hide & Seek with Bliss the other day I realised that a couple of months ago I would not have had the emotional capacity to find a way out of her defiance, into something silly like that game. I would have gotten cross with her and been annoyed by her attitude and made the situation ten times worse. I can see that so clearly now, because I’m in a different emotional place.
It’s one thing to be able to stay calm, to stave off the anger we can feel when our children push all our buttons. It’s quite another to be able to diffuse the situation entirely (or even mostly). Being exhausted can make it virtually impossible. Now that I am a little more rested and a little more stable, it seems so easy to make that choice. I can come up with an approach to change the tone of the conversation and give Bliss an “out” that allows her a little space and independence but doesn’t drive me to tears.
It’s annoying and frustrating to deal with defiance, but when you’re rested and well it’s not all that hard. BUT when you’re not rested and well, it’s near impossible.
What’s my point? My point is exhaustion is a very real obstacle to calm and rational parenting. Don’t dismiss the impact of sleep deprivation on your emotional and mental state; there’s a very good reason it’s used as a form of torture. It is real, and has very real consequences and that doesn’t make you a failure as a parent.
Sometimes we just need to hear that from someone who can see what we can’t, and who’s been where we are.
If you are struggling as a parent, be it from PND, exhaustion or another circumstance, you are not alone.
To hear the story of a very brave and beautiful Mum who is walking this journey visit Becky and James.