Healing life lessons you need to know

Life lessons are something we all learn and I feel I have learnt more in the past two years than I have in the last 29 years of my life. Postnatal depression has been horrible, but it has also opened my eyes to see the world through a whole new light. I have discovered mindfulness, have become a happier and calmer person (still a work in progress) and I have become a great mum. I thought I would list a few healing life lessons that I have discovered and that I think can be appreciated by anyone at any age.

  1. You need to feel pain before you are strong enough to grow to your full potential.
  2. At times you are left with the choice to walk away and you have to take it.
  3. Stop worrying about peoples opinions of you and as soon as you stop you will be free.
  4. Every experience will teach you important life lessons to help you grow.
  5. Look after yourself first and others second. If you forget to take care of yourself you will burn out an you are no good to anyone.
  6. Some people are just not good people, cut them out of your life, don’t try and change them.
  7. Try not to think about what you don’t have, but what you do have. Your life is far more fulfilled than you know.
  8. You are your own worst critic, you may have failed, but don’t let those negative thoughts in and stop you from fulfilling your dreams.
  9. You can survive the darkest of days. When you are at you lowest and feel like you can’t go on remember that tomorrow is a new day and a new start.
  10. Don’t live your life in the past. Remember and cherish memories but look forward to making new ones. You can’t go back so don’t spent too much time living in the past instead of enjoying the present.
  11. Judge people by their actions, not their words.
  12. Be adaptable. Life changes and sometimes plans have to change to work with it.
  13. Don’t avoid your feelings, address them, make sense of them and deal with them.
  14. Be present in the moment. Take a step back, breath in and feel it.
  15. Failure is important and something we need to go through so succeeding is more rewarding.
  16. Having your heart broken will show you the importance of true love in the future.
  17. Apologising is as important for you as the person you apologise to. To say sorry and mean it is healing.

Excepting my life and these lessons has helped me heal and become a more positive and happy person. I would love to hear some of your life lessons you have learnt?

 

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#MaternalMHMatters

Maternal mental health awareness week

Today marks the first day of the very first maternal mental health awareness week #MaternalMHMatters so I thought I would write a post about my experience of postnatal depression now I am out of the other side. This week marks two years since my son was born and the start of my long battle of postnatal depression and maternal mental health problems. A child’s birthday is a time to celebrate and reminisce about all the amazing memories you have made in the first two years of life, but for me as a PND survivor it also reminds me of the very tough battle we had to overcome. I say we, as PND didn’t just affect me, it affected my baby, my daughter, my husband, family and friends. I had everyone rotting for me and encouraging me, but until I found the strength to fight it, they were powerless to really do much.

Many memories of my early days at home are tarnished, I didn’t understand why I was struggling so much more second time around, I didn’t know how to stop the negative thoughts and guilt and felt at PND’s mercy, powerless and broken. I muddled through and painted on a smile, but with my husband I couldn’t keep up the facade and the mask slipped. He saw me broken, distant, fragile and angry, he didn’t know why and he didn’t know how to help. My maternal mental health was at breaking point and I needed help, fast.

One morning I was struggling through the piles of washing, whilst my husband slept off his night shift when I decided to dry the clothes outside in the sun. My garden was full of clothes drying and I finally felt like I had a mini defeat that day, then the heavens opened and monsoon season decided to reach North Bedfordshire. Despite my efforts, everything was soaked through and yet again I was back at square one with wet clothes, nothing clean in the house and Mr T crying in the background wanting feeding, again. I collapsed on the floor and once the tears started they wouldn’t stop. Miss J confronted me and cuddled me and kept telling me it would be ok, which made me feel even worse. I knew then and there I needed to speak to my Doctor and get the help I needed, I couldn’t keep pretending and couldn’t let my daughter keep seeing me like this.

It took me five months to finally get help and I really wish I had done it sooner. I missed so much of my sons first five months of life and let the guilt rip me apart and the anxiety take over. Maybe if I had got help sooner my PND wouldn’t have lasted two years, I don’t know. The antidepressants didn’t work for me, but I just assumed I needed to keep fighting and because the antidepressants I was on was the safest option when breastfeeding I thought I had no choice of changing them. Every few weeks I would have them increased, yet nothing was changing and everything around me was crumbling away. Eventually I saw a doctor who listened to me, answered my fears and changed me on to something that actually worked. It wasn’t an easy journey and plenty of ups and down, but eventually I noticed I was having more good days then bad days. I saw hope and clung on to it.

These two years have been tough, draining, but they have also taught me many other things. I know the importance of life, appreciate people for their faults and I have found who I am again. Sitting in hospital in February of these year with an IV in my arm after attempting suicide made me realise that I couldn’t go this far down again, I was lucky to be found when I was and I have thought so many times how different it could have been. I am unconditionally loved in this moment, I always have been and I always will be. I need to be healthy for my family, let go of guilt, nurture my soul and gradually heal. PND is shit, but it can change, it can heal and you can recover. I did it and I now love my life.

Share you own stories of maternal mental health, support others, don’t stigmatise and we can fight this together. #MaternalMHMatters

Read my blog post on how to help someone with postnatal depression

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The obstacles of accessing mental health care as a mother

I need to have a bit of a rant about the obstacles I have had accessing mental health care as a mother in England. I feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall, trying to get help with my mental health problems, whilst finding someone to look after my child. Just like anything to do with parenting it is a juggling act and since the birth of my second child two years ago I have felt a constant struggle to access support for my postnatal depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder. Things got so bad for me at points that I was under CRISIS team care twice and I attempted suicide.

After lengthy waits and weakening mental health you finally get an appointment for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and then you are met with the challenge of who will look after the baby? Like so many of us we don’t have access to childcare to go to these appointments and we miss out on crucial help. I have just completed CBT which took 3 months to get my first appointment and between appointments I had a minimum wait of 3 weeks between seeing someone and maximum of 6 weeks. CBT was helpful, but I had to be proactive and help myself as much as I could, which I couldn’t do when I was at my weakest. Not only could I not get appointments with my therapist I also couldn’t find someone to watch my child.

I have found this a relentless battle for accessing mental health care. I didn’t get everything I could out of CBT as I just wasn’t able to see someone enough and on a few occasions I had to cancel appointments when I needed it most, as I had no one who could help me with childcare. Like many people in my generation my parents still work, my other mum friends work and my husband also works long, unsociable hours. Between having the school runs to do with my oldest child and finding someone to watch my son for a couple of hours it was proving impossible at times.

I tried for over a year to get better by seeing various people, counselling, CBT and a private therapist and each time I had to stop before I felt ready, because of childcare. I am now starting diareltic behavioural therapy (DBT) which will be for 2 hours, once a week between 2-4pm, this is a group sessions and only runs once a week, so my hands are tied. I am doing everything I can to sort childcare, but I know I probably won’t be able to attend all sessions because of childcare issues. DBT is a fantastic therapy for people who suffer with borderline personality disorder and will give me ways in which to control my emotions and impulses. I have been desperate to start this since January and think it really could change my life for the better.

What annoys me most is that I may be seen as someone who isn’t using these services properly and that I am wasting time and money. I need these therapies to be a better person mentally and overall a better mum, yet nothing is done to help me go to these appointments. I feel I am doing all I can in my power to get help, yet I am forever struggling. I feel like I am wasting time and money and I am powerless to change things. How can I get childcare when there is none available?

It annoys me that I can’t drop my child off in a nursery (pre booked without a contract) for a few hours and pay for it as I go. I literally have my hands tied and no way of accessing the help I need. I am wasting NHS money. Wouldn’t it be worth the government looking at group CBT sessions for other mentally ill mum’s that had a crèche. All mum’s grouped together 1 hour a week whilst the children are watched. Wouldn’t this save the NHS money and also help mothers be seen quicker. After all we are a mother and we need our mental health to be looked after quickly and effectively. Could we not utilise the children’s centres we already have around us to make this a reality?

It still feels in this day and age as mother you are just expected to suck it up and get on with it and this infuriates me. I tried to do that and I had a mental breakdown in the process and then required CRISIS team care with daily visits, costing the NHS dearly. If I had been able to access the care I needed earlier I probably wouldn’t have needed this extra support and hospital admissions. In this country the go to support from the doctor is a prescription of antidepressants and possibly a visit from the health visitor. Things need to improve and become easier to access.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this and what you think could be done?

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Getting out of the comfort zone

Getting out of the comfort zone

It’s so easy in life to stay in your own comfort zone and not rock the boat too much. I did it for years and stayed in my bubble and let my anxiety fester into every aspect of my life, until I became so limited on what I could actually do. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has been a huge help to me and I am finally getting out, enjoying life again and having plenty of new experiences.

This time last year I was just going back to work from maternity leave and I was feeling especially vulnerable and overwhelmed at the prospect. I was still in the middle of a battle with postnatal depression and anxiety had creeped into every aspect of my life. It was exhausting to constantly being in a state of fight or flight (usually always the latter) and I was becoming increasingly limited on what I could do in my day to day life. I was becoming a recluse and my enjoyment in life was dwindling away and it was feeding my depression. It was vicious cycle and I felt like I was fighting a losing battle.

Something had to change and that change would only come about if I changed. I needed to change my though processes first and CBT was a great stepping stone. CBT taught me so much and helped me question my thought process. I started off small just at first doing the food shop and then gradually built up. I faced my fears, proved my thoughts wrong and exposed myself to a new way to see things. I made sure once my CBT sessions stopped that I continued to read my book and put what I was taught into action when I felt anxiety creeping back in. It’s not always easy, but I have now been able to witness the benefits and I now have proof in my own mind that it works.

CBT has taught me how important it is to get out my comfort zone, not just to do the normal everyday things in life, but also giving me the courage to then try new and often scary things. The scariest thing I’ve done has been blogging as I’ve always been very self-conscious and aware of other people’s opinions of me. Blogging has left me exposed and it has really put myself out there. I’m not the best at spelling, grammar and am forever worrying that what I am writing is rubbish, but with support I feel I’ve found something I love, it gives back to me, helps me grow and it also gets me to try new things. I have found a passion, something that gives me so much and I also feel I am able to give back and hopefully help others.

The last 3 months I have really built myself up and got out my comfort zone on many occasions. Once you start the feeling can become quite addictive and I am forever accepting invitations to new and scary things I couldn’t imagine myself doing a few months ago. I am no longer scared and constricted by what I can and can’t do and it’s opened up a new world for me. Since I have started getting myself out my comfort zone everything else in my life has improved, my confidence, my depression, my anxiety and my overall wellbeing. I am getting new opportunities everyday and I love the feeling of excitement my life now brings.

Except new challenges and remember that you are the only person coming between making them a reality.

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I think I just beat depression

Every day I have woken up, depression has been there, hiding in the background, like a dementor draining all happy thoughts away. The other day I woke up, just like any other and got out the bed, had a shower, which was interrupted by a half asleep Miss J needing a wee. I dried off and settled down to do my make up with my children sat in my bed, cuddling and the TV on with cartoons. I stared at myself in the mirror and something had changed, had shifted and I didn’t recognise my own reflection. We pass through life often not noticing the small changes until it adds up and becomes a big change. As I stared at my reflection I realised the woman staring back at me was happy, I was happy, I had changed and depression had left me.

I had been so busy with life and our routines that I hadn’t even noticed that my depression had finally gone. I wasn’t just having the few odd good days anymore I was having most days which were good. I was able to wake up in the morning, deal with everyday stresses without crumbling under pressure. I am taking care of my children, going out with them, enjoying them and enjoying life. Life is no longer this foggy, dark, monotonous and painful existence, but actually a fun, happy and worthwhile existence.

My hard work had finally paid off and I had ridden the storm out. The positive thinking, mindfulness, reading and therapy had finally given me that light bulb moment. I was in charge of my own life and own happiness and I needed to make the changes to let happiness in. I had accepted myself and my flaws, let go of guilt and finally got my life back and it feels amazing.

I know that I will still have challenging days and that my depression could even come back, but I now have proof in my own life that things can change and turn around. You can reach rock bottom and climb back up to the top. You can make plans again, you can smile, you can still be you again. I had become me again, but better, I was more aware, kind, understanding and appreciative. I can see things from both sides and have great empathy for everyone going through their own personal battles.

What has depression taught me in these last two years? It has shown me that I am far stronger than I ever realised and deep down I am a kind person with a big heart. It has shown me that I am a fantastic mother, because even when I was at my worse I felt immense guilt about my children. Even in midst of it all I still fed, washed and cuddled my children even when I couldn’t take care of myself. I still protected them and shielded them the best I could. When I was struggling most I was still trying to be selfless to protect them.

This is just my battle and you shouldn’t draw comparisons if you are going through something similar. Everyone’s battle with mental illness is unique and has many variables. I was lucky as I always had a supportive husband next to me, I was able to pay to go privately to get the therapy I needed and I finally found an antidepressant that works for me. I am forever grateful to my husband who has stood by me, supported and loved me when I couldn’t love myself. His patience is admirable and his heart is pure and without him I couldn’t be the woman and mother I am today. I still have problems just like anyone else but I am in a place where I can work on them and become better, but for now depression can fuck right off.

 

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Learning to communicate emotions

I thought I would write a post on something I am trying to learn to do with my therapist to hopefully give me a better understanding and also help others. Something I think many of us struggle with daily is how to communicate emotions and trying to change the way we think and do things, especially when we are creatures of habit it can be quiet difficult to learn to do something in a different way. For me to learn I find the best way to do it is to write it down in my own words, so this is what I am going to try to do.

We are taught from a young age to hide our emotions and often our emotions are invalidated. Do you remember at times as a child when you would cry and were told by your parents or even a teacher you were over reacting to your emotion. I know I have even told my daughter at times this and have even said she’s acting like a baby or being silly, which could affect her negatively. This behaviour is not helpful to a child or adult as it is basically invalidating them and teaching them hide their emotions. We all know if you suppress emotions eventually they build up and then they blow out of proportion to the actually trigger. I have a tendency to shout and cry at the same time when my emotions boil over and it can happen pretty often. I think the stiff upper lip of us English people is still so prevalent today where emotions and feelings are still often dismissed, but as we become more aware me know that this isn’t helpful for our wellbeing and things are beginning to change and people are becoming more mindful.

What I am trying to learn to do is communicate my emotions better and notice them more. I am a highly emotional person thanks to my borderline personality disorder and I want to recognise and communicate my emotions better. I find it easy to write about how I feel and I think that’s why I’ve found blogging so therapeutic, but for me to talk face to face I struggle to explain and that is something I need to work on.

Out of habit I also seem to suppress emotions and not show how I really feel which impacts me mentally. I have felt hurt and betrayed and never spoken up over fear of being told my feelings are not validated. I need to learn to own my own feelings and emotions and find a healthy way to communicate them.

This concept all comes down to mindfulness, which is all about being conscious of the present moment, are thoughts and feelings and others around us. It improves mental wellbeing so we can enjoy life more and understand ourselves better. A quick exercise I have learnt is to concentrate on your breathing, this is such an easy concept and something you can do almost anywhere. To do this all you need to do is focus on your breathing, breathe in for five seconds and then breath out for seven seconds. It immediately makes you focus on just your breathing, something we do all the time without a conscious thought, it relaxes and re-centres you and you can do it throughout the day to bring moments of calm.

We can learn to understand our emotions and use them in a more positive way to become more conscious and happier people. Emotions are not bad and not something we should feel we need hide and not something with should try to make our children hide. Once you learn how to communicate your emotions in a healthier way I believe life will be more rewarding, relaxing and you will feel better and more in control of your life. You are the manager of your life and you are in charge.

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Accepting the past and moving forward

Like many people do I do struggle with accepting the past, my mistakes and the whole what I could have done differently struggle in my head. It’s human nature for us to over analyse and wish that we could change things. I for one have a few things from my past I wish I could change, mistakes I wish I hadn’t made and people I wish I hadn’t hurt through my actions. I am very aware that I am not perfect, will never be perfect and will probably still make mistakes in my future. I am trying to learn to let go of anger and sadness that my past has caused me and move on with my life in a positive and happier way. I have a tendency to beat myself up and be very hard on myself, especially when it comes down to my parenting, but for me to be a better parent I need to learn to let go of these feelings.

Postnatal depression was a real kick in the teeth for me after years of working to be the best parent I could possibly be to my first born. I took the diagnoses as a criticism of my parenting and was incredibly hard on myself. The guilt manifested and made the problem much worse, but at the time I couldn’t see that. I know I haven’t been the best parent at times, but then I also know that I loved them dearly and did the best I could in the situation I was in at the time. We are our own worst enemies at times and often our worst critics. Anyone looking through my Facebook or Instagram at the time of my diagnosis would never have guessed anything was wrong and would have been led to believe I had a happy, perfect little family. Social media and our outside face is not a true depiction of reality and we need to remember that we are not alone in our struggles. Everyone I know closely in life has their own struggles, battles and issues daily, as does everyone in the world. We need to be more conscious and forgiving of this. Someone’s actions one day don’t always depict a true reflection on an individual. Usually when we feel attacked in any way we become defensive and push that onto someone else, we criticise others, compare ourselves to others and even try to out do each other.

I am gradually learning to let go of my past. I am no longer blaming myself for things I can no longer change. I am giving myself a blank slate and starting fresh in a happier, more stable and positive mind-set.  I am a great parent, a loving wife, a loyal sister and a wonderful friend. The people I surround myself with are people I love, they understand me and they do not judge me. I have learnt to let go of friendships that are one-sided and others that are toxic. I accept others for their flaws and work my best at understanding their flaws as I hope they do with me.

Accepting the past and moving forward

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How i'm learning to accept my personality disorder

How i’m learning to accept my personality disorder

Recently I’ve been asked how I’ve been able to be so accepting of my borderline personality disorder diagnosis. I’ve sat back and thought openly on why I have accepted it and why I haven’t let it destroy anymore of my life. The answer is I have accepted it as for me a diagnosis was almost a relief to know why I acted this way, why I was so emotional unstable and why I was so impulsive. I’m not saying I love this diagnosis or I am happy to be like this, but finally in my life I feel I’ve learnt to understand a big part of my personality.

Borderline personality disorder has ruled my life since I was a teenager, but like many people I was unaware, I just assumed I was just a really emotional person and even at times I was a bad person. The thing with borderline personality disorder it’s not always bad, I feel emotions really intensely the good and the bad. At times in my life I have felt such overpowering, wonderful emotions of happiness and love. I have at times cried happy tears and have felt so happy, I feel euphoric and like I can do anything I put my mind too. The other side is that at times I feel the lowest of the low and have intrusive and suicidal thoughts, but now I know that I have borderline personality disorder I do know that these mood instabilities are only temporary and they will even back out again.

Like most people with BPD I also deal with depression and anxiety. These disorders are all separate, but are strongly linked together and play a big part. Before I was diagnosed with postnatal depression after the birth of my second child my anxiety had already been causing massive issues for me throughout my pregnancy. Once my son was born it was quite apparent that the PND was making my borderline personality disorder worse. At the time I had no idea that I had borderline personality disorder, but looking back I was emotionally very unstable and would sit holding my son feeling a rush of love and crying with happiness to then feeling resentment towards him and complete detachment. It was an emotional rollercoaster and it all came to head this January when I tried to end my life. I have now started to recognise my triggers, which unfortunately I cannot avoid, but I  can understand a little better why my symptoms of BPD are getting worse at times.

Most people also assume like I once did that BPD was for life and that you could never be treated for it. Only twenty odd years ago BPD was thought to be a lifelong condition with no treatment. BPD sufferers have a high suicide rate, around 1 in 10 people and for someone who suffers with it I can see why that number is so high. The most effective treatment for BPD is dialectic behavioural therapy (DBT) which was created in the late 1980’s. DBT works in a similar way to cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) which works well for anxiety and depression. DBT in a nutshell is about accepting yourself as you are and making positive changes in your life. I won’t go into much more detail because if I am honest I really don’t know enough about it yet, as I am yet to start sessions. Knowing that there is a form of treatment does give me hope.

BPD has been a large contributing factor in me sabotaging goals in my life and that is why I have to write about it, as it is such an important therapy for me. Not only does it help me deal with my feelings, it potentially helps someone else, raises awareness and also keeps me focussed on a goal. So yes, I am accepting BPD as I have hope that one day I can say that I no longer have it and that I have overcome it.

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Little moments of happiness – week 5

I’m feeling pretty rubbish right now, with a horrible cold and anxiety creeping in. I’m feeling pretty unmotivated and not really wanting to focus on my blog or writing ‘little moments of happiness’. Why it’s important to still do this is that It keeps me focused and will hopefully make me reflect on my past week in a more positive way, so that I can look forward to a more positive week. It’s so important for us not just to care about our body, but also our mind, and my mind needs some extra care right now. So onto this weeks little moments of happiness .

  • Miss J impressed me this week with a handwritten birthday list of friends she wants to ask to her 5th birthday party. She asked how to spell everyone’s name, but it was written perfectly and it must have taken her lots of concentration.
  • Miss J’s teacher this week also told me how quickly she was progressing with her reading. This is so important for me as I know she’s an intelligent girl, but struggles to stay focussed just like I did at her age.
  • Mr T has started to put two words together and he’s all of a sudden stopped being a baby and become a toddler. He’s becoming quite the little chatterbox.
  • I smashed a class of 20/20/20 at the gym even when I thought I would pass out half way through the legs section.
  • A beautiful spring walk and lunch around the marina with a friend. Unfortunately it was still pretty muddy and my pushchair is in a much needed hose down. Mr T also slept the whole walk and I could have adult conversation.
  • A tasty Italian meal out for my mothers 62nd birthday. We stayed in the restaurant till pass 9pm and BOTH children were still happy and behaving.

Reading back through this and racking my brain I already feel a little better about my snotty week. I am still full of snot, can’t breath through my nose, but I will survive and make another week of little happy memories.

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The little lost girl and finding herself through postnatal depression

The little lost girl and finding herself through postnatal depression

I have grown up always feeling like the little girl lost. I sometimes wonder if it’s through the way I’ve grown up, my personality or is it because of my borderline personality disorder. I spent my teenage years constantly trying to fit in and be some body I wasn’t, which I think is normal, even if it doesn’t feel it at the time, but as an adult I thought one day I would wake up and know what I was supposed to do. All minds are complex as our emotions, but my own mind I have struggled to understand and my emotions have always be chaotic and sometimes just unpredictable. Some days I have woken up not knowing what personality I will be that day.

I have bobed along for so long and done what I thought was expected of me. I have been happy, sad, excited and suicidal. I have loved life and hated life. I have had my heart-broken and I have loved with all my soul. I have understood the meaning of unconditional love and felt the pain of losing someone too young. I have lived, sometimes just surviving and I have been so lost of who I really am. Any dream I had ever imagined had always been crushed and I eventually learnt it was best not to dream.

I have always been good at seeing both sides of the story and can empathise with people whole heartedly. But at times I still feel like I should just follow the path that’s expected of me and not push past into the unknown. Since Mr T was born and having postnatal depression it has made me see my life in a new light. Going through hell and back I have questioned many things about life, my beliefs, my values and have worked hard at self-improvement. I don’t want to be the person I was programmed to me and want to be able to give more and get more out of life.

I am blessed to have met a husband who understands me and accepts me for all my flaws. He makes me stronger as I make him stronger, we are so different, but have the same ideas about life. He has opened my eyes and made me see things through a different perspective. He is the only man in my life who I have complete respect for as I know he has always had my best interests at heart.

Growing up I feel I haven’t been able to channel my energy well which left me as a teenager rebelling badly. I wasn’t just a naughty teenager I was off the rails for a few years. Into my adult life I continued to be reckless and often put myself in dangerous situations. I was just lost in life and didn’t know what to do with myself or what I wanted out of it. I was always desperate for a family, but besides that I had never looked at what would happen after that.

Getting pregnant with Miss J was the moment it all changed for me. I had always wanted the family life, the husband, the house, the children and the cat. I got it, I had what I had always wanted, but with the birth of my second and my tendency to self-sabotage anything that goes well, things started to become testing and I lost myself for a while. Postnatal-depression made me reevaluate my life and eventually figure out who I needed to become.

Mr T is almost 2 years old and I have now learnt how to be the mother of two children, have a work/life balance and let go of the expectations of me. I have learned to appreciate my children, not stress about the small stuff and to always have a dream. My dreams and goals may have changed a little over the years, but they still involve the same people and I am now certain that I can make these dreams come true.

I was lost for so long and now I am found. My story has many chapters left and I dream endlessly about the outcome. Postnatal depression sent me to hell and back, almost killed me, but it also woke me up to life, taught me to appreciate how precious every moment is and how we should not just exist and waste time. Everyday is a new day to grow and learn and I am thankful for that, I am thankful for life.

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