anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, Uncategorized, writing

Motherhood is exhausting.

I’ve been feeling the strains of being a stay-at-home Mum lately. Any one else? I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been struggling and feeling alone in it all.

I’ve not been able to get out of bed, eat or even sleep properly – it all became a little too much for me!

What have I done to get myself out of this depressive hole you may ask?

  • Made myself comfortable. Whether it was laying in bed or going for a walk – I was following what my intuition was telling me to do for my mind. Riding the wave and literally waiting for it to pass.
  • Forced myself to challenge negative thoughts such as “I’m not a good Mum because I’m laying in bed doing nothing!”. How about turning that around to “I’m a good Mum because I’m putting myself first for my recovery!”.
  • Made sure I was safe. I let people know I was struggling, whether that was my mental health team/family. When I received their support I felt so much more supported and less alone.

So does self love and positive thinking really help in your darkest moments. Yes. Its tough though, really tough. As it’s like standing up to a bully and saying “get out of my head, I love myself and I’m strong”.

I’d love to hear how you manage your depressive episodes and what you think your triggers are?

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anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, writing

Obsession

Even before having my daughter, I’d always enjoyed cleaning. I always felt better once everything was polished, hoovered, swept and washed. Like I was cleaning myself in a way. To me, a clean home meant a clean mind almost.

This need to keep a clean home seemed to magnify as soon as I had my daughter. In the hospital I would busy myself tidying up all my possessions around my bed and even making my bed. Utterly pointless but I felt I needed to do it in order to maintain some form of order in my new world of chaos and uncertainty.

Once home I continued to tidy up and clean. Well, on the days I wasn’t sat over thinking every possible situation in how my daughter would end up hurt or dying. These obsessive thoughts turned into intrusive ones quite rapidly. I would have images in my head of my daughter being injured due to some action that I caused and I would physically wince and get extremely upset by these. I would become fixated on everything that I did during the day and if any of my day to day activities could harm my daughter. Luckily I saught help quite quickly and these obsessive/intrusive thoughts soon lessened. But my need to clean never waned.

I get a bit upset and anxious if I see any dirt or dust, or if I know I haven’t cleaned in a few days. I must drive my husband nuts by asking him to do bits and pieces while I’m out at work in the evenings. Even then it doesn’t really stop me being anxious because I haven’t cleaned it. Not that I don’t trust my husband to clean properly, I think I actually like the process of cleaning and seeing the dust/dirt being swept away. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and knowing my home is clean for my daughter is obviously a bonus.

To try and manage my cleaning habits, I try to rationalise to myself on a daily basis that my house, in the grand scheme of things, IS clean. I also pencil in one day a week when my daughter is at her child minders and im off work to have a good clean of the place. I also allocate time for myself too, I like getting my nails done or going out for a coffee and reading a book. Simple things really!

In short, I’m trying my best to realise that life is more about cleaning. My gravestone won’t read “she kept a really tidy home”, because what does that matter? All tgat matters is that I love my family and do my best for them every day. I don’t think I’ll ever get to grips with my inbuilt necessity to clean, but I’m happy I know I have it under control.

anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery

Hybrid

As a first time mum I suffered for a long time with “mum guilt”, even more so as I was suffering from postnatal depression. I already felt like I was failing my daughter and I thought everyone was watching and judging my every move as a mother. A role I had convinced myself I couldn’t handle and wasn’t cut out for, a role I thought I didn’t deserve in all honesty.

This was made worse by knowing I wluld need to return to work at some point. I would find myself calculatung how many weeks/days/hours I had left until my life was gling to yet again go into freefall. During my maternity leave I was constantly asked ”Are you going back to work?” Every time I would reply yes and get the same response “Oh you’ll change your mind when the time comes” “Can’t you just survive on one wage?” The truth was I knew I wouldn’t change my mind. Or more that, I couldn’t. It’s so difficult to survive on a single wage these days. And not being able to contribute to the bills or buy my daughter what she needed would make me experience even more of that “mum guilt”.

So on my first day back, I dropped her off at the child minders. I had no doubt that she would care for her very well but it didn’t stop the tears on the drive to work. Why was I crying? A mixture of reasons really, but primarily it was leaving her with who was essentially a stranger so I could go and earn money so I can help support my family. Crazy isn’t it? I had taken all the necessary steps in order to be with my daughter as much as possible and to make the transition from full time mum to…well still full time mum and the added pressure of part time employee! I had dropped down to 4 days a week and arranged a flexible working agreement with my employers. But it didn’t stop the inevitable guilt from creeping in and making me feel like the worst mother on the planet. So many conflicting thoughts were firing around my brain, I needed time to help process them all.

Thankfully, now 4 months down the line the guilt I experienced on that first day back has all but gone. Some days are better than others however. I occasionally still feel a pang of guilt as I thought that by being a stay-at-home/work-at-home hybrid, I’d have the best of both worlds. But instead, I feel like I’m half-assing each one. I barely have time to do anything put with work. The housework has taken a back seat, mornings prior to starting work are dominated by trying to get things organised rather than playing with my daughter before I leave her for the day. And when I’m at work I’m constantly thinking about all the things that need done at home. But while I continue to battle with my PND and recurring episodes of anxiety I have to keep reminding myself that having a spotless house isn’t the be all and end all. I do my best every day for my little girl, and what more can she ask for?

I chose to be a working mum but the way I see it, I’m contributing towards half of the bills with my husband and while I’m at work in the evenings he is looking after our daughter. She is not short on love or attention, and we are bringing her up together as a team. A team I’m proud to be a part of.

anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, writing

Motherhood and mental health: a volatile mix 

During my first few weeks of motherhood I clearly remember sitting there on the edge of my bed crying. Crying because I felt my daughter deserved someone better, someone who would love and care for her better than I could. Crying because I felt like a monster for not wanting her around me and knowing that was wrong. I honestly felt as close to evil as Rose West or Myrah Tinsley. It’s funny to think that now as I know I am in now way similar to those women, nor will I be. Yet I felt like I was severely letting my daughter down and I could not for the life of me bring myself to love her.

I am now far away from feeling like this now,  a year down the line. And I know I have a long way yet to go in order to fully recover but I’ve got through it so far. I still get bad days, but the good days outweigh these now.

On my bad days I feel overwhelmed. My brain can’t seem to think straight and I feel like I can’t control anything which makes me anxious. I find myself racing around the house trying to get stuff organised for the day but ending up achieving next to nothing. It is the most infuriating feeling to me as I thrive on being organised but on these days the motivation goes out the window. I am still trying to accept that I may need to be kinder to myself on days like these and remind myself that in the wider context the hoovering not getting done really isn’t the end of the world! 

Sometimes the bad days land on a day where I need to go to work. And the guilt that I am leaving my daughter in someone else’s care creeps back in. Again, I try to rationalise this feeling and remind myself why I am going to work. I’m going in order to pay my bills so my daughter has all she needs, food in her belly and a roof over her head. 

Of course my medication helps to a certain degree, but I feel that by taking a step back and trying to look at the bigger picture and breaking it down into smaller chunks seems to help me personally. Perhaps it’s just how my mind works, and this wouldn’t work for everyone. 

Being a parent with a mental health issue is tough. But the help is out there if you need it. I can’t praise my GP enough for all she has done for me and the staff at outpatient psychiatry for helping me as much as they have to make me realise I’m not a bad mother, I’m just a mother who has post natal depression and asked for help. 

anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, Uncategorized

Mothers with illness.

 

 

Mummy, why are you sad?

The topic I would like to discuss today is around motherhood and mental health.

As a mum in today’s society we are very much expected to be superwoman, I mean all mums are! However, in the older days it was normal to have neighbours, friends, family help you. Now, if you ask for help there is something wrong, people wonder why you cannot manage alone.

Being a mum is tough, there are many positives (I won’t go into), but it is very hard work.

What makes this harder is poor mental health.

I do believe there is a “normal” level of mum guilt to be expected in any relationship with mother and child. The first time you leave them, when you return to work etc.

Having a mental health problem on top of that just escalates the guilt a million times.

As noted in my last post I have depression and anxiety. I am using medication currently which seems to be taking the edge off, but for a long time I was untreated. Being a mum with these problems does not mean what people think it means.

It’s not that I don’t love my child.

An example of a day with combined mum guilt, depression and anxiety would go like this:

7am Daughter wakes up, she is happy, springing to life. I try desperately to wake; I struggle profusely and want to cry due to the little sleep I obtained the night before due to racing thoughts.

I get up, Wednesday is our day off, and I have had this since she was born as it made me feel better about leaving her at nursery the other 4 days. So on a wed, I feel so guilty about sending her to nursery that I NEED to take her somewhere to have fun, spend money on her (guilt and anxiety).

I am extremely fatigued at this point already.

SO we may go to the cinema or soft play, these in themselves exhaust me as physically I feel constantly weak, and I am anxious in social places due to my anxiety about terrorism.

We get home following dinner out; we play with toys and games.

 

I really want to cry at this point, as I don’t want to play games, I want to lie down in bed in the dark and rest, I feel drained and exhausted from our day but I will keep trying to amuse her as I feel too guilty not to.

I spend my entire time amusing her, when really I should be also spending time cleaning or preparing dinner as we take turns cooking in our home. I know she does not need constant attention, but I get anxious from the feelings of being a bad mum that it is almost as if I have to prove myself to her.

By the time 5pm comes, the house is disgusting, there is no dinner ready for me and my husband, and I am tired, weak and tearful, and snap at my husband the second he walks in. I feel content in the fact that I now share the responsibility of my daughter and I can leave the room.

I will later then go to bed and not sleep due to hating myself for not cleaning the bathroom today, not hovering the landing and providing a good home for my daughter.

This is a viscous cycle that continues until I have the strength to break it again.

Being a mum with problems is difficult, I have good and bad days, above is a bad day.

On a good day I may go all day not noticing my thoughts, and we have a great day like I normal mummy. On a bad day I notice a change in her behaviour, it took my mum telling me for me to notice the pattern.

I would see my mum and tell her I am having a bad day due to my daughter being naughty, well in fact as my mum noticed when I woke up stressed and was overly trying to keep busy and distracting myself and her due to my low moods and anxiety, she could pick up these negative feelings and I triggered this behaviour!

I find good days are easy to manage (hate to point out the obvious), of course they are not instagram perfect, but they are manageable. I feel that is key, I used to re think my day and think about what I could have improved on, (I still do on occasion) but I now try to see good days as achievements, if I only became irritable a few times but was able to be out most of the day, engage with people and actually embrace society and my family then I reflect on how well I have done that day. I now discuss these days with my husband on the way home, it sounds silly but he will congratulate me on having a good day and tells me he loves me.

On my bad days, he will take my daughter out and let me rest for an hour or so, which before when I was at my worst I would not allow him to do, as I would feel too guilty to waste my time resting and push myself despite the exhaustion and anxiety and I became very angry and suicidal. Now, I rest.

If your phone dies, you would re-charge it. Why do we not consider re-charging ourselves?

We are human, we have energy, and we waste and use energy. I had to think biologically what am I doing to myself, I am already exhausting my body by having anxious thoughts, stress levels are rising, blood pressure rises and I experience a wave of panic and release of hormones. Instead of resting (recharging) following this drain on my body, I push myself to carry on, to go to work, to play with my daughter, to be a good wife. I then know how tired I am and that I am only offering half of my intentions and feel guilty about this and the cycle continues.

I am learning to recharge myself! As mums we have to, we are first and foremost humans, and without charged batteries we are only surviving and not living.

Our children need us to live, not survive.

It is not easy to adopt this way of thinking, especially when depression and anxiety is involved as your thoughts will tell you that you are lazy, neglecting your duties etc. And I still experience this, but I try breathing heavily through these thoughts whilst resting.

My daughter once asked me why I was sad, this was following another day off where she had a fab day, but I was emotionally and physically exhausted and was near breaking down and cried in the car on the way home.

I do not want her to ask me why I am sad, she is 4. She will learn to accept mental health as I will educate her in this as she grows as I want her to be open to her feelings and expressing these, but never again do I want my daughter to be concerned about my well-being.

We all have good and bad days, mums with mental health difficulties especially.

Embrace family, friends, and breathing techniques and make time to re charge yourself to enable you to live.

 

Casey

xx

anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, writing

Trigger-unhappy 

To be honest a lot of things set me off on one. Noisy eaters, people who crack their knuckles and people who don’t use their car indicators!

Then we get to the big stuff. The things that make my heart race and my brain turn fuzzy. Firstly, supermarkets. About 90% of my panic attacks have taken place in a supermarket. I think it’s a mixture of things, it’s the huge space, the sheer amount of people and the noise. Oh my god the noise, it just all collects together like white noise and it’s just too overwhelming. I remember once in Aldi I feel an attack coming on and all I could do was stare at the spring onions in front of me and do my deep breathing to calm myself down. But now I have my daughter I feel somewhat calmer in a supermarket. In a sense I know I need to have myself pulled together so that I don’t have an attack or get anxious. I always go armed with a list and I get the items as I head up the centre aisle. Flitting from one end to the other would just prolong the agony quite frankly. My husband has been great and often does the food shop, or we do it as a family. So now I tolerate them a lot better than I did before. In fact, having a child has given me no choice but to tolerate them. So in a way I should be thanking her.

I also tend to avoid concerts or nightclubs, guaranteed to be be full of people, drunk people. Bumping into me, getting too close to me, the music is too loud, the chatter is too loud…to be honest there isn’t much I enjoy about these situations. So I tend to avoid them. If I do go out (for a friend’s birthday for example) I like to be out with people that I trust. People that know how I feel about these situations and understand how I might start to act strangely and suddenly glaze over. Then I feel safe, safe to be me and know I can remove myself from the situation and go home without being judged.

 
Mess. I’ve been known to look off into space mid conversation because I’m just so focused on a squint picture hanging on a wall or the carpet is clearly needing hoovered. I feel compelled to keep my house spotless, great fun with a baby right??? But I also feel cleaning is therapeutic for me, once I’ve scrubbed the bathroom I feel instantly better. Having my daughter now means my cleaning has had to take a back seat and I like to think I’m a lot less obsessive about it than I am now. My psychiatrist agreed that this is not necessarily a bad thing, but I still have a limit as to how much mess I am willing to stand before I need to sort it! But I definitely do notice my mood slips when the house hasn’t been cleaned in a few days. I’m lucky that my husband is also tidy so he’s a great help with keeping on top of it.

So in all, yes I have things in my life that will trigger my anxiety levels but I’m happy that I’ve got a reasonable hold on them all. I doubt these triggers will ever change, lessen maybe but not disappear completely. But all I can do is glory on and take each day as it comes.

I do fear relapse. I know it can happen at any time. Now I’m back at work and feeling overwhelmed I’m definitely cautious about tasks I take on and I’ve been doing more self care activities. Like going out for a meal or bingo with my best friend (she’s a mum too so she knows the need to feel “normal”) getting my hair cut, cleaning my house or maybe even just watching tv with my husband. But fearing relapse it itself makes me anxious, so it just becomes a vicious circle really. I just keep an eye on my mood and take it day by day. Fearing the future only brings misery and is rather stay happy while the going is good!

anxiety, blog, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, post natal depression, Recovery, Uncategorized

Recovery takes time

Once the doctor had diagnosed me with postnatal depression and anxiety, they signed me off work for two weeks with immediate effect, prescribed me anti-depressants and referred me to a local NHS counselling service.

I eventually ended up having five months off sick from work in order to fully aid my ongoing recovery. During this time, I was still taking our son to nursery on the three days I should have been at work. We wanted to keep him in his routine as much as possible during this time, plus he loves nursery. I usually have to chase him round the room at the end of the day to get his shoes and coat on and have to bribe him with all sorts of things in an attempt to get him to cooperate; which usually fails.

This meant I had three days a week to myself for five months. Bliss, I hear you say. Every parent will, I am sure, understand how precious child free time is, so I do fully appreciate that I have been very lucky to be able to have this time. I would love to say that I spent the time doing really exciting things but that would be a lie. The time was a complete mixture of ups and downs, good days and bad days, as you would probably expect. Some days I found it hard to do much more than to get out of bed, sit in front of the TV and sleep for most of the day. Other days I was able to get out and do things.

I feel I could probably write forever about my ongoing recovery as it is such a long process with lots of ups and downs. Plus I am not sure you ever really recover from postnatal depression, you just learn to cope and manage it better and you become a new version of you. So what I am going to focus on in this blog post is some of the things I have done for myself over the last year to remind myself that I am important too; spending time on ‘me’ is not selfish; and neglecting myself only serves to make myself worse.

One of the first things I did for myself was to book myself in to see an osteopath. Something which I had been meaning to do since our son was born. I suffered badly during pregnancy with back ache and pelvic girdle pain and it had not really righted itself since having him. But of course, I just thought that it was normal to feel like this after giving birth so did nothing about it for over a year. Little did I know, my pelvis had been stuck in the birthing position all year! Luckily, this was quite common (although most people get it sorted out sooner) and it only took five sessions with the osteopath until I felt like I had a new back.

Another thing I did was to book myself onto my best friend’s three week beginner’s yoga course. I knew that yoga practice is good for the mind as well as the body and I felt like both needed a treat. My osteopath had also been talking how important stretching is when sorting out back problems and recommended yoga. My low mood and anxiety was still very prevalent at this point, but knowing that it was my best friend teaching me put me more at ease. She is a truly awesome yoga teacher and if you are local to Sussex and are interested in yoga classes, check out her website and blog at www.laynayoga.co.uk. Unfortunately due to it being early days in my ongoing recovery, I had to miss the second week of the course, as the doctor had just upped my medication and I was feeling a little sick and spaced out that day. She understood.

I had not had my hair done since before going back to work after maternity leave six months prior, so it was definitely due some tlc. I decided I needed a new low maintenance cut and colour so that if I neglected myself again, my roots wouldn’t look so bad. My hairdresser suggested ombreé (the gradual blending of one colour hue to another, usually moving tints and shades from light to dark). So ombreé it was. Having my hair done was amazing therapy, but even better were the chats I had with my hairdresser about her postnatal depression, as once she had learnt about me, she opened up to me. This made me feel much less alone.

I had been thinking about starting a blog on and off for a few years but never really thought I had much to write about or anything interesting to say, so always put it off. Once I had started counselling though, which I will write a separate blog post about one day, I realised that I had a huge amount to say and that talking was really helping me. So, I decided to give writing a try. At first, it started off as notes in a note book which helped to clear my mind of any thoughts I was having or anything that I wanted to talk to my counsellor about at our next session. I was so surprised at how much it almost instantly helped, that I decided to give blogging a go, as an additional therapy tool to aid me in my recovery.

So, I set up my blog ‘From Mind to World’, which was very easy to do (I have no prior experience) and I started writing. At first I had so much to write about that I was writing almost daily, sometimes all day. I had draft after draft sitting in folders on my computer, and idea after idea in my notebook. I have no prior writing experience except a B in GCSE English, so I just decided to write from the heart and to not try to be anything. I am pleased to say that my blog has been really well received and some of the comments I have received have been so overwhelming. I have had strangers contacting me to thank me for opening up about my experiences as it has helped them realise they are not alone or to have that conversation they have been meaning to have for a while but haven’t been strong enough. It was amazing to hear that my therapy tool of blogging was not only helping me, but it was also helping others. It has also led to me writing regular blog posts for Mums4MumsUK https://mums4mumsuk.wordpress.com Check it out!

One thing I realised from blogging is how important it is to surround yourself with positivity and things that make you feel good and to get rid of any negativity and things that make you feel bad. One thing so many of us are guilty of (including me) is filling our social media feeds with our ‘perfect’ lives for all to see. I had never really understood the effects of this until my recovery but it is so important to remember that this is not ‘real’ life. It is a snapshot in time of a moment that someone wants you to see. You have no idea what came before or after that photo or even how that person may really be feeling. I took the decision to ‘unfollow’ a lot of people on my social media pages for this exact reason. Not because I didn’t care about them and their lives, but because I needed to look after my mental health as a priority and this is what I needed to do.

I also joined a few different online support groups around postnatal depression and mental health so that I could receive support from others who understood what I was going through (as I think it is so hard to really understand unless you have been there yourself) but also so that I could give my support to others. It has made me feel much less alone, much more ‘normal’ (I know there is no normal) and has made me realise just how prevalent mental health issues are and that, although it is better than it was, we have a got a long way to go before care for mental health is equal with care for physical health.

Notwithstanding what I have just said above about understanding, I cannot finish this blog without mentioning the incredible support I have received from my husband, family and friends. A lot of them haven’t been through what I have been through, but some have. I have never expected anyone to fully understand what it is like living with a mental illness, but this does not mean they haven’t listened to me when I have needed it, tried to understand to the best of their ability or been there for me. Even if they haven’t been able to understand, they have always made it clear that they are there for me. That I am not alone. And that it is ok to need a bit of help from time to time. Life is hard! The support has been truly amazing. You know who you are, and I thank you!

So, these are just a few of the things that I have done to aid my ongoing recovery (I will write about more in other blog posts). The time I have had and the support I have received has been vital to my recovery. I truly believe that without it, I would not be where I am today and I would certainly not be writing this blog for the world to see. It has given me time to really focus on me and remind myself that I can’t look after my family and friends if I am not looking after myself first. I have learnt a lot to say the least!

The journey has been slow and is still ongoing but it’s all about taking small steps and eventually the good days will start to outweigh the bad days.

X