This time last year it should have been one of the happiest, most contented periods of my life. But it wasn't.
This time last year I should have been full of all-encompassing love for my newborn son. But I wasn't.
This time last year I should have been euphoric. But I wasn't.
Instead. I was struggling.
Because this time last year was when anxiety decided to set up shop in my head.
I have already spoken about how I was filled with terror for nine months (if you want to hear why in more detail, please check out this video). But - in a nutshell - after several episodes of very scary events during my pregnancy I spent the rest of the time just waiting to see what else was going to go wrong. And instead of feeling better once Eric was here and I knew he was okay, things quickly got from bad to worse.
It's impossible for me to say what exacerbated my feelings of stress and anxiousness but I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I had spent so long just coasting along and ignoring how I was feeling just so I could grasp some joy out of my journey along the road to motherhood. But looking back this was the totally wrong approach.
There were some days where I could hardly go a few minutes without getting fretful and worked up about something. It was a dark, slippery spiral and I just couldn't break free. I threw so much of myself into being a mum and learning the ropes of parenting in my own unique way that in those quiet moments of it being just me when Eric was asleep or feeding, everything that I was suppressing just flooded out of me.
Finally admitting how I was feeling was the first step, but it took about six weeks for me to get my first CBT appointment. And that time I spent waiting was probably my lowest point. I felt silly, confused and totally alone. I asked for reassurance from everyone and I just felt like I was really annoying because hearing something just once was never enough.
It also seemed as though all of the things that were triggering me followed me everywhere. I could hardly catch a break and all I wanted to do was just stop my head from feeling so jumbled.
I was really dubious going into my CBT sessions but it gave me a safe place to go where I could say exactly how I was feeling without feeling like I was being judged. I gained some good techniques and began to understand what I needed to do in order to stop making things worse and to give myself a break. A lot of it had to do with avoidance which - for some - isn't always the best course of action. But in my case it stopped me searching for the answers and the reassurance that I would never find.
As I sit here now I can hand-on-heart say that looking back at that time is like looking back at a different person. The change in me has been so huge that I barely recognise the woman I was.
There are still moments, hours or days that aren't great, but I tackle them one at a time. I've realised that there will always be something I'll worry about but that I can't let this take me over. Because nearly everything I worry about are hypothetical situations - situations that I instantly turn into catastrophes by taking them to instant extremes.
Now, whenever I feel myself crashing into a wall of worry and anxiety creeping in I embrace it those feelings but then I let them slip away. I concentrate on the here and now rather than thinking about what might be. I let myself be upset but then I bring myself back and focus on what I am doing, giving my mind something else to focus on and keeping myself active.
I think it also helps that Eric is so mobile now. I just don't have time to stop. I'm on the go all the time and moments where I'm left with nothing to do are few and far between. And these moments are can now be filled with things. I'm so invested in my blog that there's always a post I can work on or photos I can take. The house always needs sorting and I am constantly behind on TV shows I've been wanting to watch.
I've taught myself to be more present. To enjoy days for what they are. To live more in the moment. I've taught myself to accept my feelings. I have stopped pretending when things aren't okay and to speak out.
I know what to keep away from and am aware of when situations are making me anxious. I know the warning signs. I distance my mind as much as possible from posts on social media and step away from conversations that I know will trigger my feelings.
For a long time I didn't think I could see an end to what I was going through. It was impossible to see the wood for the trees. And it was stopping me from looking forward to anything in the future - especially having more babies one day.
But now things are so different. I've taken the time I needed to focus on myself. To come to terms with this period in my life and work on ways to reclaim the pieces of me that I lost along the way.
I grab each day with both hands and appreciate it for what it is. I live for the moment but also am working to build a bright future. I'm not so nervous about what it will hold. I'm excited to make plans. To make amazing memories. To walk in the sunshine rather than hide in the shadows. To embrace who I am and not be ashamed of it.
Going through so much in such a short space of time was really, really hard and it took its toll on me in ways I would never have imagined. But I have not let it defeat me. I never will.
And for that, I'm really proud.
Images: Rachel Clarke Photography