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