When your child starts school it is a big deal, no matter how you easy/difficult you found their first few years. Here’s why my eldest starting school last year was a huge deal for me as a mum who had a maternal mental illness.
**Trigger Warning – Some talk of suicide and intrusive thoughts**
Most people who read this blog know my story and how my first few years of parenthood were riddled with anxiety, maternal OCD and postnatal depression. Things were really hard, they escalated when she was 1 (while I was also 6 months pregnant with my son) when I very nearly ended my life. I had become so consumed with anxiety I couldn’t leave my home, I felt that everyone would be better off without me, in fact I believed no one really liked me and they wouldn’t notice if I wasn’t here anymore.
Thankfully with the help of medication, therapy and finding online peer support I am here and I am now well. However, because of this experience I feel a huge sense of gratitude at the everyday things and the milestones – many of which I never believed I would be here to see.
When my eldest was just a couple of months old, my husband came home from work to find me crying, the reason being I was anxious and upset that I would need to leave my daughter when she eventually started school/nursery. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her side & thinking about the future and leaving her with strangers upset me – and obviously I believed at the time no one could ever care for my precious girl like I could! That particular day my intrusive thoughts spiralled and before I knew it I was imagining her being kidnapped from school, or managing to get out and wander off never to be seen again. I pictured accidents that may happen, and various other awful things. By the time my husband came home I had gotten myself into such a state worrying about the future.
I also couldn’t imagine how I would manage the school run, I couldn’t even walk to the end of the road without a panic attack. How would I ever manage getting her to school, going to sports days or school plays?
And then there was the overwhelming grief of my lost years with her. Her first precious years had been stolen from me by mental illness. I would never get those days back and now she would be starting school. She wasn’t a baby anymore, those days passed in a blur of anxiety & depression, she was now a young girl ready to start her new, exciting chapter.
All this resulted in me becoming very emotional on her first day. It took me by surprise. I had been well for nearly 2 years and was ready to see her start school, she was so excited and I was looking forward to a new routine. But after seeing her in her new uniform, looking so grown up and happy, the feelings of the past few years came flooding back. I held it together until we had dropped her off and started to walk back to the car, then I burst into tears.
We had come so far. We had gone from me being overwhelmed and terrified of the responsibility of being a Mum, battling anxiety, OCD and depression; and nearly ending my life – I almost wasn’t here to see this day, but we here we were. We had made it.
This year my second child starts and while I’m not feeling as emotional (I’m sure I’ll still have a cry!) it’s another milestone, another positive step for us as a family. When you’ve had a difficult start to parenthood, and you’re reaching these milestones it’s certainly a mix bag of feelings. It’s hard but it’s important to focus on the positive, not on the what ifs and the time you feel you’ve lost. Look at how far you come and look forward to this new chapter in your life and your child’s life.
My daughter loves school, and we’ve enjoyed going to the school plays, sports days and even the school run isn’t that bad! All things I thought I would never do, things which caused me so much anxiety, and so much upset. It’s so vital we hold on to hope, because even in the darkest times, there’s light to be found.