• The Fit Midwife

Sorry I've Been Away.... My Anxiety Was Busy Having Offspring

So I put it to a vote on my Instagram account. What did you want my first blog post back to be about. You wanted to know where I had been. If i’m honest I didn’t really want to tell you. But that in itself is a reason to write it down. To share it. To practice what I preach.

You must have heard the saying “you cannot pour from an empty cup”? Well my cup was well and truly empty. Then it was abruptly and inconsiderately smashed in to a thousand tiny pieces. Or at least that is how it felt.

If I am completely honest with you (and with myself), this year has been incredibly difficult. I don't want to be negative but I need to explain about somethings that have affected me. So here goes.......

I guess I lost some people I cared about this year. They didn’t die. I didn’t lose them in the supermarket or mall like I so often do my keys or my purse. But I lost what their friendship provided.... trust, comfort, support. And as a result I lost a little bit of myself.

I truly believe that when we really care for people, in whatever capacity (Partner, friend, family, colleague), we give them parts of ourselves, parts of our heart. Parts of our thoughts, our dreams, we carry their burdens like they are our own (perhaps too willingly if you are like me). We avoid anything that will potentially upset them or others because we don’t want to be the cause of any negative experiences. But all that means is we internalise it, we bear the burden to keep peace at the cost of our own inner peace. And that, it's not sustainable. Nor is it healthy.

When you lose people with whom you have made these connections, they take those parts, just as we take from them. So when this happens, you find you have gaps. Gaps in who you were. What was important to you. How do you fill those gaps?

I also had a really difficult time with an employer. Who felt an appropriate reaction to me advocating for women was to call in to question my integrity as an employee and as a midwife. I should probably tell you that I (and in general, other midwives with independent thought and confident practice) am thought of as ‘difficult’ in the healthcare establishment in question. Why? Because I always put the needs and safety of women and their families above the needs of the institution. The result of this was was 2 months of battling to prove my innocence, in a country where you are guilty until proven innocent. I was badmouthed and treated like the antichrist. I was stuck with frozen bank accounts, expected to just survive. Which I only managed because of family and friends. Whom I can repay financially but their generosity knew no bounds and I can only try and repay that someday. Of course due to these accusations being unfounded and somewhat spiteful there was no further action taken. But not before it knocked me on my ass a bit. Affecting my ability to trust healthcare here, to trust anyone really.

It is utterly terrifying being in a country that is not your own, where important information is discussed in a language that is not your mother tongue, often only between men, *rolls eyes so hard they almost get stuck* and just praying to whatever higher power that floats your boat, that you will get through this unscathed. I know one thing for sure, whilst I may not be a perfect midwife, I am a bloody good one. And now I am in a very good and supportive working environment and it is fuelling my passion for midwifery all over again.

My training has been plagued with injury of late, ending up in surgery to remove some damaged cartilage from my left knee. Training is absolutely my coping mechanism. It is a place I usually feel strong, safe, happy. But during injury, the mental battle has been tricky. Whilst I have tried to remain positive, there are always days in which I feel I am not where I should be. Every time I felt progress, my body reminded me I was a 32 year old, ex party animal, who has never really been able to touch her toes never mind get them to a bar and perhaps I needed to take a step back (just not on my sore knee). Of course I didn’t. I adapted my training. Worked round my injuries and weaknesses. But the intensity, which I loved, that cleared my messy and often frantic head had gone.

These factors gave rise to full on anxiety. Which I can honestly say I have never experienced previously and always tried to understand when others were suffering, but I never truly could. Now I understand all too well. All I knew was that I had lost parts of me. They were in that cup I mentioned earlier. The one that was drained and smashed. And bloody hell did that make me anxious.

Now whilst some family and friends may read this and be finding this out of the first time, i’m not sure some of them will be entirely surprised. And I feel I should point out that I am not writing this to wallow and feel all sorry for myself, or in the hopes of being inundated with messages. Far from it. I am ok today. I am coping with what I feel in my own way, in my own time. I am telling you because I am just a woman, trying to make her life mean something, trying to make a difference. Trying to care for those who are important to me and to care for myself. I am like every other single person that reads my blog. And if I can be affected by this then I know I am not alone.

I realised what was happening to me with some guidance and I realised I have developed some pretty bad habits that have exacerbated the anxiety. I don’t know if you can identify with any of these yourself but here is what I found I was doing:

  • Overgeneralisation: Applying the negatives of one situation to several situations. Assuming they will all be the same.

  • Emotional Reasoning: Believing the way you feel in the moment reflects your surroundings (I don't feel good enough, therefore I will never be good enough).

  • Should’s and Should nots: Assuming you should be doing things you are not. Reaching milestones you have not reached yet. (I’m 32… tick tock on the ovaries or I am not as far in my training as I should be. I don't have savings etc. Basically any Dubai expat based concern)

These thoughts aren’t constant nor are they crippling (unless I have consumed too much wine) but they are real and they are a source of anxiety from time to time despite my logical brain telling me not to worry and to just calm down. It is sometimes like an out of body experience. It's just not logical.

These are just some bad mental habits I have picked up. I have had to be accountable and make sure that when I am heading down these roads I stop and take some time out. So what have I been doing to try and combat it:

  • Talking helps. For me writing helps even more. I don’t like to open up to people. I prefer to do it this way bar confiding in a few close friends.

  • Distancing myself from anything that causes me incredible sadness or self doubt. Be it situations, places, people, social media platforms.

  • Reminding myself that anything that makes me more unhappy than happy is not ok.

  • Taking time away from my phone. Only having airplane mode on at night and reading instead of scrolling through Instagram.

  • We adopted a kitten (transference??…. maybe but she makes us smile).

I have also been having a love/hate relationship with Instagram so I needed to step back slightly. I love it as a platform to reach women and followers and share my passion for Midwifery. I also love sharing and documenting my passion for training and fitness. I learn so much from people through this platform. But I found that I was comparing myself to others. Especially in the specific areas causing me to feel anxious (Why do they have that/can do that/are valued etc etc.... insane thoughts I know but they are there, swirling round my head).

I am so guilty of posting my highlights on my personal Instagram. My life isn’t all beaches, tanning, training and ladies nights. You see the good times, the things I want you to see. And I know everyone is guilty of this. So I started to unfollow anything that made me question my worth, my ability, my value as a woman and a human. I think we all need to do this from time to time and I know my friends do it often. Healthy head choices are so important.

So yeah… my break, my absence, it was to preserve my blog, my passion and to ensure it remained a positive part of my life. I love writing and I love my blog and I always want to give it absolutely everything. Because my readers deserve it and I deserve it.

I know that this is a really long winded post. I post so much about the stigma of mental health and not being able to talk about it being so ridiculous; yet writing this was one of the hardest things I think I have done. If you don’t like it, well too bad. But if you take one thing away from this it is that you don’t know what people are going through…. so be kind to everyone. If you have experienced similar feelings you should remember that supporting people, being there, reminding people you are proud of them can go such a long way, what helped you can help others. And if this has struck a chord with you, don’t be scared to talk about it, or even write it out (just getting it down on paper can help so much). Your thoughts, no matter where they stem from, no matter how crazy they may seem are valid and they are real to you. And you matter!

Nikki xx

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