Monday, 17 August 2015

Repatriating - The Stress

I've been stressed before. 

I've taken exams, lots of them, often unprepared. 

I've moved town, country and continent, twice over. 

I've moved countries when eight months pregnant. 

I've been pregnant and given birth, twice. 

I've even planned a wedding on a different continent from where we were living.

None of the above comes close to repatriating to the UK with two toddlers. 

I have never felt stress like it, and even now, as we have been in the UK nearly two months, it isn't subsiding. 

I had no idea that stress could feel like this, or that it could have such a physical effect on your body. I don't remember pregnancy having such an overwhelming effect, and I had pretty bad pregnancies (hyper emesis for almost the entire nine months).

At the moment I feel so lost. I knew it was going to be hard, I knew it was going to be a big adjustment.

Knowing it and feeling it? They are two completely different things. 

I'm doing everything possible to make the transition as quick and easy as possible, but even that takes time. Rome was not build in a day, and neither is a new home. 

So, for those of you about to repatriate, here are some of the things you might need to be watching out for: 

Anger - Searing, burning anger:

I have never been the most patient person, but having two toddlers has taught me a huge amount about it. 

My patience has grown and was (at the point when we began preparing for repatriation), the best it has ever been. Even dealing with toddler tantrums was becoming routine and not a cause for the angry bull in a china shop. 

Currently, I'm always about a inch away from raising my voice. My temper is at breaking point when I open my eyes in the morning and it is often still bubbling away when I'm trying to get to sleep. My toddlers and my husband are bearing the brunt of it. 

I'm shouting at minor things that my toddler's do, like they've committed some major crime. I routinely confiscate toys and say no to things that I should say yes to, even though my actions are definitely going to make things worse for everyone. 

I'm reactive, rather than proactive. I'm probably not behaving much older than a toddler myself. I know it, but that voice in my head that usually steps in if I start to lose my cool? Nowhere to be bloody found. 

This also coincides with difficult behaviour from both toddlers, which is, no doubt, due to the stress of moving. 

I'm applying Balance essential oil blend like it's going out of fashion, and diffusing Bergamot and Lavender at any chance I get, but even they are struggling to get my temper back under control. 

I have, on several occasions, barricaded myself into the bathroom with my iPod and spent a minute blasting music, while the toddlers bang on the door. Usually in the foetal position. 

Apathy - Like a Dead Sea Slug: 

This apathy usually surfaces when my anger has burnt itself out. 

More than anything, I want to be outside with the kids. First of all, it stops the usual whining. Secondly, it's the only way to meet people (and hopefully make new friends). 

But... I just can't be bothered. On several occasions I've put the kids in the car to go to a playgroup, and just driven. Driven around for forty minutes and then gone home. I just can't face having to face the real world, and as long as the kids are quiet in the car, I'm happy to drive around mindlessly. 

I often spend time sitting on the sofa watching CBeebies. Seriously, me watching it, never mind the toddlers. The effort involved in getting myself off the sofa and doing anything that really needs doing, is often too much. 

This does not help my mood, or my energy levels when it gets to the end of the day and I still have a major list of jobs to do. 

Loneliness - Lonely but Never Alone:

I think this is the one that is hitting me the hardest. I've lost my mummy community. 

I was unbelievably lucky in Dubai, I stumbled upon a group of wonderful, amazing people and we've supported each other through thick and thin. Our first babies were about five months old, and we were all in the new mummy stage, where we didn't have a clue what we were doing. 

We swapped tales; asked questions; played "who got the least sleep last night"... and in the process, true friendships were formed. Friendships that I am currently pining for. 

All I want to do, almost every minute of every day, is go and sit on Laura's sofa and talk about anything and everything. 

I want to spend hours talking about toddler eating habits; debating who will be the next to get pregnant; asking random questions about potty training (or lack thereof). In short, doing nothing more important than talking about the weather. 

It's not even because I want to talk about the important stuff like buying a house (which is crazy complicated) or settling Miss S into her new life (much as she doesn't want to). I just want to talk about nothing. 

I want to listen, to hear about everyone's crazy nights, or the silly things the kids have done. I want to sit amongst my friends and bask in the warmth of the laughter and the piss taking. I want the camaraderie and the light hearted banter. 

I want it so badly that it physically hurts. It cripples me at odd times of the day, when driving the car; when songs come on the radio; when I'm sat in the silence of another midnight wake up. 

In writing this, I feel like I'm doing a disservice to my friends here in the UK. They have been amazing. They have travelled from wherever they are, made the effort and been simple fabulous. I am more grateful to them than I can say, and they are getting me through these difficult weeks. 

The problem is that one or two people (who don't live round the corner) cannot fill the void left by five or six girls who were close by and available for playdates and mummy's nights out. I used to go out of the house twice a day, and the majority of that time it was to go and meet a mummy friend and their toddlers. 

Heartbroken - "Go Home Mummy":

I completely underestimated how hard this move would be for the toddlers, Miss S in particular. 

I thought that if I got her straight into nursery, and regularly attending playgroups, I could avoid there being too much pain adjusting to living in the UK. 

I was wrong. 

I did not realise that two year olds really do have friends. Whenever people use the term "friends" to refer to Miss S's playmates, I used to smile, amused. 

I used to think that as long as Miss S had someone to play with, it wouldn't matter too much who it was. 

Miss S asks for her friends at least three or four times a day. By name. She asks to go and see them, she asks why we can't go on an airplane to see them. 

She asks to go home. 

Every. Single. Time. I feel like my heart breaks a little more. I feel like bursting into tears and I need to bite my lip to keep them back. 

Explaining that we can't "go home" to Dubai because we don't live there anymore, is so much harder than I thought it would be. Mainly because I'd quite like to "go home" and see my friends too. 

Thankfully, most of our friends are coming back to the UK this summer, to escape the Dubai heat. And even more thankfully, we'll get to see most of them, maybe more than once. 

Although part of me wonders if this will only make the transition worse in the long run. Seeing friends, only for them to disappear again. It's something I'll have to chance though, because seeing the joy on Miss S's face when she sees a familiar face, is something I cannot wait to see. 

Weird - The One to Avoid:

I know this particular feeling comes from paranoia. 

For those that know me, this might be a bit of a shock, but I hate meeting new people. 

Not new people who are friends of friends, that's totally fine, the more the merrier. A room full of people I don't know... where I'm expected to mix and mingle and get in with the small talk, gulp. 

It's makes my palms sweat, which is really not a good start. 

At these playgroups, my kids are off playing, and I'm feeling like the really weird one that no one really wants to speak to. 

I'm hoping that it's more in my head, than what people are actually thinking, but you can never be sure. 

I know it takes time to make real friends, but I really really wish I didn't have to. I was happy with my quota of friends, I wasn't in any rush to add to the number. But as they are all (almost all) still in Dubai, I suppose I'll have to put myself out there and go on the hunt for mummy pals. 

Emotional - Like a Pregnant Person Gone Wrong:

I never actually cried during pregnancy.

I wasn't one of those women who well up at the adverts on the TV. In fact, I spent most of my pregnancy feeling like I was cold as ice, because nothing made me cry. 

Now, I could give the first trimester hormone rush a good run for it's money. 

I'm literally crying at the drop of a hat. Songs I haven't heard for ages make me cry - Lena Marlin "I'm sitting down here" I'm looking at you. 

Random busker in the street singing "Somehow here again" from Phantom had tears leaking from my eyes without my permission. Seeing old photographs of friends in Dubai makes me practically go into meltdown. 

It's not pretty, and I don't know how to stop it. I don't even have the excuse of actually being pregnant! How ironic. 

Sick - As a Dog: 

No, I am definitely not pregnant. I have three negative pregnancy tests to prove it. 

That's how seriously sick I feel. It's like the first trimester of pregnancy all over again. Which is something I never want to repeat, especially when NOT pregnant. 

I thought it was the stress of moving continents, but four weeks after being in one place, still sick. 

I thought it was the over consuming of the wine, but I've stopped drinking, still sick. 

I thought it was because I stuffed my face with gluten, cut it out, still sick. 

I thought it was because I'd managed to get pregnant, three negative pregnancy tests, still sick. 

Seriously, whatever my body and my mind are doing, which is causing me to feel like I'm heavily back into the morning sickness, it has to stop, and soon. 

I'm in a place now where I'm feeling a little more relaxed, and a little more settled. We are about to move into a rental house, while we wait for our new home purchase to work through, and we won't need to move again until we move into our actual, hopefully forever, home. 

I thought at this point, with all the major things overcome, that I'd feel better, but I don't. 

Seven weeks and counting, can we just give up with the nausea please? 

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, because none of the above is positive. Repatriating IS hard work. It's a huge change, and it's made much, much harder with toddlers to carry through it. 

I'm writing it down, because it all felt alien to me, I didn't expect it. Not expecting it meant that I have found it harder to deal with it. So if this helps one person work through the repatriation process, my work here is done.