Over the past few months we have seen many female patients who are exhausted, or at the end of their tether. Many of them are in full time jobs, as well as looking after their families and homes. Sometimes they’ve had problems with becoming pregnant, had difficult births with their children, or have had several children quite close together. Often they are worrying about elderly parents or relatives, or have husbands/partners who are themselves facing troubled times in their jobs.
What we see is that most women are the axis around which their family rotates. Even when their partners share the load, it is generally women who take responsibility for the day to day running of the house – things like making sure there’s enough loo roll, or cleaning the house ready for visitors! For some reason we feel that we have to match the standards that our mothers had when perhaps they were not quite so pressured for time.
The signs and symptoms of general exhaustion are frequently bound up in a generalised state of worry – what’s known as “whittling” locally! This doesn’t mean that there’s anything major to worry about, it’s those thoughts that wake you up around 2 or 3 a.m., keeping you awake until just before the alarm goes off. You can feel them rolling around your head and even if you get up and write them all down you don’t seem able to clear them. It’s like a song that gets stuck in your brain and you can’t get rid of it.
Women are under immense pressure to “wear their knickers over their tights” and act as if they’re Superwoman. Magazines and newspapers give us role models who are impossible to emulate: who can possibly look like Nigella Lawson when they’re cooking, especially when they’re up to their armpits in domestic chores, childcare and looking after relatives?
The reality is that women have to accept that they can’t do everything for everybody: if nothing else gives, their health will. And if the central axis of the domestic universe wobbles, then everything else wobbles too. So when you feel the urge to down tools, have a cup of tea, maybe have a nap – feel free to do it. Not only are you worth it, but by doing so you’ll make your own, and everybody else’s life, a great deal more relaxed.