School's Out - by Hannah Tubb - PANDAS Foundation UK

SCHOOL’S OUT!!! HOORAY!!! 6 weeks  of precious time for you and your kids to spend  together, no school runs, no stress, right?

Well, if I am being completely honest – last summer was the first time that I actually genuinely felt this way.  for the four previous years the idea of having both of my girls at home for six week actually made me feel incredibly anxious and then, of course incredibly guilty for not experiencing the apparent joy that every other mother around me seemed to be feeling!

The hangover or continuation from my PND was anxiety and that wasn’t conducive to doing anything with the girls by myself, I couldn’t travel on a bus with them, I couldn’t take them the ten minute train journey to the local soft play centre, most days the local park even seemed too overwhelming.  I pushed myself to do certain things but always with another mum friend if possible.  I hate thinking about how much they missed out on at that time.  A close group of friends would often get together and do a day trip to a farm or zoo.  I always found n excuse not to go and would feel relieved if it was on a day that I was working.  The thought of travelling even an hour away of home made me so anxious, it was far easier not to go, of course, I know now that by doing that I was sending messages to brain that there was actually something to be worried about which just meant that the next time something was planned I would be ready with my excuses!  Mostly if I did do something outside of my comfort zone I would spend the days before hand worrying about it and the time I was there clock watching until it was over.  Often, once I was home and the kids were in bed, I would realise that I actually really enjoyed the day, in hindsight!!!

At the weekends, while I was at work, my husband would take the girls off to the beach, or our local pinetum and have lovely long days full of fun and happy memories!  These days held mixed feelings for me  –  I was so grateful that they were all having such a great time but so guilty and envious that I wasn’t capable of providing them with these days myself.

Last year I finally referred myself through IAPT for CBT.  I had to set myself challenges to complete for my ‘homework’, the Easter holidays were approaching so I decided that one of my challenges would be to take the girls on the train, ten minutes to the next village and the soft play centre.  I was really anxious and I came very close to making an excuse and not going at all, but the fact that I had made them a promise and they were so excited, drove me on and I did it! It wasn’t easy but it was a start and from that pint I have confronted a lot of situations that I never normally would have done.  I still struggle some days but on the whole the holidays are a much better experience for me now and in turn for my girls!

Sometimes though, it isn’t the going out that is the problem – it’s the endless days of being stuck at home! They can feel like the longest days of your life! I find myself thinking of all the super mums from school who are probably at home doing something hugely creative with their kids, all covered in paint and laughing together or baking delicious healthy treats for snack time!

I tried the former last year, got out a load of crafting bits and set to work with the girls making a rainbow collage for their bedroom.  It went really well for about twenty minutes, after which they got bored, wanted a snack, wanted to go to the park, wanted to do anything other than make a rainbow collage!  They wandered off and found something else to do while I spent another happy hour sticking sequins onto our work of art!

Looking back over the years of photographs from summer holidays, I realise that so many of those were to post on social media to convince others but mostly my self how much fun we were having at home, building dens, having picnics, doing crafts, watching DVDS together or blowing bubbles in the garden. In many of them I can remember smiling for the camera with feelings of guilt and inadequacy knotting my insides.  However, when I look at the girls’ faces I can see pure, genuine happiness shining out.  To them, the important thing was being there together.

So whatever stage of your recovery you are in, don’t feel guilty about not being thrilled at the prospect of the coming weeks of summer holidays!

Check into the PANDAS Facebook page for daily tips on simple things that you an do with your kids over the holidays and if things do get too much, contact us and speak to one of our trained volunteers!  Most of us are parents and will be feeling the same anyway!!!

Here’s to a simple, happy summer xx


Catherine Jones

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