practical tips

Positive Negativity: maybe things will get worse and that’s okay

I hated being pregnant.

I loved the fact that I was going to have a baby and I was in awe of the fact that I was growing a person. But being pregnant was horrible. Although I didn’t throw up every day the nausea was relentless. Every hour of every day I felt horribly sick. The thought of food turned my stomach… but an empty stomach was my number 1 vomit trigger.

And for most of my pregnancy people kept being positive and re-assuring me that it would get better.

It gets better after 12 weeks! I was assured by many. It didn’t for me.

I kept being given more magical getting better points to look forward to. And I kept feeling sick. It gets better after 15 weeks!

bucket next to the bed. because I needed that.

When my Aunt asked me when the baby was due and I joked that I only had 5 more months of vomiting to go she was aghast. “You might feel better tomorrow!” she chided me. It gets better after 18 weeks! And I felt guilty for being so “negative”. I might feel better tomorrow, I reminded myself. It gets better after 22 weeks! And every day I attempted to face the day as though I didn’t want to vomit up every organ in my body. And every day I struggled and “gave in” and felt guilty for relying on anti-emetics and tried to ration them out and resolve to take less of them and to be stronger and more positive. It gets better after 28 weeks!

And after 28 weeks passed and I still vomited almost every day – and felt like I wanted to even on the days I didn’t – regardless of how many dry crackers or ginger flavoured *anything* I ate… People stopped telling me to look forward to it getting better.

And that… helped an enormous amount. When I stopped assuming that if I was positive enough and motivated enough and enough enough… when I gave in and assumed that I’d feel sick every day until the baby was born… I took my anti-emetics first thing after I woke up and scheduled them regularly throughout the day instead of “waiting to see if I was any better today/this afternoon/this evening”.

And I realised that I’d spent a lot of my pregnancy not only feeling nauseated – but feeling like that if I wasn’t somehow imagining it or faking it I was thinking about it too much and therefore making it worse. As though my morning (lol, all day. all night.) sickness was a monster who could be summoned by saying its name and could only be vanquished by pretending hard enough that it didn’t exist.

But. I wasn’t making myself sicker by acknowledging that I was sick. Preparing myself for feeling terrible and not trying to fight against how sick I was wasn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But it allowed me to feel a bit less terrible about myself and not attempt more than I could manage and allow myself the rest I needed (I wore a fitbit throughout my pregnancy. My record for lowest-steps achieved in a day was less than 600).

And I realised… that I’ve spent a lot of my life waiting for things to get better. Waiting for next week. Waiting for next year. For the clocks to change. For the weather to change. For the weekend. For the afternoon. And thinking that if I only pushed myself to believe hard enough that I wasn’t struggling… then I wouldn’t be.

But depression and anxiety and executive dysfunction aren’t monsters that can be summoned by name any more than nausea is.

put on a happy face and ‘act as if!’

The idea that if you go to bed determined enough you can wake up motivated and driven is toxic. As though because motivation and executive function are driven by chemicals in your brain you just need to adjust your mindset is as nonsensical as the idea that behaving as though you don’t need glasses will make you see more clearly. Or that walking on a broken leg will make it heal faster.

Being prepared for your struggles won’t make them bigger. It just makes you more prepared. Because your life isn’t going to magically become easy after the weekend or tomorrow morning or when the weather clears up or when the seasons change or in the new year. Some of those things might help!!

But right now is your life too. And pretending that things aren’t the way that they actually are doesn’t help.

So. If you want to and it feels okay to do so I want you to imagine that you won’t feel somehow more rested tomorrow than you have any other day recently. That you won’t somehow feel enthusiastic about doing the chores that you’re avoiding. That you won’t feel more organised or enthusiastic or driven than you did today or this week or this month.

What does that change? What expectations of yourself do you need to adjust and does that change anything about what you think you are capable of right now? Is there something you can do a bit of or half-ass so it’s not so much of a problem tomorrow?

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