I know that there will be some who will take offense to the title of this post. Before you do, you need to know that the title was decided on by the very brave woman who shared her day with us. If she is happy with it (and believe me, she put a lot of thought into this feature) then please do not get upset on her behalf.
I met Laetitia (Tish) through a blogging group and I was SO intimidated by her because she runs Poppet Patch which has about a gazillion followers and she is taken very seriously by parents, brands and the blogging community in general. What I didn’t know, was that she is really new to the blogosphere and is incredibly down to earth and easy to chat to. She is such an earnest and endearing person but you will pick up on that as you read her feature. It is really difficult not to like her.
I had no idea that Tish lived with mental illness until I put out a request for mums ‘out of the ordinary’ who would be willing to share their day with me and she stepped forward. I think she was just as surprised as I was that she offered to write this piece. I know that this is a massive step for Tish as the majority of people who know her, probably have no idea about this aspect of her life. I am so proud of her for sharing this and so humbled that she chose to do it here…
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Mood Disorder eight years ago. Later in the same year I was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. One could say that I “suffer” from many disorders and mental illnesses, but I don’t feel that I am suffering by definition of the word. Instead, I feel that my symptoms are managed very well and that I have a mental “advantage” to a certain extent.
It’s taken many years of work and investing in myself to get to where I’m at. When I say “advantage”, I’m talking about those who have the ability to take advantage of the benefit of mental disorders. I am not trivializing the seriousness of mental illness. It is a known fact that people who suffer from anxiety, attention deficits or even dyslexia are severely distracted. They have the marvellous ability to focus on and pay attention to multiple tasks at the same time. In my opinion, the problem arises when we are not able to execute the “projects” that come about from the hundreds of thoughts that we have at the same time.
When one is able to build a support system to help execute some of these projects, it alleviates half of the problem. Being present and mindful can help alleviate the rest. For most of us we also sadly rely on chronic medication to control a lot of the symptoms. I just want to add that I do not for one second doubt that mentally healthy mothers also get overwhelmed by too many thoughts. I think that with mentally ill moms, the normal mom-brain symptoms are simply amplified to respective extents.
For me, I have chosen to use my resources to help me live a normal life, despite a diagnosis of ‘suffering’. The lifestyle that I have manifested with my resources is not only a way of living my best life, it is a way of managing my illness. What may appear as a luxurious lifestyle for healthy moms could be a necessity for mentally ill moms, like me. Having a nanny for one child who goes to school for half of the day could in fact be like a wheelchair for a mom who only has one leg – it’s a great help. The problem with mental illness is that there is no visible “crutch” to help with the problem. The same goes for the rest of my lifestyle when it comes to spending time alone and traveling with my husband.
Every mom has a different struggle and different capabilities. It is up to me to manage what I can handle to give the best version of myself to myself, my child and my family.
A Day In My Life
Where do I even begin to give a bit of insight into a day in my life? I am a full-time blogger and I mostly do my job from home. The days differ like Arthur and Martha. Some days I am up before sunrise and other days I may sleep in till 8am, especially when I have chosen to write during the night. My husband is the most hands-on dad that I have ever seen or heard about. He is usually the one who takes our daughter to school. Both of us work from home. On Wednesdays he leaves home at 6am to a weekly networking meeting and has meetings back to back for the day. As a result, Wednesdays are usually my most hectic days.
Today was a day out of the “ordinary” because my child is currently sick at home. But, there is no such thing as an “ordinary day” in my life so let’s take today.
00:08 – I get up and walk to my husband’s side of the bed to turn up the volume of the monitor. You know, just in case my child is screaming of pain or starts vomiting like last night and we don’t hear her. How stupid? She is almost two years old. Our apartment is tiny. Even the neighbour will hear her, lol.
When babies reach their first birthday the odds of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome are apparently nothing to be concerned about. We may as well use it until she grows out of her cot? She does have a temperature. She doesn’t sleep if we take her into our own bed when she’s sick. She has grown up in the safety of her own space so in our bed she thinks it’s play time. The pediatrician suspects she may have gastro. Even adults can drown in their own vomit.
Are these normal mom thoughts going through my mind or is this anxiety affecting my daily life? I don’t know? You decide.
00:09 – I get back into my side of the bed.
00:15 – I get up and go out on the balcony to have a cigarette.
My head is aching. I’m worried about my baby. The doctor told me yesterday that if she doesn’t have diarrhoea in the next 12 hours we can rule out gastro and she may have appendicitis. That means she will need an abdominal sonar. What does that even entail? How will she handle that? My own appendix burst when I was in my early twenties. They cut me in three places. Will a baby even survive a burst appendix?
00:18 – I’m carefully considering writing this post to feature on The Non Adventures of a Stay At Home Mum. I raised my concerns to my husband earlier. Everything I do on my blog I want to consider my child first. To the extent that I will neglect my own needs and wants. I even consult with an attorney to follow the Child Protection Act and make sure that I protect her best interest for the future. It’s stupid sometimes. Am I going overboard, do other writers and bloggers even do that?
How will it affect my child when people know that she has a mentally ill mom? Will her friends be allowed to come over and play? Will kids make fun of her? Is it necessary to share this information with the world? Is it in my child’s best interest when I aspire to inspire another mom with this topic? Is it in my child’s best interest if I eventually share something that I want to share? Is this helping anyone? What does it teach her?
Questions can go on for hours when I don’t have the ability to stop myself and start at a point.
When I asked my husband if people won’t allow their kids to play here he said: “Would you let our kid go and play at Jonty Rhodes’ house if you knew he was epileptic?” I answered: “Yes, because he probably takes medication to manage it?” Parents hardly ask for medical records of the parents when allowing play dates. Some make decisions based on way more superficial judgement. Single parents. Smokers. Tattooed moms. Religion. Sexual orientation.
My husband encouraged this piece of writing. He said: “Babe, do it. This is a good thing. Do it when you’re ready. Do it for yourself. We live in a different time now where there is a whole lot more awareness and acceptance (if not understanding) about mental illness. There will still be some of those people who don’t want to be associated with old stigma of mental illness. Those are probably the people we would like to avoid anyway.”
00:25 – I start writing this post. I only manage the first two sentences because I have already taken my night-time medication. My medication helps me to slow down and feel tired in my head when the rest of me is exhausted too. I feel grateful for ending the day on the positive note of writing this post. On top of that, I have a loving and supportive family and they are sound asleep. I express my gratitude and write those two things down.
00:28 – I get back into bed.
06:20 – I wake up to the delightful sound of my child’s happy voice. She’s singing and talking in her cot. My husband put the monitor on my side of the bed before he left.
I usually get up at 05:00 on a Wednesday to prepare everything for the day so I can just play with her and get her ready for school when I wake her up. Not today, lol.
Her temperature is 38.1 and she hasn’t had diarrhoea. This means the pediatrician wants to see her again. I make a cup of coffee and dilute some Powerade for her. We chill on the balcony for about an hour. She shows me the trees, the sky, the birds, the airplanes and all the things that easily go unnoticed for adults. We wave at the gardeners and greet people on their way to work. She orders me to “sit here” in about 174 places on our 12 square meter balcony. This child makes me laugh out loud.
She still doesn’t have an appetite, but she manages to eat half a lemon cream biscuit for breakfast.
07:20 – Diarrhoea makes its appearance in Poppet’s nappy. I have mixed feelings about this diarrhoea, but I’ll put it down to gratitude. I’m less worried about appendicitis now.
I don’t really know whether I should laugh or cry at the sight of this runny pooh but the moment my child got her hands stuck into it I chose laughter. Unfortunately, I manage to mess up the whole nursery while cleaning her. I put her down to take stock of the situation and tidy it up a bit, and then I start another load of laundry.
07:30 – The nanny arrives. Her name is Charity. “Chaaatty” as my little poppet calls her. The funny thing is that she is not very chatty at all. Lol. She is the most chilled, patient and gentle soul that one could meet. But to my child she is “Chatty”.
07:35 – Charity and I discuss what needs to be done for the day. I have a whiteboard in the kitchen where I write the most important things down. Bleaching the compactum and our bathtub is already on the list. We discuss what’s on the menu for the day and what my child needs.
07:40 – I make another cup of coffee, take my morning medication, then I sit on the balcony and write in my Gratitude Journal.
I cancel my meetings for the day. One of which was with a medical professional that I am collaborating with. I feel terrible for doing this. I have an intense sense of empathy for her time and money that could be wasted by my cancellation. Empathy is bordering senseless anxiety. The kind of anxiety one feels when you don’t check your change at the checkout in the shops because the people behind you are making you feel anxious by simply standing there, perfectly calm. Everyone understands that I can’t stick to my commitment for the day because my child is sick. They all seem perfectly chilled.
08:10 – I call the pediatrician to report on the latest and make an appointment for 12:30.
08:12 – More coffee.
I check my Facebook notifications but can’t respond to all of them right now. Engaging on the social platforms can take way more of my time than I anticipate at any given time. It can quickly spiral out of control. It works better for me if I schedule time to do this part of my job. I can also engage on a deeper level if I am properly present in the task at hand. Instead I spend a few minutes engaging with some other bloggers on Facebook.
I catch up on my emails which I didn’t even look at yesterday with a sick baby in the house. By catch up I mean read the emails.
I exchange WhatsApp messages and a few voice notes with my colleague and virtual assistant, Mikaila. We just update each other on how mom-life is treating us and then prioritize the day’s To Do List accordingly. She helps me so much with putting videos together and many other back-of-house things for the blog’s content plan.
08:45 – I take a quick break to go check on my child. Charity and I discuss what time I’m going out and what I need in the nappy bag and a few other things.
08:50 – Back at my desk. I work on conceptualizing four different campaigns for existing clients and potential clients respectively. As always, I reread everything and then I send out the correspondence.
I do some follow ups and respond to a few enquiries.
I fix the date for our Father’s Day Photo Shoot. Father’s Day is only in June!
My husband and I are the class parents at school, I guess that’s like being on the PTA for purpose of explanation. I plan what we need to get for the kid’s birthdays for the year. I make a list of the things we might do on the special days of the year that are coming up.
10:42 – I spend a few minutes thinking about how long I sometimes take to respond to people and what a difficult person I am to get hold of, for no apparent reason. I think about how I over think everything, and I take a second to laugh at myself. I’m feeling sleep deprived.
Last weekend we went away as a family again for a long weekend. I pour a lot of energy into planning these weekends which don’t require much planning. My baby doesn’t go back to sleep after her morning bottle in foreign places, so sometimes we get up between 5am and 6am when we’re away. And of course, we have late nights when we’re away.
I’m mindful of the things that can trigger manic or depressive episodes. Sleep deprivation and exhaustion are two of them. Not taking care of myself is probably the main trigger. I need to spend some time by myself. My netball game for tonight is cancelled. Last week I didn’t play either. I identify that I need to substitute netball with another team activity for this week, asap. My number one team-mate in life is my husband. I’ll think of something the two of us can do together later, it will come to me during the day.
I think of how I am always seeking solutions. Solving problems. Kicking obstacles. That, in itself, is exhausting, lol. Do I have to do that? It’s probably easier than being saddled with a whole lot of problems and being a victim to circumstances.
10:40 – I go for my shower. In the shower I think of an idea I want to incorporate into the Father’s Day post. I never set out to do this in the shower or even at all. It was just intrusive thoughts. Creative thoughts that I feel grateful for nevertheless.
I decide that I will leave a bit earlier to go to the pediatrician. There is an impressive playground at the rooms and my child loves it there. We will have a little mommy-daughter date.
11:40 – My child and I leave the house to go to the pediatrician.
11:50 – We leave our road to go to the pediatrician. You know, it takes me at least 10 minutes from the door to the garage to the road. She wants to stop to look at the flowers or the cats. I don’t want to curb her enthusiasm for the simple things in life. It also takes time to get her strapped into her seat and pack the bags into the car, etc.
In the car, I usually switch the radio off and use the time to properly chat and connect with my child. Today I decided that we will pump her music and sing along. What’s not to love about singing Wheels on the Bus at the top of your voice? Many things for me, lol. For her, probably nothing.
12:15 – Quick little play date with my baby.
12:30 – Doctor’s appointment.
It was a comprehensive appointment regardless of the fact that we were there yesterday. I’m very happy that there’s no sign of appendicitis. She’s fine. She has a temperature and she’s still contagious for another six days.
13:30 – I return my husband’s phone call. He wanted to meet us at the doctor but couldn’t make it in time. I suggest to him that we meet at Papachinos for lunch instead. He’s keen and we’re on our way to meet him there. We’re all excited about our family lunch date.
On second thoughts I realize it’s not a great idea to take a contagious child to a family restaurant to play with other kids. I phone him again. He is super disappointed. We decide to meet at home. On third thoughts I realize that parents carry childhood diseases but don’t fall ill because our immune systems are mature. If we went there on our own the other kids might get sick anyway. There are adults sitting there right now that don’t even know they are carrying childhood germs. But, if we took our kid who is carrying a concentration of the germs that’s just unfair to everyone.
On fourth thoughts I realize I want to go to a more adult restaurant and I can drop our child with her nanny. I call my husband again and set up a lunch date. This also happens to serve as the solution to substitute my team activity of the cancelled netball game.
13:50 – Drop my daughter off at home and have a quick chat to Charity.
14:15 – Meet my husband for a lunch date.
We have some fun and a nice meal. We also end up discussing a whole lot of business matters and homely admin things. I tell him I seriously need to go and spend some time alone somewhere quite soon, so I don’t go ‘benzies’. He tells me we need to go to Vodacom in the mall because we have a Vodacom issue we need to sort out for Poppet Patch.
15:45 – At the Mall with my husband.
Sorting out some admin.
Collect shoes that have been repaired.
Pop in to the jeweller who is redesigning my wedding ring. They told me not to put pearls in a wedding ring, but I refused to listen. It’s been in for repairs so many times that I have now decided to let go of my idea of having a pearl instead of a diamond.
16:45 – Arrive back home. Play with baby. She orders all of us to lie and slide on the bedroom floor, funny child.
I try to feed her again but to no avail. She doesn’t even want sweets and custard. She’s weird like that and will mostly choose healthy options but no, nothing. Not even olives. She still has a fever but she’s in good spirits.
17:10 – My husband spends time with our baby. I take some more time to write this post, but I know I won’t finish today and that’s okay.
18:15 – Early bath time for baby.
18:45 – Early bed time for baby.
We are all tired.
19:00 – We decide not to have supper. We’ve had good lunch. We just chat for a bit and have a few biscuits.
19:30 – I write in my Gratitude Journal and take my medication.
I read. A real book.
20:00 – We go to bed for a much-needed rest.
I didn’t get up again until the next day.
Is This Normal?
This day was not a typical day for me, if ever there was such a thing in our home. I certainly don’t go out for lunch with my husband every day. Or to the mall. Our baby normally goes to school and there are days that I am out for meetings most of the day. I also have an “office day” at home with my colleague once a week.
When it comes to my writing and speaking I think it’s necessary to add that I don’t really have a social filter. I don’t know if the lack of a filter is a symptom of mental illness or just the way I am. This has landed me in trouble before. I just say what’s on my mind as I’m thinking it. My tone may be kind and I have no intention to hurt anyone’s feelings, but unfortunately, this is not easily understood. Sometimes I will use an editor, and my husband will also look over my writing before I hit ‘publish’. The two of them understand me very well. They will rearrange the words in my sentence a bit differently, and this could mean the difference between people understanding what I’m trying to say, instead of perhaps perceiving me as having a dig at disabled people who use wheelchairs or misunderstanding my intended message of how mentally ill moms making use of their resources as “crutches”.
I haven’t discussed my symptoms of mental illness during manic and depressive episodes, or the times that I have been hospitalized. These extremes do not form part of “a typical day in my life”. There is a difference between a terminal diagnosis and a choice of life. That difference could be the willingness and work it takes to bring oneself to making the choice. It cannot be done for somebody else, and people do not just “snap out of it”.
I also want to mention that self-care is vitally important for all moms. Any mom can get overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts and these things are perpetuated by the lack of sleep, general exhaustion and many other things. These are not issues that only mentally ill mothers must deal with, but issues faced by all mothers.
We often hear: “Every person is fighting a battle that you know nothing about. Be kind”. But, sometimes we ourselves are also fighting battles that we are not aware of. We could be fighting battles with ourselves. We need to be mindful of this, and we need to be kinder to ourselves.
This is not a simple topic that I am able to cover in one post. There are many other things about my lifestyle that affect my days, like my diet. Sugar increases anxiety so I need to maintain a balanced diet. Exercise is important too. The list is long. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it and lots of fun most of the time.
I just so happened to have a routine appointment with my psychiatrist before publishing this guest post. He was not on board with the title of this article. He said that not all mentally ill patients have my kind of attitude towards their diagnosis. His opinion is that the subject of Mental Illness is so broad that for anyone to write about a day in life as a mentally ill patient is like writing about a day in the life of a woman/man. It’s just too different for everyone. He asked that at the very least I should be changing the title to A Day in the Life of a Mental Health mom. He didn’t read the article but he feels that this topic is easily sensationalized. I didn’t write about the physical difficulty with breathing and night sweats that come with this diagnoses because it is no longer the norm, for me. Whilst I don’t want to add sensation I also don’t want to trivialize the condition. My intentions are pure and there is no sensationalism intended but rather inspiration and education. I did not take my doctor’s professional advice and went ahead with this article. It comes from a place of Love and Gratitude.
I want to thank a few people for inspiring me to write about this topic:
– Nadia from The Non-Adventures of a Stay at home Mum who invited me to take part in this series and facilitated my first post about this topic on her platform.
– Maz from Caffeine and Fairydust who inspired me with her bravery in speaking up about this topic in Shante’s series on Roses and Thorns.
– My eternally supportive and encouraging husband.
With Love & Gratitude,
Didn’t I tell you she was really easy to like? I’m sure that there are parents reading this who can identify and relate to so much. I don’t have a mental illness (as far as I’m aware, debatable on some days) but this could easily be a day in my life. The worry, the overthinking, the planning. Yet I’m sure for Tish, the dark days are darker and the worry more intense. I’m so glad that I started this series. It has given me invaluable insight into the lives of not just women, but my friends, that I never would have had before.
In case you missed it: