Saturday, 4 February 2017

OCD.. not what you think it is.

When you think about OCD what comes to mind? Someone who has an unusually clean home? Someone who continuosly washes hands? All I knew about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was what I have seen on tv or heard when people said they had it because they were "neat freaks" something I most certainly was not.
 This Christmas, three months into my medication for postnatal depression and as things were finally running smoothly disaster struck in my head. I put it down to Christmas being hard for everyone, the stress and the anniversary of the death of a very dear friend. At first, it was the usual..feeling sad and empty for no reason, racing heart, aching bones and dizziness but then back came the post natal thoughts. Like a flash of lightning I was struck with complete terror once again. This time, however things got weird.
The first time it happened, my husband had just done some diy in the bedroom that night as I lay in bed, I saw he had left a hammer there and my stomach turned. My mind was racing with horrible thoughts "what if I sleep walk and unintentionally harm my family with it? What if I go crazy in the night and do it?"  The thoughts were so intrusive I picked the hammer up, ran downstairs and hid it in the laundry basket. Afterwards I felt sick and ashamed. Why had I done that? I knew it was wrong. A few days later I bathed the kids and put them to bed but forgot to empty the bathwater. I woke in the middle of the night in a panic..what if? I was horrified again these thoughts brewed in my head and sickened my stomach. I ran down and emptied the bath, again knowing it was wrong and feeling very fearful and ashamed. Day after day fears were piling up and smothering me I was hiding knives and scissors and was terrified. I had no idea why I was so afraid when I knew I had no intention of hurting anyone. My stomach was sick with fear of losing control. The day I threw a screwdriver out the kitchen window was the day I decided to ring the doctor. I hadn't told a soul..I had been hiding my dirty secret from everyone, even my husband. I was waiting until alone and making the place safe from something I was afraid I might become.
I was terrified the day of my gp visit, convinced that I had some really severe mental illness and that I might be taken from my family. I cried the minute I got in, I shook with fear, I took a deep breath and exploded the words from my mouth. Once again, I was answered with warm kindness and understanding. We spoke more and I realised that for a couple of years now I have been obsessed with some things..counting the letters in a sentance and adding in words to make it even, for example. I thought everybody did that. So my diagnosis was ocd. OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER. I was slightly relieved it had a name, now it was not so scary. Now I could treat it and try to beat it.
Onwards and upwards...

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Accepting yourself for who you are is the first major step of your amazing journey.


“I wish I was skinnier/ less weird/taller/better/stronger. I could never do that I am too busy/built like this/upset” Does this sound familiar? This was the way I spoke to myself. When I first realised that I was suffering with postnatal depression, I dismissed it. I told myself that I was always weird and that I had never been right. I told myself I wasn't looking after myself because I didn't deserve it, I wanted so bad to be different but had no ability to change. Through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy I learned how to face my problems and confront my fears and instead of wishing I was different accepting that right now, I have an illness. It is not my fault. I am not feeling well and so I have to make the best of what I've got and slowly improve me..for me. Don't get me wrong, this is not an easy task and sure I still needed medication after but accepting myself allowed me to tell the truth..to myself, my family and the doctors and therefore got me the help I required.

My therapist laid out my thought process for me in a simple diagram:

                           Worry (I hope I don't get an illness I cant control)

                          Anxiety( OH MY GOD I had some very intrusive thoughts that
                           I cant get rid of there must be something seriously wrong with me)→

                           Panic Attack (now I am dying, I cant breathe and I just know
                          something bad is going to happen) →

                           Feeling bad (pains aches, sickness, dizziness) →

                           Back to worry and the cycle continues and spirals out of control.

So how do we over come this?

  1. Accept yourself and write out what's holding you back eg.
    I started out in therapy saying that low confidence was holding me back, I decided to start a journal that night and just let myself go. Get to the root of your fears and accept that these things may have hurt you once and cant be forgotten but can be acknowledged, accepted and you can begin to think how you can assure this doesn't happen again.
  2. Set small goals..don't start big..build
    I realised it was unrealistic for me to want to own a business if I wasn't physically able to leave the house and deal with people.. instead of beating myself up I made a ladder of change for myself where I would start at the bottom and work my way to the top.
                                                                   ____Business_____
                                          ____Reach out and be myself on social media____
                                                      ____Showing my talent to people___
                                                                ____Talk to People_____
                                                                ____Try new things____
                                                               ____Believe in myself__
                                                      ____Stop comparing myself to others____
                                                                 ___Write a journal____

  1. When I was told to practice meditation and mindfulness I thought, yea right I cant go to the toilet alone as a mother, How will I find time for meditation? Easy..
    • Start a grateful box, write out each day something you are grateful for and put away to remind yourself in the dark days.
    • When someone compliments you, dwell on it. Write it down later if you have to just really concentrate on it and you will start to believe it.
    • The famous “superhero pose” really by literally acting out the pose of a proud superhero it has been proven that you will become more confident and happy.
    • Do not dismiss your thoughts. If you feel you were treated badly then that's just how you feel..you do not owe anybody an apology for your feelings. If you are hurt you are hurt go away cool down and move on.
    • Change the world.. We dwell so much on what we can change, why not evaluate what you can change? Volunteer, visit someone you know is lonely, smile at people, give compliments – these are all contributions to making people feel better and making life better for others.
    • Most importantly- respect yourself. Don't put yourself down to others, and don't allow them to put you down. You are a fighter, a survivor and you are strong. You can overcome and don't need to put others down to lift yourself up.

Remember, everyone is different. Everyone has battles to fights, big or small, secretly or otherwise. You are no “weirder” than the next person. You are not the cause of your illness. You are not to be laughed at at the expense of others. You are not a scapegoat. You are not a pushover. You are not flawed. You are not ugly. You are not alone.


Monday, 14 November 2016

Its all me, me, me! Looking after yourself is IMPORTANT!


If you told me this a couple of months ago, I'd have issued you with a sarcastic snort! I was one of those who thought that being a mother meant devoting every second of your breathing life to being a mother. I had the “where would I get time/energy/money/a babysitter?” attitude. I am still fairly new to the taking care of myself concept, I am only two months into recovery but it is definitely true that you have to feel your best before you can try and give your best to someone else.

  1. Have a home “spa” at night when kids are in bed (or early in mornings depending on your household)
    I have one of those homes where my one child sits on my knee as I use the toilet while the other one stares at me with anticipation. I have had many a quick shower with the knocking on the door and “are you nearly ready mam?” calls and I was no stranger to the shower in front of your baby in a bouncer when they were smaller. Its probably because of my struggles but my children are VERY attached. So now, I am designating time to my self at night where I can use my bathroom in peace and pamper myself to my hearts content. You don't need to go overboard on the products, stores like Lidl stock an amazing selection of creams and potions that wont break your weekly budget and when I was asked this year by anyone what I would like for Christmas I didn't hesitate to say bath sets!
  2. Eat well, but don't limit yourself.
    I am a fan of meal planning and prepping as when I was in the depths of depression I found I had no energy or interest in cooking. I forced myself to spend one day cooking all and freezing so that my children didn't go without proper meals during the week. Eating well will boost your energy, make you feel good about yourself and good nutrition will help recovery and keep you strong and well. On the flipside, I love baking and a bit of cake in moderation never hurt anyone :)
  3. Date night/night with friends.
    Date night is not a night my husband and I have a luxury to much. My parents are still young and work during the week, my siblings work, his siblings are older and his parents are gone and because our babies are younger and we are living in the countryside we have little knowledge of babysitters, now the girls are getting older we have arranged to interview some girls in the village. However, we set times to devote to each other that we don't speak about the kids or the house so that we don't lose touch. I don't have many close friends, I am friendly with many but like to keep to myself. I have one best friend that I would trust with my life and I am lucky enough that her child is the same age as mine. Once every couple of weeks, I get the kids to sleep and we go out. I don't drink alcohol so we look for deals at cinema/ eating out etc. and go and we laugh until we turn blue in the face! (she literally had to use her inhaler)
  4. Buy yourself good clothes!                                                                                                             I get “mom guilt” if I buy anything expensive. I always get a fear we will need something during the week and I've spent it! However, everyone needs clothes that fit well, flatter them and are comfortable so you need to spend on the good items. If you are low on cash there are good catalogues that take monthly payments such as Littlewoods or Oxendales where you can get quality clothes and spread the cost. Also end of season sales are good.
  1. Get a hobby!
    I have many hobbies that I gave up on for a while, but by getting organised (that's for another post) I spend a couple of hours here and there during my day on my own hobbies. For example cooking and baking can be great relaxing activities, while getting work done and you can involve the family. I also like knitting but there are many free online courses/local groups/ how to websites to introduce you to and give you tips on your preferred hobby!
  2. Love yourself..
    This is hard to some people, believe me I know. In therapy, my counsellor thought me the “superhero pose” and it works. If you are feeling anxious or like you cant cope just standing like a superhero for two minutes really does work. Also, when you look in the mirror in the mornings, ignore your insults and pick one thing you really like. Compliment yourself regularly. “wow, I am organised, I got this/ I am good at cooking/ I am a good friend” and if somebody compliments you, take it and think about it. This is how people see you, because a lot of the time we are picking “flaws” that nobody else sees. Try not to think of what people think of you negatively. You are only a thought in someone's mind briefly and then they are thinking about themselves!
  3. Don't try to be an actual superhero!                                                                                       Everyone's circumstances are different. Those fantastic moms on social media may have a totally different lifestyle to yours, more help or just better skills in some areas. Comparing yourself to people you assume are better at coping with things is a dangerous and unhelpful area.

At the end of the day, you want to give the little ones a good example. You can try hard to make them happy and give them everything but if you are not looking after yourself you can not give to your full potential. You are a mother, but you are still a person.. a human being that deserves respect, love and care..especially from yourself.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Post-partum depression..here's hoping my lost year can save yours.

As a sufferer of gestational diabetes, my second pregnancy brought on sickness and insulin dependency from the second month. I was in and out of hospital for weeks at a time leaving behind my 2.5 year old despite our closeness and her clinginess to me. This, looking back was probably the beginning of my downward spiral as the due date neared I began to feel really guilty and wondered if perhaps I had made a mistake. The labour of princess no.2 was induced and immediately she unleashed a world of un-medicated and unexpected hurt. Several hours and a couple of gazillion stitches later I held her beautiful little body in my arms and felt huge guilt, tiredness and pain. That night, I stayed up all night, staring with a strange fear in my heart that something may happen to take this bundle away from me. I tried to breastfeed her and struggled for hours. I sat in bed sobbing, desperately praying for her to get something and for the pain to stop until a blood sugar test showed that she was now dangerously low and required formula feeding. Tears streamed down my face as I felt a total failure for not being able to feed my own baby.
When we brought her home, no.1 was instantly put out, she was hurt and afraid and so was I. I was now enormously guilty. When no.2 started crying, she did not stop for 3 solid weeks, a doctor visit told me she had acid reflux, further desperate attempts lead me to a chiropractor and at last a little peace.
I stepped out of bed one morning three weeks post-partum and a searing pain ripped through my toes and through my body. An intense, gripping pain out of nowhere. It daily travelled further until I woke with it and lived with it from the roots of my hair to my toenails every single day. I was sure I had a terminal illness. Dr google became my best friend and my enemy. Blood test after blood test didn't help. My anxiety grew larger and larger until I was afraid to enter a supermarket alone in case I dropped dead. I was afraid to be alone with my children and I cried at night afraid I may not wake.
At that point, I realised I had a problem and consulted my GP and then attended counselling. What I kept to myself was to me, the most terrifying. It had started immediately after birth, I was buttering my toast in the hospital and had the most horrific fear.. what if I went mad and hurt the baby. From day one day in day out I was sick as horrific thoughts and fears whirl pooled around in my head. I did not want to hurt my children..the horror was I thought of horrific ways I might go mad and hurt them. I was guilty and horrified and terrified. I kept it to myself afraid they might take me or my children away.
Daily my physical and mental pain grew, I let myself go, what was the point. I stopped doing everything I loved, I pushed people away and argued ferociously at home. I was mad at my husband that he was coping so gloriously and getting away with it..I did the hard work and I was suffering for it. I started to convince myself I was horrible, a no good, crazy mother, a no good wife and worthless to anybody. This became my mantra. I felt like giving in. One dark night as I sat in my living room, sobbing and urging myself to just survive another day, while sinking in my thoughts, I decided enough was enough. The next day I went to the doctor under the guise of my chronic pain and I burst. I told her everything. She was sympathetic but unfazed, she did not press an emergency button or call the social workers or think I was crazy. Instead, she informed me that all of these were very common symptoms of postnatal depression and along with some information and a small dosage of antidepressants sent me on my way. I was relieved but sad that for now 18months I had been cut off, I had tortured myself endlessly and I hid from my husband and babies, the people I love most in the world. In my head I thought they didn't need me, when in reality they really needed me to get better.

Please, if you have post-partum depression or think you may, speak to someone. You may be missing out on precious time. I am finally getting my life back one piece at a time and I am going to make sure my girls and husband know just how important and amazing they really are.