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

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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