Mental Illness

Caregiving: Fight Song

This has been the song on constant repeat. The soundtrack to my coming out of hibernation. The tune that I have reached for as I feel myself turning into a ball of stress. Winter has come and gone. Spring has bobbed ever closer; no longer a speck on the horizon, but a season that has come ashore with no particular idea what it wants to do besides being a little warmer.

In January, I thought it might be time to come out of hibernation. The longest day was behind me, a new year ready for the taking. I clung to the duvet until the feelings passed. February came and went before I had a chance to turn around. Then March came along. Knocked on the door, peered through the window, rang the doorbell, and generally made a nuisance of itself until I took notice.

Despite the increasing sunshine and rising temperature, the winter tiredness was still clinging on to me. Late nights aplenty. Stresses hiding everywhere like an egg hunt. The occasional crisis thrown in for good measure. And daily life with its own ebbs and flows of needs.

We survived Christmas. We had a beautiful Christmas. Not without difficulties, and there was the occasional seismic shift that I could only hope quietly wouldn’t split the world open. But our days around Christmas were wonderful nonetheless. They were ready-made and fantastic. And Mr. Juniper and I are still prone to singing “Do you want to build a snowman?” whenever we pass Olaf, who I discovered a little too late was far too big to be put back in with the Christmas decorations.

With Christmas cheer slowly fading as January approached, I think I felt January would be a breeze. After all, it wasn’t going to be December anymore! (Yes, my own genius amazes me, too.) Then the exhaustion hit. We had survived Christmas and all that came with December, but oh my, the energy that had been needed to do so. I could take January quietly, I told myself. It was okay if I didn’t do too much beyond the everything that had to be done.

January was a month where I tried, I really did, to take quiet pleasure in the small things. Lighting beautiful Yankee Candle votives. Listening to lectures on YouTube about Borderline Personality Disorder*. Signing up to a month-long happiness challenge. Keeping Savoring Slow on the kitchen table, so I could pick it up the moment I found myself with a mug of tea in hand, children happily occupied, and no chores needing done.

February was less lectures and more Gilmore Girls. Less challenging myself and more Bridget Jones. Stresses had increased, Mr. Juniper’s health was worse, and I was burning the candle at both ends. (At least the candles were Yankee Candles, so the house smelled delightful throughout all the stress.)

In all honesty, I don’t know where February went. My mug of (cold) green tea and I would meet at the end of the day. Somehow errands were run, school runs were walked, and chores done. Stories were read and beds made. Appointments were arranged. Prescriptions picked up. Meals made and dishes washed up. Where does all the washing up come from? I often wonder this late at night when I am sure I have done it all, only to realise that there are dishes in soak and the bread bowls still need put away. Through all this, continuing to make bread (almost) every day has been a little achievement that I have held onto. A process from start to finish that I have managed. A critical success in a time when what self-care I had reestablished in January had largely fallen to the wayside.

The little things. How I have held onto the little things throughout the past few months. Sometimes I have to force myself to slow down and stop, and practice — albeit the bare minimum of — self-care. I think of Savoring Slow and Hands Free Mama. My Facebook feed is full of kindness, positivity, of being a gentle parent, of finding calm amongst the chaos, of beautiful gardens and cute animals. It isn’t meant to be a cover-up or a façade. It has been the way I have been able to keep up the little reminders to myself. To remind myself of the good when all I can think of is the headache from too little sleep.

The visuals of Facebook are in our home, too. Beautiful pictures by our beautiful boys are stuck up on kitchen cupboards. A family of Willow Tree figurines by our coffee and tea mugs. Everywhere reminders of family, of happiness. A way for me to find my calm, a way to help Mr. Juniper ground himself. There are family photos adorning the walls. A fridge bursting with pictures; drawn and photographed. It’s to embrace how much environment matters, that we have these reminders and symbols of family around us.

Then March turned up. There wasn’t much choice but to let it in, put on the kettle, and reconsider this hibernation malarkey. Not just the idea of doing more out in the world, but doing more for my own emotional world. Shaking off the tiredness and taking better care of myself. Trying to be good to myself is hard. My constant pursuit of being a good mama, a good wife, a good caregiver only gets harder with the increase in tiredness and stress. Through it all, Mr. Juniper’s gratitude and grace make life preciously easier. In attempting to balance everything, I reach for his hand, and he keeps me steady. If he could do more, I know he would. We embrace what he can do.

Letting March in and welcoming the spring was harder than I anticipated. March has with grace made way for April, and I think I am close to shaking off the last of my winter tiredness. It’s time to open the windows, light a candle, and with a hot mug of tea in hand, turn up the music. It’s time to come out of hibernation.

N.B. Some of the resources mentioned are:

Savoring Slow by Shawn Fink (Amazon US / Amazon UK / Facebook)

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford (Amazon US / Amazon UK / Facebook)

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary on Facebook. Cute dogs all day long.

The National Trust and VisitScotland on Facebook. Beautiful pictures that honestly help brighten my day. They’re a lovely surprise when they pop up in my news feed.

The Militant Baker and The Out of the Box Project on Facebook. Two people that are wonderfully inspiring, not least for sharing their own journeys with BPD.

*This video is incredibly interesting; the discussion is also very frank about many of the issues around BPD, so may be triggering for some.

By Juniper

Rarely to be found without herbal tea nearby. Team Unicorn. Often in pyjamas. Also: TEAM KATNISS!

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