Mental Health Monday: The Aftermath of Christmas with Sensitive Kids

We have had a fabulous family Christmas. It’s been intense but it’s been fun and full of love and laughter. We’ve had overnight guests, cooked for 10 on Christmas day and then another Christmas dinner for 8 on Boxing day. It’s such a busy week every year because we are the ‘hub family’ and tend to host more than anyone else for the sake of practicality. We love it, but something happens with our little boy when things get crazy.

Our usually well behaved little guy becomes completly horrible. It started on Christmas eve when we accidentally lost track of time and didn’t feed him his lunch before we left the house, we had to stop at the only place I knew I could get a quick bit of dairy free food for him and hope for the best. So he had a muffin from  a coffee shop for lunch. The rest of the day involved full blown tantrums over every single little thing, in the packed town centre (our own fault for being disorganised I suppose!). As a result, we spent far longer out and about than we had planned and of course that just made things worse. When we got home we still had tons to do and he just wanted to cling to us relentlessly. Anyone who knows our little guy will know how fiercely independent he is, and how uncharacteristic clingy behaviour is. He has been going from cuddly to lashing out at us over the tiniest thing. I’ve had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t doing it on purpose, he was just tired and confused. We stopped the feverish tidying  and organising and played trains on the floor until his eyes started getting heavy and put him to bed, he had conked out before I had even finished reading to him.

We didn’t think much of his low appetite on Christmas eve, but after we specifically made him mashed potatoes and peas to go with christmas dinner the next day and he didn’t even touch two of his favourite foods we knew this was more than just fussiness. The over excitement had drained our little lad and then we sit him at a usually calm table with 9 other people, Christmas crackers and music and expect him to eat dinner as normal but at lunch time? No. It just wasn’t happening. We let him go, knowing there had been a bit of snacking and that we could try again later. He had a late nap, followed by a jam sandwich and more excitement – the poor kid doesn’t know which way is up and which way is down by the time he gets to bed 3 hours after his bedtime.

Boxing day rolls around and we do it all again with my side of the family (on a slightly smaller scale). There are sweets and snacks everywhere, he somehow gets away with eating an entire moo free cocolate Santa in one hit, he’s completely baffled by how much other stuff has cows milk in it so he isn’t allowed to eat it but everyone else is.

When he refused his meal again on Boxing day I felt a pang of guilt that we had put him in this position, he’s acting out because suddenly everything he knows has changed in the blink of an eye and he has no idea how to handle it.

I’m tempted to pack away the decorations early to help us get back to business as usual  as soon as possible, because my poor little guy is exhausted and miserable now, especially since all the presents are done and the people are gone. We’re just left here with wrapping paper all over the place and a super fractious little boy who is needing a lot of contact and reassurance.

So if you need me, I will be on the sofa cuddling my toddler until the new year. See you on the other side.

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Mental Health Monday: Deployment-Related Depression and Anxiety

When Jamie was away in Afghanistan, I was already in a bit of a low place. I was still studying my Bar course full-time and working part-time, and the stress of it all got to me quite a bit. It really didn’t help that, at the time, I was still not able to drive and so I felt really alone and isolated throughout the first 4 months. Plus, does anyone actually enjoy being home alone? Or is it just me that feels really creeped out by it?

My closest family support was my husband’s uncle and their family (who were amazing help) and my mother-in-law, but they weren’t exactly around the corner!

It’s no surprise that I started to feel low, especially given that my recovery from PND was still relatively recent at that point.

So, off I tottered to the GP to talk about it and to make sure I was okay.

The GP wasn’t particularly helpful and kept talking about himself and how his wife copes with him working long hours (NOT THE SAME BRO). But… I was advised to self-refer to TalkPlus, so I did that and I engaged in CBT which you can read more about here (spoiler alert: it was really helpful!)

But actually the most helpful things to me when I was going through that deployment weren’t medical-related at all!

Firstly, the other SWAGs (Soldiers’ wives and girlfriends) and I had a WhatsApp group – where we mostly chatted about rubbish – but it was nice to have that group of us from up and down the country connected in some way, and taking our minds off the deployment! I’m still really good friends with some of them and try to keep in contact with as many of them as possible (if you’re reading this, sorry I’m so terrible at staying in touch!)

One of Jamie’s friends who had left the army by this point was also a big help – he would drive me places if I needed a lift or just pop round for a cuppa. Again, it wasn’t much but it was nice to know that I had someone there who could help me out or just take my mind off things with a chat. He’s been through his own mental health struggles with PTSD so he definitely understood the importance of not being alone!

I was obviously forever anxious that something was going to happen to the husband abroad, but regular phone contact was possible for us so I am really quite lucky. Even so, I put a lot of effort into sending shoeboxes of goodies and drawings from Olivia and Kiera and writing letters too. It gave me something positive to focus on and helped entertain the kids!

I also forced myself out of the house despite not driving! I went to uni, I worked part-time, when I finished uni I got a full-time job (that literally started 3 days after I finished so I had no time to dwell on anything). At weekends I tried to go to places with Olivia, I made use of the Welsh Guards Welfare Service and the amazing days out they had planned for their families during the deployment! I went out on my own or visited Jamie’s family (involving a lot of train rides – thank god for the HM forces railcard!)

The evenings were definitely where I struggled – I was finding it harder to sleep and just hated being alone. That’s mostly where the CBT came in to help with my motivation and routine.

Just talking to other people about how I was feeling – not necessarily medical professionals – was one of the best medicines.

So if you know someone whose partner is deployed, give them a shout. Check they’re okay. Go round for a cuppa and let them know you’re there. It can honestly be the most lonely time and just knowing you have a friend who cares can work wonders to help someone feel a little less down about it.

Have you experienced any deployment-related mental stress? What did you find helped you through it the most?

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army wife

Allergy Alienation

…my little boy is different from other kids and that my experience of parenting has been skewed by that. I like to think it has made me more considerate but in reality it has just made me anxious and controlling.

You may have noticed a surge of reports in the news about very avoidable deaths and serious injuries due to allergic reactions because somewhere along the line, someone was careless. It makes my blood boil and my stomach turn.

That level of carelessness and thoughtlessness affects people with allergies all the time and as a result, some people just don’t feel comfortable going to certain places.

My recent experience at a local soft play centre – one that previously made me feel very at ease compared to others – made me feel alienated more than I ever have before. Ultimately, it just hammered home that my little boy is different from other kids and that my experience of parenting has been skewed by that. I like to think it has made me more considerate but in reality it has just made me anxious and controlling.

So, what happened?

There is a small soft play area within the restaurant at a local garden centre, you pay for your soft play session with your drinks/food at the till and go around the corner to the enclosed soft play room. You sign in with a member of staff at the door and you get your wristband and in you go. This particular day was busy enough that I would have avoided it if I had known before I paid. I can’t stand busy play areas of any kind, it’s too chaotic for me. I entered the room with my son and a tray with my coffee on it and before I had even sat down I managed to cause a scene.

I didn’t set out to, but it happened and it was mortifying. I saw a grandparent give their granddaughter a bag of cheese and onion crisps and send her on her way. I tried to get their attention quietly but it was loud in there and it was urgent – the child would disappear into the climbing frame in seconds. So I shouted. The other parents in the room fell silent and stared at this woman who had only been in the room for three seconds shout at a perfect stranger.

She didn’t stop the child right away, why would she? She asked me why. I muttered something incoherent about my son being allergic and she looked at me like I was crazy, did she really not understand? She reluctantly took the bag from her granddaughter who had, by some miracle, stayed near the front of the play area and rather than wash her hands off and send her to play again she just let her go in with one crisp at a time. This set me on edge but I still had some determination left for my son to have a nice afternoon playing with other children.
 
After that, everyone went back to their conversations slightly subdued. I caught people stealing glances at me and muttering to their companions. I couldn’t relax – what if there was already something in there with milk in it from before I arrived? After about 10 minutes another family arrived and sat their young daughter in a highchair with a tippy cup of milk, the kind with a free flowing spout. Something else for me to watch. Sure enough it went on the floor almost immediately and splashed milk everywhere. The parent went to pick it up, got to eye level with their baby and made the effort to tell them and sign to them that they mustn’t throw the cup…but left the milk all over the floor. I didn’t want to cause another scene so I left it for as long as I could stand to, almost in tears. I lasted about a minute before I got some of that blue tissue they have in shops and silently cleaned under the table myself. More looks, more muttering, more discomfort for me.
 
As I sat back at my table and held back tears again I saw one child enter the play area with cake and another enter with crisps. What on earth am I supposed to do? People have clearly been doing this all day and they aren’t going to stop. I only had one choice, I had to pack up and leave. We had been there for less than half an hour and my son doesn’t like leaving after 2 hours, of course he cried his eyes out whilst I explained to him why we had to leave. Maybe he doesn’t fully understand it yet but at least he knows it isn’t his fault, he isn’t in trouble. I could feel the people staring at us as we left and by the time we got as far as customer services my devastation had turned to anger. I explained everything that had happened and received a full refund. I would have rather stayed and let my son enjoy being a kid, for the sake of a couple of quid.
 
My son was subsequently ill from the contact with his allergen for about a week after this and I spent the whole time beating myself up because he was suffering for a lesson I should have learnt already.
 

What can you do?

It’s not much, but it means the world to allergy families.
  • If you’re in a play area don’t let your children walk around with food, and if you are able to then wash their hands/faces before letting them play again.
  • If your child has eaten in a shopping trolley or in a cafe highchair, wipe it down before you put it back.
  • If you or your child drops food or drink on the floor where other children might play then clean it up.
  • If you work in a food serving establishment be patient with allergy families and don’t ever answer questions you aren’t sure about – we’d rather go hungry than eat something that could make one of us incredibly ill. We will always be grateful for the honesty.
  • If you work in a nursery, try and get all of the children to wash their hands AFTER food as well as before.
  • If you’re hosting a children’s party try to cater for the allergy kids if you can and be considerate of cross contamination if you can’t – something as simple as slicing cheese rather than grating it so it doesn’t fall out of sandwiches makes a huge difference.
  • If you see someone like me out in the wild, don’t gawk and mutter. Try and offer some friendly words and maybe even a bit of back up if things go even further south.
Allergy Alienation - The truth about days out with food allergies

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Mental Health Monday: Anxiety about having more children after PND

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When I was a 14 year old, my dream for my family life was to have twin girls (Lily and Olivia) and then a boy (Henry). I don’t think i need to go into the whys and wherefores about how that changed, but it certainly did.

Following the birth of Olivia, I suffered with Postnatal Depression for the majority of her first year. Having also had antenatal depression and just not being in the best mental state generally, I sort of knew that I would suffer with PND, though I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was or to last as long as it did. Whenever I think back to her being a baby, it makes me sad. I didn’t enjoy her being a little baby because I was under so much mental stress at the time. Of course, I can think back to happy times as well as times when I was in the middle of a breakdown, but on the whole, reflecting on her baby stage just makes me feel angry at myself, and terrified it will happen again.

Like I said, I no longer want twin girls and a boy (and my plan for having the twins first has gone to pot anyway), but I have written previously on the blog about why I don’t want any more children now and why I never want to be pregnant again. The PND plays a huge part in that.

I carry so much anxiety with me from my experience of having Olivia that things would be the same again. I honestly could not face that same depression again. It was quite crippling in many ways, and 2 years after Olivia was born I am still dealing with the aftermath and the guilt.


There’s a great twitter chat hosted by Rosey at PND & Me which has covered this topic before, and I liked reading the comments of people joining in and their very mixed experiences…

Some had PND only with the 1st child, some with both, some only with the 2nd or subsequent. I suppose, the point is, that everyone will have different experiences and every pregnancy will be different.

But we knew that already! So…

What are the actual statistics?

  • PND affects more than 10-15% of women within a year of giving birth (that’s about 35,000 women!)
  • Up to 1 in 10 fathers also suffer from postnatal depression following the birth of a baby
  • 33% of mothers who experienced depression in pregnancy then suffered with PND
  • A history of depression makes it more likely that you will suffer postpartum depression
  • Mums who have had postnatal depression with one child are more likely to suffer again with subsequent children

I’d like to think that I’m not the only mum who worries that this would happen again, after all, there are so many of us who have suffered with it once, twice or however many times.

My husband and I often look at each other when Olivia does something unbelievably cute, suggesting another one, but he knows that I don’t want anymore and I feel guilty for that too. But at those times when we think “aww, look how cute our baby girl is,” I do wish I could bring myself to have another child. I wish I could do it knowing that I would be able to enjoy the baby stage like I couldn’t with Olivia, but there are no guarantees, and really, I don’t think I’m cut out for doing it all again.

In my moments of weakness (as I call them) when I think I want another baby, I feel so conflicted because as much as I would love to have another child, I can’t face feeling like I did during my pregnancy and feeling all of the guilt afterwards of not being able to bond with the baby and feeling like I’m simply inadequate!

I know that things are really quite different now – I have none of the external drama going on that I did during my pregnancy with Olivia, so maybe because my life is more stable now, my mind would be too. If I do end up having another one I’ll be sure to let you know 😉 but, for now, Olivia is more than enough, and I am enjoying being her mummy. I can’t go back to what I was when she first arrived, so I’ll carry on being the best mummy I can be to her and we’ll just see what fate has in store for us.

Have you survived PND and gone on to have more children? How were things a second time around?

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Mental Health Monday: I’m taking control… Anxiety vs social media

I have an anxiety disorder. There it is, I said it. Phew! That wasn’t so hard I guess… but I’m someone who doesn’t openly discuss my anxiety issues, (being a bit of a proud and stubborn person), I still find it hard to admit that I have difficulties, which were on a daily basis. But here I am opening up about it and who better to share it with than you lovely mums?

I came off Facebook earlier this year and I’ve not looked back. When I realised that it was causing problems for my mental health, I decided it was best for me to finally ditch it.

Facebook has over the years been a great way for me, (like most people who use it), to stay in touch with old friends and new, but as my long-term relationship broke down, it was visually obvious just how much I had lost in the process. Seeing that old friends and family were deleting me out of their lives, after years together, took its toll on me and contributed towards my illness. Memories popping up each time I logged on. My anxiety was constantly telling me how lonely I had become. Some of my closest friends, I thought would be there through thick and thin, weren’t as supportive as I needed at that time, (and I recognise now that yes I was needy), and Facebook was reminding me of how much fun everyone was having, whilst I was falling into what I didn’t see at the time as depression. Of course when you’re in a better state of mind, you know that Facebook isn’t really ‘real life’, but as a result I was further pushing those people away and isolating myself as a way of coping, which I can see now.

Facebook again continued to serve as a reminder that as I reached my 30s and had become a mum, that I was no longer such a socialite. I love being a mum, so I accept that I can’t do as much; it’s part and parcel of being able to have a wonderful child, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped being me! Am I still fun to be around? My anxiety would chime in to torture and remind me that I’m lonely and instead of fun nights out, I’d be updating everyone on my excitement that I’d managed to get through the day without tearing my hair out.

The final push for me as a mum with anxiety was because I was noticing that family members were using Facebook as a way to ‘stay in touch’ with my daughter, by picture comments. Whilst it’s lovely to hear from people and to get their well wishes, (I don’t want to seem ungrateful), it means nothing to a baby/toddler, when she’s older and can read it’s a different story. I felt like people were knowing what my daughter was up to, without really knowing her and my anxiety again was causing me to have difficulty processing and dealing with this. Relatives, living nearby, were often going long periods of time without seeing my daughter. I knew I would much rather be able to see those people in person to build up relationships the old fashioned way, no matter how often that was. Coming off Facebook felt like the push I needed to arrange to see people more in person.

Coming off Facebook helped me to concentrate on my little circle of close friends and family and helped me to prioritise what is important to me and my family.

Leaving Facebook didn’t of course erase all of my mental health issues, but I’m using the social media that doesn’t trigger my anxieties instead which has helped me to feel more in control. Facebook is no longer there to remind me of the person I used to be; because I am finding that person again myself. Getting additional help from my GP has meant that my anxiety isn’t feeding me this false information, which sends me into a downward spiral where I am convinced that I am lonely. I am also far better at dealing with things that would have previously been a trigger.

I’m in a place now where I can stand up to the anxiety, (which I refer to as the A hole), and I can say I have my daughter’s and my partner’s love and that is more than enough! So with my little social circle of mums and treasured old friends, I feel very rich indeed. I haven’t felt this good about myself in a long time and I have more confidence than ever before to get out and meet new people. Each day feels like a new exciting opportunity now.

Thank you for reading about my journey.

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Mental Health Monday: Struggling With Depression or Anxiety?



Today’s blog post is a special contribution from Anna Kucirkova. Anna speaks 3 languages has a passion for kids and writing. While she has been to many places in Europe and South East Asia she still wants to explore the rest of the world.

Struggling with depression or anxiety? Here’s what you need to know!

Anxiety and depression are broad terms that can induce some anxiety just by researching and thinking about them. Oftentimes the two conditions overlap, which creates a confusing set of symptoms that both overwhelms and causes you to feel extremely low. 

If you believe that you may be affected by anxiety and/or depression, take a deep breath–you are not alone. The effects are serious but also fully manageable with the right tactics.


In this article, we’re going to examine the vicious combination of anxiety and depression to understand how they are related and how the latest research helps us understand the connection between them.

What Are Anxiety and Depression?

depression
Anxiety disorders cover a broad spectrum, in large part because doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists have created multiple categories of anxiety based on their triggers or causes. 
However, all anxiety  disorders are primarily characterized by a sense of excessive fear or tension. This is usually understood as a heightened response to a real or oftentimes perceived threat, or anticipation of a future threat that is often not based on situational reality. There are some exceptions to this, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which often creates a sense of anxiety without any connection to specific events. 

People suffering from anxiety experience disruptions in their behavior and ability to function normally. Many times, the heightened fear and anxiety responses associated  with anxiety disorders manifest themselves in panic attacks, which are a psychological and physiological response to a generalized sense of fear. Other symptoms may include difficulty breathing, rapid heart beat, a sense of tightness in the chest, difficulty concentrating, etc. 
Essentially, when the body is in the grip of anxiety, it has unnecessarily entered into fight-or-flight mode. The body thinks a threat is present and unleashes a host of chemicals that prepare the body to either fight or run from the perceived threat. 
Like anxiety, there are multiple types of depression which are typically categorized by causality or frequency of depressive episodes. General depression (often referred to as “clinical depression”) is diagnosed by a list of symptoms that range from the familiar to somewhat surprising. 
The primary and most well-known symptom is an overwhelming feeling of sadness and/or a loss of interest and enjoyment in most usual activities. The other symptoms associated with major depression include changes (decrease or increase) in appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, changes in motor skills and cognition (either increased activity like fidgeting or decreased activity which results in a generalized lethargic state), constant fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, recurrent thoughts of death and suicidal ideation with or without specific plans for committing suicide, and changes in cognition. 

This last symptom is one which is often overlooked in the popular understa
nding of depression, which can lead to a further spiral as a person feels sad or “low” and subsequently struggles to complete tasks they previously found easy. Symptoms of depression last for two or more weeks and typically represent a substantial change from a person’s functionality and personality prior to the onset.

How Anxiety and Depression Affect You

Dealing with either or both sets of anxiety and depression symptoms can prove severely disruptive to daily activities, both because of anxiety-related heightened responses to relatively normal external inputs and because of depression-related suppression of energy, cognition, and general satisfaction. 
Psychologists are increasingly noting a correlation between anxiety and depression, which may be structural or psychological. Feeling anxious can lead to depression and feeling depressed can lead to anxiety, as in either case the mind starts to fixate on the recent change in mood, which further affects mood. 
depressed guy

Both disorders have widespread physiological effects, from changes in brain activity and energy level to reduced ability to function at the typical level for a given patient. Stress, anxiety, and depression all create vicious cycles that affect your immune system, digestive system, and adrenal responses, all of which have widespread trickle-down effects that can cause other medical issues. 

The most significant effects of anxiety and depression are widespread impacts on quality of life, including happiness, ability to complete basic self-care and educational or professional obligations, and mental and physical wellbeing. It’s not uncommon for people crippled by anxiety or depression to be unable to leave the house, go to work, or even perform simple tasks. The energy required to overcome the symptoms is simply too much. 

The combination of disorders can dramatically impact mood and even the ability to make it through the day without major setbacks like panic attacks or depressive episodes. The potential debilitating effects of these disorders underscore the need for accurate diagnosis and comprehensive treatment plans that allow you to resume life without the fear or weight of anxiety and depression.

How to Control Anxiety and Depression

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The good news is that anxiety and depression can be effectively managed and treated. This sometimes feels impossible for those who are in the grips of either or both disorders, which is exactly why it is so important to seek help professionally and support from friends and family. 
The causes of anxiety and depression are widespread, and range from structural and chemical to situational and trauma-induced. Even though the symptoms may be similar, the diffuse causes and disorders require different treatments. 
Virtually all cases of anxiety and depression benefit from talking therapy, which allows patients to discuss their feelings with professionals who help externally process underlying thought patterns or experiences which contribute to depression and anxiety. 
Counselling (or therapy) is an important component of every treatment plan, because it provides consistency, accountability, and an objective external monitor of relative mental health who can assist in recommending further therapeutic practices and/or medications. 
Additional treatment plans include medication to balance serotonin levels or to calm hyperactive and anxious brains. Oftentimes, depression medications provide comprehensive benefits including improved cognition, renewed interest in preferred activities, and a more ‘normal’ function of neurological pathways, which can alleviate depression-related anxiety, too. 
Anxiety medications can come in both daily dosages for management and ‘emergency’ doses to calm down gripping panic attacks which bring physical and mental effects and can be potentially life threatening.
In addition to medications, supplements such as St. John’s Wort, Lavender, and SAM-e have proven successful in mitigating some of the most crippling side effects. 
Virtually every form of anxiety and depression benefits from natural lifestyle changes that improve holistic health and provid
e natural relief for many of the stressors and symptoms associated with each or both disorders. 


Regular exercise is a proven mood booster that actually changes your body chemistry. Even a vigorous walk releases endorphins that may not otherwise be activated, and the associated health benefits are known to improve self-confidence and provide a healthier, more targeted outlet for many of the latent emotions that manifest in anxiety/depression. 
Higher-intensity exercise is universally regarded as one of the most effective treatments for mild depression or anxiety, and meditative pursuits like yoga or certain hobbies are also considered to be effective ways to redirect mental energy and provide you with a sense of calm and ‘control’ that is often lacking when anxiety grips your mindset. 
Mental illnesses can be frustrating and overwhelming because they seem so vague and deep-set within your mind, but they also are unique in that they can be treated through mindfulness, conversation-based therapy, and small lifestyle changes that can radically alter your overall outlook and well-being.

Conclusion: Don’t Let Anxiety Or Depression Destroy You

Mental health is inextricably linked to physical health. Just as mental illness can have negative effects on your physical well-being, physical health problems can affect your mental health. These include poor diet, lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, and social isolation. By focusing on sustainable, healthy daily routines, you can set yourself up for success in battling anxiety and depression. 
And with professional counselling and potentially medication, what seems like an insurmountable battle may actually be treated with great success. If you feel anxious or depressed, don’t let it overwhelm you. 
Instead, start with the most important step of all: pick someone to start talking to about your feelings. When you are in the throes of mental health issues, it can be impossible  to make the small-but-necessary first steps in treating them. But once you commit to starting, it’s amazing how much better you’ll feel.

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Mental Health Monday: It’s okay not to be okay

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So we all have times where we’re not ourselves, and if you suffer from mental health issues then you’ll know what I mean when I say sometimes it’s okay not to be ok. It has come out in recent news that Demi Lovato was hospitalized due to a relapse in her mental health, and it truly baffles me as to why people felt it was okay to criticize her for this? Mental health isn’t something you can take a tablet to fix it takes years, sometimes lifetimes to be in a good place…and that’s okay because everyone copes in different ways.

I have had my fair share of experiences with mental illness;  Anxiety, depression, paranoia, post-partum psychosis and BPD to name a few. My experiences are completely different from those of my friends and family members that have experienced these conditions, so to people who don’t have any experience with poor mental health (and I mean this in the nicest way), what might have worked for your Aunt Becky’s hairdresser’s niece isn’t going to work for me. You see, this post isn’t just aimed at mums – as humans we are not expected to hold it together every minute of every day, nobody is expecting you to be perfect and that’s okay.

One thing that really grinds my gears on mental health is the stigma surrounding it. Why are people so ashamed and afraid to talk openly about how they are feeling? Having a broken mind is no different to having a broken arm – both take time and care to heal. Of course, in this day and age you still find people saying, “Oh get a grip”, “Mental health isn’t a real illness” or my personal favourite… “Stop attention seeking.” These are always the people that have had no experience of mental illness and I’m super glad life has been peachy keen for them, and I honestly hope they never do experience it.

When I think back to the time my mental health was at it’s worst, I reflect back and look at how far I’ve come. I would be lying if I said I’m completely cured… I still have a hell of a long way to go, but when I look back and remember sitting on the edge of a bridge over the M20, I tell myself it’s okay. I’m only human and some days I’m going to be a mess, some days I’m going to feel worthless but until anyone has walked in my shoes who the hell are they to judge me?

Recently, I discovered a young person quite close to me was suffering with depression and self harming, it broke my heart that they felt they couldn’t talk to anyone about it. When I asked them why they didn’t talk to anyone they replied, “people will think I’m a freak, I have seen how people at school get treated for being like this and I don’t want that,” and I was left speechless. Why do we live in a world where people, even more so young people, can’t talk about their mental well-being in fear of being bullied for it? Why do they feel they can’t discuss it openly or freely without fear of being judged?

So my darlings, don’t ever be ashamed of who you are or what you are going through, you are NEVER alone and you will get through this. You are worth so much more than you feel you are and it’s okay not to be okay.

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Bath boohoos to Bath wahoos!

We lived in a flat where we didn’t have access to a bath, only a shower. So my daughter was stuck in her baby bath, probably longer than we would have liked. When we moved, the big bath tub came as a huge shock for her, and she didn’t like it. Not one bit! No sooner would we put her in the bath tub, then she would stand up and try to climb back out again. When we would wash her hair she would get hysterical and was grabbing at me to get her out. It got to the point where I was dreading bath time and was feeling anxious about it because it seemed more like water torture than fun!
We made some changes and Imogen looks forward to bath time. We struggle to get her out of the bath now!I really didn’t feel like we were going to get to this point. What a relief.

The number one thing I had to bear in mind when making these changes was that the more stressed I was getting, the worse the situation became.

I looked online at some helpful blogs and Mummy chat pages and felt more reassured. So this is why I wanted to share what worked for us with you lovely mummies.

We had a non-slip mat in the bath but I don’t think my daughter felt very comfortable and confident standing on it. The mat wasn’t very big and I don’t think the grip on it was very good. We got the Munchkin Dandy dots bath mat because it is long, almost covering the whole bath base and has bug rubber spots which have good grip for little feet.

We previously tried washing my daughter’s hair out with a sponge, with a jug, splashing it on with our hands… Nothing seemed to make the process quick and less upsetting. We got this though and this next item was a game changer for us.
The Moby waterfall bath rinser is a jug that gives a gentle flow and has rubber which allows you to press it to your child’s head. A couple rinses and a bit of distraction and the hair is washed very quickly!

We had toys for the bath previously, but Imogen wasn’t too bothered about them any more. When we got her a water book and letters however, she found these lots of fun to look at and they’re a good distraction!
The ‘Who’s Playing?’ outdoors magic book has animals in it that change from white to a colour when they go in the water.

The Welecom 36 pieces alphabet comes with an organiser which sticks to the side of the bath or the bath tiles, which is always handy. It means we can spell out words and stick them to the bath tub now that Imogen is taking an interest in letters.

Have you had any similar bath problems and do you have any tips on what you used/did that helped? We’d love to hear about them!

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Mental Health Monday: Dealing with your past demons as a new mother…

Personally, I’ve suffered with depression since the ripe old age of 12. Back then, it got really, really bad. I tried to end my life twice, and ended up in a mental hospital… so, of course, when I began noticing the same signs in myself of depression during my pregnancy, you can imagine the fears and anxieties that went with it.

I’ve previously talked about how to recognise antenatal depression, and I truly think that, had I not been depressed throughout my adolescent years, I wouldn’t have recognised it in myself while I was pregnant.

There can be so many things that trigger depression or any other mental illness, but for me it was a multitude of past demons that were resurfacing. They were resurfacing because, very soon, I was going to be a mother myself, and that was the most terrifying thought of all.

Not because I didn’t want to be a mum – I’d always wanted children. I grew up with 4 younger siblings (2 of whom I raised in part) and from the age of about 9 I had known what my children’s names would be, because, OBVIOUSLY, I was going to have twin girls (Lily and Olivia – I got one at least) and a boy (Henry). I had it all planned out.

But nothing goes to plan.

Instead, by surprise, I was pregnant in my final year of university, and had to deal with that pregnancy completely alone except for a couple of very amazing and supportive housemates. By the time that my pregnancy was nearing the 7 month mark, I had essay deadlines looming and was about to move back to Kent to prepare to have my baby, and become a mum. It was what I’d wanted so why did I feel so incredibly anxious about it?

It may sound cliche… but I was so petrified of turning into my mum. Of being the type of person that could cut her children out of her life as and when she pleased, or the type of person that would prioritise her vanity and her boyfriends over her children’s wellbeing. I came out of those 15 and a half years living with her so emotionally damaged, and I was terrified that my own daughter would feel the same way. I didn’t want to lose my baby before I even had her, and I felt like it was an unchangeable fate that she would end up hating me.

Those feelings of inadequacy before I had even given birth to my daughter were so difficult to overcome, but I did overcome them. It took counselling, peer support, regular GP visits, medication, and a round of CBT for me to get to the point that I am at now. I’ve felt the ups, downs and in betweens, and I still feel them, but the downs are becoming fewer and farther between.

No matter what demons there are in your past, they won’t stop you from being a good mother. It took me a long time to come to that realisation, and I have tried so hard with everything that I am to be the complete opposite of the woman that my mother is.

I have tried so hard to give Olivia everything she deserves and more – everything I deserved as a child but never thought I was worthy of. All I can hope for is that it will be enough, and as long as I’ve put my all into being the best mum I can be, then I’m sure that it will be more than enough.

Mix It Up Linky

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Mental Health Monday: my BPD story

BPD: the world through my eyes

I guess it all started when I was 13 and my mum took me to the doctors, I remember sat feeling the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt in my life “ There’s something wrong with her, she has this insane temper…now I know they have mood swings at this age but this is something else” my mum said to the doctor, I couldn’t bare to look either of them in the eye, long and short of it is I was referred to the child and adolescent mental health team, who to be quite frank didn’t really do much just started me on fluoxetine and at the ripe age of 13 my journey with anti-depressants began.
At 15 the journey took an unexpected turn as I found myself on the phone to Samaritans as I had lost all hope and was prepared to hang myself that evening. I still remember that conversation word for word, and I’m eternally grateful for Samaritans. “ It’s just anxiety and depression, try not to worry lets try you on a different anti-depressant” the child and adolescent mental health team said, and the journey changed to citalopram and I was introduced to zopiclone- a strong sleeping tablet
I must have stayed on citalopram up until I was 19 because I was taken off it when I found out I was pregnant. Now it’s no secret that after I had my baby boy I suffered from postpartum psychosis, and shortly after I was referred to the community mental health team which brings us to now.
It’s extremely rare for me to find a psychiatrist who I can open to and be completely honest with. I poured my heart out to this doctor, You see, I’ve always had a fear of being abandoned and unwanted, it’s not that I crave attention it’s that like most people I crave the feeling of being loved but in the same breath I push people away because in my eyes it’s easier to push them away myself than let them close to me and than have them pull away from me.
Then next he asked about the self harm. Since I was 13 I have abused my body. I’ve picked at my skin, taken multiple overdoses as well as attempting to end my life off of a bridge, I told the doctor everything and he looked at me concerned and just returned to writing it all down.
“Would you say you have tendencies to be impulsive Amy?” he asked. Now this bit was almost a comical moment as I had a flash back to every reckless, impulsive thing I’ve done to date. I smirked almost with tears rolling down my face… “Well it’s been said… yeah,”  I chuckled. “ I just have these intense mood swings. I can go from feeling on top of the world, and like I actually have control of my life but the slightest thing can happen and I’ll crumble, I can’t cope with it and that mood will last anything from a few hours to a few days.” At this point I started sobbing uncontrollably.
You see, I never wanted to be like this. To be constantly paranoid and overthink every possible thing,  to read every text message over and over again until I’ve convinced myself that the person who sent it is annoyed at me…and god forbid someone doesn’t text me back within 3 hours because I will convince myself they don’t like me. The temper that comes with it is like a firecracker, I have such a short fuse and when I lose my temper I have no control over what I say and I will willingly cut ties without even thinking. The self doubt is there every day, every damn day I tell myself I can’t and won’t achieve things…it’s like a little niggling voice at the back of my head, almost like a little mouse nibbling away day by day.”So Amy, I think there is a bit more than depression here. From what you’ve told me and looking at your history I think you have something called BPD, formerly known as EUPD…have you heard of it?”…it was almost a relief to know everything I had been through was an underlying condition.

This post might seem a bit doom and gloom, but that is BPDin my eyes, It’s a constant challenge. I’m on a waiting list for counselling but like all NHS services, the mental health team are under strain. I was told BPD treatment is 50:50, 50% medication and 50% talking therapy. My new tablets have been the most helpful to date, and on the whole I have good control over my BPD. So to anyone newly diagnosed, know it gets better and know BPD does not define you.