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... 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) 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.