I was first referred for counselling whilst Wriggles was still on the NICU. We were beginning to be on the home straight which adversely became the patch I began to fall apart. I could not fathom being able to care for my baby at home in the way the hospital did. I got nervous. I got emotional. I cried. lot. When I was trained in resuscitation and infant first aid, I broke down completely because it was too close to home to the CPR I'd had to try on my minutes-old daughter before the paramedics arrived. Then it was confirmed we would go home on oxygen. The sky fell in. Any notion of being able to turn our backs on prematurity, run for the hills or grasp in the dark for any kind of normal baby-magazine like existence was snatched and I was going to the dragged kicking and screaming into the acceptance.
Initially, I was not overjoyed about being counselled. It seemed like another thing to chalk up to failure. You can't even just have a baby? What sort of a mother are you? That first session I was very mechanical. I had got to the point of facts, just facts. Name. Age. Date of birth. Feelings? No, feelings are tied away. Locked away and thrown the key into the abyss. I don't recall a lot, but I do recall the kind lady saying with clarity at the end "you need to allow yourself to feel."
But I couldn't. I would have the odd breakthrough crying sessions, I would tell our story, I would go through the motions, but it was like there was a solid wall. I was talking but there was nothing behind the words. I would not let how I felt about what I was saying out. It was too dangerous. There was a torrent of emotion somewhere that could quite possibly destroy me. Then after we got home, my daughter got sick and then we came home again, I went downhill very fast. It was like a swift plummet, being winded in the gut. I did ask for help then because the only glimmer of rationality left told me that if I didn't things could get ugly and I was the sole person responsible for my daughter and owed it to her.
I was even less overjoyed about the idea of taking medication. To have to be medicated for being a mother? Despite gentle professionals saying but a mother who has been to hell and back, it just didn't sink in. But I took them, thinking what had I to loose. To my surprise, they helped to dent the cloak I had surrounded myself in. They let in tiny chinks of light and slowly rescued some energy, some drive, some routine... Alongside this I also saw a very well meaning counsellor who patted my knee, passed the tissues and said "Oh goodness me, I couldn't have done that" a lot, and also thankfully stepped up sessions with my original counsellor who had importantly been with me the whole time. She has seen Wriggles at the point of being critically ill, in NICU, at home, playing-she had seen the highs, lows and mundane of our lives. And that went a long way, not least is gaining my trust. She had also had her own premature baby twenty years ago and didn't need telling twice about what followed. She listened to me, said some very wise things and never once told me I was a bad person.
Did she fix everything? No. Did she make things more bearable? Very much so. She embarked on a long quest to try and stop me blaming myself and inflecting blame, guilt, remorse and turning these things into long strings of anxiety and fear. She didn't put a full stop to it all, but she did greatly stem the tide and genuinely seemed to care that I wasn't putting myself in torturous circles. The day before Wriggles' second birthday, she turned up at my flat with a birthday present and card despite not seeing her for months. I was so touched that she remembered and cared enough when essentially we are but a handful of her clients. It is little things like that which slowly help pick back up the pieces and restore your sanity bit by tiny bit. Couselling may not be a magic answer or quick fix but it is a service I believe that all parents or family members in difficult situations should be entitled to as just reaching out can remove some of the bricks of your burden. Without it, I fear I would have fallen very low and very badly. I don't know how things would be now if I hadn't have had that chance.
I wish I could say that presented with the tools of good counselling, the caring arms of supportive friends and family and a good overview of CBT that I am completely all done with the past. But this little blog is testament that I am not. Nothing is that simple. Things may be a lot better but there is always one foot still in the past, stuck in a puddle of murky memories. And sometimes I slip and fall straight back in and need a helping hand in climbing back out. All too quickly, the tendrils of anxiety, paranoia and remembrance can curl round your being until you are caught fast in a trap of fact and fiction and have to unravel what is reaction and what is irrational. These last weeks I have been struggling again, feeling the fight ebb out of me. I guess the difference is that I know this isn't forever because things have improved before and will again; not that it makes things feel any easier day to day until we have ridden this out. The mind is a powerful tool indeed.
|My Happy Place|