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, 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, 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, writing

Never ending road…

ROAD

 

Recovery, what is this?

When we think about recovery we think of things we can recover from, like a hangover? flu? a broken ankle? But do we really think about recovery when it comes to any long term illness.

Because that is what mental health is, a long term illness. I am sure we have all met people that have felt as though they have over come depression, anxiety, and may have been stable for a while. However, it is likely that they are then more susceptible to experience this again.

Therefore are we ever truly recovered from mental illness?

The fact is life is hard, it can be really hard. If you are already struggling with your own mind then everything else just seems 100 times more difficult to manage.

My personal journey as noted in my intro, discusses my anxiety and depression. I honestly do not believe I will ever recover. Currently I would say I am on my way to remission, I may stay there for a while (hopefully) but I have no doubt that my depression and anxiety may try to sneak its way back in.

I feel that once your mind has experienced that dark world there is no permanent return from this. If I were to compare this to anything people can relate to who cannot empathise, I would suggest reading Stephen King’s IT. Within the book one of the boys lock minds with the clown, he is then exposed to a whole new universe, a dark, depressing place where he does not wish to stay, and fights back to be released from the hold keeping him there. He moves away and loses memory of what happened, but things never felt right in his life, he moved on but not truly as deep down he had been scarred by this episode of which he later had to face.

ANYWAY… That is my interpretation of my mental health. This is not an IT adaptation, but I feel to have a reference to offer another person assists others to learn and empathise.

As a mental health nurse, I believe you should always try to help yourself, surround yourself in positivity, exercise, do things you enjoy, and most of all talk to others.

I believe this, but I do not do this. Motivation, unfortunately is often my enemy.

My trigger is stress mainly, stress, overwhelming situations, feelings of not being in control, and fear of danger will trigger my anxiety and depression.

I have not always known these triggers, and lets be honest most peoples triggers are simply out of their control. I cannot help it if work demand more of me, I cannot help that there are two weddings and a birthday party in one week and I am feeling overwhelmed by this. I certainly cannot help that there was another terrorist attack and it is making my anxiety sky high.

What I have learnt by this is that it is ok to say NO.

I say no, I used to experience overwhelming guilt by this, and would agree to anything anyone asked me to do either work or socially so I didn’t let people down. But this is what would start the rapid cycle again, exhaustion and anxiety caused by the pressure of being expected to fulfil other peoples wants and needs would trigger a guilt of not wanting to let them down by saying no, despite the mum guilt and anxiety this would cause. I gave myself no way out.

I have learnt you have to give yourself an escape route.

Mine is to say no, no to nights out, no to coffees, no to extra work, and say yes when I really feel able to. When I feel I can mentally manage this, as then I can enjoy it.

I am by no means well, wellness to me means no physical pain caused by my anxiety, no intrusive thoughts, being able to say yes to social situations again.

I work, I manage small social gatherings in moderation but I am taking it easy.

The key in my own remission within mental illness is about understanding you. Identify those triggers, what makes you feel well? I know I love yoga, I am quite good at it, but currently I lack motivation due to my fluctuating moods and anxiety. I am now planning on attempting it at home at least once a week to enable me to feel more motivated and release endorphins (they make you happy – I actually learnt this from legally blonde and not my nurse training lol!). It is not always easy to gain motivation, but I find planning little things give you focus.

On a very bad day I will write a list of things to do. Nothing ridiculous, I shall give you an idea:

 

  1. Shower
  2. Do 2 loads of washing
  3. Empty the rubbish from my car

That to the old me isn’t even worth writing a list for, however, me on a bad day would struggle to motivate to do this list. So I force myself to do these things over the course of the day, once I have done each I put a little tick next to each one and feel accomplished. I accomplished my aims for that day, and tomorrow is another day.

Personally within my experience of my personal mental health difficulties, I feel initially I do not notice my decline, I am so used to being the “positive person” or my fake façade (as I like to refer to that side of me), that my show can deter others and even myself. Most recently I feel my mind has instinctively taken over, last week I knew the stress was building due to issues with work but thought I was managing this, out of know where I had a panic attack at home and my mood plummeted for 2 days, 2 days of tears and panic. I feel this was my body alerting me to my decline. I do not really feel better for knowing this, but I am taking preventative steps to avoid a decline, I have informed my husband I feel low, I plan to go out tomorrow to the shops and put all my make up on which normally helps motivate me to complete the day.

Mental health is so unique to each individual, we all may experience similar symptoms, but the effects may influence us in our own ways.

The points I would like ot offer from anyone that made it this far into my ramblings are:

  • Take time out, have you time, have family time, do not pressure yourself
  • Say no when you need to
  • Plan, plan to do little things on bad days, on better days plan a trip to the shop
  • Talk to others, my  biggest mistake was not sharing
  • Approach your GP

For now I continue on my journey, and I wish everyone all the positivity for theirs.

Casey xx

 

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

Don’t be ashamed of your story it will inspire others! 

It’s not where you’ve come from it’s where your going that matters. So cliché I know but please know that you can overcome anything after what you’ve been through! I might not know you but I know Mental Illness, I know life – I know isolation and fear of fighting this diesease that makes you uncertain about whether you still want to exist. It may seem hard and it may seem like you can’t catch a break but when you keep your head up focused on what you’re doing it will become your momentum and without realising you’ll be encouraging others to be strong and focused just like you are. 

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

Fluoxetine

Prior to being diagnosed with postnatal depression and anxiety, I was fairly naïve to all things mental health. So when the doctor diagnosed me with postnatal depression and anxiety, and prescribed me anti-depressants, it was fair to say it was a little bit of a shock. Despite the shock, I was fairly open to taking medication if it was going to help me feel better. I did not want to continue the way I was feeling anymore and I wanted to do all I could to help myself.

 

The thing I was worried about, apart from telling my husband about my diagnosis, was that he would not support me in taken medication and would suggest that I was able to get through it without medication. This definitely says more about my state of mind at the time than my husband as he couldn’t have been more supportive about getting me better. I remember him saying ‘you wouldn’t think twice about taking medication prescribed by the doctor for a physical illness, so why is this any different?’ And he was right. It isn’t and it shouldn’t be. So with my husband’s support, I started taking 20mg of Fluoxetine every morning.

 

I had obviously spoken to the doctor about any possible side effects and had also done a little bit of research myself, as I wanted to be aware of what to expect. Of course, as usual on any medication, there was a whole long list of possible side effects. I guess the pharmaceutical companies have to do this to cover their backs. The main side effects I noticed in the first few days of tasking my medication were an increased appetite (mainly for unhealthy food), what seemed like an unquenchable thirst, tiredness and headaches. The strangest side effect I noticed was that I felt like I was floating around in a bubble and that I was moving much slower than the world around me.

 

The doctor said the medication could take up to 3 weeks to have any real effect. At this point I was having 2 weekly reviews with the doctor, so we were discussing my progress regularly. After a couple of weeks, the doctor was not happy with my improvement on 20mg Fluoxetine, so they upped my dosage to 40mg a day. On this dosage, I saw a definite improvement in my depression and anxiety, however after a few weeks it seemed to plateau and again through my reviews my doctor advised me to up my dosage to 60mg a day (which I understand is the highest does you can take of Fluoxetine).

 

This was a real turning point for me. A few weeks after taking 60mg a day, I felt like I turned a corner. The only way I can really describe it is that everything felt lighter and easier all of a sudden and there was a definite shift to more ‘good’ days than ‘bad’ days. This was probably a good 12 weeks (3 months) after my diagnosis. In this time, I had been fortunate enough to have paid sick leave from work, which definitely contributed to the speed of my ongoing recovery. It meant I had time to really focus on myself and as our son was still going to nursery on the days when I should have been at work, I had 3 days a weeks all to myself.

 

Longer term side effects were trouble sleeping at night and extreme tiredness during the day, along with weight gain from my increased appetite. I dealt with the tiredness by switching around the time of day I took medication. Instead of taking it in the morning, I decided to trial taking it at night, with the hope that it would help me sleep better at night and be more awake during the day. This has worked for me. I now sleep much better at night and also am less tired during the day.

 

With regards to my increased appetite and weight gain, since having my son nearly 2 years ago, I have gained about 1 and a half stone. Now to some that might not seem a lot but I was actually lucky enough to lose weight whilst I was pregnant due to ongoing ‘morning’ sickness, so to me this is quite a gain. The depression and medication have definitely played a big part in this over the last 2 years. Whilst ultimately I am not happy about this, I have to remember the tremendous journey my body has been through over the last 2 years including growing an actual human (this still completely amazes me!), postnatal depression and anxiety and ongoing recovery from this.

 

It is a constant battle in my head between wanting to do something about it and finding the time and motivation to do so; but at the end of the day, you have to be in the right frame of mind to achieve. Right now, I would much rather spend time and effort making sure my mind is healthy and then hopefully one day in the not too distant future (I have signed up to run a marathon in April 2018!!) the same time and efforts for my body will naturally follow.

 

I have now been taking my medication for 10 months (the doctor advised to take it for at least 9 months minimum) and I do not have any plans to come off it this year. I would like be off it by summer next year, so may start the weaning process in the spring when the weather is less dull and dreary. Of course any weaning from my medication will be done in consultation with my doctor.

I think, if I was only able to say 2 things about taking anti-depressants, I would stress the benefits of them in terms of clearing your mind to enable you to fully benefit from other therapies, whatever they may be – for me it was counselling; and that recovery takes time – there will be good days and there will be bad days, but with the right help and time the good days should start to outweigh the bad days.

 

Lastly, remember to be kind to yourself. Any illness is not your fault and you deserve the time and help to get better.

 

N.B. It is important to remember that all the side effects of taking medication I experienced are also symptoms of depression itself. Also that along with taking medication, I have also had a total of 5 months off work, regular reviews with the doctor regarding my medication and weekly counselling for 9 months.