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Motherhood, Anxiety And The Job

I LOVE being a mum. And I mean LOVE.

I find it hard, stressful and incredibly draining at times, but honestly, I have always wanted to be a mother, and it is so much more rewarding than I could have ever expected. The amount of love I have for my little boy is just incredible, I did not know how much I could love another person until I had him.

I also loved my job. I used to be a Deputy Stage Manager for a well renowned Ballet company and before having my baby, my job was my life. I ate, slept, and breathed it for years and I worked so damned hard to get where I was.

I volunteered after my day job once I'd finished university, worked long, long hours, spent my evenings learning to read music and brush up on my skills to build myself a great career. And it was GREAT. But at what cost?

I was recently diagnosed with anxiety. Is this a postnatal condition? I'm not sure. I do know that looking back, I have felt this way for a long, long period of time, however it came to a head after having my little one and moving house. Both of these events should have been the happiest of my life, and mostly they were, however I had the shadow of anxiety hanging over me.

I have always been a slightly anxious person. I over think, analyse everything and my mind is always on the go. But last summer I seemed to go into overdrive. Constantly worrying about things that shouldn't even cross my mind, feeling I had to do everything right now this minute, pressuring myself to be the perfect mum and more or less failing, or so it seemed, at every task.

There are a few things that I feel have gotten me to this place. I saw a therapist and she pointed out to me after a lot of talking that there are many things that I have gone through in life that are extremely unsettling. My father moved away when I was a teenager and his horrendously controlling new wife ensured we could never have a relationship. One of my best friends died when I was young, and I was in an abusive past relationship.

I take all of this on board, I really do, and I'm trying to work through my issues. However, I cant help wondering whether my awesome, yet extremely stressful and all consuming job played any part in all of this?

As a Stage Manager, you are trained to foresee problems. This is of the utmost importance, and if something goes wrong or is unforeseen, the Stage Management team are to blame. Risk assessments are compulsory for all productions, and everyone's health and safety is down to your team.

As a Deputy Stage Manager (DSM), it is your job to sit behind a desk during shows and make everything work - The lights, flying system and set.

If you've ever been to the theatre, you may not know that there is one person sitting backstage with a TV monitor, watching every move on stage, telling absolutely everyone and everything what to do and when. Lighting change? Go. Set change? Go. Orchestra begin? Go. And the DSM can only make these calls if it is safe to do so onstage. If you make a mistake, its huge, and there's no going back.

I worked six days a week, half of the year away from home, but I just loved the intensity and feeling of producing amazing pieces of theatre and being a part of it all. But I'm drawn to think, is being this type of anxious person something that leads you into this type of career? I know my way of thinking certainly helped me excel.

Or does this type of career lead to anxieties? The thing I wonder is, if you're trained to ensure mistakes don't happen, to foresee any potential problem that may occur in the future, can this affect your everyday life? And indeed your mental health?

I had to leave my job once I'd had my gorgeous boy. I was prepared for this and knew it wasn't a job I could, or wanted to sustain once I had babies. I can imagine that many mums go through this, sacrifice everything they've spent their adult life working towards in order to have a family. I'm happy with my sacrifice, I really am.

I just wonder if it makes it that bit harder becoming a family woman when you've been an independent go getting career girl. Also, I wonder if my wonderful yet stressful job has played a part in my anxiety as a mum. I automatically worry about things that may happen, things that could have happened and things that may never happen but I take precautions in my mind to make sure they don't.

I know this sounds quite sensible, but worrying all the time is not healthy, my life is not a theatre production and I know I need to be more flexible. My therapist basically told me that I have issues about being in control, and if I feel that I'm not in control I really struggle. She hit the nail right on my brunette head. I have felt out of control in many areas of my life, especially within relationships, so I think my job, being in control of something, really filled a gap. Without it? I honestly feel a bit lost.

Being a mum, a partner and many other things, you really are just not in control. Of any of it. Life throws things at you, kids being poorly, other people's schedules, child care. I still occasionally work freelance in my old job, and I love going back. But it's different now. It is not my be all and end all. I cannot put as much into it as I used to as my family comes first.

In one sense this actually helps me. I have much more rationality now, my job and things that may or may not happen there are not my top priority. I don't mean I don't care as much, not at all. I mean I can see it from a much wider view point and I think that makes me so much more aware.

I can also now come home and leave my work behind. I come home to my family, scoop them up and every stress of any work day is left behind.

Being diagnosed with anxiety has made me think so much more about the way I lived before life with my boys. I was always on the go, always trying to catch up either with work or trying to fit in time with my family. Drinks most days after work, driving across the country to get to work wherever that may be that week. Worrying when not at work as to whether I was ready for work the next day, did I know the show well enough? Was I familiar enough with the music and the production to be able to lead others?

I'm sure many women (and men) can identify with this when you have a career that you live for, that you have to live for.

I remember specifically one Monday (it was like most weeks really but more prominent in my mind). I had taken a four and a half hour drive to Norwich, arrived at work and spent three hours setting up for the next day. I then had to find where I was staying (a lovely couples house with a spare room) and go settle in, then I spent another four hours with my laptop pouring over what I had to do the next day. The rest of the week I was more or less at work every hour until late evening, with a long drive home at 11pm on the Saturday night to try and spend one day at home before setting off somewhere again on the Monday.

I think even after leaving my job, I continued to live on the go like this, always ensuring I was ready. Taking everything very seriously to make sure everything was 'right'. I've always told myself that this is a great way to be, prepared, ready for anything, fastidious. However, maybe leaning towards this way too much isn't good for us.

Nothing is worth running yourself into the ground for, especially if it affects our mental health and life balance. I mean, obviously raising a family is, but I'm trying to learn more healthy ways of being in control, that I can be successful at things without becoming obsessive and letting it take over.

After all, happy mummy happy kids, happy wife happy life and all that. And my therapist taught me that investing in yourself, taking time to look after you, is not selfish or indulgent as I once thought, it's essential.

Authors Bio


Heidi is a thirty something new mum recently diagnosed with Anxiety. Blogging has really helped Heidi get her thoughts out and has brought her into a wonderful online community where she now feels supported.

Heidi has an unsurpassable love for cats and ice cream (not together!) and is hugely passionate about raising awareness of Anxiety, Postnatal Anxiety and other Postnatal conditions.

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