Getting through a Struggle

Getting through a Struggle

Sometimes things are a struggle, sometimes a challenge, and sometimes an adventure.

“How long can a baby continue screaming like this?” I wondered, as I held Ant and tried to get him to sleep. We were both not well and I was eagerly waiting to go to bed. Nothing was working…time seemed treacle-like. I was achy, feverish, and exhausted. My throat was painful.

Unfortunately, tiredness and lack of sleep are two perfect conditions for cultivating overthinking.

I started focussing on getting through each moment, using my “Jedi Stance”, my soles of the feet mindfulness exercise (where I focus attention on my feet and the ground and keep re-directing my attention back there) and deliberating trying to focus on generating gratitude. I was so grateful, for example, that the boys’ father was taking care of Bear so I could focus on Ant.

Two hours later, after trying various things,  I was so relieved to get into bed and was initially excited about feeling that sensation that happens as you enter sleep (do you know the one?) happening so fast. I quickly realised though that I was fainting and I immediately worried about what would happen to Ant if he woke and I was still unconscious. I hurled myself out of bed and grabbed my phone. The motion combined with everything else made me vomit repeatedly and I tried to get through to someone who could help. I didn’t feel I knew what to do except that I was worried about fainting and not looking after Ant. I phoned the hospital who put the call through to our national Healthline service. It was very difficult to speak and the person on the other end of the phone kept asking me so many questions. I wanted to drive to the ED but worried that I might faint en route. She wasn’t able to tell me what the cost of an ambulance would be so I ended up bundling up Ant and taking a taxi dressed in my dressing gown. Later, when less delirious, I remembered there were others I could have rung – I just knew I didn’t have much time and needed to get seen as soon as possible.

The hospital staff were utterly amazing, as usual, and kept me and Ant overnight. Ant fed almost continuously from about 9pm to 3am then he slept for 1.5 hours. He then woke and fed again for an hour before sleeping for an hour. Even though I wasn’t sure that I had any milk left the hospital staff were amazing and supportive. They came in and checked on me frequently. It was a busy ED on a friday night and yet one consultant calmly rocked Ant while I went to the bathroom. Another nurse aide took him for a 15 minute walk of the ward so that I could have a nap. No one suggested that Ant was unusual or that I was not capable.

Back home the next day though, Ant continued to feed and feed and I was so exhausted and still feverish. I used the same three strategies I had used before to get through. I deliberated – should I try to give Ant a small amount of formula? Ant’s weight has recently been dropping and I had been hoping to just get to 6 months of exclusively breastfeeding. Friends rallied and were supportive of doing what I needed to do to care for Ant. I was so tired and I could feel myself getting more and more into my head so I stopped and simply held my little boy and felt how hungry he was. How tired he was. How he wanted to rest but wasn’t getting enough milk.

I remembered I had some frozen breast milk! Aha! I hadn’t been able to keep building up my frozen supply with being ill but there was one packet. Ant drank it thirstily and still wanted more. The choice was then easy – I had to look after him and after a small amount of formula and breastfeeding, he finally, exhaustedly, fell asleep, and so did I.

So today, after having had some sleep, the world looks different. I feel better although still feverish and slowed down. Things feel like more of a challenge and even an adventure. I’m over 3.5 hours into trying to help Ant fall asleep and stay asleep. Tonight, however, I’ve had a lot of cups of tea (which I really enjoy), we’ve listened to music from my university days in the background, and Ant has allowed me to type this in my darkened study while feeding, being held, and rocked. He even contributed by waving his hands and deleting a line of text! And today, I’m even more grateful – that I was able to just focus on Ant and I because Bear was taken care of by their father, for medical staff, for friends, for living in a world where there is a something that I can do for my child when I’m struggling to feed him.

Even in winter though, in Dunedin, when there is snow on the mountains, there are jonquils emerging in my backyard. There is a brighter day ahead!

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When Extensive Discussion is Bad

When Extensive Discussion is Bad


Image by Stevebidmead via Pixabay

Co-rumination, a more recent term, suggested by Amanda Rose, refers to speculating, re-hashing, dwelling, and extensive discussion of problems with someone (typically a friend). It’s essential overthinking, except that it’s done with company.

Much of the research about this important construct has been done with young women. In adolescent girls, co-rumination is associated with increased depressive symptoms and other internalising problems. In this same study, adolescents are more likely to co-ruminate when in romantic relationships but being in a relationship AND co-ruminating makes depressive symptoms more likely. Co-ruminating also increases cortisol (an indicator of stress). In an interesting experiment, researchers found that c-ruminating with one’s best friend (speculating about the causes, dwelling on things, brooding, re-hashing) led to feeling closer to one’s friend, but also increased depressive symptoms and cortisol.

When dealing with overthinking, in my clinical experience, there is a vital balance between validating our emotional experience as well as not going down the brooding path. This business of validating is utterly crucial and I’ve written about it in another post. Our inner critic so frequently steps in. In my Overcoming Overthinking CD (and workshop), there are exercises for shrinking that critic and soothing the accompanying small, vulnerable part of ourselves.

What type of thinking do you do most often?

What type of thinking do you do most often?


Grateful thanks to Geralt for the image, via Pixabay

How frequently do you:

(1) try to push (emotional) thoughts aside, either by doing something that distracts you mentally or physically?

(2) feel overwhelmed by the speed at which thoughts are going through your mind?

(3) notice your mind wandering off and daydreaming?

(4) feel your way of managing your thoughts is efficient?

(5) deal efficiently with problems that arise?

(6) go back over conversations, replaying them and trying to work out how they could have gone differently?

(7) use your mind as a mental jotter-pad and use it to hold information?

(8) see thoughts as passing phenomena that you don’t necessarily have to get caught up in?

These are just a handful of questions to get you thinking about your thinking (otherwise known as meta-cognition).  Most of us take our default way of thinking for granted – it’s how we’ve always done things and it can seem surprising that there might even be another way of thinking. I’m not talking about the content of our thinking necessarily, but the style or manner in which we are thinking. Some ways of thinking (e.g. overthinking, and thought suppression) may not serve us well and may set us up to not only feel worse, but also solve problems less well, feel less motivated, and sap our confidence.

In this video (one of a series of five), I briefly talk about types of thinking. When we are trying to change from a habitual type of thinking that no longer serves us (e.g., overthinking or avoidance), it’s helpful to know other types of thinking exist.

In my CD “Overcoming Overthinking”, I have a guided exercise to help shift into Problem-Solving, rather than overthinking. I also have an exercise for shifting from Overthinking into Reflection. It’s useful to listen to the exercises a few times to learn the strategy and then, when you notice that you are overthinking, try listening to either track to shift into a different way of thinking.

In my upcoming workshops (a one hour intro or a half day version), I will be talking about overthinking, the 4 S’s that keep us locked into overthinking, and how to KICK overthinking.

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