Sunshine, Showers and Rainbows  

  

I haven’t posted anything on the blog for a while … It has not been a conscious decision but something that just happened.  I’m ok with this – when I started writing it was for myself and I did it because it helped me to make some sense of what was going on in my life at this time. It definitely helped, I found writing therapeutic, I would write when and if  I wanted to and did so for myself.  Something I never expected when I began was the support and comments I received  from the blogging world. Did I think people would read my blog? yes – possibly a small number, but the comments and messages I received blew me away. The power of the Internet and social media is amazing. 

Not only did it open a door to link me to others who had experienced PND like myself but suddenly I was part of a whole world of peer support linking my story to hundreds of others – new parents, old parents, parents to be, people who were currently or had previously battled mental illness.  The comments and messages came in and it drove me on immensely on my path to recovery.  That being said I felt it was important to post a little update on where this has taken me. I continued to get better day by day, step by step. Some days were good, others ok, some very hard but others were exceptional. The good days became more and more often and suddenly it would seem I couldn’t remember the last difficult day (sure difficult moments – but not a whole day)And so now I continue this way forward (sometimes taking a step sideways or hitting a bump in the road) but definitely  travelling in the right direction. 

Life has been busy – life has been fun again and even though I think that  deep down the deep routed fear of relapse is still there  – I feel well, I feel happy and I feel so utterly grateful for all those who I am blessed to share my life  with. If I do relapse I feel stronger and I know I have the tools and access to the support to help me get better – I have done it once and I can do it again. 
So there it is – the post that at one point thought I would never write, a place I wasn’t sure I could reach.  The darkness was deep and scary but as it cleared I feel stronger than before and I see things clearer. I appreciate life and all those people in it who I love dearly. 

Thank you to all of you for sharing this journey, supporting me and giving me the determination to keep working and moving forward. 

Mami 2 Five

It is true what is said that After the storm there was a rainbow 

Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs

Recovery – more than a tick list

 

I have always been a bit of a planner – the write a list and tick the box type of lady. I’m sure you know the type, to do lists, menu planning, schedules and don’t even ask about my colour coded diary!  Some would say it’s a bit ocd, others would say it’s a bit of a waste of time, me – well I like to think of it as organised and proactive,  I liked my lists they gave me comfort and stability and that little bit of control over my world.  I remember bringing my baby boy home from the hospital and recording all his feeds and nappy changes for that first week – at the time it brought me comfort in unfamiliar territory. At the time it helped me to feel some control over a new and scary situation, or at least I did at the time.  As the weeks went by it began to stress me out and I realised I needed to try and go with the flow a little bit more.  I did – it felt good and I realised that sometimes trying to control situations so much was having a negative impact on my day to day living.

When I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and anxiety I approached my journey to recovery true to character, in a logical and clear way – I made a list.
I thought about my end goal of being in recovery and then tried to break this down into the smaller steps I needed to take to get there.

It went something along these lines :

End goal

To be recovered from PND and Anxiety.
How will I know ?

I will be medication free and back to the old me.
I then went on to list all the things I would do to try and reach this end goal.  The list was not short, I did research online on all the therapies available, I talked to my doctor for advice, I went home and the list was made.

It included mediation, group counselling, peer support group,  intensive individual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions, exercise, self care time , asking for support . If you can think of something missing it was probably on my list – I was determined to get better and would try anything and everything to get to that place.  Some of these things were harder  to do than others, but at the end they were  all ‘ticked off’ the master list and  slowly  I began to feel better. One day I woke up and realised I had lots of good days and very few difficult ones – It felt really good and while that bad days still came they were fewer and less intense than they were before.  I looked at the list and wondered if this was it? was this recovery?  I felt the time was right to slowly reduce my medication, 3 months later I was mediation free and feeling good. HUGE tick on that list, and wow it was a goal his time,  Be mediation free.

It was at this point I realised that I didn’t think that I would achieve the other one – to be back to the old me. I had come to realise that this person  didn’t really exist anymore. Motherhood changes you – becoming a mum is the most wonderful thing I have ever done. There are times when it is hard, there are times when you are tired beyond belief , there are days when you feel like you are just staying afloat but these are nothing in comparison to the laughs and the love I feel spending every day with my son. I don’t think anyone is ever the same after having a child.

Experiencing postnatal mental illness was the most lonely and terrifying time in my life. My darkest days were prior to being diagnosed and before I started fighting back. It took courage I never thought I had.  In the midst of all this struggle, I grew as a person, I faced and overcame challenges I never thought I would – the experience changed me. I was still me of course – you can’t really change who you are but I was a different type of me not the ‘old me’ anymore.  It took time to accept this – to me recovery was being back to the person I was before I had my son.  I slowly came to accept things and in time I began to realise that maybe the journey of PND had had a positive impact and I came to like this more relaxed me, a me who was less judgemental and more compassionate.  A me who worried less about possessions and more about people.  A me who would smile more at little things, a me who knew how important it was to look after myself as well as others A me who was grateful and thankful that I made it through the journey to recovery.

If you look at that list now (it has all those nice ticks down the side)
but it also has a big cross at the top and written in pen beside it – be the best version of yourself.  Experiences are powerful, they can change you in unexpected way.  Sometimes what can start out as difficult path can take you places you would never have imagined. My journey with PND was the most challenging time in my life so far , but it has taught me so much and made me a better person in the end.

Mami 2 Five

 

A Cornish Mum

Hello 2016! 

  
I spent a lovely New year surrounded by fantastic friends and family and I felt truly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.  I love the idea of New Year – the opportunity to reflect on the year which has passed and a time to look forward with a clear head to what lies ahead in the new year.  Most years I would write my own New Years Resolutions  and they would be well thought out and full of good intention , so,where along the lines of : eat more healthy, join the gym, read more books ….. I am sure we have all been there! I am sure that if you looked back they would be much the same each year – often trying to break bad habits or forge new routines.  I am not surprised they were largely unsuccessful – they were often things I felt I should do rather than ones I wanted to – you can see the problem – it was never going to work – at least not for any sustainable length of time.  

This year I haven’t made a list.  Looking back my new year started in October as it was then that I made a lot of changes in my life which have had such a positive effect.  I made the decision at that point that I was ready for change, I felt positive and determined that it was time to take stock and regroup myself and move forwards. 

While new year is an obvious time to do this, it doesn’t have to be.  Every week and every day offers a fresh start if you decide you want to.  2015 – was a roller coaster year for me -it had highs and it had more than its fair share of lows but I survived – I more than survived, I am standing stronger at the end of it and feeling grateful and blessed for all the good things in my life.  

So I plan to start 2016 the way I ended 2015 – I cannot predict or control all that will happen in the next 12 months – life is unpredictable and who knows what is just around the corner .   what I can do however, is take each day and week at a time and ask myself what is important to me in that moment.  

And at this moment ? Well I seen this and really liked it : it pretty much captures all the things  that make me smile everyday – and do I want more of them . You bet! 

 

My postnatal depression journey – the beginning 

  
Mental health – a subject not talked about enough, it can be surrounded with stigma and misunderstanding and often people who are suffering feel too ashamed or scared to speak up.  This needs to change – we all have our own unique story – different times, places and circumstances but we all share the same illness – none of us choose it.  
What causes post natal depression? I think the short answer to this is that no one knows for sure, I suspect mine was to do with hormones, I have always been susceptible to mood changes in relation to my cycle but never thought it would manifest to such an extent after my baby was born. 

After the birth of my son – postnatal depression crept up on me slowly and gradually chipped away at me piece by piece. By the time my son was 7 months old I knew something was seriously wrong.  On the outside I had the perfect life – a new baby, a new home, a loving husband and supportive family.  On the inside I was slowly falling apart – I was having trouble sleeping, feeling lonely, scared and  was completely exhausted trying to pretend that everything was OK.  
I put those early symptoms down to recovering form the quick birth ( I was in hospital for less than 24 hours before getting home) and  also adjusting to life as a new parent.  With a house move in a couple of months to my dream family home I convinced myself that all would be better when we moved house.  Not surprisingly It didn’t – and things  quickly escalated – I started to suffer with crippling anxiety attacks and started to doubt myself as a mother.  I didn’t feel like me anymore, I had no self confidence and felt guilty that despite having everything I had every wanted – I was desperately struggling to get through each day. When I realised that the house didn’t help  me feel better I diverted my focus on Christmas with only 6 weeks until Christmas I pinned all my hopes and directed all my energy on this – I wanted the perfect Christmas for our first as a family of three, I focused my mind on this – if I could only get through Christmas Day  it would all be ok – I would be OK. I got through that Christmas Day – just hanging by a thread – but Boxing Day 2013 my world caved in and I simply couldn’t cope anymore.  What I was feeling was not normal and after discussions with my husband I made an appointment early in the new year to see my GP.

  My diagnosis postnatal depression and anxiety with late onset – it was a relief in many ways that I was not losing my mind – I was ill – it wasn’t my fault and that with the correct help and support I would get better.  I guess that was where my journey really began – a journey that would change me in ways I could never imagine. 

Run Jump Scrap!

PND hour – 100th hour -why peer support matters

  

This week marked the 100th PND hour on Twitter and I feel honoured and proud to be part of such a supportive network of mums  helping each other through pre and post natal mental illness.  Rosey @ PNDandME started the Twitter support group after suffering from postnatal depression herself and it has become a lifeline to many mums – myself included. 

I stumbled across @PNDandME on Twitter one evening in the early hours when I was wide awake – mind racing after being up with my then 8 month old. I was in the depths of the most challenging  time in my life – adjusting to life as a new parent and having been recently diagnosed with postnatal depression and anxiety. I was not in a good place and was struggling to keep putting one foot in front of the other day by day. 

For a long time I followed the feeds daily and took part in pndhour as an observer – I found comfort in the fact that others were feeling the same as me and drew hope and courage from those who talked of recovery and the steps that helped them to reach there.   I started antidepressants, began one to one cognitive behaviour therapy and continued to follow #pndchat and #pndhour.  I began my recovery and while I had a 3 pronged attack,  I know that the peer support that I gained from Twitter and #pndhour was invaluable to me and definitely a big part in my recovery.  I want to thank Rosey and all the mums from the bottom of my heart – you gave me hope and the courage to fight when my days were darkest and to know that your not alone makes the journey easier to cope.  In a place of recovery , I have now gained the confidence to take part in the threads and to start my own blog to share my story like so many brave fighters before me. If I can offer even some support to others In this place as others did for me then something positive has come from my journey – together we stand  and stronger we becom.

This got me thinking more deeply about the importance of peer support (future post) and the role that social media now plays in this – as one mum once wrote to me on Twitter “never underestimate the power of me too in helping to heal”. 

The hashtag #PNDChat can be used to access peer support for those affected by Postnatal Depression(not monitored 24/7,checked daily)

Tis the season to be jolly – why self care is important at Christmas

  

Christmas is one of my red flag trigger times – during my CBT I had to collate a list of times when I felt I was beginning to show signs of anxiety and stress and to then list them in order according to the most difficult.  Holidays came right at the top – Christmas in particular, was a pressure point for me.   From my Twitter feed I can see that I am not alone – over recent weeks I have seen numerous people tweet their worries over the festive season.  When you take a closer look at Christmas it’s not hard to see why the Christmas holidays can throw some of us into a state of Christmas stress and anxiety.   I personally have always thrived on routine – I like it – it is familiar and safe and I can live my days in this safety net of predictability and sense of control. I love my job ( I know how lucky I am believe me!) it allows me to do something I feel confident and good at  and after my 3  days at work each week I really appreciate my days at home as mummy so much more. Christmas is a busy holiday with lots of social gatherings and all sense of routine pretty much goes out the window.   If like me you already struggle with perfectionism the holiday season can be particularly difficult to manage ; there are often higher expectations, more to do, more people to please and more pressure to put on yourself.  

How can we help manage these feelings and enjoy the holidays more ? Here as some things to remember and try to stick to this Christmas :

1. This is good enough  

If something is worth doing its worth doing …………… Good enough!

This has to have been the hardest mindset for me  to change and one which takes a lot of practise – that tree is good enoughly decorated , I didn’t manage to buy 2 types of stuffing for Christmas Day but one is good enough, my child does not have a fancy Xmas eve hamper box  (like some  of the mums on Facebook) but he does have new Xmas pjs and we can all watch a movie as a family – good enough.    Stop comparing yourself to others and try to go easy on yourself – take a look around is everyone happy and healthy ? Check ! then it’s all good enough.

 For the previous two Christmases I have put pressure on myself to have everything perfect – I never felt it was – no matter what I did I always felt I had fallen short of my own expectations.  Even worse when I did meet them I would just set new  higher ones and the circle would start again.  This year I will be working on the ‘good enough ‘principle and  it feels pretty good. 

2. Focus on family not things 

This is what truly matters at Christmas – it is all about the memories you will keep for years to come. Not the number of presents under the tree or having matching table cloths and napkin rings. Spend time expressing gratitude and making memories with those you hold dear. 

3. Delegate tasks 

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign of knowing what  is important and helping to look after yourself. I never used to let my husband help – it was quicker and easier if I did it – this applied to most Christmas related tasks form wrapping to present buying , writing Christmas cards –  the list would go on. Sometimes (on rare ocassions) he would get  to address the envelopes but even then I knew my writing was neater and I should really do that too. This quest for control put a huge amount of additional pressure on me – put on by myself –  none else .  When I started taking steps to delegate tasks suddenly I felt much better . 

4. Take a step back

Look at what you have achieved – I would bet it’s all pretty  fab but you were too involved to notice .  Take time to slow down and take in the magic of an amazing season. 

5. Give yourself permission to say no 

Christmas is a very busy time with lots of family gatherings and parties with groups of friends.  Give yourself permission to say no to some invites if you feel your doing too much or if you just want to slow down and have some quiet time at home.  People who care about you  will understand and if they don’t are they really worth worrying about? My guess would be no. 

6. Practice self care 

As anyone who has suffered a mental illness knows only too well, it is really important to practice good self care.  Looking after yourself is important every day but especially so in the holidays when life gets really busy. Being self aware of your moods and taking time out for yourself is one of the most important things to do. Self care is a very personal thing – for me I like to take an hour to myself – head out for a coffe on my own, read a Book or plug in and  listen to music – time to be alone, to relax and  to recharge.  Do what works for you and do it often. 

I remember during therapy I used to tell my CBT counsellor that I felt guilty about this ‘me time’ and that I felt I just couldn’t justify this hour away to others and more importantly to myself.  She explained that in airplanes when the cabin crew demonstrate what to do in the event of an emergency landing they instruct parents to put on their oxygen masks before their infants – why? Because how can they help their children efficiently if they are unable to focus as they are struggling for air themselves The same principle applies to motherhood – to look after and be there for my family I need to be well myself and that means looking after me too.  So actually it’s important I do it for not only me , but them too – when I started looking at it this way I suddenly felt much less guilt about time away. 

I plan to try and stick to these steps over the holidays and let myself relax and enjoy time with my nearest and dearest  over the holidays.  This will be my little boys third Christmas and the first one I consider myself in a good place for – I am recovered and feeling good and so excited to spend it together with my family and friends.
Happy Christmas xxxxx

The Twinkle Diaries

Perfectionisim – Putting the Pressure on

 

  
“The only thing perfectionisim does is create chaos, perfectly”.

One of the most difficult things to accept when I was diagnosed with PND was that I did in fact have depression. 

 I am a planner – I have planned all my  life – I  have always strived to be organised, plan my life out and follow through on all the important milestones which I had set for myself.  Good grades at school, university place, good degree, get a house, get married and have children.  These were all planned  for and I worked hard to get to where I was when I became pregnant. In my 28 years thus far there had been few bumps in that journey – All  these things I had a good element of control over.  PND was not in my plans – it was a most unwelcome guest – this was not the way it was supposed to be for me – and most frightening of all I felt I had little control or understanding of how to  even begin to fix this. 

Studies have shown that perfectionism and related personality traits can be significant risk factors for depression. Specifically, mums who have the greatest difficulty coping with making mistakes are four times more likely than their more laid-back peers to get laid low by postpartum emotional difficulties. Also at risk are mums who are by nature orderly, conscientious, and strive on a clear and regular routine. This isn’t hard to make sense of, really. Imagine how much harder it is to be a new mum with all the responsibilities that this entails, on very little sleep, if you’re a perfectionist, versus someone who takes unpredictability in  their stride.
Through work in CBT it became apparent very quickly that I was displaying a large number of perfectionist tendencies – and had been for as long as I could remember. I put myself under intense pressure to reach my goals in all areas of my life and now had transferred this into motherhood. I had come into this chapter of my life with clear (yet completely unrealistic) expectations of what motherhood was and how I would be. In many ways it was always an unattainable goal and  I was setting myself up for failure before I had even begun. No matter what I achieved even on the best of days – I would always push myself to be even better and so it would go on and on. I wasn’t good enough , I wasn’t reaching that perfect mum, wife, sister, friend, daughter that I should be.  Experiencing failure was new to me and an emotion that was increasingly difficult to wrestle with. 

The reality of living with a baby hit home and I became increasingly stressed that I couldn’t live up to these high expectation’s which I had put upon myself.  I was exhausted trying to make everything seem perfect to both myself and others – I was living on edge and struggling to relax and enjoy the things i used to. Even when my son slept – I was wide awake mind racing of all the things I had to do. As things got worse and worse I knew this wasn’t normal and eventually I went to the doctors.  My GP was sympathetic and quickly diagnosed post natal depression with late onset (my son was 8 months by this point) and we discussed my options for treatment. I reluctantly agreed to start on a low dose antidepressant and to be put on the list for counselling which would be a 3-4 month wait. I remember feeling numb sitting in the car after the appointment. How had I ended up here? What would I tell my family and friends? Did this make me a bad mother (a phrase already invading my daily thoughts ) and would I get better?

A couple of weeks later  after a series of bad days and my body adjusting to the medication we decided we simply couldn’t wait the possible 4 months for counselling and opted for private cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a quick call to our health insurance and 5 days later I had my first session. Hands down the best decision my husband and I made in respect to my treatment.  My therapist M was amazing and I instantly felt at ease within the first couple of sessions – therapy was once of the hardest yet most rewarding things that I have ever done (alongside motherhood !) and while some days I had to examine things and face up to things  I really did not want to face in that room ( about myself and others) I know that a better version of me emerged at the other end.  

 I still have many perfectionist tendencies, I have re-worded this post several times this evening for example. But that ok – It’s not about changing who I am completely, it is about reconising when these have a positive impact on my life and when they can become troublesome. It’s about learning how to manage those thoughts and about positive self talk so that you know that doing a ‘good enough’ job is more than ok. 

So as I reach the end of my second post and it is time to hit publish – maybe I will sleep on it and read over again tomorrow, or will I search to find a better image first? No…. It’s fine … It’s not perfect … But it’s ‘good enough’  and so am I. 

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My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

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Back to where it all began…

I write to remember……. I write to forget…… I write to get better.

writing

I have always loved to write.  When I was in primary school I would fill old notebooks with stories and poems and this extended into adulthood when I would write quotes and excerpts when I should have been studying at university.  As adult life became busy this was something that I simply did not have time to fit into my busy lifestyle.  A career in teaching came with endless planning and paperwork and suddenly the writing took a back seat and I no longer spent time writing for myself.  Fast Forward 8 years and my son was born and I lost myself in a maze filled with postnatal depression and crippling anxiety.  I accepted medication from the doctors and sought out support groups and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy CBT which helped me on my road to recovery.  One of the main tools of therapy was to write about my feelings, meet them head on, analyse them and attempt to move forward.  My notebook became an important tool for me in my recovery .  It became a place where – free from judgement I could write how I felt – through this process I began to heal, I would write for relief and for escape and the more I wrote the more I began to feel better.

I was determined to get better, and actively sought out anything and everything I could to not only recover but to try and get back to the person I used to be and to be.  I began to read blogs, forums and PND websites, I found comfort in stories of people who felt as awful as me and I found inspiration in those who had recovered – I clung onto the determination that one day that would be me – and I too would have a story to share with a happy ending.

Slowly, day by day, month by month I began to feel better.  I wasn’t an overnight fix – it was hard and there were setbacks along the way.  I kept going – one foot in front of the other and with the support from my family,friends and amazing husband I can now say I am in recovery and doing really well.

I promised myself that I would share some of my journey with others – The hope that others gave to me in such a dark place will never be forgotten and If through my experience I can help just one person who is battling this terrible illness It will have been worth sharing this blog.  If I can climb out of the darkness – then so can you.  It’s not a journey any of ever expect to have to make –  I can now look back I can see that while I may not be the person I was before PND entered my life – I am happy with who I have become and the journey has taught me so much about life and about myself as a person.  I am stronger and braver than I believed and so are you.

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