It could have been the emotional upheaval of airing my anxieties in counselling, or the coffee I had after dinner but either way I was still awake at 4am.

At one point I was in that magical state between consciousness and sleep: my body fully relaxed, my mind awake but focusing inward and on the brink of slumber… Then something brings my attention back to the here and now and that was that.

I tried everything but sleep was elusive. The more that the clock headed towards morning the more that I worried about whether I would wake in time to take the children to school. At one point I considered getting up and just staying awake but I persevered and eventually drifted off. I last remember the clock at 4am.

Somehow I woke at 7am. Somehow I managed to weather my ten year’s old grumpy retorts, a symptom of his nerves at having to do his speech in class today. Somehow I coped with my three year old’s whining protestations that he didn’t want to go to nursery today.

The children were dropped off at nursery, primary school and secondary school and I drove home carefully; the heavy weight behind my eyes nagging me that I needed sleep.

But no, sleep was to evade me a while longer. I needed to call the doctors for an appointment about my sick note. Someone must have been looking out for me today – I got through relatively easily, managed to actually get an appointment and with the nice female doctor (not the older, grumpier male doctor).

Her advice was not rush back to work but give the medication time to take effect. I left feeling emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted – airing my anxieties and stress for the second time in two days will do that to you.

With a heart thudding in my chest I emailed work to update them. After over analysing every word I had written and what my boss may think about it, I pressed send and sat down to calm down.

So far so good: I’ve done OK.

Then the phone rings and I know it is work. HR is a nice woman and we get on well. She has been supportive, kind and understanding but I could hear her forced over- positiveness today and I wonder whether work’s patience in beginning to wane.

And since then – all afternoon in fact – I’ve felt like my chest is in a vice and that I can’t breathe. If I take a deep breath, and I often do, my chest is clear and fills with air easily and deliciously. But I exhale and that burning pressure remains. Inescapable: I’ve tried sleeping, deep breathing, walking but it remains. It was exactly the same the last time I spoke to work.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be back in work but I want to be back in work well. I want to be myself again: coping, managing, surviving. No, I want more than that… I want to live. I want balance and I want happiness. I want to fulfil my duties and responsibilities whilst being the best, happiest mother I can be. I want a life of no regrets- of productivity, fulfillment and happiness. I want guilt to be like a small piece of grit under a bare foot – an irritating and mildly painful reminder that is brushed off but tingles for a little while to remind you it was there. I don’t want to carry round Martley’s chains of guilt around my chest, squeezing the happiness out of me.

I can’t wait to sleep tonight.

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