Trying to see clearly through the fog of depression and anxiety.

The exhaustion that postnatal depression and anxiety brings is deliberating and consuming. My days at times have merged into one where I get up and do the things I have to do, but I’m not present in the moment, I am detached, I am just running slowly on autopilot. This has made me feel like a terrible mother at times as all I’ve been able to do is focus on the children’s basics needs but nothing more. The antidepressants stop me from feeling any heightened emotions, sure I can feel happy and sad but not in the same way I used to.

Anxiety is such a struggle for me, the way it makes my heart race, sweaty hands and that need to leave the situation immediately. CBT has been so helpful to me but I constantly have to stop myself going back to my old coping mechanisms that hold me back from getting involved and living my life. One of the hardest things I find about anxiety is how exhausting it is, over thinking everything and not being able to sleep which then starts to really negatively effect my mental state.

Depression and anxiety really have controlled my life for so long and have put in so many limitations. I hate how depression has taken away my confidence and made me feel guilty over things I haven’t been able to control. I believe that I am always going to have to fight this battle and that scares the shit out of me. I feel so weak and overwhelmed at times but the rational side of me knows that I am not weak ad I have come so far, but at times that all feels pointless. When my head is ready to explode all I want to do is run away and escape, not permanently, I just want a break from my own mind.

I am still fighting and will continue to fight for my husband and kids as it’s all I know how to do. I mask the pain well to spare them the burden of my problems and even though I feel hopelessly alone at times I know I never will be. I take comfort in the fact i have more good days than bad days now and when I do have a blip it is usually short lived. Please get help if you need it as talking about it does help and if I hadn’t of got help when I did I really don’t know what would of happened to me.

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A letter to my darling daughter

My letter to my darling daughter.

Miss J you are now 4 years old and have started school. You have grown up so much this past year and have made me so proud. You don’t want to hold my hand as much as you did and you are now eager to run off to be with your friends, but you are still my darling baby girl. You still get in my bed in the night when your daddy is on nights and in the dark when you’re cuddled close to me, I stroke your soft cheeks and you still feel like my sweet baby girl.

You taught me so many lessons and made me become selfless. You always see the good in everything and teach me everyday to be a better person. To see the world through your eyes is something beautiful and magical. Without you I wouldn’t have had the strength to get through things and when my anxiety was bad and making me want to stay at home it was your voice and your hand that gave me the courage I needed. I have given you everything I have but you have given me so much more in return.

I am sorry you had to grow up so quick this last year whilst mummy wasn’t well and you have seen me at my worse, but please remember your words of encouragement and telling me you loved me meant more than anything anyone else could have told me right at that time. Without you my darling I’m not sure how I would have got through and you were the one that made me admit defeat and get help. I am eternally grateful for what you unknowingly did for me.

Now you have left for school my heart aches for you as I wasn’t ready to let you go just yet, but I know you are ready to be independent away from me and that I need to be strong on my own. Me and your baby brother are doing ok but we miss you terribly when you are not with us everyday. I took it for granted how much I needed my little helper with me when your brother is having a grumpy day. The way you care for baby Goo Goos is way beyond your years, but I know that isn’t your job it’s just the caring girl you are.

When I pick you up from school later I hope you have had a fun, exciting day, but I also hope you are a little tired so I can steal a nice cuddle on the sofa with you. As always my darling girl I shall tuck you into bed, read you a story, kiss your forehead and tell you I love you and I shall do this as long as you want and need me to. I love you Miss J.

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I have postnatal depression and I’m not ashamed.

Yes, I do have postnatal depression and no I’m not ashamed of it anymore. For over a year I have battled it every single day when at times it has made me close to the edge. It has consumed me and isolated me. Postnatal depression has been the dementor in my life for so long and at times it paralysed me and fed off my fear.

We need to get rid of the stigma around mental illness and educate people. I can’t just get over it, I can’t just suck it up. It has invaded every part of my life and damaged my closest relationships, but the day I admitted it and asked for help was the day a huge weight was lifted and the PND lost its control over me.

I’ve come along way in my battle and can see things from the other side now. The mummy guilt was horrible and the fear I would get my children taken away for admitting I had suicidal thoughts was frightening. Now I’ve got help even though some days are a struggle my life has got so much better. I now understand myself so much more and I appreciate that just like my body I also need to look after my mind. Isolating myself is a problem for me when I’m having a down few days, but now I recognise it I stop it from becoming habit so I don’t fall back into old traps.

If you you are going through this your self please do not be ashamed and talk about it. If you don’t have it and never have then be supportive and understanding as you never know the battles someone is going through in their head. They may look fine, but believe me they are not making it up and by being ignorant to it you are contributing to the problem. Everyone please open your minds and support each other. Please do not be ashamed over something you couldn’t help getting.

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I never knew how much I needed a boy in my life until I got one. 

“I never knew how much I needed a boy until I got one” were wise words passed on to me by a friend when I was pregnant with Mr T, and boy she was right. I was so happy to find out that Miss J was a girl as I felt I needed a girl so much in my life. I have a very close relationship with my mum and my sister and really didn’t get boys growing up. I was girlie girl and spent my whole childhood playing with barbies, dolls and polly pockets. Miss J was everything I had dreamed off, she liked to be clean, played delicately with her toys and had a beautiful soft voice. We lived in a pink bubble for three years and it was magical.

When I went for out gender scan I was excited to find out what we were having, but if I could have chosen I probably would have said another girl as having a sister is all I ever knew and I dreamed that Miss J would have the same closeness as us. We found out Mr T was a boy and headed straight to the shops to get some bits, but I couldn’t be helped heading to girls sections. I figured out that I needed to find what I wanted for a boy and started looking at Pintrest for ideas on nursery’s and clothes.

I really enjoyed getting everything ready for Mr T and styling it all, but was completely unsure what to expect with a boy. Mr T arrived 3 weeks early and my heart filled with love. Mr T is messy, gross, loud and naughty. He’s a complete contrast to Miss J and has definitely shaked things up in our house for the best.

Mr T is incredibly loving and likes nothing more than a big cuddle and kiss. He eats anything and everything whilst rubbing it all over himself. He has helped me and Miss J to get out of comfort zones and to get messy and act crazy. Mr T pulls his sisters hair, jumps on her, but every morning after his milk he gets out of my bed and goes straight to his sisters room for a cuddle in bed with her.

Mr T has completed our family for now and the bond him and sister have is beautiful. Our house is no longer just pink, it now has trucks and trains. Miss J loves to play with her brother and get messy and he loves playing with her barbie car. I never knew how much I needed a boy until I got one.

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Mums on Tour, a rare night out.

I was thinking back to a recent night out I had with some mum friends and realised how things have truly changed.

Pre kids: Picking the shortest dress and highest heels I could find in New Look. Also needing to make the most of my tiny chest by wearing a gel bra. Who said you couldn’t have legs and boobs out.

Post Kids: Picking a dress out from Next that is not only comfortable, but is also wearable for doing the shool run. Wearing a nursing bra out or just a comfortable non underwired one as you don’t risk getting a blocked milk duct. Wearing your trusted Spanx the whole night just so your jelly belly is a little bit more controlled unlike your bladder these days.

Pre kids: Spending three hours to get ready by having a lovely long bath, then relaxing doing your makeup whilst having a drink and listening to your favourite music.

Post kids: Frantically getting ready whilst getting the kids dinners and one boob hanging out with the baby attached. Changing your outfit about ten times until you end up sticking to your favourite dress that covers your mummy tummy the best. Putting on your extra comfortable shoes with a gel insole just in case.

Pre kids: Rolling into town at 11pm for a quick drink in a pub then straight to a nightclub. Being pretty much paralytic before even getting in the nightclub spending the whole time on the dance floor or outside a lot in the smoking area talking to lots of random people about some kind of crap and posing for a load of pictures taken by the toilet lady and deciding to buy ten lollies from her. Leaving at 2am and deciding its time to sober up with a sub way. The night is still young so you head off to a house party around a friend of friends and sleep on the sofa.

Post kids: Starting off somewhere classy at 8pm with cocktails whilst you spend the whole time talking about your kids. Forever looking for your changing bag and feeling odd not walking whilst pushing something. As the night progresses you then get tipsy and want to find a good pub that you can dance to cheesy music in. You end up attracting random young people, which you decide to give them the words of your wisdom and show them pictures of your babies. The merrier you get the old you comes out and you think its a good idea to have a shot. You do some amazing mum dancing to Lady Gaga Just Dance thinking your back in 2009. Eventually the lights turn on and you get told its time to go home by the bouncer which you obviously flirt with and you get a taxi home which you either fall asleep in or talk the whole way home about your kids to the poor driver. You get home and pass out probably still wearing your makeup.

Pre Kids: Get up, get a lift home, have a bacon sandwhich and go back to bed till 1pm. Wake up around 3pm and be ready for it all over again.

Post Kids: Wake up with your head spinning and slightly confused. Taking some paracetomol and having the strongest coffee you can stomach. Having to pump your rock solid engorged boobs and letting the kids watch whatever the hell they like on TV for the rest of the day. The hangover starts to lift around 2-4 days after the event.

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How PND damaged my relationship with my daughter

PND and how it damaged my relationship with my daughter and how we got it back.

My daughter Miss J has always been the sweetest little girl and when she was born eight days late, after a three day labour all was forgiven as soon as I held her. My bond with Miss J has always been so strong and she really has been my sidekick and when my anxiety has been bad just having her by my side gives me strength.

The first twenty weeks of pregnancy with Mr T were fairly easy besides a few hospital trips early on, but after twenty weeks things started to get very hard as I was diagnosed with SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction) and later Polyhydramnios. Abruptly the walks to the park, chasing around and sitting on the floor playing stopped. I felt incredibly guilty that I was unable to play with my daughter or even push her in her pushchair, but the pain got too much.

I think this is where my depression started and then escalated. Towards the end of my pregnancy I was having to lean on my mum for help with my daughter as I just wasn’t able to give her the attention she craved. Miss J wasn’t wanting me anymore and was crying when I took her home from my mums house, which made me feel like a terrible mother. I kept telling myself that once the baby was here it would be so much better as I wouldn’t be in pain anymore but I was very much wrong.

When Mr T arrived 3 weeks early I felt a huge relief. I had been induced and been away from my daughter for two days so was extremely emotional and wanting to get out of hospital as soon as I could. I left hospital too early as I was still extremely anaemic after a iron transfusion and was having dizzy spells constantly, but I pushed to leave as soon as I could. With Mr T back home I was so excited to introduce him to his big sister, but the reality wasn’t as I had imagined. Miss J only being three wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about and kept asking me to put him back in my tummy. She didn’t bond with him and ignored his existence besides trying to cover his face with a muslin when he cried.

The rational side of me knew that this was normal behaviour but inside it was killing me. I was patient and didn’t force her to be with him but it was so frustrating and making me stressed. Miss J was getting jealous that I was breastfeeding him so I would encourage her to feed her doll but she was acting out trying to get my attention anyway possible.

Mr T was not a good sleeper and would be up most the night screaming. He had bad reflux so I was forever changing his clothes and feeding him. My husband was working 12 hour night shifts so I had no way of getting help. Miss J was fobbed off with TV as I was too exhausted to entertain her and between me breastfeeding and holding a reflux baby upright I was failing her and was feeling terrible mummy guilt. I was resenting her for not letting me bond with my newborn and I was resenting him for ruining our relationship. Something had to give before I broke which is when my mum stepped in.

My mum didn’t work Fridays so we would go out or I would go to hers and she would take care of Miss J, where I would leave her for the night and collect the next day. It meant that once a week I only had to put one child to bed and I could nap when Mr T napped. It worked so well that she still does it now. I felt at first I was letting her down and worried that she would love my mother more than me, but its been the best solution for us both.

Eventually once Mr T could interact with her at around four months she started to take an interest in him. It was extremely slow and frustrating, but she now adores her brother, will take care of him and is incredibly protective of him. Once she started to bond with him and I sought help for my PND our relationship slowly improved. She started preschool when Mr T was 4 months old, which meant she got a break from us both and I think that was the best thing possible at the time.

Sixteen months on from Mr T’s arrival and the mummy guilt seems to be lifting. Miss J and me are best buds and I focus on spending some time where it is just us two when I can. She’s an incredibly kind and happy child and even though she can be a madam she is mostly very well behaved.  I thought she would remember it all, resent me forever and that her and her brother would never be the best of friends. Its amazing how PND can make you think so irrational, but I can now see it from the other side and we are now one big loving family.

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Returning to work

Returning to work and why it was the best decision for me and my family. 

I had 13 months of maternity leave with Mr T including my holiday, which I was incredibly lucky to have. My husband worked extra to make sure I didn’t have to go back to work when my PND was at its worse, which I am eternally grateful for, but unfortunately I had to make the choice when my son was one to either return to work or get signed off work.

We had no option for me to be a stay at home mum and for the most part I do really enjoy my work, but the thought of going back whilst still suffering with PND scared me. It was still touch and go with my recovery with more good days than bad, but I was scared how it could rock the boat and if it would put me in a downward spiral.

In the end I decided to at least give it a go and if it got too much then I could always see my GP. I wasn’t convinced but I told myself it might actually be a good thing for my recovery.

I was honest with my employers about my PND and they were incredibly supportive. It was rocky at the start especially with a change in my medication and feeling close to a complete breakdown for a week but now I’m on the right medication and we’ve got into a routine, I’m enjoying it more than ever.

I love being able to drink a hot cup of tea, chat with adults about something besides kids and not having to be a mum for the day, which then makes me appreciate my two days off in the week with my children. Routine has been key to my recovery and now I’ve been back at work for four months I’m feeling the best I’ve felt for a long time.

I definitely lost my identity being at home on maternity leave and was convinced I would be rubbish at my work when I went back, but I was surprised how quickly I got back into it and what a confidence boost it has been. I no longer feel guilty as I know this makes me a better mother.

I know it’s not for everyone but for me it works. I’ve got so much respect for stay at home mums and I’m not sure how you do it. My lunchbreak is over so I better get back to it.

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Activities my kids love and I hate

Activities my kids love and I hate:

  1. Play dough! I hate the stuff as either Mr T is eating it or Miss J is rubbing into my carpets and sofas. I’ve tried desperately to only use a couple of colours at a time but they all eventually become one khaki brown.  I’m not sure I’ve met an adult who actually likes the stuff.
  2. Painting. I always dreamed of the day I had kids and we could paint together but in reality it is messy and every bit of work turns khaki brown with all the mixed up colours.
  3. Stamps. I thought one day it would be a good idea to get ink stamps, envelopes and make a post box. It wasn’t a good idea as every surface in my house was stamped.
  4. Stickers. Again I thought stickers would be a good idea but I haven’t enjoyed scrapping off the stickers on our kitchen floor and I don’t think Miss J’s brother appreciated being covered in them.
  5. Mr Frosty! As a child I had a Mr Frosty which I loved so when I saw the original retro one was back on sale it got added straight into my amazon basket. In reality I forgot how hard it was to crush the ice as I had made my poor mother do it for me. Miss J on the other hand loves it.
  6. Wendy House. It takes me roughly 15-20 minuets to build the Wendy house and around 10 minuets for my kids to get bored of it again. After all the effort of putting it up I then feel I have to keep it up in my cramped living room and throw all the toys in there at the end of the day.
  7. Hungry hippos. Hands down the shittiest game of them all but my daughter insists on playing it over and over again and has a full on breakdown if I accidentally get the yellow ball. I also spend a lot of the time from stopping Mr T eating them.
  8. Barbies. This is one of those things having a girl made me really excited about. I love my Barbies growing up and had actually kept some of my old bits. Miss J on the other hand insists they are all naked and their hair is all matted after trips into the bath. The Barbie house is actually more of a shit tip than my actual house is which I guess is comforting.
  9. Lego. We have just entered the age of Lego in our house which means we have a fair amount of  parent swear woods (fudge sticks, mudder ducker etc) as we stand on them. Again I have spent many a hour constructing these for Miss J for her to destruct them immediately. Don’t get me started on Mr T eating them.
  10. Soft play centres. I really enjoyed going to the baby bits when they just rolled around and were confined enough for me to sit and have a cup of tea, then one day they learnt to climb, then get out, then crawl to the big bit and then crawl up the slide. Now Mr T is 16 months and just walking, I spend my whole time acting like I’m doing a course on Ninja Warrior whilst he runs about not giving a shit of what dangers crawling up a slide may encounter.

Last of all I just wanted to say that I never knew how much of a control freak I was until I became a parent. Those rare moments when they are entertained and independently playing I fill with pride at just how cute they really are.

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The power of positive affirmations. 

Over the last month I have been doing positive affirmations every morning and I’m shocked how much good it has done for my mental wellbeing. It wasn’t easy at first and I struggled to believe what I was saying, but now I really do believe and feel it and it gives me a huge boost. When anxiety gets the best of me I go through them in my head and my adrenaline seems to get rerouted to become confidence. It’s amazing how things we can do by ourselves can have such a positive on our mental wellbeing. Don’t feel like you are being stupid just know that you are becoming more mentally in tune with yourself and taking care of yourself inside.

Since my daughter Miss J came into our lives I’ve done everything to try and make her grow up feeling positive in herself so why couldn’t I do the same for me. Why did I tell my daughter she was beautiful, kind and could do anything whilst I told myself that I was ugly, fat and stupid. I would always give my friends good advice and pick them up when they were down but I seemed unable to do the same for myself.

I turned to selfhelp books and found lots of positive affirmations and decided I had nothing to lose. At first I tried to focus in to when I had moments of doubt and negative thought. I found becoming more aware of these thoughts helped so much as they didn’t just become fleeting thoughts that I never questioned. The more in tune I became the easier it got to challenge these thoughts and everytime I have a negative thought I now do an affirmation and it stops immediately. It takes practice but it works.

You can’t just say an affirmation you have to believe and feel it. Take a step back, focus on your breathing, get good posture and believe and feel it then repeat. The more times you do it the more it will become ingrained into you and the negative thoughts will slip away

“I am unconditionally loved in this very moment. I always have been, I always will be.”

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Steps to get help with postnatal depression

Steps to get help with postnatal depression

Below are some of the steps I took to get help with postnatal depression.

1. Admitting and talking about it is a massive step in itself. Talk to a friend, family member, GP, a helpline or a Health visitor and you’ll realise you aren’t alone. Postnatal depression affects more than 1 in 10 new mothers.

2. Asking for help from the GP. My GP was amazing and was quick to get me the help I needed and prescribed me antidepressants.

3. Get support from the children’s centre. My children’s centre were quick to get me extra help from a Health Visitor, who would visit me for a chat whilst my tablets started to work and I waited for CBT.

4. My Health Visitor got me in touch with IAPT service who sorted out my cognitive behaviour therapy. Anyone with a baby under 12 months gets priority and I was lucky that I only had to wait a few weeks to see someone.

5. Support groups on Facebook were my lifeline as I could write down how I felt.

6. Phone lines like PANDAS or Samaritans are amazing if you do need to speak to someone at anytime of day.

7. Counselling is amazing and I’m so glad after my CBT to have this once a week. I went through a counselling charity and it was affordable. Check private health care through work as some will cover it.

9. If you ever feel suicidal and need immediate help you can go straight into an A&E department and you will be seen by a member of the mental health team. Your GP can also refer you to the CRHT crisis team and you will be seen in the space of a few hours in your home until you are ready to be discharged.

Remember you are not alone and it is ok to not be ok. Postnatal depression is nothing to be ashamed of.

 

 

 

 

 

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