mental health and travel
Most of us are lucky enough to know the joys of having infants in the family. Every single one of your ancestors had children. Much less of us know how great this can be for recovering from mental illness! For me, my nieces being born helped my anxiety in a rather special way.
It was quite unexpected, when my brother and the missus told us a baby was due my first thought was anxiety, but at the time in 2014 I was in that pattern of events = stress. But after about half a minute the stress changed into a quiet optimism. Parts of my anxious brain were telling me that there was no need for stress here! “My brother and his wife would be very capable parents. I would surely enjoy being an uncle even if I were to contribute less than usual because of mental health stuff.” I’d always enjoyed babies and their general cuteness and I could remember when my baby brother was born when I was six, and I enjoyed that. Since that time I’d wanted to have kids of my own. And now a baby was on it’s way.
The evening we were told the news I’d started off anxious, then we looked at the sonogram and such. We talked. It was happy. My thoughts were healing without me realising. An anxious part of me was turning around into joy. It continued. The next day, a week later, it continued. A month later I had changed in a small way. That internal voice that used to say to me “Pete, I think we should be apprehensive right now” at whatever non-threatening situation I was in was now saying “All is pretty chilled right now. Continue with the day.” I was lucky that this new pattern ending up sticking. It’s five years later and in some ways that evening was a pivotal moment that brought in a new age of non – anxiety. I’ve never happened to discuss this with anybody, except perhaps when I was doing a nighttime feed when my niece was a few months old, I’ve done that a lot. Just chatting about stuff, me and her when she didn’t have the burden of being able or obligated to listen.
It goes to show that little things can make a big difference. My thinking had shifted. I talked to other uncles about uncleing. I bored colleagues and friends with it sometimes. I have a thousand pics on my phone. I was already making progress with recovering from anxiety and I needed to find the next step and here it was manifested in flesh and bone. I know that having kids is often difficult, and there is a difference between being a parent and an uncle, but the pattern of joy that came about upon being told I was to be an uncle has not been interrupted once and it’s five years later. Lucky me.
Her being born and my contributions to her upkeep gave me a prod into being a more mature, responsible, happy and confident adult that felt increasingly in step with the world.
Then my second niece was born and I got to do it all over again.
You never know when good news is just around the corner. Even if you are having a shitty shitty day, something else will come along, and sometimes that thing is very nice.