My brush with temporary insanity

Somewhere around November, I kind of lost the plot last year. I kicked some major professional goals, accomplished some really huge work-related milestones and it felt fantastic, but it didn’t come free. At some point I had so many things on the go, I felt like the dude spinning plates. You know – this one:

140108 too many plates

That one that dropped? That was me looking after me.

An unfortunate collision of events (starting with a fractured toe and going downhill from there) meant I dropped my treadmill running in October. Death of my beloved dog (it was a bad year for Cartellian canines, with the loss of Gill’s dear Yoyo, then my sweet Elke, and finally Sarah’s precious Jedi) and many late nights working into the wee hours resulted in excess consumption of – well, let’s be honest, pretty much everything.

At some point I realised I hadn’t actually showered in four days and a different day had the entire household actively hunting for my hairbrush that had been AWOL for over a week. My inner dialogue convinced me my hair was looking ‘beachy’ and ‘summery’, bang it in a bun and good to go! But between you and I? It was one big fucking matted dreadlock that I seriously thought I was going to need to cut out with scissors.

If you look closely, you may even see wildlife living in my hair.
If you look closely, you may even see wildlife living in my hair.

Obviously this was not planned. I’m pleased to say my child was (relatively) well groomed and dressed. Her meals were (reasonably) fresh and her nightmares were placated. After all, it’s easy when you’re still up working at 3am to pop in and settle the tears down, really… I’m not really sure when I slipped from being busy-and-productive to just being busy-and-self-destructive, but it definitely happened. I didn’t see many friends. I didn’t allow myself down time. I convinced myself I had to work every second I had spare.

I would like to blame fatigue. The same fatigue that leaves newborn mums feeling like they HAVE to do everything themselves, that asking for help is a language from another galaxy not available to them and that to show any sign of failure is inhuman. But really, I’ve been there, come out the other side of that, learnt that lesson, know the telltale signs. I think what actually happened is that I may have given up on myself a bit.

Not proud of that. But you know what? I’ve decided to own it. YES, I LOST MY HAIRBRUSH FOR OVER A WEEK AND I LET MY HAIR GO FERAL. It actually took about 40 minutes in the shower with a truckload of conditioner to resolve it. I avoided the scissors by about a day, I reckon.

But as in the past, I’ll own this experience. I’ll learn from it. I’ll do better next time. Because the thing is, for all the whining and whingeing we do, the only person responsible for us, is us. If there’s something about me I don’t like, be it my weight, or my (lack of) commitment to prioritising exercise, the way I speak to a stranger or my dedication to a daily shower, the bottom line is me.

And the best thing? I CAN CHANGE.

I know I can – I’ve done it. It takes time and effort to be consistent, but when you affect change and see a result – it feels amazing.

Look, I am even capable of having nice hair (but incapable of keeping a straight face for photos).

140108 mia two shot

So this January, while Champagne Gill is vowing to be more Martha, less martyr, I’m pledging to myself to remember me. My toe has healed and I plan on resuming my treadmilling this week. I’ve got a plan not to lose myself in 2014. I even purchased a spare hairbrush.

And if I forget to look after me somewhere in this year ahead, can you remind me please?

How do remember to look after yourself? We’d love to hear your ideas!

Written By

Carolyn is the editorial director of Champagne Cartel and a freelance writer. In her spare time she is a long-distance runner, peanut butter enthusiast, and single mum to three incredible humans.

20 Comments

  • Great post, Mia, and when you figure it out, please let me know your strategy!

    I was where you were this time last year, with a book deadline looming and no time for anything else, even my son (and I justified it by saying “he’s only 2, he won’t remember”. I vowed I’d not put myself in the same position again, and here I’ve just spent Christmas marking (even got an essay marked on Christmas Day 🙁 ). The now 3 year old has given up forcibly taking my hand off the mouse, which I was grateful for, but not so much the other day when I went to play with him and he said “No! Go do some work!”, pointing at my computer. WTF? I’d spent his entire Christmas holiday working that he didn’t expect me to hang out with him! CUE BIG SADFACE

    But here’s the thing – I have to get the marking done (Monday is my deadline, and I’m 41 essays away from being finished). So how do I prioritise myself and my family when the work is still there? Sometimes, I really just don’t know.

    • Ahhh, YES! I hear you lovely lady and I GET IT.

      I don’t have the answer for you yet, but for me, I’ve found that acknowledging I had taken on more than I had time to accomplish (workwise) and be the Mum I wanted to be was the first step. Accepting that change needed to lie with me (because 3yo’s are obviously inflexible dickheads) meant a big hard look at what I needed to do differently. What enablers need to be put in place to make sustainable change in the future?

      My 3yo has started an extra day a week at care as of this week – that’s not a small thing for any of us. I’ve spoken to my partner about being home from work early enough to parent (beyond bedtime stories) a couple of nights a week so I can treadmill. I’ve thought about what work I can delegate to others when I get that busy again – in hindsight, it turns out quite a lot of it. I’m adding more structure to my working week, so I have more routine as to when I work on certain things on certain days – obviously able to change as required, but I’ve found this is helping me set deadlines for myself. I’ve quite TV, except maybe 3 hours a week. This has freed up time for speaking to life partner (important!) and working after toddler bedtime, but I now cut myself off at 10pm if I am working, before I get a third wind and end up awake til 4am.

      For you – I’m not sure – the best person to review what you’re doing and what can change is YOU. It might not be feasible with this round of marking and the deadline. But what could be different next time? Could postgrad’s help with marking? Could you work differently so you still get quality time with the little dude? (could you have a regular Mummy-Day with him that he gets used to routinely and knows is coming, where you vow to leave the computer off?) I dunno – but I’m sure you’ll think of something, because you’re full of awesome! x

  • A brilliant post Mia! I especially love your closing statement of >> “It takes time and effort to be consistent, but when you affect change and see a result – it feels amazing”

    It’s a challenge to change (even when you know it’s for the better) but if you allow yourself to embrace the journey toward change then I think perhaps the ups and downs are easier to navigate. I have quite a few positive changes that I’d like to work on and it’s always nice to know you’re not alone in this 🙂

    KB x

  • I’m there at the moment. I have started to eat better, trying to remember to eat more and it seems to be working to a point. I certainly have a little more energy. Although I still look in the mirror and think what’s the point. The messy bun is my go to hairstyle and I rarely leave the house, so really what is the point?
    I’m seeing a psychologist at the moment and next week is my first appointment for the new year. This year we are working on my depression, on the motivation and getting me back to a place where I care about things.
    Good luck with remembering to look after you!

    • It’s not easy, is it Tegan? (Well, not for me any rate!) I’d be interested to learn how seeing a psychologist is helping – something I’ve wondered about (as in would it help me) on and off for aaaaaaaaaaages. It sounds as though you are doing all the right things. It might sound a bit Loreal, but dammit – we should be worth it – WE ARE WORTH IT! Know you’re not alone, even though it sometimes feels like it – and be gentle to yourself.

      • Honestly it has been the best thing I have done. I have been struggling with depression and self harm for over 11 years and I have only started to make progress and understand a lot of my thoughts since starting to see a psychologist. If you have any questions feel free to email me and I’d be happy to help out 🙂

  • You sum up how all working mums feel sometimes. I too was strung out at the end of last year and it spoilt the build up to Christmas for me. I have resolved not to let work get on top of me and try and achieve more balance so we will see what happens. Love the selfies! 🙂 Cheers, Tanya

    • How the heck are you MEANT to do a duck face, I ask? I’m 36 and (clearly, from those selfies) I don’t understand them! Red alert warning is already set from October to year’s close for 2014! I look forward to hearing how we all go! Thanks for your support 🙂

  • I’ve so been there Mia. AWESOME pics, too, btw. I remember the lead-up to Christmas 2 years ago, having just had foot surgery, when I sat in my home office working 12 hours days with my foot up on the desk in my PJs, not showering, barely eating cos I couldn’t make the food, working, working, working. I stopped late on Christmas Eve. Stinking, in tears, in pain. Glad you’re past it and recognise the destructive process. I’m trying to remember me too, this year. It’s so hard, hey? We always come last. Good luck remembering that hairbrush. I’ll try and remember my breakfast. 🙂

    • Oh THANK YOU for helping me feel normal in having this transient cray-cray period hit my life. Your PJ scenario is pretty much how I spent December. I wish I could wave a magic wand to make this a non-issue for us all! I think I’ve decided to blame Golden Books. Recently found a pile of around 50 of them and got excited about reading them to my 3yo. But they are really messed up!!! OK – tangent has taken over. I stop. Now. Thanks though, I brushed my hair consecutively for 5 days this week – WHOOP! 🙂

  • That spare hairbrush sounds like a great idea 🙂 Hope the toe holds up for the treadmill and that you can get the you time you need to refresh and tackle everything else more effectively 🙂

    • First treadmill run COMPLETED! It was hot and sweaty and hard but I still felt smiley and proud at the end. Double bonus – being hot and sweaty demanded a SHOWER. So I washed my hair and BRUSHED it. #winning 🙂

  • Oh I know that feeling so well. I must admit I regularly go days without brushing my hair, but because it is so thick I can get away with it, mostly! It’s so hard to remember to look after yourself sometimes, but now that I have come out of the 2 under 2 fog and have 2 under 2.5 I feel now is the time to focus on me a bit and see what 2014 brings! I have pulled out the treadmill, just need to get on it now! Literally!

    • I hope you had a good run. I only have the one 3yo and still feel overwhelmed (most of the time!) so hats off to you milady! Hope you got some time to stamp (I ran from zombies!) that treadmill and a shower without 4 eyes watching your every move 🙂

    • Ha! No kidding, right? I knew when I was contemplating using the dog’s (YES, THE DOG’S!) grooming rake, it was time to stage my own intervention! 😉 Happy to report that so far, so good in 2014 for me! 🙂

  • I’m juggling those plates at the moment and it’s not pretty. But I’m getting better at asking for help and at least taking an hour for lunch to get out into the fresh air. It’s not enough though is it? Thanks for the reminder. I need to look after me. I’m glad you were able to save your hair.

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