Thursday, 15 December 2016

big boys don't cry... WTF?

Yesterday, whilst having his feet measured in Clarks, the kind assistant asked how N got such a large bump on his forehead. He said 'at the park'. She asked whether he cried, 'yes' he replied. 

'Oh, I thought you were a big boy' she said. Bloody hell! I quickly added 'it's ok to cry when you're hurting. It's ok for anyone to cry'.

For context, the injury is above, it was a massive bloody bump on his forehead. Anyone would cry!

Boys cry, girls cry, men and women cry. Please, if you deal with children in your work, don't enforce gender stereotypes upon small children. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Father Christmas

I feel really uncomfortable with Father Christmas - it's the lying and deceiving bit that doesn't sit right with me.

For context, my mother lives in a dream world, creating her reality lie, upon lie.

'Oh, but the other parents won't thank you if your child tells the others that Santa doesn't exist'
2 responses: 'fuck off' which is fine, but also, 'I'm not saying I won't let Father Christmas exist, I'm saying that I don't want to deceive my children (too much)'.

I've decided that Father Christmas is given money by us parents and grown ups, to get presents for children. I mean, elves aren't going to knock up a Lego Ninjago set are they? E is 5, not stupid. It's also a good way of managing expectations, everything is based upon what we as a family can afford, because that's how family works. Father Christmas may be magical, but we work hard to get those presents so it's us who deserve the Thank You once the gift is unwrapped.

I've tried the 'he is watching' but why only in December and not the other 11 months? 

I stopped believing in Father Christmas at about 7. I also remember being lied to and thinking, 'he hasn't eaten that mince pie or drunk that sherry'.

I'm rambling, to get these thoughts out of my head. 

Do as you wish, and I'll not rock the boat. It's a clever illusion, and it is a bit magical. 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

noticing anxiety

I have struggled with anxiety for a VERY long time. I can sort of remember life before it took such a hold on me, but I'm so used to how anxiety feels that it's hard to imagine how I ever didn't have it. 

I admitted I had a problem that required therapy earlier this year

The other day, My CBT therapist showed me a diagram, it showed the physical manifestations of anxiety. She then compared it to how I had just described myself in many situations... yeah, it was a big deal for me. 

I was relieved...I was...normal (for a very anxious person). Then I also realised that must mean that people can go about their daily business without anxiety symptoms (whaaaaaat?). 

Since that lesson, I have been able to notice my anxiety in a different way. I can see that it is there, like a passenger. My brain, sensing 'danger' puts me into a seemingly automatic fight or flight state. Sometimes for HOURS. 

Imagine your heart pounding, your thoughts racing, your hands sweaty, your mouth dry, your mind racing at warp speed and your words slightly you try [most importantly] to appear NORMAL. Like a normal non-anxious person.

Therapist said I have GAD (generalised anxiety disorder). I've sort of diagnosed myself with it, but no health professional has ever had enough continuity, time, initiative to actually diagnose me. Which is sort of sad. However, I totally agree with it. 

I am anxious most of the time. I can totally see it. I am working on it because I am worthy of the effort, I deserve it. 

Anxiety, I really fucking hate you. 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

One Does Not Just Simply Ignore Food Demons

I've made no secret of it over on my twitter that I developed an eating disorder as a result of my post natal mental health issues. 

TRIGGER WARNING please do not read if frank discussion of eating disorders might trigger you. 

It isn't graphic, but I want to tell my story but also keep you safe.

I'm loathe to label it 'bulimia' but I made myself sick after eating things when I felt guilty. Sometimes it was just once a week, sometimes, we'd order a pizza and  I'd feel 'the regret' once I'd eaten.

I had emetophobia before I got pregnant, I was afraid of vomiting. Actually afraid. Then, at about 6 weeks pregnant with E, my first baby i was sick on a daily basis, every day, multiple times. This cured my emetophobia very quickly, perhaps because I knew that it wasn't preventable. 

A similar thing happened with my second pregnancy, I remember heaving as I was driving along at 2 weeks after conception. It prompted me to go and buy a pregnancy test. 

I have some vague memories ormy bulimic   habits beginning to creep in during that pregnancy. Though even just lthinking about vomiting made me actually do it, so I think I need to stop being mean to myself about that. 

I don't know when it started properly, making myself sick when I felt guilty for eating something. I remember doing it purposefully in July 2013, when my PND was in full swing, I did it on a night out...on make room for booze. Yeah, classy, huh?

So my bulimia became a habit, I didn't lose weight because of it, but that doesn't make it any less of an eating disorder. Remember John Prescott? 

I did keep it a secret, MrB didn't know until I told him over a year later. I summoned up the courage to admit it to my CBT therapist, and my homework that week was to tell MrB. I did. That didn't stop the secrecy, sadly. My PND got better with treatment but I couldn't ignore the guilt, the feelings that I needed to keep moving. 

Once I realised that it was part of my larger mental health diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder or Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, I realised that it was a form of self harm, and that, although it wasn't harming me in a noticeable way, it was grinding down my ability to be well. I haven't given in to the urges since march 2015. 

However, it has not been a case of simply 'not doing it', more a case of noticing when the guilty feelings come in to play. I found my triggers and dealt with them, choosing nak'd bars over pop tarts and chocolate bars, eating a LOT of fruit. I have to say that the smoothie craze of 2015 helped a lot with my post-ED rehab.

The best thing that I found was running. For me, I could focus on beating my ED with every step that I took when my body was saying 'oh hell, I only wanted a Kit Kat!'

Running doesn't help everyone with an ED, everyone's journey and experience is very different. I cannot imagine the strength of overcoming anorexia, which is the absence of eating. 

My bad thoughts have returned as I injured my ankle through running, so back to yoga and my exercise bike for a bit until it recovers! 


Wednesday, 7 September 2016

When Memories Hurt

Remembering a trip to Santorini, I don't remember the beauty of the island, the amazing skies and the caldera. I remember the horrible heat, being unable to sleep in a room without air con, on the ground floor. It was the last hot holiday I swore I would ever have. I was counting down the hellish sleeps until we could go home.

I was just recalling it to MrB, remembering how it felt and he said 'it must be hard, remembering and feeling those things that way'. Yes it is hard. I completely agreed.

I can only guess that I easily form trauma-style memories due to the way my brain learned to cope during childhood. I attach big feelings to memories. Usually negative ones.

I have a very vivid memory, I can remember things we did years ago quite clearly, the songs around when we broke up, when and where I bought each item of clothing I own, I collect memories obsessively but completely by accident.

The negative ones stick around very easily, and the feelings that are attached hurt to experience. A pain beneath my sternum, sadness? Anxiety? Anger?

It infuriates MrB because I remember what he said or did years ago, and accidentally carry those emotions with me. I will never forget how the bottom dropped out of my world when we broke up in 1999. I still remember how it felt, I can feel it.

There is no doubt that I always had an emotional disposition, my dad would say 'you feel your feelings very passionately'. I would cry if I didn't win at sports day or 'failed' at a friends party. Emotional but normal.

Do you have emotions that well up in response to memories that may not actually need that sort of response?

Just a note, it is not helpful to tell me just not to think of these things. The brain, my brain doesn't work like that. Man I wish it didn't, but it does.

I don't fight who I am, I accept it and try to move onwards and upwards out of the pit that was depression and anxiety.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

What's up, doc?

So, I have successfully come off 75mg sertraline,  and am still on my nightly dose of 15mg mirtazapine. That was ok. Lots of physical symptoms, but i could manage.

I'm struggling now. It's a week since I came off sertraline and started on venlafaxine.

The SSRI effects of sertraline have left my system, meanwhile the effects of venlafaxine on my neurotransmitters are yet to take effect. This is the age old '3-4 weeks to take effect' rule (cumulative effect) but also because I'm taking one small dose of immediate release venlafaxine each day.

This one small dose peaks a couple of hours after taking and then ebbs away (venlafaxine has a famously short half-life as the body breaks it down), leaving me feeling VERY depressed in the evenings. In a week, I can start taking 2 doses a day.

My GP has to slowly titrate (add) the new antidepressant because mixing different types can result in serotonin syndrome, which is very dangerous. I am, therefore doing as I am told, to the exact letter.

I am not dissociating or struggling like in was last time I tried to switch from sertraline to mirtazapine, nor am I understanding why some people see suicide as an option. I'm 'just depressed'.

As a bonus, i haven't really noticed any side effects as-yet.

So I'm eating well,
avoiding alcohol,
getting early nights,
doing extra yoga in the evenings at home
And running every third day (so I don't injure my ankle again).
I feel bad, but I will be ok again.

Just feels like one step forward and two steps back *dances*.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

I don't like babies

I have a confession, it isn't a secret, but it's a bit of a taboo...I don't like babies.

I could change a terry nappy at 9 years old, I made formula bottles, bathed multiple toddlers and fed little mouths when in was a child myself.

In short, I did more caring for preschoolers than many adults, before I'd reached puberty. I had done my bit and babies held no mystery for me.

Babies just look at you, and then they poo, cry, flail and the only feedback is a clean bottom and less crying. Yes, you get small glimmers of a budding personality, lile smiles, laughter, words, clapping. But crikey, they're BORING, one way conversation and endless games.

Give me a toddler over a baby any day (I'd rather have a guinea pig to be fair). They are great company, can be bargained with (never with m&ms) and are just FUN (miles more fun if they aren't your own, trust me).

I didn't get broody for our first baby, me and MrB just decided to give this baby thing a go. I was broody for a short while when E was about 6 months old.

I haven't been broody since, except for a guinea pig, a PAIR of guinea pigs to be precise. I love them.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

I am the self proclaimed queen of potty training boys!

So, I've finally reached the level of blogging about potty training. Be prepared for a rip roaring read!

So at the age of 3 and 3 months, I think we *may* have found the way to help him to harness his daytime needs. Yay!

My potty training must haves

A potty - even a pound shop one - decorate it with stickers if it helps!

Crocs - we have ones from Poundland, just in case shoes are weed on!

Small pedal bin liners with sanitary towels - you can use them to line a potty when out and about. Makes getting out that bit easier

I advise waiting until your child is ready. Ignore the '2 year old rule' of the 80s, think more along the lines of 3 years. Cut yourself some slack!

I had 2 children in nappies...for the record, it was easy! You only have to remember your own toileting needs.

I have 2 boys, and I only ever have 2 days off with them at a stretch because of my working days. It's perfect for everything, except for 'potty training' advice in books, which usually suggests you have a week off with your little cherub and let them crap all over your carpet or garden.

So, my eldest, was potty ready at 33 months. He refused his nappy very suddenly, needed very occasional reminders and had 2 daytime accidents. Within 2 weeks he refused his bedtime nappy and the only thing we had to do was to stop a large bedtime drink of milk.

He was really easy!!

Now, Noah, has been aware of his bladder control for a while. So I pushed him, maybe a little earlier than I needed to. He tried, didn't like it and then refused to go near to a potty for months.

I've always had them coming to the loo with me, I've normalised toilets, discussing diarrhoea and 'leakies'. Making no big deal of anything, but letting them know what to do.

I was worried that Noah was afraid of the potty/ toilet, so I did what any self-respecting, smartphone-wielding parent would do...I googled! Each time either boy sat on the little blue plastic throne, I gave them a tiny piece of chocolate even with nappy and trousers on. Within a couple of hours, the fear had evaporated and Noah had discovered that it fitted his head. The blue really brought out the colour of his eyes!

A week later, after a few spells of leaving his nappy off, in was pottering in the kitchen and got shouts of 'done a wee' and with another hour 'done a poo!'. Ewan has been really helpful and supportive of his little brother today. He makes me very proud. They both do.

Update: no accidents at home, half a day of accidents at nursery (2nd day of training)and he has been dry day and night since.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Auntie D's Fun

This is a post about my current medication change. I'm scared because of what happened last time I changed:
I dissociated and had my darkest ever thoughts. I also screamed randomly at MrB during a run of the mill argument.

So, I've been on sertraline and mirtazapine for 18 months. I ended up on the combination when I cross tapered back to sertraline off mirtazapine. Then I found I felt so well that I dd a lot of research and discovered that I could get a doctor to agree on it.

Mirtazipine has given me amazing sleep. So I'm not prepared to give that up, son set about researching other antidepressants that work well in combo with it. There is a good amount of decent evidence for a combination of Venlafaxine and Mirtazipine. In some circles, it is called 'california rocket fuel'.

So, I went to my GP and asked. She said that she would discuss it with a psychiatrist who had access to my history and decide whether she could do it with his advice. And 3 weeks later, I was told that I could reduce my sertraline in my own time and then they'd prescribe venlafaxine.

I must be clear, I have persistent depression. It has shown time after time that it is resistant to treatment - I have had a lot of therapy, I've tried 3 different anti depressants previously. I have had 2 decent years since i was 17. I'm 34. I'm tired of beng depressed.

I'm also tired of never ticking the boxes for access to more heavy duty therapies, longer lasting courses and teams. I am terrified of pain, so I'm never a danger to myself. Sadly, that removes the option of DBT.

So, I've started to reduce my sertraline, I have tremors, vertigo, headaches and I'm so so tired. It's like having a really bad cold (minus the snot).

Wish me luck, and worst case scenario, I can go back on the meds I was on originally and hope that anxiety targeted CBT will help.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Why I Don't Want to Win the Lottery

My mum and stepdad won the lottery in 2004.

4.3 million pounds.

It changed the life of my impoverished family. Before I left to go to uni, there were 8 of us living in a small 3 bedroomed house. One bathroom, one toilet, 2 adults and 6 children.

8 people, living off one fairly low salary (my stepdad was skilled, and he worked hard, I cannot fault that side of him).

So, yeah, me and my 5 younger brothers and sisters endured a very sparse childhood. So winning the lottery, for me was all about improving their lives. Their parents, their mum and dad could have made a huge difference to the youngest four, who were 14, 13, 12 and 6 years of age.

Instead, the parents spoiled the girls, and me and my eldest brother to some extent. Sure, they moved house, had en suite bathrooms and a room *each*, but the lack of emotional intelligence as well as mental health issues meant that it physically hurt me to see how badly treated they children were, especially my youngest two brothers.

My step dad gave up work, my mum didn't continue to work either. I cannot describe what I think of that situation, but suffice to say that I need to work, because my brain is self destructive when not kept occupied.

Winning the lottery may buy a huge house with a swimming pool, a Lamborghini and a gardener, but it cannot heal the wounds and legacy of terrible parenting. And, when the markets go bad, you could end up without any money...imagine.

I will never wish to win the lottery.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Reading Around

I stumbled upon  this journal article  (from a peer reviewed journal) which discussed attachment, BPD and PTSD.

I could relate to most of it, the case studies were very complex cases, and much more 'classic' trauma than I endured. However, it was the first time I've ever sat down and thought, "shit. I have flashbacks. Parts of my childhood, sad parts are etched in my memory, as clear as if they happened yesterday". These are entwined with intense emotions, thoughts and feelings from those times. Shame, confusion, mistrust, fear.

I could have PTSD as a result of disrupted attachment to my parents, particularly the complete erosion of my attachment to my mum which resulted in me being who I am today. But also, because of the emotional neglect & manipulation, mental cruelty, habitual smacking, and the coercive control which my mum exerted over me (and my poor, poor brothers and sisters - who I miss every day).

Every day with the boys is trigger-ridden. It isn't their fault. I want to be the best for them because I love them too much to be anything else.

I've just noticed a missing link in this realisation this week. Really noticing my flashbacks as and when they come into my parenting style/choices/actions shows that it's in everything I do.

It's an extra opportunity to be kind to myself - it's why I'm at the edge of breaking regularly, why I need so much self care time to myself. To be myself.

If you're reading this and don't get it, think I'm rehashing old junk and need to get over it, then click away. I'm not seeking sympathy, I am clearing my head safely.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Mental illness isn't about not coping

My depression and anxiety have spiked this last couple of weeks. It has sucked. I will be going back up to 75mg sertraline tonight. There is just one major point I need to get off my chest, to work through here and share. 

My mental illness isn't about my inability to cope with my life choices. It isn't about not being able to cope with my two children, with my lovely husband, nice house, fab career and my lifestyle.

It isn't that I can't cope with the boys, it's just that I can't shoulder the weight of responsibility of being the best mother I can possibly be.

I want to be Mary Poppins - she wasn't a mother, she was a nanny, she was paid to be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

My mother was shit, her mother was (I believe) shit, my learning has come from them, my parenting mistakes I made whilst helping to bring up my brood of younger siblings, TV, and from MrB's mum. Who, is the polar opposite of my mum.

It is REALLY hard to go against the programming in underwent as a toddler and as I grew up. I didn't learn to give or receive compliments, I don't remember my mum reading to me, but I remember her rubbing my face in my wet bedding* when i wet the bed for the ??? night in a row.
(*My dad insists he didn't know this happened).

I am programmed to be angry, resentful, selfish and shaming. The thing is, I have to fight those impulses regularly, it is hard to do the right thing when it is basically taking a path that you don't have the map for.

I grew up in fear of being thrown out, of being smacked and being verbally shamed. That is what my brain automatically wants to do, that is my autopilot. This means that I cannot relax with the boys, because I can't draw-on any real experience of relaxed motherly love.

It isn't that I can't cope with my children. It's that being a great mum, tires my soul out. So, forgive me when I don't say 'But they make it all worthwhile', because they don't (it isn't up to them to validate me).

I'll be ok, just struggling this evening.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Playtime Headache?

I don't like babies, I'm not overly keen on other people's toddlers anymore either (my own have ruined me). I have, however brought up my younger brothers and sisters. I played with all 5 of then, 4 of them when the were babies.

Despite my general lack of imagination, I'm actually REALLY good at playing with babies. This doesn't take much effort (except being able to tolerate the tedium of being home ALL DAY ALONE with a baby who can't talk). I made it through said tedium using Dawson's Creek, diet coke and Doctors.

If you want to play with baby, but don't know how, here are some things to try to mix it up a bit.

Leave your phone upstairs for a bit - it removes the temptation to use it.

Read books - if you're at a complete loss for what to do or say, a picture book has all the words you need. Seriously, never consider whether a book is 'too old' just give it a try.

Playing in front of a mirror - Ewan and noah loved rolling on the floor in front of my mirrored wardrobe doors. Babies love faces, seeing themselves also let's them see action and effect.

Play in the cupboards - I would plonk baby down in front o either the pan cupboard or the plastic cupboard and let them explore, bash, stack, fill and enjoy. I highly recommend this, as it literally costs nothing and makes them so happy!

Wear baby - pop them in a sling and talk to them, as if they were a grown up. Use any language, in my books, the fancier the better.

Sing nursery rhymes, if you don't know any, just look up Hooplakidz or Little Baby Bum on YouTube. Sing along to your heart's content (or you get sick of it).

Caring for a baby is boring, lonely and a huge responsibility. You feel completely responsible for that little person, but be kind to yourself. Hell, I did all of the above and still checked Facebook 20 times an hour.

Lots of smiles, cuddles and quality time and they'll be a toddler who is good company by about 2 ish and by 4 they are fabulous, funny and keep you too busy!!

Saturday, 2 April 2016

My Path Out of Self-Hate City

Speak to yourself, as you would someone you love.

I was always fairly happy alone as a child. I enjoyed my own company and had a good imagination. When I was 17, something in me changed, I became introverted, depressed, anxious, and started to find it difficult being with myself, in my own head.

This is probably a very difficult concept to understand if you have never experienced it (and if that's you, I'm genuinely pleased for you).

I found it difficult to study, my thoughts were too spinny, too busy, too scary to just ignore and focus on my A Levels and then my Chemistry degree. I had the attention span of a gnat.

What in see now, with the huge benefit of hindsight is that this unease with myself is part of my self-loathing. A feeling seated deep within me, that I am NEVER good enough. Now, I've explained at length why I was never good enough for my mother, and yet the legacy lives on, through my internal thoughts, feelings and actions.

I hated myself, I had no idea why anyone would want to endure being my friend, nor could I fathom why MrB loved me in spite of all my awful-effing-crazy-shit.

About 10 months ago I had DIT (dynamic interpersonal therapy), and me and my therapist had a very similar background. Which, meant we strayed from the strict remit of the DIT framework, but fr the first time in my life, someone was able to recount heartbreakingly similar stories. Both of childhood mistreatment and present-day interactions caused by the maelstrom of headfuckery that was created.
We discussed my self loathing quite a lot, as it affected everything. My key points from the time are in my photo above. I gradually had to learn to change the tone of voice i use with myself. Now for some context, my colleagues would often tell me to go easy on myself. I berated myself HARD over the slightest of mistakes.

Only by reading these notes today, 10 months on, have I realised how much work I put into changing the way I think to myself. I correct myself too, 'that was stupid' is 'well, easy mistake to make, oh well'.

Speak to yourself as you would someone you love. Face it, if anyone else was as mean as you are to yourself, you'd swear at them and get them to sling their hook!

Much love xx

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Adverts Work... but give me credit

Adverts Work, opal fruits are still made to make your mouth water in my mind. Kia ora is too orangey for crows and Breast is Best. These are all facts, and companies spend more money than they should on peddling their brands (it'd be better spent on paying taxes, donating to cancer research).

Coco pops and McDonald's advertise, but that doesn't mean I feed them to my kids more than is healthy.

But when I chose to formula feed my babies? The adverts with the fuzzy focus, women living in tidy homes, with giggling bundles were far from my mind.

I needed to feed E. My colostrum wasn't enough and when I had to be taken to theatre and allowed to recover during my 15 minute obs, he was given formula by a midwife. Not because she had seen adverts but because he was 12 hours old and was ready for a meal.

E couldn't latch. I turned myself inside out, desperate to find help to get it all to work. For it to be as easy as the woman in Parent craft said (and unquote, 'there is not a single reason why a woman cannot breastfeed'). I called local charities, I hired a pump direct from medela. I was desperate not to use formula. Because the Breast is Best message was so powerful. Waaaaay more powerful than any subtle follow-on milk ads.

I am not alone in this feeling. The story is echoed from many mums who tried their hardest to provide the best start for their baby. I pumped for 8 weeks to avoid the shame of formula feeding. 8 weeks, of pumping while E still had eczema, colic, cradle cap and got a cold. I was brilliant at producing milk by the way. My proudest time!

After having N, he latched on and had read the book. He was amazing at breastfeeding. Sadly, I couldn't hack it; night 4, after 2 hours feeding, I started to cry and MrB made up a bottle and took over. He didn't do it because of adverts, he did it because he loved us, and wanted to protect me. I'm crying as I write this.

It is insulting to women, to insinuate that formula advertising affects the actions of women feeding their babies.

Feeding your baby is the most primal feeling I have ever experienced. Nothing matters more than them having the best. The absolute best. If if involves hours in the dark, allowing a health professional to manhandle your boob to help latching, hours of hoping, wondering why you failed.

It isn't adverts. It's making sure that baby gets fed. Regardless of oher circumstances, pnd, lack of milk, poor latching and of course ZERO support.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Pain, Shame and Punishment

So MrB accidentally poked me in the eye as we were saying goodnight (not a euphemism). I got really angry and then cried.

I then realised that I feel shame and anger, evert time I get hurt, toe stubbing, head knocking, banged shin. The pain is accompanied by an emotional reaction. Shame, and then anger.

I think that the shame and anger are related to physical punishment as a child. I did something that was 'naughty' and I was punished. I have a strong moral compass, I'm quite black and white, so I often felt like it was unjust. So I'd feel angry. But, of course, that was just another emotion that went in the 'feelings vault'. Except that anger can be expressed, slamming cupboard doors when I hit my forehead with them my accident. Shouting, and ashamedly, smacking my brothers and sisters (I'm sorry, those times were mislead, and in was a child myself, in charge of 5 younger children).

I'm not proud of my anger and the history. But it has taught me not to make those mistakes again. 

Monday, 7 March 2016

Getting my Chakra Sorted!

I'd like to start by saying that I have the flexibility of a lolly stick. So I am not going to be instagramming pics of myself working out as the sun rises in the morning. Now you are safe in that knowledge, I shall begin!

I tried out pilates about 10 years ago, I fancied it and dropped in a couple of times. It clicked with me, growing up with a negative perception of my body taught me to always suck my tummy in. So I was used to the lateral breathing thing.

Then, last summer, I noticed a sign that read 'pilates, 9-10' which also happened to be the time that the boys often went to Grandma and Grandad's house. So I gave it a bash!

I loved it, the classes are full of different people, there is no pressure to wear the right thing, be skinny (or young!).  Then in stopped going, because I literally was so busy in December that I couldn't get time at all!

So in tried yoga, I knew nothing, except 'Namaste' and a few poses that I'd picked up from waybuloo and cosmic kids. I thought I'd hate yoga, I'd never fancied it, because it meant I had to try something new by just giving it a go. And that it my LEAST preferred learning style because I was mocked by an insensitive mother and stepdad when I was growing up (in have no idea how i coped with chemistry lab sessions...hours of just doing and trying...well I didn't really cope!!).

So, since I went to my first yoga class it has become and revelation. The original hatha teacher left the studio, but his classes have been taken over by other teachers. One of whom is so fab that I want to do a late shift every Friday so I can go before work! And the other is so grounded and brilliant at encouraging self-caring practise.

So I have committed £42 a month to Chakra Studio, because:
it (yoga and pilates) makes me feel good
It's cheaper than therapy
It helps me with my anxiety aches and pains
It teaches me to relax
It encourages me to just have a go. To want to develop. I'm excited about classes!

£42 sounds steep, yeah? Not really, considering it's for unlimited classes and it will mean I make a bigger effort to ask for babysitting.

Thanks for reading. If you have never tried, I really recommend it!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Marble Jar Rewards

I've always been a compliment-driven person, I didn't get any as a child. Nothing in did was good enough, so I still struggle with my self-worth as an adult.

As a result of this, I wanted to start a rewards system, so I could have tangible proof that I did compliment them. For those days when I feel that all is lost and I can't even have a wee in peace.

Initially I thought pom poms, they are colourful and easy to get hold of. But then a friend said that she has used marble jars for her children for some time and that it is a really good way to reward helpful behaviour.

So, I have 2 cleaned peanut butter jars and 200 marbles. Total cost £4 (not including the peanut butter).

Every time a boy does something kind, nice, helpful, or makes good choices, they get a marble (and a big verbal acknowledgement).
Putting shoes on,
hanging coats up when the come inside (instead of wazzing them on the floor)
Coming to the table at mealtimes and not screaming (Noah, that's you!),
Being polite unexpectedly,
Being helpful before nursery even though they feel upset (this is an important one, they are allowed to feel upset and I totally validate that feeling, but refusing to get dressed, kicking shoes off, etc was common before the jars).

I have visual proof that I have 2 well behaved, lovely boys and they get real-time feedback both verbally and a reminder of the marble jars, which I keep on the kitchen windowsill. This means that when I do shout at them, or tell them off for being little shockers, that I don't feel as wracked with guilt as I once did. Because I KNOW that I reward good behaviour.

I'm getting to grips with removing marbles when they are really trying, hitting and refusing to make it better is a definite marble out.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I'm really proud of myself and I'd recommend this system!

Today is the day of the first reward, and I'm feeling pretty generous, so we are off to the big toy shop that is run by the Geoffrey the Giraffe! Ewan is dying to get a Nexo Knights set from the new Lego series.

Until next time xx

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Anxiety, you're a bug a boo

Anxiety is caring too much about everything.
Depression is not caring about anything.
Having both is the constant worry about the now, while still being hurt by the past.

Dear Anxiety,

We have known one another for a very long time. My first clear memory of you becoming a bit of a pain was when I was 17, shortly after the break up of a relationship. I became plagued by self-doubt and social anxiety. So, in the years hence, I spent a lot of time living my life feeling like I was imposing myself on my friends. University in particular was a very lonely time.

Then the social anxiety bled into my work life, my intrusive thoughts leading to anxiety attacks and sickness absence. I kept it a secret for the longest time from MrB, until one day I was caught and I came clean about the horrible anxiety attacks that made me look fine, when I was falling apart inside.
MrB helped me to get you in check, 'it's ok, you're ok, just one step at a time.' He would coax me into work, often dropping me off to help me through the panic. (Remembering this is very emotional for me, he really is amazing).

About 2 years of no severe anxiety passed, August 2009 to early 2011. My halcyon days. I'd say yes to social plans (every time, and turn up). I learned to battle you, anxiety. I learned to know how you felt, and I could ignore it because I thought it would get better over time. I got really good at ignoring, pushing past you. I read about social anxiety, it helped a little But then I had babies.

Severe antenatal anxiety. Everything was something to worry about, and catastrophising became my mainstay. If I dropped a sock on the grass in the garden, I'd have to re wash it, in case there was some cat poo remains from years ago there. Simply because the leaflets said to be careful of cat faeces.

So, when my PND developed, my anxiety had already peaked and was once again combined with depression. I had to choose, in my first CBT appointment, in July 2014, between CBT for anxiety or depression. I had to CHOOSE, there and then. I chose depression, because it was making my life the most miserable then.

It's now February 2016, and I am done with you, anxiety. I have an irrational fear of dog poo. Standing in it, walking past it. It makes me mean, shouty and ridiculous when  out with the boys. It causes me so much worry that I prefer not to walk places with the boys.

This is just one example, I have plenty more reasons to give anxiety the push.

Your days are numbered, my heart shrinking, attention seeking little pal. I want to delete your number, block you on twitter and never see you again.

I've been referred for CBT, and in the meantime I'll be writing, I'll be seeking self-help and i'll do whatever I can do to stop you in your tracks.

I deserve to be happy and kind to myself.

Yours, Caroline

Monday, 15 February 2016

Solidarity and Sisterhood

Growing up with a mum who was emotionally unsupportive took its toll on my interactions with other girls and women. I had no idea how to be sisterly, how to respect the opinions, life choices and beauty of other women. I was raised to be judgmental, I was a judgmental arsehole in my head...

Until I started to tweet the #pndfamily. I was greeted and reassured with electronic hugs, and I remember feeling quite awkward...I wouldn't accept or like a real hug, so what am I supposed to do with twitter hugs?

I've been tweeting for 2 years about my post natal depression, electronic hugs are a mainstay of my online experience. I have learned the value of having someone to sit with you, in your darkest moments. Sitting together, being there, being kind when your depressed mind cannot remember how to be kind.

The sisterhood and solidarity shown to me in those early days helped me to learn, that I am capable of being nice, genuine and caring. That my empathy, kindness and experience have value not just to me, but to my family and other people who are struggling.

I was a jigsaw that was completely jumbled up. As I put myself together during the late part of 2014, the kindness of those people who had become my friends helped me to become someone better than I was before.

That's why I still, regularly check and interact with #pndchat. Because I want to be there for others who are in their own dark, sad, depressed, anxious places.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Social Media Safety

I am employed within the public sector, and as such, I am bound by rules of professionalism, integrity and respectability.
I use this blog as a way of saying, 'hey, this is me, here and now.'

There have been times when I have felt really really low. I am very self aware and in full knowledge of my fitness to do my job. I disclose my mental health issues at work, to those who need to know or who ask.

My opinions are mine, and mine alone. I never disclose my employer and rarely my job. My online, social media presence is completely unconnected to my job but it remains an essential part of my mong term recovery.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Keep your friends close and your partner closer

A few months ago, during my blip I noticed that I was pushing myself away from Mr, emotionally. I can't put my finger on the mechanism of how I did it, but it is what I have always done, in order to cope with the push/pull of his shifts and my fear of abandonment.

This gradual retreat into myself, when he was around then linked to a paranoia. I was convinced that everything meant that he was going to 'dump my sorry ass'. Every look perceived in a negative way, always feeling under attack, looking for ways to test whether he loved me (read, more arguments).

I was really really unhappy, and the paranoia was so so damaging to my happiness and my marriage. So I did what I always do, I wrote in my therapy book and consulted Google. I came across the concept of 'prickly thoughts', and grabbed onto to speak!

A prickly thought is something that you think that makes you feel a bit sad or uncomfortable. It causes sadness, anger and fear (you know, like Yoda said).

About myself - I'm not good enough
About MrB - he just doesn't get it, he doesn't care, he doesn't love me.

These thoughts were very upsetting, and make me feel guilty for thinking them.

Sadness - depression, insecurity, Disappointment.
Anger - frustration, spite, bitterness.
Fear - anxiety, worry, overwhelmed.

Labelling feelings and recognising that thoughts lead to feelings and behaviours. As taught in CBT.

I then wrote a pros and cons list of feeling that 'he doesn't love me, I am not safe'.

I'm prepared for the worst
Him leaving me is my worst nightmare
Surely, being vigilant will help?

It makes me grumpy
I'm anxious and scared.
I'm wearing a shield
I'm neglecting my love for him
It erodes and degrades my happiness.

My prickly thoughts hurt me, that is the conclusion.

I am loved
I am worthy
I grew up under threat and am wired for fear and struggle
I am worthy and loved.

He lives with me, he loves me, he has always loved me. IGNORE THE PRICKLY THOUGHTS.

Easier said than done? I didn't find it to be like that, if you love them, then stopping the prickly thought it easier than you think

I was sure to write in my journal each night, congratulating myself on work done. And I also told MrB about my irrational writings and feelings...In case he found my book and it upset him.

I'm always happy to discuss CBT, send me a tweet :)

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Sleeping Through

Let's talk about how my meds affect my sleep, they have improved the quality of my sleep and banished anxious hours laid in bed, dreading having to get up.

I'm on sertraline, which slows my brain down, and makes me sleep a bit deeper. This was always the case, even from the beginning, so I have always taken it at bedtime. This isn't the case for everyone, but I'm grateful for this side effect, especially as I'm a great believer that a decent night's sleep helps me to work though problems.

I was started on mirtazipine, initially as a direct swap for sertraline, long story short, I ended up on a low dose of both and have been this way for a year. Under the supervision and advice from doctors. Anyway, this drug has revolutionised bedtime for me in many ways.

I fall asleep quickly - with orodispersible tablets, they get to work much faster and I can be asleep within 15-30 minutes!

I get back to sleep easier and faster after loo trips and night settling.

I don't wake an hour before my work alarm, and so don't have to fight my intrusive thoughts alone for ages before I even start my day.

I also sleep heavily, REALLY heavily! None of this sleeping with one ear open after kids malarkey, mirtazipine knocks me out. If MrB is at home, I mostly sleep through the night with the odd loo trip. I often wake in the morning to discover that he has been up 3-4 times with the boys in the night. When he is at work at night, I do get up, I think I sleep a bit lighter when I'm solo. But I feel quite bad at MrB is doing all the settling. I tell him to give me a nudge, and he does when he needs to, but i get a lot more sleep. So I'm trying to let him have more lie ins to evening out, and to be fair, if sleep keeps me being a decent mummy, a reliable worker and an emotonally stable wife and best friend, then I don't need to feel guilty. I am, however, very lucky.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

My PND story

I've written many posts over the last 18 months about my mental health, the whys, hows and reasonings ramblings). I often use my blog to work out my feelings or "where I am at" there and then. Today, I'm going to talk about my PND journey,as I've been suffering a few flashbacks on holiday and I want some closure.

I'm pretty sure I didn't have PND after having Ewan so i pick up the story after Noah's birth in March 2013:

The pregnancy had been anxious, my anxiety lessened somewhat by having an elective caesarean booked, but heightened because Noah was small for dates and had weekly growth scans from 28 weeks. I was signed off sick from work at 26 weeks due to pelvic girdle pain.

The delivery went well, the midwives and doctors followed by caesarean birth plan and nothing bad happened. He latched on lile he had read the manual and I felt accomplished-ish.

I have no recollection of "the baby blues", I felt ok, and MrB had a few weeks off work and then went back to his shift pattern of 6 days on, 4 days off. It was hard, I had 2 boys under 18 months and for 5 months I thought I was fine. Close to the end of August, I self diagnosed with PND and went to tell my GP. With retrospect, things were dark from only a month post-partum, I remember feeling worthless, like I had no personality and nothing to offer my friends if I saw them. I felt empty, but assumed that was how all mums in my position felt. Health visitors asked how I was, I said "oh yes, I've had depression before, I know what to look for".

I couldn't see where the tiredness ended and I began, I was tired to my very soul. MrB was a saint and let me go to bed really early (asleep by 7pm) and always fully pulled his weight 50:50.

when Noah was 10 weeks old, MrB took us on an inpromptu holiday to centerparcs, he just knew I needed something and he hoped a holiday was it. The holiday made me feel a bit better and "less murderous" was how I phrased it to a concerned friend on Facebook.

August 2013, my GP offered me citalopram because it was the "cheapest" and neglected to refer me for the CBT which I had asked for. I refused medication for months, trying hard to use exercise, serotonin boosting supplements and precisely arranged logistics to get better. No amount of organising, hoping or gadgets could help me shake off the feeling I was failing at everything.

I was also getting worse, consistently with every 10 day cycle of MrB's shifts. It was awful, I was being the best mother the children could want for, we went out, they were always clean, and yet, somehow I was never good enough for my own standards and comparisons with other mums. I was desperately lonely, believing that I had no friends, and hoping that I wouldn't bump into anyone I knew when we were out, and if we did, I'd hide. Ashamed of myself and my lack of personality.

PNDHOUR began in January 2014, I found it within a fortnight and was a regular contributor. I met many women who supported me, and showed me the kindness I had no way of giving back either to them or to myself. I learned that medication is not something to fear, that it is a necessary tool in recovery for many people with mental health illnesses.

I want to cry, having written this story, because I don't know how I would have made it through 2014 otherwise. I had no idea how ill I was, and I'm not sure how many other women felt like this.