Battling to stay afloat

I keep trying to lodge the smile back on my face, but it just won’t stay put. There’s this constant feeling of sickness and butterflies in my tummy, combined with a tight chest, stopping me breathing. My throat feels constricted, like someone’s grip is slowly tightening. My temper’s short and I’m easily brought to tears.

A constant feeling of panic wrapped all around me. My mind can’t settle, instead flicking at speed over all the things that are vying for my time and attention. Things that have already made it onto my to-do list and things that I need to remember to add to the list. Everyday, the list grows, as I struggle to cross things off faster than the things that get added on. The words dance before my eyes. Sometimes it feels like they’re written in a foreign language for all the sense i can make of them. I sit and try to command my mind to respond. To will it to do what it always used to do and apply logic and order to this tangled mess. My organisation was my forte – has always been at the very core of me. But it’s gone. Ravaged by two and a half years of trying to fit too much into each painfully short 24 hour period.
There’s no space left in my brain. It struggles to find a place for all the things that it needs to store. The steady sense of panic means I can’t settle to anything, making it even harder to complete any tasks, until they’re so urgent the abject fear of not getting them done manages to tie me to my seat for just the required time. The things given lowest priority are always the things I most want to do.
Drowning. Suffocating.
It’s taken its toll, the last two and half years. The first twelve months of the twins’ lives just all about surviving, getting through one day at a time. Ten months in I’m handing in my notice. Can’t afford to go back to work, can’t afford not to work and so the battle really begins. Carving out a career for myself, desperately trying to bring in the money needed for the bills every month whilst losing huge amounts to childcare. Trying, and failing to find a balance.
Then a move to a new town. A few months off the treadmill to settle ourselves in the new place, build new relationships, breathe a little.
Back to work. Still trying to find a balance. Still always feeling that I can’t keep up, that I’m failing. Coming to terms with my new career, the loneliness of self-employment and working from home.
The building work starts. I put a brave face on it all, but the loss of control over even more of our lives was tougher than I expected.
And now what? In a way we’re on the closing strait. Got to make it through to January when the twins will finally get their 15 hours free childcare each per week. When we will see our childcare bills drop to nothing. When that overwhelming pressure and fear may lift a bit. When I might find time to regroup, and to breathe again. That’s all I want. To be able to breathe again.
The reality of twins isn’t the silly things people in the street say to you. It isn’t about having to answer the hundredth person to ask you if they’re identical (a boy and a girl, seriously?). It’s about the day-to-day struggle. It’s about fighting tooth and nail to keep your head above water. It’s about the financial implications of two children needing the same things at exactly the same time, when you only planned for one. It’s about the anger you feel that despite having reached a decent point in your career you simply can’t afford to return to your job.
Most of all, it’s about trying to be a family without destroying yourself in the process.

22 comments to Battling to stay afloat

  • You sound really at odds with yourself, which is a very unsettling place to be. You have lots of people to support you through this and help you get to grips with your list. I wonder when you do you big piece of paper list whether there are some things that can be taken off completely, for now, at least.

    It makes me sad that the things you want to do, the things that make you happy, are at the bottom of the list.

    Anxiety is crippling and you’re in a vicious circle, but I know you can break it xx

    • Heather

      I wonder if I need to separate everything into two entirely separate lists. One for things that *have* to be done, and one for things that I’d like to get done. Looking forward to a week in a caravan next week away from work etc, to try to have a bit of brain space and work things through a bit. x

  • My sweet girl, I cannot know exactly how you feel as the implications of twins is so much greater than I have had to bear but I definitely know that feeling of panic and inability to do anything that will make a difference.

    I think we reach a place where there are no quick fixes any more. The benefits of a good nights sleep are lost because our sleep deficit is so large, time for ourselves is a thing of the past when we just need to do what we can to stay afloat.

    At my PND group (have I mentioned this before? I meant to) it was explained to us that every time we do something for our family or work or something for the house (basically all the things on your to do list) it is like someone takes a pebble out of a jar. And that jar only has so many pebbles in it. So we need to find ways of topping up our jar with pebbles. So for me that could be spending an hour sewing something, or having a bath, or sitting in the garden in the evening drinking a glass of wine. You will know what your things are. I know that you will always push the things you enjoy to the bottom of the list because they don’t seem urgent or important but you could argue that they are the MOST important because if you don’t add the pebbles to your jar then you will have nothing else to give, no reserves of energy.

    Sorry, you might think that is all a bunch of mumbo jumbo but it helps me and I hope it might help you. One tip I read recently is if you see or think of something you need to do and it takes less than a minute then do it as soon as you think of it. I hope that might help too.

    Always here to support you. I will even come and help you with your to do list if you want x

    • Heather

      Totally loving the idea of the pebble jar. I love something sort of visual like that, so I can imagine it in my head. Definitely something I’ll be trying to do. xx

  • Kat

    Oh my friend, I don’t know what to say. It is tough, it will change, you are strong and brave. K x

  • do you believe me when I say I know how you feel? – it gets easier

    am off to text you x

  • Oh lady. Finding you in amongst the whole wife/mummy thing is really tough. You WILL get there though. Promise x

  • EssieRae

    Don’t think you are alone I think every mum feels the same at some point. I have personally found the 0-3yo stage the hardest with my kids, it’s not to say that you don’t have challenges at other ages. I think it’s just because they are so dependent on you for everything and it also becomes a source of frustration when they are stretching their legs and personality! Turning into real people, which is amazing and makes you want to smile on some days and cry bucket loads other days. In addition to juggling work, finances, relationships and ‘domestic bliss’ it can be very overwhelming at times. It definitely helps taking out some ‘me’ time to recharge your batteries when you can. You are doing a brilliant job, don’t ever forget that :-) big hugs x

    • Heather

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. You sum it up brilliantly. I can be laughing my head off one minute, and then the next I’m locked in a tantrum battle that makes me feel completely horrendous. I know it will get better, and that’s what’s getting me through each day at the moment. x

  • Boy, you know, I have one child and I’m a single mom and for the past few days I have felt exactly like you. Hard to work, hard to get anything done. Just want to sleep and surf the web. So, firstly know you are not alone. Secondly, know that I don’t feel this way very often and I am doing it all alone with just half the children. So maybe it evens out.
    There are a few keys to this, I think – one is taking things one day or one hour or one minute at a time. Second is prioritizing. Just get done what needs to get done. If ou need milk get it, but if you need to do something that doesn’t really need to be done, just let it sit on the list. Thirdly, and this is the hardest part of it all, ask for help. If you don’t have family around, ask them to make a visit. If they cannot, find some group in town and bite your tongue and just join. find a babysitter. Splurge on this financially because you must. It’s for your sanity.
    Raising kids is hard, twins I cannot imagine. I had twins and one died in utero at a very very early stage but thank God, I mean as a single mother with two? I cannot imagine. As others are saying it does get better but that doesn’t help you now. What you need to do now is to make a realistic list, not an overly dramatic frantic one that spells out what YOU need to feel better. What would be helpful to you. Share it with your husband, your mother, your sister, your friend, someone who sees how fragile you are and understands they need to help you. Don’t pretend you’re ok.
    email me and I will help you sort this through if you like –

    • Heather

      What an incredibly fantastic comment – thank you so much. You’re right, I do need to ask for help which is something I really, really struggle with. To be honest, I think that writing this post was a small step towards asking people for help. I’ve emailed the link to a couple of friends to let them know how I’m feeling, as I’m someone who always puts a brave face on things and finds it difficult to admit I’m struggling. We are away as a family next week, so I shall take some time to write the realistic list. Thank you again.

  • Hey. Long time no speak. The comment Kelly said rang true with me. Recently I went to see a CBT lady about the sense of panic and loss of control and guilt and just being constantly on the edge of tears state I was in. Working 4 days a week, I had shit childcare, a husband who didn’t seem to give a shit either way and all the financial strain on my shoulders. i don’t have twins but I have 2 girls close in age and it all costs money, but for me it was the guilt, it’s always the guilt with me. The therapist said I needed to refill my cup. Do something for me, not for the kids but for me. I borrowed a sewing machine, I increased my running, I go out for drinks after work sometimes and force my husband to do bedtime. it helps you know it really does. Even though it feels like nothing will ever lift the anxiety, little things over a period time start to. Would always love to meet up when you’re in town (lunch on me). Email me and take care of yourself. xxxx

    • Heather

      I think we are in very similar situations Holly, and I’m really glad you’ve found a way to help you cope with it all. I would definitely love to meet up when I’m in town – I’ll email you. x

  • Helen H and S's mum

    I hear you sister!

  • Oh Heather – sending love and understanding and a deep desire that things start to look up


  • A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks right to the top, rocks about 2″ diameter.

    He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.

    So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them in to the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed.

    He asked his students again if the jar was full? They agreed that yes, it was.

    The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

    “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed.

    “The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent things like your job, your house, your car.

    “The sand is everything else. The small stuff.

    “If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, material things, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important.

    “Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing

    “There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first — the things that really matter.

    “Set your priorities. The rest is just pebbles and sand.”

    I used to have a kilner jar to represent this, which was full of pebbles and sand that the boys and myself had collected on the beach. It sat on my desk for a very long time. In fact it got broken during the room moves. I think it is something that we always need to keep reminding ourselves and IU am going to do it again with them the next time we are on the beach and sit it on my desk again!

  • just catching up on old posts. i hope life is a little easier now but i know exactly how crippling anxiety is. horrific. lots of love xx

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>