I know of many women who don’t want to have children. But I wonder how many of those women have been told “you’ll change your mind” or “you’ll see it differently when you’re older”. Because I reckon that number is pretty high. Who do people really think they are though, just assuming something like that when they’ve explicitly just been told the opposite? It’s like they know the woman’s mind better than she knows it herself. And those responses to women not wanting children, in my opinion, really need to change.
I’ve known for quite a while that I don’t want to have children. It’s not that I don’t like them – because I do – but I’ve never seen myself as being particularly maternal. Even with the children I already know, however nice or cute they may be, I’m always glad to know that I can hand them back.
But whenever I point that out to people, I’m often met with the same response. “You’ll change your mind when you’re older” is a classic. And that irritates me. I really don’t care about whether or not someone else changed their mind about having children or about any societal expectations of me as a woman. If I say I don’t want children, I mean I do not want to have any children.
One thing that surprised me, though, was who typically responded in that way. Because it was actually women themselves. I found it a bit ironic that the very people who should understand that a woman might not want to have children, didn’t. It’s like they forgot women can make their own decisions about family life. So I began to wonder if that type of attitude is merely a generational thing. It’s usually older women who presume I don’t know what I think about such a significant decision. Perhaps more women in the past actually did want to have their own children, which is why there is still that expectation today. Or maybe it’s just down to personal viewpoints: some individuals perhaps think all woman are maternal and will therefore want their own children at one point or another.
Either way, the point is this: if a woman doesn’t want to have children, she doesn’t have to. We all know our own minds and we can think for ourselves. And however young many of us may be, we can still know what we do and don’t want in our own futures. And no one has the right to assume otherwise.
At the end of the day, if a man said he didn’t want to become a parent, I’m pretty sure people would just accept that instead of making general assumptions that they one day will. So why should it be any different for women? The simple answer to that is: it absolutely should not be different. Because we are the ones who have to deal with the pregnancies as well as having the actual children. So if we tell you we do not want to have any children, do not turn around and tell us otherwise.
Anxiety is an issue that has, continues to or will affect almost everyone. Anyone who has experienced it can tell you how difficult and isolating it is. You lose your sense of self worth, your thought process completely changes and you don’t know who you are anymore. At least, that has been my experience.
So this is a short piece I wrote some time ago about my own personality and self worth, that still sometimes reflects on how my anxiety is now:
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Three times, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for everything I’ve done, for everything I’ve said. I’m sorry for everything I will inevitably do. But that’s who I am. I do things and I say things I don’t think are right. And I end up apologising. Why? I don’t really know why. If I could change that I would. But I can’t.
You’d think after all the strain and the stress and the pain it makes me feel I’d know better than to act like who I am. You’d think I’d tone it down a notch, just so I wouldn’t have to go through the agony of having to apologise for it again. You’d think so. But it’s hard. It really is. And that’s what makes it hurt even more.
It’s like I’ll never fit that idea of perfect that I’ve got engrained into my head. I know who I want to be, who I should be, but I never make it. No matter how hard I try. I end up being that same pain in the arse I always was. For some reason, I can’t help it. No matter how hard I try.
So all I can say for all that I’ve done is I’m sorry. I’m sorry to the moon and back. I’m sorry to infinity and back. I literally can’t put how sorry I am into words. I suppose all I can ask is that you bear with me as I try to change for the better. I know that’s rich after everything, but what else can I do? But I can promise this: no matter how many times I screw up, I’ll always try to be a better person next time.
No matter how anxiety too often makes me feel, I really do know things aren’t as bad as they seem. I’m not as bad a person as it makes me think I am. So that’s what I have to keep at the forefront of my mind to try to keep the anxiety at bay.
And to anyone else who is also suffering, take it from me: no matter how bad it may seem, it will always get better in time. Even if it’s hard to believe.
Things were pretty bad a year ago. I had plans to get a flat with a friend and we even had one secured. I was finally about to have more independence and my own space, which was really exciting. It was definitely a positive change. But then the anxiety started to get worse and worse. The panic attacks became more frequent and my health wasn’t as good as it should have been. It felt awful having to let go of the flat. I felt terrible for letting my friend down. It was so disappointing for so many reasons. I can’t remember having ever felt worse. It was the most horrible thing.
But a year on from that, everything is completely different. The anxiety is now far better than it was and I’m now able to do loads more than I could a year ago.
And now, I actually am moving away. What’s more exciting is that I’m moving to a foreign country for a few months. As an aspiring foreign correspondent, it’s the most fantastic thing.
It’s the greatest feeling in the world knowing that things are moving forward. And the best part is being able to look back and see how far I’ve come from that terrible place. I can finally get that sense of independence I missed out on a year ago. It has also highlighted to me the vital importance of seeking help when you need it. If I hadn’t last year, I know that everything would have been completely different right now. I would definitely encourage anyone who needs help to simply ask for it. Because I know from experience that it really does go far in making things better again.
We’ve all had days we’d like to forget. We’ve made bad decisions or someone has pissed us off or whatever. There might not even be an identifiable reason for it. But whatever brings on a bad day, there are various ways we can cope with it. So these are a few of the things I do to deal with my own bad days.
- Rationalise the Situation
Putting things into perspective is one of the more effective methods I use. I consider everything that has happened and what will realistically happen in the worst case scenario. Having done that, I think about how I’d go on to deal with it. Things don’t seem to be quite as bad after that. But taking control of your thinking is far better than letting your mind scare you into thinking much worse will happen.
Putting all your thoughts on paper is a great way to get separate yourself from your worries. I love writing anyway so it’s brilliant for when I want to de-stress. It’s only psychological but tearing up the piece of paper you used to write about your worries can be a fantastic visual way to deal with everything.
Everyone’s heard this at one point or another. But it really can help. It’s not something I tend to do often but it can be good to actually hear your thoughts out loud. In a couple of my own experiences, talking about what is wrong has helped me to rationalise bad situations.
- Refer to past experiences
Everything that has happened in my past has worked out before – I always try to remember that. So there’s no reason why, if I handle them correctly, any other problems won’t. It also helps me to consider how I dealt with things in the past and use them to cope with what I have to now. Because they worked once before, right?
One of the only good things about the town in which I live is the beach. It’s a nice place to go for a walk to clear your head. I do this quite a lot and it really does work. It’s so calm (usually!) so it allows my mind to become ‘calmer’. The fresh air is brilliant when I need to mull things over in my head.
So these are the things that have helped me on my worst days. Some of them even go hand in hand. While they won’t always completely solve my problems, they at least go far in helping me to deal with them.
Mental illness is something that is often difficult to talk about. It is even more so for someone who is suffering from one. But mental health is being discussed more and more, with even high profile figures such as Prince William and Lady Gaga bringing it into the spotlight. And that goes a long way for many people suffering.
I can say, from my perspective, that I am so grateful to those who are talking about mental health. It makes my own struggles seem far less alienating. I suffer from anxiety. With the right help, it is being controlled and I am well on the way to recovery. But at my worst, I couldn’t sleep or eat and even leaving the house was sometimes difficult. I would cry for no reason and have panic attacks over minor things. Honestly, it was one of the worst times of my life. And I hated every moment of it.
But there was something in me that didn’t want to let it defeat me. There was so much I wanted for myself and the thought of the anxiety taking it all away was terrifying. I wanted to be able to leave the house without fearing I’d have a panic attack in front of total strangers. I wanted to be able to get enough rest. I didn’t want my physical health to start deteriorating. But above all, I really just wanted to be happy.
That’s when I decided to ask for help. It was scary at the time but, even to this day, I’m so glad I found the courage from somewhere to do just that. Because even though I haven’t fully recovered, I am now in a much better place. I am starting to do things I previously would never have done; I am (mostly) sleeping better; and I am happier than I was.
But despite how awful it can be, I try to see my anxiety in the most positive way I can. Personally, I think that’s one of the best ways from me to deal with it. In some ways, I can look at it as being almost like a motivator. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do something or I’m not good enough. But on my good days, I try to prove to myself, and the anxiety, that I really can or that I am good enough. And maybe that has been a factor in leading to my recovery so far.
So although it’s one of the most difficult things to do, looking at my mental illness through positive eyes on my good days can go some way in helping me cope. And when it’s one of my bad days, I just have to remember the person I want to be and keep looking forward.