Sunday, 27 July 2014

An Emotionally Absent Mother (and other dysfunction)

My depression basically stems from a crummy set of parents and questionable step-parents contributing to a crummy upbringing. My mother was by-far the worst culprit. 

I simply cannot remember a time when I felt like my mum cared about me, I never remember her saying she loved me, or impromptu cuddles or feeling comfortable enough to share my thoughts and feelings. 

My mother is selfish, she is sociopathic, she is a compulsive liar, hypochondriac and an exaggerator. These words sometimes feel too strong to use when I say them aloud to other people, but I hate her. 

The negative impact that she has had on my personality and self esteem is so far reaching into every part of my life:

I was never good enough - I was a fairly clever kid, I wanted to be a Doctor and I could have been if I had the right sort if support. I helped to care for 5 younger brothers and sisters every day. From the age of 11 I was being left alone with them during the day and my mum frequently encouraged me to stay off school to help her. Yet, whatever I did, it was never enough, i had too much responsibility, too young and only received criticism in return. 

My body image and feelings about sex are not something I feel comfortable discussing with anyone - she deferred the chat about the 'birds and the bees' to my dad. Needless to say, that was way more awkward than it needed to be. I'll leave it at that. 

I'm not an affectionate person, hugs to say hello really scare me, even with my dad or my siblings. Can't stand hugs. A lack of affection can be pinpointed, but also a huge lack of trust. My mother always lied, so that's obvious, but it was more than that, I just knew that she wasn't a nice person, so I never told her about the boys I liked, or even spoke to her about my periods starting when I was 11. I was 11 and intelligent enough to get through it alone, without *her* input.  I've learned very well to be my affectionate self with MrB (it's taken years, and we broke up when we were 17 over my inability to be an affectionate person - no eye contact, couldn't say 'I love you'). Luckily, MrB is the one person who I know, knows me and likes me (hell, he loves me!). So I can trust him. 

Anyway, the affection and trust are interlinked so they mean that I assume everyone hates me, even my friends. I'm very insecure and so I struggle to make friends because of my own perceptions and assumptions. I become introverted and nervous in new situations with people, which to some extent is normal, It's natural. However, I do it to the point if being aloof, then I say silly things that perhaps sound overly pretentious, or dismissive, when I mean them nicely. *foot in mouth*. I'm a nice person, There are 4 people in the world who I know like me, MrB, his mum, E and N. Two of them are adults from a lovely family, whom I have spent 15 years getting to know. If they like me, then I'm likeable. I need to worry less

Mum used to lie a lot and get me to lie for her - she would steal my step-dad's guitars, even staging 2 burglaries. The police were involved and everything. She hid bills and I was always checking how many bills she had hidden. I recall a gas bill for over £3000. A 14 year old should not feel like they need to know what's going on - but I needed to. Bailiffs came around, my stepdad had no idea. How he had no idea and continued to trust her, exasperates me. 

My attitude to money used to be incredibly careless and I now spend mindfully - with the occasional splurge, but almost always within my means. That makes me proud. 

She had 6 children when she really couldn't cope with 3. We were a very poor family of 8 by the time I was 15. Living off a wage of 20k in 1996, my dad paid maintenance which definitely covered the food we ate, and we never went hungry. We didn't have biscuits or even yogurts, but we always ate 3 meals a day. The house was spotless, vacuumed daily. We eat well, but the house is far from immaculate. Perhaps if she had spent the time cuddling us, instead of immersing herself in house work, me and my lovely brothers and sisters would be much happier. Ok, so my hours could be cleaner, but I have recognised that I can only manage 2 children, emotionally, physically, psychologically and financially. I've been sterilised because of all of these factors - I'm proud to not want to make her mistakes. 

I am becoming her opposite both because she brought me up to be a feminist who didn't need to rely on a partner for income but also because I've had to learn *not* to be a liar, not to be a childish exaggerator, how to show affection. This takes work, and I should be proud of myself. 

No wonder I'm depressed, her evil seeped deep down within me during my formative years, and I have basically had to teach myself how to be a nice, kind human being. I'm really hopeful that I can continue un-learning these unhelpful aspects of myself and shatter the negative core beliefs so that the next 32 years can be happy and depression-free (see, I'm paying attention in CBT) .

Thanks for reading this complicated story! 


I realised that the exhaustion, crying, grumpiness and anger were actually post natal depression about a year ago. This wasn't a surprise, I'd had depression before and I'd got better. This was going to be exactly the same, right?


I saw my GP, asked for a referral for talking therapies and she handed me a script for Citalopram. She is a lovely lady and said, 'I have to prescribe this, because it's the cheapest' ... Well, I appreciated her candour but it was frustrating to be told that. Anyway, I took the citalopram for 2 days and decided that I didn't need it. I'd taken Escitalopram previously and I decided that because it hadn't worked last time, that taking a basically the same drug wasn't going to work this time. 

I went about fixing myself with passionflower extract, regular exercise on the exercise bike and wishy-thinking. 

This didn't work. I found a local PANDAS
Support group that was just starting and I figured that I had ages to get better (well, 5 months) before I went back to work. 

I got worse, I started taking 5-HTP supplements that I'd read about on the MIND website. These helped... A bit. 

I accessed mindfulness counselling through occupational health at my work... I really didn't get it, and the lovely lady REALLY tried to teach me. How, oh, how can I be mindful when I have 2 under 2??

I got a little bit worse every 10 days (the length of MrB's shift cycle), I'd cry and beg him not to leave before his day and late shifts. I'd send him texts saying, 'I can't cope' and 'please help me'. I don't remember much from October to January to be honest, it all melded into one. 

I told my mother in law about my PND. She is he closest thing to a real mum that I've ever had and she is so kind and lovely. I am lucky to have married into such a welcoming family - some people marry for money, I married for love and a sense of belonging. Since I told her, she often asks to take one (or, occasionally both *high five*) boys for the morning. This gives me space. I need it. 

Christmas came and went, I withdrew into myself, not making eyecontact with   people at soft play centres, not seeing friends and just being generally knackered. 

Anyway, skip forward to March and I realised that I needed meds, I started on sertraline via an NHS psychologist and I'm now on 150mg. I have found it helpful in evening my bad and nasty moods. Sometimes I can see the wood for the trees. 

Finally in June I realised that I was falling apart, that I needed more than just go to work and hope that everything would be ok. I dreaded going home to the boys, I was anxious all of the time, I was miserable. Mostly incapable of self-care and I couldn't manage. I avoided our Rhythmicality class and I was basically exhausted through acting all of the time. 

I realised that I hadn't come to terms with how ill I actually was. I needed time, I needed space and I needed to be ok. Not ok enough to scrape myself into work, I needed to be able to face collecting my children at the end of the working day and do something other than lying on the sofa, paralysed by the headfog and emotional exhaustion.  

Over the last few weeks, I've come up with my self-care strategy and it is helping me to help myself. 

Not to mention the CBT, which started about 6 weeks ago, and I feel like I really 'get'. I'm hoping that it will help me to sharpen my mental tools. 

I wish I could have a word with myself 12 months ago and tell myself to demand sertraline. But that is the benefit of hindsight. At least I tried to fix myself, and man I tried!


A Small Win

Caring for yourself, when you have 2 little boys to look after is not easy on sad afternoons. Especially if you feel a bit peaky (I'm sterilised, I'm definitely not pregnant).

E had finished his quiet time and N woke up from his nap ... I decided to put Mulan on. The songs are lovely, the morals are fab, and I do point out that fighting in real life is not OK. I felt guilty, I texted MrB to tell him about my guilt. Then, I opened the door and let the boys into the garden, just for half an hour, until I had to cook tea, but they loved it and my guilt dissolved. 

Ok, so I need to get better at taking photos that are 'in focus'   

Then, they watched Mulan again while I cooked tea, but I didn't feel guilty because I was doing all I could. I had a good moment and was able to follow It through without too much yelling in the garden. 

Why is my 16 month old obsessed with eating moss? Why does he want to play with the gravel and not with his toys? 

Pregnancy & Depression in a Nutshell-ish

So, I've come to realise that I've had depression since I was 18 - I cried almost every single night in my late teens and throughout university. I simply didn't realise how wrong that was. 

I had a good few years, aged 21, after graduation was reasonable. 2009-2010 were brilliant, I was resilient, was reliable at work, finished my second degree, travelled over an hour to get to work in the mornings and I enjoyed life...  

Right up until I discovered that I was pregnant with my first child. No one warned me how hard it could be, I had no idea that a planned pregnancy could cause me so much misery:

I hated being pregnant

I hated the fact that I didn't realise I was until I was about 2 weeks late (L.O.L)

I hated my morning sickness (or all day and all night sickness) and it depriving me of food, thinking about food, even Come Dine With Me was a no-go.

I hated that the first trimester is like a 12 week hangover, with only one night of fun that caused it!

 hated that people told me that sickness goes away at 12 weeks (mine was 16, I was lucky)

I hated having to keep it a secret (I'm a naturally chatty, gossipy person, I wanted to tell people!) - what is it with Society's obsession with early pregnancy being a taboo thing to talk about? Those were the scariest weeks of my life. 

I hated that my body was being hijacked by a foetus that made me feel so dreadful and I couldn't control it AT ALL. 

I hated that pregnancy turned me into a horrible person. 

So, you get the point. 

For balance, things I enjoyed about my pregnancies:

The magic of the growing, moving, wriggling baby. I loved my boys before I met them. 

Wearing figure hugging clothes and celebrating curves!

Second meals (after the first one ended up in the toilet)

Anyway, after Ewan, my eldest, I had PTSD, got that treated (another story for another day) and then I got pregnant again, once again on purpose but MUCH faster than expected. Google did not tell me that stopping cerazette would enable me to conceive straight away. The moral is, don't trust Dr Google. 

Second pregnancy: ditto all the points from above, add in weaning, crawling, walking and toddler tantrums. 

The second birth was fine, took Noah home, all seemed fine, I'd read books on 2 under 2 ... Except for the juggling the needs of 2 tiny boys, sleep deprivation and the huge guilt that troubled me from day 1, how on earth do I show these boys that they're equally important and loved, while seeing to their every need? I am not being cocky when I say that I think I'm getting there.

By the time Noah was 10 weeks old, MrB noticed that we needed an impromptu holiday (to those huts in the forest where everyone goes swimming every day)... Which helped, however, after that I started to slip into Post Natal Depression.

I cried, I was tired even when both boys slept through, I was irrationally angry, I worried about the boys' diets, I worried about usual mum junk, I worried that everyone hates me, looked around and realised that I had no one to talk to ... Oh, yes, that's my old depression thrown in for good measure as well as post natal depression *fanfare*. 

Anyway, Noah is now 16 months old and I still have PND. I noticed it 11 months ago, but have only just broken through a complex web of denial and bullshit that I have told myself. I need therapy, I need medication and I need time for myself. 

So, this is my story. I think that there are quite a lot of stories about my mental health hardships still left to tell.