Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The End of a Truly Hard Day

Ewan wheezes almost every time he catches a cold/ virus. It's been that way for at least 2 years, although his first salbutamol inhaler was when he was 10 months old.

I know how he gets when he really needs hospital-level care. yesterday, he progressed from mild wheeze to really-quite-bad in the slace of an afterboon. It's when he stops eating that is the biggest giveaway.

Anyway, he was admitted and given great, compassionate and friendly care as well as the right treatment and doses of inhalers for him. This was lovely to receive, seeing that his care was paramount, even to the point where I just knew that being admitted onto the childrens' ward was the only option.

The issue came when we wanted to leave, I mean, no wonder the NHS is struggling for money. Anyway, ignoring all the politics, this is actually what happened.

0915 Ewan needed his inhaler an hour earlier than the 4 hour plan. I told the nurse that it was needed, he was reviewed by a Dr and I gave him his inhaler.

1040-ish Ward round by 2 doctors (the more senior was a registrar, with another taking notes). I was told that he had to manage 4 hours and then that we would be home for tea time.

1315 ewan easily made 4 hour gap since last dose of inhaler. Pointed it out to the nurse in charge of him, and said that I wanted to go home shortly. She didn't contradict me.

1500 Ewan's obs were measured and recorded by a HCA. I asked her if she could enquire about the impending discharge. I asked her again when she returned 5 minutes later. She said she would ask for me.

1615 I decided that I had had enough of the waiting. I asked a nurse at the desk and she pointed out that ewan wasn't on the pharmacy list and shrugged me away. A few minutes later, the nurse caring for Ewan said that the doctor had written that they would review E during the teatime ward round. It was 1630 by this point. Ewan was running around like a giddy 4 year old. He was a little wheezy but not struggling. I packed our things and said that of a doctor was unable to see us within 5 minutes, that we would be leaving.

I impressed upon the nurse how confident and competent I am at managing ewan at home , and detailed why home was the best place for him to recover. I was so angry, I was probably horrible but I needed to protect my family. I sympathised with her and didn't point the finger. However, not letting well patients go home is not acceptable. It is not acceptable to plan to discharge a 4 year after tea, when you were told 'by tea'.

I was shaking with frustration. A doctor listened to his chest and said he could go. I would never put him at risk, I have all of the inhaler meds he needs and he isn't due steroids until tomorrow lunchtime. So I can collect those tomorrow, and help him recuperate in his own bed, with suitable food that is nutritious and safe for him to eat (the dairy free options for small children are woeful).

Needless to say, he is pumped up on steroids, and can't sleep but at least we are home.


Monday, 14 December 2015

What Rosey and #Pndhour have done for me

Rosey has created an online community. This is an amazingly innovative but incredibly simple feat because she used Twitter and two 'hashtags' to help to empower women (specifically mothers) to connect and seek empathy, support, praise, kindness and find like minded peers online.

Becoming a mother is possibly the most life changing part of a woman's life. If any part of the process is marred by mental illness related to pregnancy or parenthood, mothers become isolated and the illness can worsen. In January 2014 I had hit a real low, I was about to return to work after the birth of my second child and I truly felt alone and isolated. I had told a couple of family members about my post natal depression but it was still very much a secret and to all intents and purposes, I was alone in the world. In January 2014, I stumbled across #pndhour, a weekly discussion of set topics, where sufferers, professionals and survivors can join in and interact as much or as little as they feel able to. This was a fabulous discovery as Rosey had set up the chat and time, which is so very simple but incredibly effective at helping mums to network. I have found so many other mums who have had similar experiences but, most importantly for me, I chatted to women who had recovered from post natal depression. These women were an inspiration and a light at the end of the tunnel.

However, the true master-stroke in Rosey's twitter success was her creation of #PNDchat - it's a way of asking for help, for example,

'I'm not feeling great, nothing feels easy today #PNDchat'.

The true beauty of this is that it enables women to learn to ask for help, it connects mums with another person who searches the hashtag and happens-by the #PNDchat message. Having utilised this tool most weeks for the last year, I have recognised signs of my own illness and have changed who I am as a result of receiving the kindness of complete strangers.

#PNDchat is a 'place' where someone can tell you the kind words which you cannot tell yourself when you are depressed.

I have learned to relate to other women and I have become much more able to express my compassion and empathy both in written terms and in real life. This is genuinely due to #PNDchat and #PNDhour.

Rosey saw a need, in herself and in others and through pure ingenuity was able to make peer-support a reality with tangible life-improving results. This is in terms of my own mental health improving as well as me giving support back, as I have had a few mothers tell me that I have helped to save their life, and this type of feedback is seen fairly regularly within the online community.

Rosey's Internet creation has lasted for 100 weeks so far, and remains mostly on Twitter - the simplicity means that new followers can join in as soon as they want or need to and so the community continues to grow in this way. Rose continues to work tirelessly, despite being a mum of three children and despite suffering the realities of post natal depression herself. She promotes herself to Twitter celebrities, to garner 'retweets', not for fame and fortune but in order to spread the word about #PNDhour to those who need it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rosey at the first anniversary party in January 2015: 20-30 strangers congregated in Edinburgh to celebrate the success and power of #PNDhour. She was completely unassuming and was truly humbled when she realised how much of an impact she had had on so many lives. She is an inspiration and has helped me to connect with other mums and to fight my way out of the darkness of post natal depression and to help other mums do the same.


Saturday, 12 December 2015

The problem with headlines

All too commonly, a mum in a TV show has PND and hurts her baby, a mum gives an interview to a tabloid and her words are given a 'hurting baby' title (despite that being a tiny part of the story which ended in happy recovery), or a really good paper article discussing the darker side of intrusive thoughts had a published title about 'drowning baby'.

My paraphrases are merely taken from memory from 100 weeks of being a member of the #pndhour crew. My point is this: PND does not equal not loving your baby.

I didn't know this, at 4 weeks post partum with baby #2. Nor did I know it when he was 6 months, it took the #pndchat and #pndhour heroes to teach me that it was definitely PND, and that PND doesn't always affect feelings towards your child. Whenever I say I have PND (I'm very open about it) I have to immediately follow it up with 'but I always loved my children'. Not because of my judgment of other women and their struggles, but I have to state it here that having PND made me a better mother. Although, I was awfully low, unable to move much through the constant push-pull of depression and anxiety. However, i counted calcium, I counted TV minutes, I counted fruit and veg portions, I followed the rules of parenting because all I wanted was to be the best mother, and I always came up short of my own estimates. I have 2 well attached, affectionate and good little boys. My PND didn't upset their lives and thank heavens for CBT!

People with mental health issues deserve to not be stigmatised, for accurate statistics and quantitative research to be cited, rather than using words like 'many' or 'most'.

Every mother with PND is an individual and suffers in their own, unique way because PND affects every person differently, as with any mental illness. Yes, there are trends, parallels and the amount that I say  'yes, me too!' To the #pndchat and #pndhour chatters shows that.

We aren't all TV show stereotype mums crying in the dark thinking up ways to do it. It does happen, and those intrusive thoughts must be incredibly scary, and they happen to real women and their families, either in mind or in reality. This needs talking about so that women can ask for help before they act on the thoughts. Acting upon them is not always a choice, nor is ignoring them.

Please, if you're reading this and you struggle with thoughts about harming yourself or others, please seek help from someone close or a health professional/ GP.






Saturday, 28 November 2015

Giving yourself a cuddle.

It isn't a euphemism, it's about being kind to myself. Literally.

See, i have to make a huge effort to consciously tell myself I have done well. I have to drown out the subconscious, insipid, nasty inner monologue that tells me I'm no good, that no one wants/ likes/ cares/ listens.

It takes a lot of effort to tell myself positive truths. It's easier to not do that. Short term anyway.

It's a big thing, this self-compassion. Maybe, one day the kindness will be the subconscious autocue. I'm sure it will, practise makes perfect.


Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Low and the Plan to Rise Again


This week I have realised that I need a bit of time off work. Just 3 days, equivalent to a part time week but I need some time to just be me.

I'm paranoid - in constant fear of me and MrB breaking up.
I'm anxious - waking up before my alarm and worrying again.
I'm fed up of being mummy - I'm sort of dreading time with the boys. It's irrational but grinds me down.
I'm so busy - children's parties and any social stuff as well as my usual life all take their toll on me emotionally.

Physically I've been struggling recently, my reflux was worse (despite vastly cutting diet coke consumption) and my 'idiopathic dermatitis' wasnt getting better. The muscles in my shins are tight and I'm just a bit more wired all of the time.

My plan is to choose to write my story:
I have notified work that I won't be in for a few days and volunteered to keep them informed regularly to appease any shame I feel. This will help me to recuperate, because while the boys are at nursery, I can concentrate on self care.

My emotional self care has slipped. I have done amazing work on improving my physical health, without a shadow of a doubt. However, being so busy and having finished therapy, I have let my writing stop. I find writing in a notebook to be very therapeutic. So as soon as my moleskine arrives, I will begin a daily journal. In it i will:

Tell myself what I have done well
Practise self-compassion.
Clear my head of the errands and jobs that need doing.

I believe that spending just a few minutes each day will help my brain to manage life better, leaving me more mental energy to regulate my emotions.

I can't choose to change my mood, that isn't always how it works, but I can choose to try, because I have caught this blip now, and I will come out a little stronger than before.


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Being Mum, Staying Sane (or trying to)

PND can be gone, but becoming a mother can trigger, or worsen another pre-existing mental health *thing* deeper within you. One that you didn't even realise was there.

My basis for this theory is that I have always been able to manage my previously undiagnosed EUPD, but becoming a mum changed the way I am. Not in a sappy, 'they make it all worthwhile' way, but in a 'holy shit, I NEED to care for these mini humans' way. More visceral and real.

I do not know if I would have broken down if I hadn't had children. The fact is, that I did, I have and to face I and come through. I have had to deal with my past and how it impacts upon my every day. Having done this, makes it a little bit easier to cope with who I am <because of my past> as well as who i am <now>. Reconciling these two is huge, and it's vital as only by giving myself credit can I grow to love myself.

Once you are a mum, suddenly, every single action has a consequence. It sucks. Whether it be a sneaky chocolate bar (that you probably don't enjoy as much because you are eating it quickly! To a trip to the Trafford centre where you take 2 toddler boys round M&S home and expect them to act like statues...hint...The latter left me crying in my car!). I could go on, but picking holes in my existence, or anyone elses' doesn't make life easier.

Basically, there is no finite end to PND, because being a parent is different every day. New challenges, worries, comparisons, pressures, experiences and mandatory educational needs all affect the delicate balance.

I don't have much advice, but don't be in a hurry to 'get well' because sometimes the goal posts move, I have considered myself pnd free for 6 months, but I will be living with the emotional consequences of becoming a mum for the rest of my life.

Be kind to yourselves, and each other. X


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Self compassion week 1

This last few months have seen a big change in how I treat my body, I have increased my intake of fruit and vegetables astronomically (2 portions to 8-9 portions). I make an effort to eat out less, I pay attention to my fitbit, I go to pilates once a week, and I cut down my coca cola consumption by a half.

As of this week I am gently bringing myself back to my healthy habits which slipped during and since my holiday (3-4 weeks!!).

This week I am looking forward to:
Pilates - I've really missed it, and although I don't want to leave the house on a soggy, humid, dark October evening, I know I need to, because it is so mindful and requires all of my concentration. I swear it does me as much good as therapy for a fraction of the cost.

Chocolate reduction - laziness! Missing nectarines! I used to eat a 2 finger kit kat every 1-2 hours. Lord help me if there were time outs or aero biscuits in the cupboard. I inhaled chocolate, and my anxiety burned it off. Now I'm calmer, I need to get back to weighing out 40g of m&ms, revels, etc each morning and taking my chocolate hits from there as the day progresses. It really helps me to think about how much I have left (rather than just chucking a huge handful in my mouth).

Coca Cola elimination. I KNOW. Despite my reduction of what I was drinking a few months ago, I was still drinking a litre each day easily. Though, on days off work, I have been making it to well past lunchtime without any diet coke.

Anyway, my dad mentioned in passing about having a few days off coke/Pepsi to help his stomach. He then described very similar stomach complaints to those which I have been suffering from for 2 months. I've been tested for infections and the GP couldn't explain it. It had occurred to me that drinking vast quantities of phosphoric acid *probably* wasn't a good idea, but it is/ was my crutch, I hardly drink, I have never tried drugs, never smoked, my main vices being self-grooming obsessions and they don't count as far as this post is concerned! (Self compassion and all!).

Today was day 3 of no coke, in 3 days I have had 2 cans of diet coke. No other brown fizzy stuff has passed my lips. Check me out! Context: I couldn't even give up in either pregnancy! (Because I needed a crutch, I needed control, and nothing bad came of it - I stayed under 200mg caffeine each day though. I did well, considering).

Anyway, I'm doing well, I'm taking care of myself and hoping that I'm ok.


Saturday, 3 October 2015

Drawing tiny little pictures of skellingtons...

...to get across the sense of impending doom. Drop It, Doe Eyes by Los Campesinos was the theme tune to my first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

It's a song about a breakup, using wonderful roadkill metaphors and misery set to a lovely chimey, clinky indie-pop music song.

And then the realisation hits that not even two gospel choirs could save us now

I was trapped, in a new, uncontrollable situation and bloody SOCIETY wanted me to keep it quiet. The first trimester of my first pregnancy was the loneliest 12 weeks of my entire life.

I am truly lucky to have had 2 pregnancies and 2 babies, and have never experienced loss. I was terrified of it though, and I told colleagues who worked closely with me (so they knew why I was running to the loo every other patient!!).

I really hope that soon, women and men can share their early pregnancy news and not be confronted with *fingers on lips* shhhh.

Your pregnancy, your decision, your voice. Much love xx


Intrusive Thoughts and the Slow, Tiring Battle Against Them

This post is about my most recurrent intrusive thought, 'maybe you don't have to go to work today'. It is not about other types of intrusive thought.

"An intrusive thought is an unwelcome involuntary thought, image, or unpleasant idea that may become an obsession, is upsetting or distressing, and can feel difficult to manage or eliminate." (Wikipedia)

...maybe you don't have to go to work today...maybe you are too *ill* to go to work today...

It all started, of course, with my mother. I was off sick for half, HALF of year 8 at secondary school. Partly because I felt victimised by my friends, but if I'm really honest, my mum manipulated me into staying off. Face it, she had 12, 10, 4, 3 and 2 year old children to look after. At home all day, every day with 2 toddlers is exhausting. I can't do it, and she couldn't either. I stayed home to help her out with the kids'. My brother was somehow immune to her voodoo, as he had an excellent attendance record!

School was my solace, my rock, my means of getting out of that hellhole, of becoming the empowered woman that my mum wanted me to be (the opposite of her...that irony hasn't escaped either of us). I just wanted some attention from my mum, and this was the way I got it, staying at home with her, getting to know her, sort of.

'Maybe you don't have to go to school today', played on my mind loads in secondary school. I try not to let myself wonder who I could have been had I had full attendance. I coped, I can't change it, it won't happen to me again.

I get through sixth form with zero sickness absence, although the two holiday jobs that I had, I called in sick probably every week. Even at McDonald's I was sick every other week, it wasn't that in was lazy. Perhaps the only thing that has kept me in employment without being sacked is the fact that I am a grafter, I throw my whole attention onto whatever job I'm doing. 5 years I made it, sure i annoyed a few managers with increasingly elaborate lies.

I got my first role in my current career after I had recognised my first mental breakdown. an on the job learning course, for a university diploma, that meant I could utilise my brain and my people skills (thanks to MCDs!).

Anyway, I continued my frequent sickness absence, i had been honest with my tutor about my depression, and I got the job regardless. In 2009, things came to a head as my workplace HR started to take sickness absence SERIOUSLY. I had a meeting with the head of HR, who asked me about each and ever absence on record. I answered, truthfully, that in had made up most of the (sometimes elaborate!) illnesses because I didn't think anyone would take notice of 'panic attacks'. I described my childhood, which I was still exploring through counselling at that time. Afterwards, the deputy manager of my department came and said how brave i was. She will never know how much that meant to me.

My absences improved significantly, and I was only absent when i was physically too sick to work...and I had the time, support and energy to fight the intrusive thoughts. It was so so hard, arriving at work in a state of panic. Very grateful to have found a career that I really love. I hope I have made it clear, that this has been a habit for 20 years. It doesn't negate my love for my job.

Until I got pregnant...I was troubled with Pelvic Girdle Pain (pgp), hyperemesis until 16 weeks, frequent UTIs (the toilet was my friend!) And of course my antenatal anxiety. Lots of reasons to be too unwell to work, I did my best and that was enough.

Basically, I'm re learning how to ignore the intrusive thoughts...'am I too ill to work today?'. I've done well, 3 full calendar months (I think). Proud of myself.

However, because I have pushed through 8 weeks of stomach problems and 3 weeks of allergic reactions (including skin too broken to work) I have made it though. Ignoring the intrusive thoughts, batting them away and ignoring the tiring effect that has on my psyche. It is exhausting being at war with yourself, as well as getting 2 small boys ready for nursery "don't want to go to nursery today" *facepalm* and making a tasty and healthy lunch with snacks and being ready to face the day...
And August was a very busy month in my workplace.

So here i am again, giving myself credit for my past, allowing myself to see how the land lies and where the sadness has come from.

I am pleased that I am so self aware that I know exactly what has caused this - because it means I can be kind to myself.

I'll get some strong steroid cream for my hands...!


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Trigger warning: physical abuse

The only person who knows all of the following is MrB, and my therapists (of whom, there have been many). I'm writing it out, so I can see how abnormal it was, so I can give myself the credit I deserve for who I am today.

If you think my story may upset you, then please don't read it. I'm writing for catharsis, not for hits.

My earliest memories of physical cruelty at the hands of my mother were when I was 5, she would smack my hand when I got a word wrong, rubbed my face in my own soggy bedsheets (i wet the bed until about 6 years old) and threw a glass of cold water over me once when I was having a tantrum about a beetle drive at school.

How on earth I developed a love of reading I do not know, as for the glass of water...well my mum never has forgiven me for telling my teacher and then her calling social services.

Once her and my dad split up (angrily and acrimoniously), she then had babies in quick succession. She smacked us when we were 'naughty', I probably was a trying little girl at times (we all were, I'd bet!), because I wanted to know about the world.

The woman lost control of her temper incredibly quickly, she began to just hit us around the head with her hand . I say 'just' because she was too bloody lazy to bother leg smacking anymore.

I remember a pretty bad incident, where I was bathing my two baby brothers, aged 2 and 3 (ish)...so I was 9 or 10. They were splashing (as toddlers do) and I was playing with them and encouraging it (as a child would). when my mum bothered to come and check on us, the floor was soaked. She repeatedly hit me around the head in a cramped bathroom. I cowered under the sink, my head ricocheted off the sink pedestal. [I am almost crying as I write this].

This continued forever, 'all parents smack' I thought, and it became part of the way I 'parented' my tiny brothers and sisters. I'd smack their thigh, and then feel wracked with guilt, always seeking a cold compress (we mark easily in my family!!).

Once, my mum became obsessively worried about bruises on my body. For why, I have no fucking clue, but she became obsessed with having to 'check me' for marks. Wtaf?? This culminated in an incredibly painful, shaming evening, where I was basically emotionally blackmailed to strip off so my mum could check me for bruises. With my step dad present. Wtaf? I was barely 12 at the time, and the disgusting shame of that moment lives on within me...I cannot get rid of it. 21 years later. I was already a shy child, I didn't like to wear strappy dresses, as they made me feel on show. I still cannot wear low cut tops, as I feel that my body should be covered.

As a parent, I promise that I will never smack my children, I cannot deal with the guilt form shouting, let alone physical violence.

My mum smacked me, and I am not alright. I won't judge other parents for a smack on the legs if they feel it's needed, what they do is their business. However, making them afraid of me, allowing them to see me lose control in such a terrifying and damaging way is no ok. At. All.


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Who Am I? What can I do?

I said recently that I am the busiest that I have ever been. That I feel like I'm walking along the edge of happiness, stability and 'wellness'.

I was doing well, taking time for myself until another mum, being disparaging about her Ex, said how he would do his own thing on days off and leave her with the children. This hit me hard, it's 3 months later and it is still hitting me hard.

Simply because it made me look at my behaviour through the eyes of someone else. Through the distorted lens of someone else's broken relationship, the view of my own insecurities of my own marriage - it's bloody hard to be friends all of the time when parenting two tiny boys!

I saw that I was always nipping off on my own, every day off. Telling myself off for doing the thing that keeps me sane, BABY FREE TIME.

Baby free time was essential to my recovery. It covers all manner of activities, from a wander around Poundworld, trip to the cinema or a brew with a friend. Anything out of the house, away from the mess and accessories to the hardships of my 'mother' life.

I want to be the best mum. I also feel bad for letting the boys watch "too much" TV again. They maybe watch 3 ish hours a day. So what if 1/4 of their waking hours is TV time. The tv is off the rest of the time, with no background noise (get over it Caroline!!)

I need time away from my life to be able to function at my best.
I have Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and do find being a parent emotionally draining.
I had no decent role model growing up so each time I parent, I cross reference what I should do with how my mum did it and how I did it as eldest sister to my younger siblings. That is exhausting.
I have survived and withstood emotional neglect, and that takes its toll on me.

This isn't how everyone else feels but this is how I feel and it is normal for me.

Be kind to yourself, you deserve it.

You wouldn't speak to a friend the way you speak to yourself. Don't stand for it.


Why Pop Tarts?

I suppose you are wondering why I am Pop Tart Mum? Well you are here, reading so I shall get on with it.

It all started when E was about 6-7 months old, and I started my love affair with Ocado...who stock American imports of stuff, including Pop Tarts. I had never had one before, with MrB dismissing them as being 'horrible' and 'rubbish'. Ignoring his snobbery, I ordered myself a box of Hot Fudge sundae ones. My goodness they are tasty, and they come with rainbow sprinkles set into the frosting.

They are like a warm bourbon cream biscuit, with icing on top and inside. Lovely.

I began referring to myself as a 'pop tart mum' in text messages to MrB. I thought I was being quite witty. To clarify, a pop tart mum is a mother who likes convenience and junk food, who also likes to think she is sort of cool.

That is it. I am pop tart mum (until the brand owners tell me to stop. I'm not ever buying the domain name). If that happens, then I'll be Pop Art Mum. Just FYI.

Where did you get your twitter handle inspiration from?


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

FOMO / I am not superwoman

I have tweeted before about my FOMO (fear of missing out) and how it adversely affects my mood. It's in a tangle with my dependent personality traits, and it brings me down, significantly.

It's one of the reasons that I hate Facebook. "I don't care who you are with, go away" is what I think. I have no idea why FB does this to me when Twitter doesn't. Perhaps before becoming [boring] older I used to tag and be tagged, nowadays it makes me view myself as sad and lonely, being taunted by the highlights reel.

This probably makes no real sense, but knowing that other people who I know* are out, makes me sad, deep down. It triggers something within me that I can't put my finger on. All I know is that, if someone says that they are going out for a meal, I am jealous and want to go out somewhere for my tea. With other social stuff, I wonder why I wasn't invited or why I'm not wherever the party is happening. (*know can be as simple as following on twitter for the purposes of explaining this part of my psyche).

I hate having no control over not being invited, or loads of other reasons. For example, blog awards: I have no desire to win awards, I don't try to and I am literally too busy. I adore my job and it provides my brain with the right balance of chatter, care, knowledge and technical ability to keep it out of mischief for the time that I am there. Blogging is my spot where I whinge about my life and I talk about what I like.

I worry that I'm not changing the world of perinatal mental health, and I berate myself for not being dedicated enough. Note to self: I adore my job, I care for people who need support . I hate the fact that I am now part time. I miss the dedication and continuity of 5 day working that I had before children. I am really bitter about losing my work identity and it having taken 4 years ti get it back.

I am now getting better in my own head, and when I'm at work it has been noticed that I'm pushing myself out there - I've made a huge effort to get my training up to the standard it should be. My line managers have noticed. And I've volunteered for EXTRA training, so I can improve the flow of my workload and get extra skills, always a good thing.

So I have allowed myself to feel inadequate for no good reason - no one has meant it to happen, it's just the way my brain works. I've just had to write down in my tiny facet of the Internet, that I recognise the brilliant work I do, that I give it my all and that's actually enough for me.

I just hate not being able to do everything and be the best at it and maintain my sanity.
Anyone have a wonder woman superpower that they want to lend me so that I can take over the world?


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Update

I'm so busy at the minute:

Work was mega busy in August, I am lucky that my job can only really be done at work. However, I throw myself into my work, giving it my all whilst I am there. I'm working on not over accommodating at work, which means sticking to my guns when I need to, saying no when necessary and being true to myself (ie. Being nice!).

Home is busy, with life and the room transitions of other children (including Ewan's best friend!) have contributed to some very emotional weeks fr my two mini humans.

Being a wife and best friend to MrB is hard when I am shattered from work and parenting. We are getting by and hopefully my gradual improvement is helping him out a bit.

My DIT (dynamic interpersonal therapy) is due to end on Wednesday. It has been a hard few months, especially when I felt the pressure because of the 16 session remit. Basically I have learned that I like to over accommodate others and that I hate not being in control .... I have also learned that I love analysing myself. My therapist calls me his 'star pupil' ...that'll be because I was frustrated and used Google books to find out more about dit.

I sort of can't tell whether I'm unravelling or whether I'm coping. I'm not crying much, but I'm not sure if that is a feature to look out for.  I am the busiest I have ever been in my life, with a lot of plates to keep spinning.  

For now, all I have to do is practise self compassion and do what needs doing.


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Dependence

A few months back I was jubilant at a psychiatrist agreeing that I have Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. This is good, emotional instability has plagued my life and I'm really working on my interpersonal relationships with my DIT therapy.

Today, I want to moan about the dependent part of my personality. After the first psychiatrist completely disagreed with my self diagnosis of EUPD (or BPD), I went back to the drawing board and worked out that I also have many indicators, habits and feelings from the 'anxious' family of PDs. That is avoidant, obsessive compulsive and dependent. I show signs of all of these due to my core belief that I am not good enough and therefore unlovable.

I've been dependent upon MrB since I was 18. He is kind, we have so much in common and we are best friends. He also says he loves me as much as I love him. Which is really nice.

I become emotionally unstable when he is going to leave. He leaves at different times for work, he goes on the odd night out and I feel like I am being abandoned. It makes me anxious, grumpy, sad, worried and confused.

It's not been easy living with these feelings for the last 15 years. There have been some people who have judged the way we handle our relationship, and how I have usually ended up on boys nights out (don't even get me started on the ridiculous nature of single sex nights out). Anyway, what we do works. I have worked on my issues, but now I have realised that they're there not because I'm a terrible wife, or I'm not as good as all MrB's friends' wives. But I am who I am because of my attachment and crappy relationship with my mother, stepfather and (to a lesser extent) father.

It's hard, always wanting ti be involved in every aspect of his life. Made harder by the fact that we have so much in common, I mean, not every couple can dance together for hours at a club night throughout their 20s.

I'm going to stop trying to fight my dependence and try to work with it. After all, I'm not dependent on anyone else, because I don't let anyone else close enough. It isn't worth the risk.

Where do we go from here? The words are coming out all weird.


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Challenging My Negative Thoughts

I'm terrified that by acting inconsistently when ewan challenges me and I get angry, I am ruining Ewan's attachment to me. So much so that I spend the time after a hard bedtime beating myself up. My punitive voice being cruel and vicious;

You are never good enough.
You deserve to feel awful.
You were wrong to get upset at him. He is 3, you should not shout at him.
He will end up miserable and depressed because you will end up as bad as your mother. He will never be securely attached and have a terrible life because you cant handle him being angry and incredibly testing.

I am good enough and exceed expectations *most* of the time.
I deserve ti feel proud that I was as angry as I can get but I didn't hit or use my body to inflict pain.
Yes, he is only 3. Shouting at him is counterproductive and not the best choice BUT sometimes all you can do is be good enough.
I am consistent with him most of the time, it's only when I choose to get angry that I make bad choices and fly from angry, to bargaining, to sad, to angry, and all around again.
If I am a good mother most of the time, then how I behave when I am angry can be forgiven. I have to forgive myself.

Reminder: my mum was never a decent mother. She played the part sometimes, but she didn't mean it. Like a shoddy actress.

I've had to gain an insight into attachment theory because it is part of who I became at the hands of my emotionally neglectful mother. But that knowledge is another reason to berate myself, when I do make a bad choice.

Becoming angry isn't the child's fault, I become angry because I am not very good at regulating my emotions. I'm trying to learn, I don't want to snap back and forth and all over the place, I want to be calm. I just don't know how.


Monday, 22 June 2015

Nurturing

"I love you,
I'll keep you safe.
You can be sad if you want to be sad,
You can be happy, if you want to be happy.
I love you if you are happy or sad"

A toddler is like a delicate flower, it needs protecting so that it can be it's most beautiful.

I was always delicate, always felt emotional pain very easily, and I felt injustice quite easily too.

Me and Ewan had a bit of an argument, he wanted me to find the Cranky the Crane book, I couldn't find the book. He got VERY upset. Inconsolable. I offered any other book.

Then I shouted. I got angry and shouty and it wasn't cool, or kind. But my goodness I needed a rest.

I lay next to Ewan, in his bed, after saying sorry for being shouty, and I wondered how to make him feel better. I wanted him to know that emotions are ok, and that we all have them. Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are horrid.

Anyway, I said those lines to him. They came straight from my soul, not only to Ewan, but to little girl Caroline, 30 years backwards in time:

"I love you,
I'll keep you safe.
You can be sad if you want to be sad,
You can be happy, if you want to be happy.
I love you if you are happy or sad"

My eyes filled with tears as I said them, feeling every word and sentiment. Ewan turned to me and smiled. As if it was all he needed to know.

I don't know how to be a mum, I'm trying to fix both the mistakes my parents made with me and the mistakes I made with my brothers and sisters. It's a lot to manage. It's ok


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Ignorance

Hi, I'm Caroline, Mum of 2. My mental health stats are as follows:

Depression and anxiety (mild to moderate) 1999-2009.
Antenatal anxiety (moderate) and depression (mild) 2011 and 2012.
PTSD from post birth trauma in 2012.
Post natal depression, 2013-2015.
Diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder in 2015.

Twice in recent months I have heard programmes discussing antidepressant medications - particularly side effects. And both times, the interviewer has responded to the list of symptoms by saying, 'why would someone risk those side effects?'. Maybe I'm looking for a reason to be outraged and I certainly have an interest in the topic, I don't want to think that anyone who needs meds could be put off by questions that are, at best ignorant and at worst dangerous.

Mania, increased risk or idealisation of suicide, sexual dysfunction, nausea, increased appetite, slower reflexes, no alcohol are a risk that anyone who starts a new medication takes.

If you are sitting, struggling with depression, hoping that it may get better without meds, then good for you. I have been there many times. And sometimes it worked out.

However, if you are sitting, wondering whether to start antidepressant or antianxiety medication, then speak to your GP, by all means read the leaflet of any drug you receive on prescription, but remember that side effects are rubbish, but depression is worse.

I've had all of the side effects listed above since I started antidepressants in March 2014.  I stopped the medication that was making me have very scary intrusive thoughts

Medications are designed to help you, and sadly anti depressant medications just don't work the same as paracetamol in a one size fits all dose. Different types of chemistry for different types of depression. Because de pression isn't just about the chemistry, it's about you, your history, how you get through day to day and it probably needs a holistic approach, where you are seen as a person rather than a name on a waiting list.

If you want to read about the 9 months I spent in denial before accepting antidepressants then  click here.  

Here is a  post I wrote  during a medication swap. And  here i have written about the failed medication swap .


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Game of Thrones and Misogyny

Since clapping eyes upon Game of Thrones in 2011, I like many others have been gripped by tales from Westeros and the other countries across the Narrow Sea. One thing that has always made me feel uncomfortable is the portrayal of the female figure.

I'm not talking about the boob-count of episodes, or even the gratuitous sex scenes (anyone else remember the ridiculous 2 woman scene in season 1,with Littlefinger doing a monologue over the top).

I'm talking about the normalisation of rape. Making rape look cool, like it is something that can be thrown into the background of a scene and somehow just be 'background'. Not to mention Sansa being raped in the most recent season.

Women's bodies in GoT are not respected at all. I wish I felt that the books were that way, and I have only read the first 1 and a half. What I did learn was that Danaerys wasn't raped by Khal Drogo, as was portrayed in the show. He was gentle and caring, asking for permission and seeking her enjoyment too. The show deliberately used rape, for the sake of it.

I really want to know what happens, but I feel that watching it is completely at odds with my strong feminist views. So I have written this post.

Do you feel the same as me? I'd love to hear what you think!


Monday, 25 May 2015

Taking Better Care of Myself

Up until a couple of months ago, I ate a lot of dark chocolate kit kats, drank about 6 cans of diet coke a day and mostly didn't worry about eating much fruit and veg (well, the veg was easy but I was never bothered about fruit).

My health kick is happening in stages, to help me to learn to take care of myself better, in the hope that it will help my body to stay healthier and to help my mind a little too (maybe, hopefully).

I started with my vitamins, I take a multivitamin with iron, b complex, calcium, omega oils and evening primrose oil, along with a vitamin d spray. I believe that some supplements can help me to function a little better and to stay well that bit more easily. The B complex and evening primrose are supposed to help with hormones, the omega oils may help with my brain and mental health and I've started getting more musculoskeletal problems so I have chucked in calcium.

I cut my diet coke by half. Yes, so I only drink about a litre a day, but that is half what I used to drink. I drink a lot more green tea - I let it brew for ages as that increases the health benefits, and I add cordial and drink it lukewarm or cold (classy but tasty!). The issue was never the caffeine intake, more the effect of consuming such large amounts of artificial sweeteners and phosphoric acid!

Now I have started replacing some carbs with salad and chocolate with fruit. I eat apple, red grapes and a bag of salad daily, which can only be good for me. For example, I've swapped crisps for a bowl of salad. I like the taste of salad so I don't feel the need to use a dressing or even mayonnaise.

Am I noticing any real difference? Not really, but I was taking the calories I was saving and 'spending' them on dark kit kats. I want to lose the 2.5kg that put on when my medications were swapped (badly) 5 months ago, basically because my bras don't fit and I liked being 57.5kg, that is my goal weight. My clothes will all fit and that's all I really want.

To curb my massive chocolate cravings, I am eating M&Ms through the day in small portions, 42g (a regular bag) divided in a tablet box. That's half the calories of a dark kit kat and is now a much more mindful way to consume chocolate.

The one thing I need to work on is my self control with the tubs of chocolates at work, I can happily munch my favourites out of a tin of quality street, no worries.

Dibs on the strawberry and orange fondants as well as the orange crunches.



http://www.beautwins.com/2015/06/wellbeing-wednesday-linky-6/


Sunday, 24 May 2015

I caught myself a bit of glorious Technicolor!

Since the age of 17, I have had social anxieties. Ranging from not wanting to impose myself on people who were actually my friends, to not venturing near anyone who I didn't know was a safe bet. I'm 33 now, it's been half of my life.

At therapy, my therapist asked how social situations make me feel. The conversation went a bit like this:

'Well, I don't like to impose myself on people, because I think that they don't like me. However, I know that is fundamentally wrong, that I don't think mean stuff about people, therefore they don't think mean stuff about me'

He said 'So, have I understood you...being with people makes you uncomfortable and then you tell yourself that you are fundamentally wrong for behaving like that?'

'Oh shit!!!!!' I laughed, I giggled, my eyes had a few tears of actual glee and recognition. 'No wonder I get bloody depressed!'.

There you have it.

You see, the day before that session, I was talking to MrB saying that I didn't know what bits of how I behave are me, and what bits are the people pleaser, the depressive, the mummy, etc. WELL, it turns out that I was me all along. It's like when Dorothy walks out of her black and white house and into the glorious Technicolor land of Oz.

I am not kidding you. Since the conversation, I have allowed my gut reactions to take control sometimes (this takes self discipline and self compassion to do). This means I can reply with my wit, and self deprecation (obviously).

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows to all of you today xx






Monday, 18 May 2015

Home Made Bath Bombs!





Lush bath bombs are ace, the boys love lobbing them into the water and watching them fizz away. The drawbacks are the price, potential skin sensitivities and I'm pretty sure that some of them contain soya lethicin, which both boys are intolerant to (and I can't be bothered enforcing the "no drinking bath water" rule).

Ingredients (makes more than 10 small bombs)

Bicarbonate of soda - 2 cups (235ml)

Cream of tartare 1/2 cup (60ml) OR citric acid 1 cup (115ml).

Coconut oil (or another type of oil that would be good in the bath, sweet almond, canola, baby oil) - 1 tablespoon

Essential oils -20 drops of each one

Food colouring - a few drops

Water, coconut extract OR very strong herbal tea - I have used chamomile, but I have read about green tea, and I bet peppermint would give you a zingy bath - 1-3 tea spoons.

How:

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients.

In a separate smaller bowl or jug, mix the liquid and the oil.

Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix well.

If it isn't sticking together well, add a bit more oil (or water, but water makes the alkali and acid react, so it steals the fizz from bathtime).

Lavender, clary sage and lime is nice, but you can really play around with scents, depending on how much you want to spend on the essential oils. Just lavender would be fine and you can pick it up quite cheaply at local pharmacies. I'm quite frugal, so I didn't buy chamomile oil but used chamomile tea instead.

Some recipes suggest using cornflour/ cornstarch, but I read that can encourage yeast infections so I ignored that!

The mixture should hold together when you press it into a mould - silicone bun cases worked well as it was easy to press them out: mould, pop out and place somewhere to air dry at room temperature.
They will be fragile, but as they dry they will feel more robust.

When they feel dry, pop them into a container and use them at will! Probably best to use them within a month though.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

I'm stronger than i'll ever realise

Quitting is for the weak.

Admitting that you can't manage something is a strength. It's a strength that you'd admit in a job interview.

I want to take the boys to classes. It's what mums 'should' do (spot the unhelpful thinking style).

I don't like play groups, rows of mums chatting as if they have known one another since school. Me, there, just being me, trying to look like I am happy-as-larry, engrossing myself in a 20 year old Little Tykes mountain play set, when really, I'm half little lost girl and half bored-adult.

Then I feel guilty for not liking playgroup, I want to like it, all the other mums seem to manage ok. It's just that the amount of strength I have to use for a class or play group is disproportionate to the amount of 'wellbeing' stuff that the boys get out of it. Please remember, 3 days a week they are at nursery 8-4.30, surrounded by their peers, doing messy play and basically being busy.

Today, I am quitting gymnastics. I have learned some bits for the boys' skill level but mostly I have learned that Ewan is rather shy and Noah likes to follow Ewan. Gymnastics put pressure on me to be somewhere at a set time, which I really wanted to help me. I thrive on routine, and MrB's shifts mean I have no consistency.

I'm not quitting gymnastics because it's hard work, not because I can't be arsed. I'm quitting it because it saps what little real enthusiasm I have for being a mum out of me. I don't need that. I especially don't need the coaches telling me that there 'isn't a problem' with the status quo and tat we 'should just persevere'.

I'm stronger than I know, I'm a lot stronger than they know. It's my strong personality traits that help me to string my life of work/ mum/ wife/ me together. I need that strength so i can give the unconditional love that my children deserve and that I know I can give to them.

I will miss it. Lots. But you can only change what you have power over.


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Making Plans

I have talked at length about my self loathing and how I believe I am unlovable and can't see why anyone wants to see me. Basically my 'imposing complex' is very scary, and I can become absorbed in it and feel I don't know what to do.

Completely at odds with this is the fact that I now have a list of people that I need/ should/ want to see but I have zero ability to sit down and think about when I can see them as it would require looking at MrB's shifts and the very thought of that makes me bury my head in my hands!

So, just know that it isn't that I don't want to see you, it's the fact that I don't have the mental capacity to work it out at the minute.

Silly brain!!


A Brief Note to Teenage Caroline

It has been about 2 weeks since my strong suspicion that I have a personality disorder was validated by a  psychiatrist after a lot of research, many tears and phone calls, I can finally say that I have emotionally unstable personality disorder.

This knowledge, can now be treated as fact by my subconscious. Having a professional agree with my self diagnosis is great for my ego, but the very fact that I know that I'm 'just' broken and not a shitty person has really helped me with building my self-compassion.

I can now give myself credit for having mood swings, I can tell myself that they won't last forever, I can allow myself to obsess over silly little things for a short while if i have the time and energy.

I can resist the urge to snap at MrB for standing on my foot (new sandals alert!) And then, once I had calmed down, I pointed out that I resisted and made a joke about my being emotionally unstable. It's ok for me to joke about it, woe betide anyone else!

Because, that is what I am. It is what I have been since I was a teenager, and having children has removed my spontaneity, the last minute things I filled my life with as a non-parent were my self-care mechanisms to fill the hole inside my chest.

Then I tried to fill the hole with Kit Kats. It didn't work.

Tonight, I have recognised that in order to be coping as well as I do (holding down a job and career for 9 years, a relationship for 16 years and being a recovered PND mum of two toddlers)... I must have some pretty awesome personality skills and facets to be able to do what I do (MrB is awesome for putting up with me, and always being there for me, even when he wasn't my boyfriend, he was and is the best friend I have ever had).

More ramblings, more raking through my cluttered mind.


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A Most Amazing Appointment

I met with 2 members of the CCTT (complex care and treatment team) today. A psychiatrist and my named social worker. I've had a month to work towards this appointment and I was terrified when I went in, I was shaking, anxious and kept myself busy all morning.

"You don't need to tell me your history, I have read the notes from your last 2 psychiatry reviews"

HALLELUJAH!

I smiled, breathed a few sighs (and the obligatory giggle) of relief and the session continued.

I explained that I feel mildly depressed and about my depressive episode in February. Including my triggers (anything social!). She agreed to increase my sertraline to 75mg. Yay!

She addressed my personality disorder concerns head on. Saying that it isn't the fact that i don't pose any risk to myself, more the stability of my work and relationship that goes against diagnosis.

I explained about my mild trichotillomania (I can spend 45 minutes pulling out leg hairs with tweezers). I explained about the strong genetics with my parents (one who definitely has a personality disorder and the other who is on a mood stabiliser).

I explained that I want a diagnosis to 'fight against'. She seemed sort-of satsfied that I care and that I'm self aware enough and resourceful enough to manage a diagnosis.

My social worker said that I shouldn't fight against a diagnosis, and that to use too much therapy might disable my own mechanisms. He was spot on, a diagnosis will enable me and give me something to work with.

Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder

If you Google it, it's BPD. I  wrote about my symptoms  here .

Diagnosis, something written down and sent to my GP is huge. I have a thing. There is a reason that I'm a bit odd, I'm not just a shitty person who has had a fair amount of luck.

I explained that my stable life has been a lot to do with luck...not being sacked, happening by radiotherapy training during a breakdown as I needed to quit my job, my mother winning the fricking lottery and the best luck of all. MrB. He's amazing.

So now my feelings have been validated, I'm increasing my sertraline, and starting Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy (DIT) in a couple of weeks. That course will last for 16 weeks and then, if I still have issues I can be refereed staight back to the CCTT and my Social worker.

Keep your fingers crossed.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Happy Families

Ha! In my paternal family? In my family full stop? Behave!!

Now, with MrB's family I have been spoiled: you send cards at birthdays, give hugs to say hello and are generally friendly.

In my paternal family, it's awkward. Maybe it's just my take on it, it's perhaps how I view it, being socially awkward and anxious I'm not exactly seeing social interaction.

Anyway, get over it, that's why I took the children with us, as a social buffer and so that they would have a memory associated with their Great Grandad, even if it was just a party.

I hate people who ignore me at social things, there are two of them in my life and one of them was there today. This particular on e, my dad's wife of 18 years, took a dislike to me about 6 years ago when I had a frank discussion with her and my dad about coming to my wedding (i.e. that it was non negotiable).  Her reason at the time was that I appeared to take my mum's side..
When I was 15, living with my mum and basically dependent upon her for everything due to her need for control and emotional neglect. But this woman chooses to hold a judgement I made more than half my life ago against me.

Now, I expect her to behave in this way and my standard method is to try to achieve early eye contact with an open mind and see what happens. This was ignored (in fact, my dad ignored me, like he did at the last family gathering we were all at together).. I digress!

So then, after that test of the waters, I go about my business, trying not to take it personally that some idiot thinks that I'm not worth their time (I invariably do)

I DO NOT CEASE TO MATTER JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE IGNORES ME.

When the time for leaving was upon us, we were first to leave as we had a decent journey home. I had to fight the urge to just walk out and painstakingly made sure that I said goodbye to anyone I was related to. I hate doing this, but i felt it was necessary as i will most likely never see some of them again (that's a shame, but I can't fix anyone but myself right now).

I said goodbye to the ladies in the kitchen, I knew 3 out of about 6 of them. They all turned to say goodbye EXCEPT my dad's wife.

I don't have to prove myself to her, she is much older than me and if she can't be arsed being nice then I need to not care. What sort of selfish idiot does that at a funeral reception party. What a dick.

There, I said it.


Thursday, 9 April 2015

What #pndhour and Rosey have done for me





Inspired by the Mirror article this week, I have a piece about how meeting Rosey has improved my life and the lives of others. For professional reasons, I wouldn't be happy being in the press, where potential work clients could see my photo and I couldn't risk any of my words being misquoted or misconstrued.


Rosey has created an online community. This is an amazingly innovative but incredibly simple feat because she used Twitter and two 'hashtags' to help to empower women (specifically mothers) to connect and seek empathy, support, praise, kindness and find like minded peers online.

Becoming a mother is possibly the most life changing part of a woman's life. If any part of the process is marred by mental illness related to pregnancy or parenthood, mothers become isolated and the illness can worsen. In January 2014 I had hit a real low, I was about to return to work after the birth of my second child and I truly felt alone and isolated. I had told a couple of family members about my post natal depression but it was still very much a secret and to all intents and purposes, I was alone in the world. In January 2014, I stumbled across #pndhour, a weekly discussion of set topics, where sufferers, professionals and survivors can join in and interact as much or as little as they feel able to. This was a fabulous discovery as Rose had set up the chat and time, which is so very simple but incredibly effective at helping mums to network. I have found so many other mums who have had similar experiences but, most importantly for me, I chatted to women who had recovered from post natal depression. These women were an inspiration and a light at the end of the tunnel.

However, the true master-stroke in Rose's twitter success was her creation of #PNDchat - it's a way of asking for help, for example,

'I'm not feeling great, nothing feels easy today #PNDchat'.

The true beauty of this is that it enables women to learn to ask for help, it connects mums with another person who searches the hashtag and happens-by the #PNDchat message. Having utilised this tool most weeks for the last year, I have recognised signs of my own illness and have changed who I am as a result of receiving the kindness of complete strangers.

#PNDchat is a 'place' where someone can tell you the kind words which you cannot tell yourself when you are depressed.

I have learned to relate to other women and I have become much more able to express my compassion and empathy both in written terms and in real life. This is genuinely due to #PNDchat and #PNDhour.

Rosey saw a need, in herself and in others and through pure ingenuity was able to make peer-support a reality with tangible life-improving results. This is in terms of my own mental health improving as well as me giving support back, as I have had a few mothers tell me that I have helped to save their life, and this type of feedback is seen fairly regularly within the online community.

Rose's Internet creation has lasted for over a year so far, and remains mostly on Twitter - the simplicity means that new followers can join in as soon as they want or need to and so the community continues to grow in this way. Rose continues to work tirelessly, despite being a single mum of three children and despite suffering the realities of post natal depression herself. She promotes herself to Twitter celebrities, to garner 'retweets' in order to spread the word about #PNDhour to those who need it. She is keen to improve herself in order to help more families, selflessly working.

At the first anniversary party in January 2015, strangers congregated in Edinburgh to celebrate the success and power of #PNDhour. Rosey was completely unassuming and was truly humbled when she realised how much of an impact she had had on so many lives. She is an inspiration and has helped me to connect with other mums and to fight my way out of the darkness of post natal depression.


Saturday, 4 April 2015

We Didn't Have PND in My Day

So much pressure to look perfect!!

...tops the list of things NOT to say to a mum who is struggling with peri-natal mental health issues (not just limited to PND).

No one said it to me, perhaps because I don't have (m)any maternal role models in my life (other than MrB's mum, who is amazing) and perhaps because I just don't meet many real people.

In one light, it is a thinly veiled criticism of 'women today' *insert eye roll*. However, far from seeing it that way, I think that it shows the tremendous amount of pressure women have on our shoulders in modern times. Equality and feminism are fabulous, and I am in no way bemoaning these movements, but they have driven women to strive for and expect to be able to juggle more than men are expected to (arguably)

Women (like me) feel that they should have the perfect body, a good job, a husband, clean and well-mannered children, cars, an excellent wardrobe, endless patience, perfect homes (PINTEREST!!) and untold traditional 'housewife' skills (cooking, sewing, cleaning ...caring about the bin being emptied). Throw in tighter household budgets and you have so much stress, so little time and even less energy. Don't even get me started with the obsession with needing to put on a facade for Facebook.

I feel like my generation feel pressure to be a superwoman combination:

Supernanny (unruly toddler skills).
Nigella (cares about eating and cooking food and dinner parties).
Kate Middleton (despite hard pregnancy shizzle, she still looks great....ok ok it's the money and the nannies).
Lauren Laverne (I want to be cool, and a mum).
and too many celebrity, airbrushed women, who I know I don't want to be, or look like, but I still believe that their skin is perfection without makeup (reality check, writers HAVE to say that so-and-so looks perfect)

So maybe PND wasn't as common, it was definitely talked about less than it is and women didn't have #pndhour, babycentre or Dr Google to help them work out a tight spot. Bear in mind that people say that cancer wasn't as common as it is now, but that fact is a combination of contributing factors. Don't take it as an insult, maybe say that thing about cancer in response?

And no, I don't care about the bin being emptied...as long as I don't have to do it.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

When Billy Bear Came to Stay

Horror of horrors! Billy Bear wanted to come to our house last weekend. Naturally, I was up to the challenge:

Billy 'had a lovely journey in the car'. Noah introduced him to daddy and then the poor cuddly was offered no hospitality.

'Billy came to ikea with us' ... and then stayed in the car for the next 4 nights. Poor Billy.

'On Sunday, we went swimming' and we loaned him some bathers. Well, yes, on Wednesday I finally dug out the swimming shorts and took a photo.

We did try to show Billy a good time.... is this just a Parent Test?



Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Super Delicate: Blip or Depression?

I started on the progesterone only pill 4 weeks ago because I couldn't stand my monthly cycle and being a slave to it for half of the month. (I'm convinced that I have PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is PMS but hugely magnified).

Every month for the last 14, I have wanted to call in sick in the week I am due on. Many of my sickness periods have started in that week. It's really obvious.

I started the PoP 4 weeks ago and it's as if my hormonal awfulness has been diluted and is now *every day of the month*. However, the awful urge to call in sick has all but disappeared, which is fabulous.

What isn't fabulous is that I have to get through another 2 months of bad-hormones and then hopefully I'll be on a straight and narrow path.

Help! Reassurance? Advice?

I really want to stay on the PoP because if it works how I think it did before, it will stabilise my pmdd. I think I need to I crease my sertraline. But by 'i' I mean, 'convince my GP to prescribe me something he doesn't want to'. I still have 2 journal articles that I can print off and give to him that I didn't need previously (I'm on 50mg sertraline and 15mg mirtazapine)

I can't stand my mood swings. My delicate emotions can't even stand a discussion about paint with MrB.

Some of it could be that my elderly Grandad passed away from old age last week. Some is because I've had some accidental contact from my mother and she has ripped open the stitches of the wound that never heals.

I need to be kind to myself, don't I? (But being kind to MrB would help!!)


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Mental Health and Motherhood

I'm Caroline, a mum of two boys, two and three years old. This is my story:

Seeing my mental health in retrospect, the problems are clear to see, but it's funny, when you're bogged down at the time, you just don't see it.

In my late teens, I became quite withdrawn and stopped being as confident around my friends. I cried myself to sleep most nights. I thought nothing of it. Crying every day isn't normal, it isn't ok and it's a big red flag.

I had my first real breakdown when I was 24, my job precipitated a complete drop into depression. After a 9 month wait, i had 2-3 years of talking therapy. I just didn't feel like myself. Luckily, I managed to get a new job during this period of time, despite me disclosing my depression. 9 years on and I'm still progressing in my job. I was lucky.

Took me years to emerge from that depression and so by the time I was about 27 I began to feel more 'normal'. My sickness record improved significantly and, although I had mood swings and anger issues, I had 3 'good years'.

...until I discovered I was pregnant with our first, planned child. We decided to have children because we didn't have any reason not to, I had never been broody because of my mini-mum role as a child. Pregnancy hit me like a house on top of a witch. My anxiety skyrocketed and I Googled EVERYTHING, obsessively.

I hated pregnancy, and my antenatal anxiety and depression was untreated, due to lack of help, consistency and continuity of care, I self referred to the specialist midwife who could see me once. Not good.

I had my first child, E. I developed PTSD after a trauma that I experienced in hospital and I self-diagnosed within 10 days. Saw my GP, got a referral for  NHS CBT (I'd done my research) and ...voilà...7 months later I was accepted for EMDR therapy (which I chose over CBT because it had a shorter waiting list). I was cured in time for the second trimester of my second pregnancy.

Yes, I self sabotaged my mental health by purposefully getting pregnant 7 months after the birth of my first child. I love my children, I love how close they are but my antenatal depression turned me into a different person.

I noticed and self-diagnosed my PND (post natal depression, or PPD, post partum depression) when my second child, N was 5 months old. I was crying, I felt awful, I wasn't good enough and my anxiety was awful. I thought that by being better organised or by having more gadgets/ clothes/ toys, that I would get better. Took me another 7 months to accept that I needed medication to help, ix got significantly worse and i had 3 breakdowns in  2014. I would get home from work, unable to function as a person, let alone a mum. I had 6 months off work altogether. I completed CBT (which was hugely delayed by GP stupidity). During the wait, I paid a private counsellor £40 an hour - for me that was money well spent. I learned about myself more in those 10 sessions than I had in almost 3 years of NHS therapy. I clicked with that counsellor and I will be grateful for her help for many years to come.

I started to tweet about my mental health when I was at my worst. I felt so alone and through the 'safety' of an incognito twitter account, I learned about my illness. I've had to learn to be careful, Facebook made me more upset, I compared my 'crummy life' to everyone else's happy smiling photos or nights out and child's accomplishments. Deactivating Facebook was the best thing I could do to protect myself during my breakdowns. Give it a try, it's strangely liberating.

I now believe that I have an undiagnosed personality disorder and I am starting a new therapy next month as well as seeking a psychiatrist's opinion.

If you suspect you or a family member have a mental health issue or illness, go and see your GP.

My most important lesson is that I need to practise self-compassion. To give myself credit for what I have gone through in my life and to be kind to myself. It really does help.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Broken Biscuits for Emotions

MrB has often said that my head ks wired differently to lots of people's. Maybe he was joking, but I like to think he has known how broken I was better than I did and that he always accepted it once it had become apparent how fantastically ruined I was by crappy parenting.

I'm fed up of being scared of abandonment:

Each time MrB goes to work for a late shift (or heaven forbid something else that involves him leaving me), I react with anxiety. On good days it's minor discomfort at the time and an hour or so before, but at any othler time it can be as bad as causing anxiety all day leading up to the departure. Cue, arguments in the hour before he leaves for work and terrible nagging, pulling and desperate anxiety of he has an impending night out. The night of his stag doo, I cried for 3 hours straight. FFS!

I hate abandonment for a couple of main reasons: my parents divorced (acrimoniously) when I was 6, seeing my dad every friday for tea and every other weekend we stayed at his house. I hated Sunday evenings, the car ride home I would hold back the tears and just be overwhelmed with the feelings that I had learned to hide from my shit head of a mother.

Then, me and MrB got together properly after our first full term at uni. I was at Leeds, he was at Nottingham. We saw one every other weekend when possible, and needless to say, it fell back into the Sunday evening heartbreak. I was crying myself to sleep every night already by this stage. I must take this opportunity to say that I graduated from Leeds with a 3 in my Chemistry degree. Not amazing but I have never failed an exam which I didn't intend to. I was at breaking point -I passed a bloody hard degree whilst crying myself to sleep every night. I am bloody amazing, yeah?

A bit of self-compassion there.

I avoid rejection and abandonment where i can in relationships. I didn't answer texts or calls from uni friends after we all graduated and I basically drifted away because I couldn't stand the responsibility of friendships. That the responsibility to be entertaining and interesting was ever present and that inadequacy would lead to rejection.

A hallmark of anxiety and depression is mind reading and also thinking about yourself and the world inside your head more than you really should. Remember, other people have their own broken biscuits and monkeys to deal with, they really don't analyse what I say.

I don't even phone my siblings, or text them because I have nothing to offer them. I have nothing left in the pot of emotions to be able to help them through their respective battles. We have all been screwed over by that woman.

I'm going on now, I just needed to get this out, get something out of my head.


Sunday, 15 March 2015

My Mother's Day (not the nice kind)

MrB 'helped' the boys to make me a lovely card (Funky Pigeon), he helped the boys to buy me a gadget that I've wanted for a while (a wireless phone charger kit) and I received a couple of nursery made cards.

I got a lovely handpainted mug for myself and I set about facilitating the boys to make lovely decorated tea towels for MrB's mum.

In the days before, I had started to question my current position on seeing my mother  In August  I decided that I didn't want to see my mum on a monthly basis anymore. Although the boys loved her, I felt like I was damaging a bit of my soul, each time she visited.

I hate her. Then i feel guilty, forget how damaging she is, idealise her as my 'mummy'. Then when I do see her, she  reminds me of the emotional dysfunction and of how  alone I was as a teenager , and it hurts me a bit more each time.

I have seen her twice since August, 45 mins for E's birthday in December and another time a few weeks later for Christmas (the second time was much much shorter as I made it abundantly clear that I wasn't having any chit-chat).

As a matter of coincidence, it is N's birthday in the coming week, so we are trying to arrange her to give him his presents. She has sent me texts, and on one occasion , when I sent a brief reply, she CALLED ME UP. I shouldn't have answered, she is neurotic and does it to my other siblings. Anyway. I did answer. No idea why. It's just added to the brain-maelstrom this weekend though.

Today, I was ok, I am a bit hacked off about my being in limbo since November about my ongoing mental health support.

Then, I slipped up...In a long queue at the post depot, to collect my mother's day gift, I went on to Facebook. WHY???

It was like being stabbed in the chest, three lovely people saying how wonderful their mothers are, and that they have been inspired by them.

I've been inspired by my mum too, to not be a sociopathic, lying, thieving, duplicitous, selfish, hypochondriac, fantastist, devoid of affection and genuine love.

Mother's Day can stay, but next year, Facebook, I'm leaving you on the 5th of March for at least 7 days. To avoid the trigger.

Because I'm worth it.


Thursday, 12 March 2015

Gender Neutral parenting



So, it's no secret that I have 2 little boys. They love trucks, they adore all-the-trucks, and we own lots of toy diggers.

I'd like to believe that I try to parent them neutrally, just as I would if one (or both) of them were girls:

Crying is ok (as long as it isn't pointless tantrum crying that drives mummy mad!).
Carrying a comforter toy close at hand is fine.
Wearing princess dresses (obviously)
Having a toy buggy and referring to the toy that rides in it as a baby (i like to make the baby cry so that their 'daddy' can cuddle them better).
If the shop only has a pink tube of toothpaste, I'll buy it.

Am I afraid that my boys will become...(whispers)
Cross dressers?

Get lost.

I'm afraid that they will end up as emotionally screwed up as I am, I'm afraid that they will keep who they are on the inside and never trust anyone. I'm afraid that they will suffer from mental illness.

I'm not afraid that they will become people, and seeing the glee on their faces when they prance around singing For the First Time in Forever. And I'm pretty sure they this won't do them any damage.

I tell them that they're handsome, and gorgeous. We enjoy real and pretend cooking together (the real cooking requires a level of patience that I am yet to acquire). I'll probably teach them to know their way around a sewing machine and to crochet if they fancy it.

The only thing about having boys is that I will never get to practise my fish plaiting skills in their hair. Ho hum.

And as a final point, I will not be saving photos of them being themselves for their 18th birthday. I don't plan on mocking my children, thank you very much.

Princess Anna loves diggers too!


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Girls and Science (STEM)

Today, once again, the debate about why girls don't seem to take part in science has been brought onto our news bulletins. Part of the article came from a Chemistry lab at my old high school. I remember that lab well, gosh I hated chemistry.

All that matters is that girls are people, just like boys. Some people like science, some people hate it and there are myriad of ways that people can feel about all of the branches of science that are out there.

If we tell society that girls aren't interested in science, then we perpetuate that idea amongst the people watching TV. So maybe one family watching will steer their daughter away from science because they saw on the TV that girls don't do science. Society has potentially lost a budding inventor or discovery!

'But what about the pressures on girls to look good from their non-scientific role models?'
Go out and ask a group of girls and a group of boys, from similar demographics who they see as role models. Many teenage boys probably like footballers. So that argument is null and void (and sexist!).

I am a therapy radiographer, I have a degree in Chemistry and also a degree in Radiotherapy and Oncology.

I chose a degree in chemistry because, despite it being my worst science, I felt that too many girls did biology and mostly boys did physics (and I dropped out of A level physics so I didn't have to see MrB as much after we broke up at 17, young love eh?).

I flipping love science.

It is the reason the sky is blue (the very same thing that makes blue eyes blue), why sunsets are beautiful,
why your plastic carrier bag works,
how new drugs are developed,
why people are cured from previously fatal diseases.

Science rules. It isn't cool, it may not be rock n' roll and I am pretty sure that Nobel Prize winning scientists aren't as cool as your favourite celebrities. But science rules.

Stick this in your news bulletin!

And please can we stop saying STEM? It makes it all sound boring. No one wants boring!!


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Sorting out tea time (or dinner time)!

A few days ago, I decided that I was no longer going to cook and eat tea separately from the boys.

We used to cook for the boys who ate at 4.45 and then cook for us after the boys went to bed.

So we were cooking twice, making twice the mess, cleaning twice, snacking while they ate their tea, putting them to bed on empty-ish somachs ourselves and then finally eating our tea at about 7.15. Leaving tome fo approximately one 45 minute TV programme (or two if we are really living dangerously).

This worked when both boys were asleep by 6.30 (a loooong time ago), when onenor both needed more help with eating (and when N used to scream in response to his plate being full of unfamiliar food...what horror!). And also, when my working days were marred by very, very, necessary, long term sickness.

I just don't have the energy. I can list loads of good reasons to eat together:

Eating together as a family at the table is something I enjoy. It's a little bit of Hollywood glamour without bleaching or waxing.

Makes eating at home a lot more like eating out... I love eating out (and takeaways). So if we have tea with the boys perhaps fewer pizza delivery men will call.

I only have to cook one meal, once. I usually cooked the boys the same-ish as us but E always missed out on curry. He adores curry, so moving teatime will be better for the variety in both their diets.
I add lots of fruit and veg t meals, both obvious and hidden. Eating with the boys will help me and MrB to model good eating habits.

Note: I will make adjustments to N and E's meals to make them more palatable...I just want an easy life.

I don't have to freeze lots of toddler portions of leftovers and batch cooks. Always a good thing, as my freezer is rammed!

I will have more energy overall in the evenings, or just be less knackered.

Me and MrB get more time to catch up on telly in the evening, before the mandatory 'rock n' roll lights out by 10' kicks in.

Teaching table manners (hopefully by osmosis at their ages...)

Sitting down with them at the table stops me running around, faffing with the washer, or the tidying. Helping us all to focus on food.

Ok, so you can probably tell that I'm quote enamoured by this way of eating. It's revolutionary.

Please note that our younger selves, couldn't manage to eat tea at 5. We would be hungry too early. However, with two toddlers we go to sleep earlier. Voilà!

Also note that this plan is different on my work days as I often work until 4.30 and get home at about 5.15. They don't need a proper tea those nights, so I do simple stuff that can be eaten fast.


Saturday, 21 February 2015

My Weaning Hell

Weaning, the process of introducing solid food to a baby. Baby-led, puree, a little or a lot, all babies are different. I have learned that the hard way!

Ewan was a dream to wean, he was longingly reaching for our food at about 4 months old (we have photographic proof!) And we weaned him at 5.5 months, simply because he wanted food. We did all the types of weaning all at once... Being first time parents and seeing the benefits of both ways, we went straight in with Annabel Karmel and the BLW cookbook.

Ewan was a dream eating wise, he would scoff most things i gave him. He was multiple protein intolerant so it took him a while to get used to meat and pulses, protein rich foods made him cry (more). He was already dairy free, I called the HV team more than I should have in desperate need of reassurance. Anyway, he is a hungry boy and likes 3 good meals and 2 snacks (more if he can persuade me). He is like many other toddlers, yeah he will eat leas and sweetcorn but pass him fruit and he'll refuse it. You win some you lose some.

Noah, on the other hand was smaller from the get go, so at 6 months when I tried him with some finger food, he wasn't interested. I was discouraged but I waited a week and tried again (with more pressure on mine and his shoulders). This continued until he was 8 months old, my PND was worsening and mealtimes with Noah were making me ill, and him cry. It was awful. Just awful.

He simply wasn't hungry, I couldn't get it into my head that he wasn't interested in food! I was deeply depressed at the time so I couldn't see the bigger picture, 'food is an extra, milk comes first at all times up until a year of age'.

I turned to baby food jars. 3 months of pureeing and making lovely fresh veg and snacks had broken my will to be all natural. For context, with Ewan, I thought I was better than using jars. I looked down upon them, having believed the blurb about causing obesity and picky eating. Anyway, the few jars that he could have (dairy free) I ordered regularly from that exclusively online grocers (The 'posh one').

I felt like garbage feeding him these jars. Until I read a post at http://threeyearsandonestonethenhome.com (I have spent an hour searching for it...I'm blind!) Basically, along the lines of Lazy Mama Weaning, and it helped me to accept my choices and not to judge myself. And most importantly that all babies are different with their food likes and dislikes. Reading this blog post really helped me to reconcile and get over my nasty-self-judgmental inner monologue.

A PND support group led by health visitors threw up a book recommendation, 'my child won't eat' by Carlos Gonzalez really really helped to turn around nu stress and worry. It made me believe that Noah wasn't manipulating me, that children know what food their bodies need and may refuse fruit and veg because they are simply not calorific enough for their needs. If you are upset about weaning or your child's eating, I urge you to read this book to help to loft the weight!

It has taken until Noah's 23 month birthday for me to wrote this post and for the pain of the 'weaning failure' to ebb. Noah eats ok, he likes fruit more than veg but he will now eat most meals (he is very fussy, definitely needs to try things about 20 times) he won't eat curry or rice, or sweetcorn. But he will eat any kind of meat or fish, he likes pasta and bolognese and we can eat out with him withoit him causing a fuss. His appetite us loads smaller than Ewan's, but ewan is 75th height centile whereas Noah is 9th. *light bulb*


This little lovely post points out why pure BLW isn't perfect  (and Hurrah for Gin is a genius)

How was weaning for you?


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A Wellbeing Plan for pregnant and new mums

A preview of the plan form - access via links below

 NICE have endorsed a wellbeing plan  for pregnant and new mothers (click the link and then click the text links on the NICE Web page to download the PDF).

It is two sides of A4 and you can download it, print it off and fill it in with your own information.

It is the result of a collaboration between The Boots Family Trust, Tommy’s, Netmums, the Royal College of Midwives and the Institute of Health Visiting. It has been endorsed by the NICE (which is a huge stamp of approval and a recognition of the value of this wellbeing plan as part of the holistic care of women and their families during and after pregnancy and birth).

I suffered from  perinatal depression  
(including antenatal depression, which I wasn't even sure was a 'thing' until recently) and the post natal depression  which I currently am recovering from with a lot of hard work.

This wellbeing form would have been amazing for me to be in touch with my emotional state in a tangible way, not just being 'self aware' or listening to a midwife discussing PND at antenatal classes.

The wellbeing plan asks the mum to wrote how she is feeling now, and further sections include a good list of signs and symptoms. There is no mention of the 'baby blues' which is very helpful and gives new mums credit and respect that they deserve.

The form isn't a formal part of care, but perhaps it should be. Perhaps any woman who has a history of mental health issues should be given one with a kind explanation by a midwife in late pregnancy. Late enough for it to be remembered in the months post-birth but early enough so that the mum to be can find time to complete it.

Send it to your friends and loved ones - anyone who you think may benefit. Let's spread the word about this useful tool and let's start opening up about perinatal health.


Monday, 2 February 2015

My mother was there, but she wasn't.

I'm the eldest of 6 children now aged 32, 30, 25, 23, 22 and 18.

The lovely Kate said, you say you brought up your siblings...where was your mum?

well

She was vacuuming and cleaning the house, top to bottom EVERY SINGLE DAY.

She left me in charge of the children in the house, alone from the age of 11 (children aged 9, 4 and 2). Sometimes for 10 minutes while she went to the corner shop, sometimes (in school hols) it could be a trip to the supermarket in town for an hour. I remember one day, standing at my bedroom windows while all hell was breaking loose behind me. Crying, asking 'mum, where are you?'.

she didn't drive, so she walked everywhere.

Sometimes she would come home and say she had been to the shops, insulting my intelligence when she had obviously had a sunbed or eyelash tint.

This wasn't every day, I won't exaggerate. But nonetheless it shouldn't have happened.

I taught my brothers and sisters to say please, because I was basically their toddler-slave. God I loved them so much. I still do. My hatred for our mother has meant that them living with her for so long into their adult lives has got in the way of us being friends (that and my stupid phone-issues-phobia).

My mum didn't have a job, she pretended to have a job once and had a couple of Saturday jobs. Yes, you read that right, she PRETENDED TO HAVE A JOB.

She also faked burglaries.

When she was around, in the house, she had a way of putting her anxieties onto me, 'where are the children? That's dangerous'.

This is pretty painful to write. I cannot hope to tell you all of the ways that she was emotionally absent from my life - emotional absence is very hard to accept as a child.

When I was 8, my parents had been divorced for over 2 years. My dad dropped me and my brother off at home after a lunch at Harry Ramsdens (the original one in West Yorks) and I got a lovely jewellery set from Father Christmas. My dad left, I got upset. I missed him so much. I said that was why I was sad. I was sent to my room, branded as naughty and shamed for feeling how any child should about a fun dad.

From that day, I suppose I stopped trusting her, I learned how to keep emotions secret, inside me because she didn't deserve to see them anymore. many other little things happened, but that was a turning point.

I told her about what my shool friends did, sleepovers in tents, pornos shown to them by odd parents of children they babysat, the boys they kissed. All of my stuff I saved inside, and I either prayed and told 'god' or talked to my teddy.

I decided to turn away from faith in my late 20s due to other things but praying was all I had. After all, lovely as my siblings were, you can't share your deepest secrets with them... toddlers don't care and teenage brothers...well, they just want ammunition(and rightly so!).

So those are a small sample of the most upsetting things I can remember. She failed me in so many ways. I have no idea how to reconcile them for myself, let alone learn to forgive it all.

Have you forgiven a parent for such misdeeds? Any help in forgiving would be appreciated.