The terrible twos, a survival story. They really are terrible.

We started noticing a couple of months ago that our daughter didn’t seem herself. She just didn’t look to be as happy and we wondered what was wrong. Then the tantrums started… We hit the ‘terrible twos’ at 20 months. And there I was thinking we had a bit more time! Why???! What did I do to deserve this?!Imogen has always been a smiler. I know medical professionals would tell me I’m wrong but as soon as she was born Imogen was smiling. She just looked so happy to be alive! Strangers in the street would constantly comment on what a happy girl my daughter was. So it’s horrible to see her go from being a happy little girlie to a frustrated gremlin in a matter of seconds.

This is totally normal from what I’ve heard from every parent, but it’s hard to think of that when you’re experiencing a toddler meltdown. A couple trips out I’ve had with friends have turned into me trying to distract or negotiate with my daughter to stop her screaming. Whether this is the right thing to do I don’t know! I’m tackling anxiety anyway at the moment and it puts me on edge to go out much knowing how she can get at the moment. I know it’s just a phase and I’m so proud of her for making her own decisions on things but the hitting is the worst thing. She’s not just hitting me, (not hard) but she’s hitting herself in the face if she can’t tell me what she wants. It’s horrible to see and I’ve only ever taught her that hitting is wrong. Her speech is coming along so well at the moment so with any luck I’m thinking that the more she can communicate, the less frustrated she will be getting.

I read on a mums’ social group that some other mums were having the same worries about this phase. It can come earlier than 2 years old!

I realised that it’s not me having an inability to properly look after my daughter. Why is it that it’s always my go to, to blame myself as a mother? I look around and it’s like every other mum has things all sorted out, but they’re going through it too, or have gone through it. I’m not doing anything wrong! It shouldn’t matter what people think when I’m out with her, I’m dealing with it, mkay? Just please don’t come over to me to make a point of telling me that my daughter has just screamed loudly or that she’s making a funny noise. I am well aware! I wish people didn’t have to draw so much attention to a situation or make suggestions on what I should do, it makes my anxiety that I was previously managing worse!

I reckon it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed because it’s not easy when your child is hanging off you and squealing that they want more biscuits and don’t want to leave the park. It’s all amplified when your tot is teething too, which is our other joy at the moment.

So yes I didn’t do much house work today. I couldn’t be bothered to cook anything for myself and my partner, I’ll order takeaway. I’m going to put my feet up and be proud that we got through today without tears, (on my part) and I know I’m not alone! Give a mum a high five. We’re awesome! We’ll get through this again tomorrow.

Mental Health Monday: Postnatal anxiety and me.

As a new mum, I thought that the anxiety of leaving your child, leaving the house with your child etc. was normal. What I didn’t realise was that not wanting to be alone with your child and having the constant fear that you would do something wrong and having your child taken away from you was not normal. This is how I felt 90% of the time and it completely ruined the bond I so badly wanted with my daughter. 90% of the time I’d be at somebody’s house, or out of the house with people around because I was scared of being alone with my daughter. Scared that something would happen and nobody would be around to help me. Or if I did something different to the mums at baby group, I would panic that I was doing it wrong and my daughter was going to taken into care because I didn’t know what I was doing.

I started to see this as abnormal when my daughter was around 4 or 5 months old. I saw other mums staying at home alone with their children and taking a different approach to parenting and wondered why they seemed okay with it but not me. I mean, this was normal right? Hmm… not so much. I went to see my GP who suggested I saw a therapist. So I agreed, reluctantly at first, to go to the first session and I was so bloody nervous. The anxiety had kicked in 100 times worse. What if I say something and they think I’m an unfit mother? What if I go there and they think Evie is unsafe with me? I could go on…Surprisingly, they were incredibly understanding and instead of judging, they listened. They listened to me ramble on about my worries, my fears and my goals. I was diagnosed with postnatal anxiety which, once explained to me, made perfect sense. I didn’t feel any less anxious after that session, but my thoughts were out there. Thoughts I hadn’t even told my partner about because I was scared of sounding crazy or stupid but I finally knew that I wasn’t either of those things.

I continued on with a therapist but this time, with CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy). Each week I would have a different thing to do e.g. messy play at home for 15 minutes, watching a TV show with Evie at home on my own etc. Slowly, I started to create that bond with her that I had been so desperate for and could cope with being alone with her. Don’t get me wrong, the anxiety still creeps about and springs up on me when I least expect it but the bond between me and Evie now is amazing. She genuinely is my best friend and I love spending mummy & daughter time with her! I wish I had known that postnatal anxiety was a thing sooner. You hear a lot about postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis during pregnancy but never the anxiety part. (Not in my pregnancy anyway). So please make sure you are familiar with the symptoms!

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/perinatal-anxiety/#.WuegOKXTWJ0

https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/after-birth/symptoms-of-postnatal-anxiety-and-depression

Mental Health Monday: why the stigma?

You may be familiar with the hashtag #endthestigma on social media, used in conjunction with posts about our mental health. Opening up discussions about mental health can reduce the stigma and lead to better understandings of what the issues may be, but why is there such a stigma in the first place?

3 things we can do to help future generations 

#endthestigma

https://player.vimeo.com/video/301598462 #EndTheStigma from Mummy Kind on Vimeo.

1. Remember, your mental health is a disability with the power of invisibility

Imagine instead of depression or anxiety or bulimia, you have a broken leg. Everyone can see your broken leg. Everyone can imagine and envisage how painful it must be, so then you get empathy.
With mental heath conditions, your illness is under an invisibility cloak. Nobody can see it, and very few people can then imagine the pain that you’re in. There’s a lack of empathy, and an attitude of “just get out of bed”, or “you don’t look depressed”.
One way we can stop these ridiculously unhelpful comments is by being open and honest. Not with the world but with ourselves and those close to us. Don’t hide away because you have an illness! This will also enable our children to grow up knowing the issues and with a better awareness and understanding, so that the stigma will be even closer to disappearing completely when their generation are all grown up.
2. Treating mental illness the same as a physical illness

Off the back of the first point, physical and mental illnesses can both relapse! So why on earth are we more afraid of admitting that depression has reared its ugly head again than we are of a chest infection coming back?

I recently went back to my GP to have a chat about my mental health, and he very helpfully explained to me that I must not see medication as a failure, having tried to manage for so long without it. I wouldn’t try to treat a kidney infection without medication so I shouldn’t have to try and treat my depression or anxiety without medication either!

The sooner people understand that physical and mental illnesses are the same, and should be treated in the same way, the better!

3. Don’t let society tell us who to be

Society generally often has an opinion of who we should be or when we should be happy… Well, for starters, you can be both depressed and happy – it is possible! But that aside, societal attitudes have a lot to do with why there is a stigma in the first place.

Emphasising certain attributes on young boys that they have to be tough and cannot show emotion is one thing which contributes to men’s suicide rates being so high! For us females, telling women that they should be happy following the birth of a baby is yet another aspect of the huge circle of guilt that plays into postpartum mental illness!

Teaching our children that they can be what they want to be and that they can share emotions from a young age can really help to alleviate the stresses they will face as adults in the same way that we are under those stresses now.

This post was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds Campaign

So that is this week’s #MentalHealthMonday post! Get involved with the discussion on twitter and tweet us @mummykindoff

Let us know if there’s anything you do to raise awareness of mental illness! We would love to feature the stories of brave men and women so please get in touch!

If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

Mental Health Monday: Speak Up

Although we may have all spent our teenage years trying desperately to get away from embarrassing parents, parents are a class of people that we will all come across in everyday life. Hopefully, many of you reading this post are parents – mothers or fathers. It’s so important to understand and raise awareness of not only maternal mental health but of parental mental health generally.

Particularly important is raising awareness in our workplaces, because of the progress that has been made towards diversity and equality across this sphere generally – though much still needs to be done. Gender equality is increasing and this progress cannot be undone by a lack of support or awareness of the issues faced by new mothers and fathers, who, of course, make up a significant proportion of our working population.

Work-related stress is something which has affected so many people, so it is increasingly crucial to make sure that parents have no further stress upon returning to work, either by making admissions that they are seeking help for mental health conditions, or by suffering in silence and perhaps struggling in the meantime. Postnatal depression is not normally a topic spoken about widely enough for others to recognise that it can affect both mothers and fathers equally, and potentially adoptive or other kinds of parents as well.

At the moment, postnatal depression is diagnosed in around 1 in 10 mothers (though the actual number affected may be much higher!) and, according to recent NCT research, it also affects 1 in 10 fathers, though it may sometimes be called paternal depression rather than postnatal.

But I truly believe that nobody should have to suffer in silence in fear of a backlash if they do make a public admission of his or her postnatal depression. Encouraging an open dialogue around parental mental health brings us one step closer to ending mental health stigma altogether.

In some respects, the stigma of postnatal depression is more difficult to overcome, as many people can’t even fathom how a happy event such as the birth of a baby can lead to depression, psychosis, PTSD or anxiety as a result. The truth is that there is no logic to mental health conditions, and the expectations we are given to feel a certain way can make us feel inadequate, or undeserving, which can be where it all begins.

So how do we overcome the stigma surrounding mental health concerns? It’s necessary for the proper functioning of society that we’re able to move forward, and we have to raise awareness in order to do just that.

Personally, I believe that we should endeavour to be accommodating in our lives and particularly in our professional careers for new parents, encouraging and helping people to speak up, as they may be fighting battles unknown to the rest of us.

This post was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds campaign.

Postnatal Depression: An open letter to every mum…

It’s not an easy road, this parenting thing, and it’s okay if you’re struggling, just take steps to get better! It feels like a huge weight being lifted once you’ve made that first contact to someone. Be strong my lovelies, it will get better. It always does.



If you haven’t seen my personal blog, it’s full of letters to Olivia, so you could say that these are what I do best.
 
This one, however, has a twist. Not to Olivia, but to you, the one reading this. 

 

 
Mums, mamas, mummies, I beg you all to be your best. Not the best mother, the best cook, the best anything, but just the best version of yourself. 
 
What do I mean? I mean, get that help, use that support, it’s okay not to be okay all of the time. In fact, it’s normal. But sometimes it might be slightly worse than normal, all that means is that you are vulnerable and you need a little bit extra. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s DEPRESSION. And that is NOT a dirty word. It’s a feeling, a battle, a setback, but with the right help, you will come through the other side a stronger person, and you will be a better version of yourself having done so.
 
Sometimes you may feel like you’re sinking, and when you do it’s so hard to come up for air. But you will. And here is my little checklist of things to remember when I do feel like I’m slipping back underneath the surface.
 
    1. Help is not far away…

      Whether it’s my GP, my health visitor (before I moved away, I still haven’t managed to find the children’s health services in my new town yet), or my family, help is always close by and easy to access. My experience with the doctors surgeries is that even if their appointments are full up, they will always try to book you in asap if you tell them it’s for mental health. They will also be able to provide you with crisis numbers, and although I’ve never had to use them, I have friends who have and they have been dependable in their time of need.

    1. Don’t cut off your lifelines…It’s so easy to feel isolated, to send that text saying “no, sorry but I’m busy”, or to reject that phone call because you can’t face other people seeing you when you’re not feeling 100%. The best thing to remember is that true friends will be there for you through thick and thin, and just like having a sickness bug, it’s okay to want to hole up under your duvet and binge watch a tv series until you feel better. When you do feel better, seize those opportunities and see your friends and family.  Even if it’s momentarily, you will feel better for seeing other people and having adult conversation, trust me.
    1. Your baby thinks you’re perfectThis took me a long time to realise, but your little bundle that you carried for 9 months and went through all of that hell to bring into the world thinks YOU are the most amazing woman on earth. Yes, granted, a newborn baby doesn’t understand who you are yet, but you already provided them with a safe place to grow until they were ready to come out to meet everyone, and now you are their one and only source of comfort (especially if you’re breastfeeding). Sorry, dads, but you just can’t beat the power of the nipple. Hungry? Slip the nip. Tired? Slip the nip. Ratty? Slip the nip… You get the idea. You are providing them with everything they could want. They’ve already memorised your voice, and soon enough will learn your face too. That baby will love you unconditionally, no matter how imperfect you feel, you are perfect to someone.
    1. Baby’s daddy owes you big time…Seriously, nearly 15 months later I still play this card. “Honeyyyyy, make me tea please”, “No”, “But I made your baby”! It doesn’t really work anymore, I won’t lie, but in those first few weeks when he has paternity leave, soak up all of the help you can! Usually I am a staunch believer in independent womanhood but for the love of god you just delivered a 7/8lb something gorgeous lump, so don’t lift a finger. If you’re doing this alone, the same applies, take the help and the rest from people you love, you’re taking on double the work for th
      e foreseeable future! You totally deserve to chill out and not have to worry about anything. If, like me, you have terrible anxiety, you are definitely going to spend enough time worrying later on, so just sit back, and look at what you made! Look at that beautiful baby and your family and just cherish those memories. It’s so hard to forget all of your worries, but I promise you will have those moments where everything else slips away and you can only see the beauty in front of you.
  1. Forget your looks, they’re different but no less beautiful…This is a big one for me. I had enough trouble with my body confidence before having Olivia, but the one thing I actually liked was my nice flat tummy. Aaaaaaand POOF! It’s gone. It’s now covered in stretch marks and I can’t wear a belly bar anymore as the hole closed up. Plus there’s still a bit of extra fleshiness from the mumtum. But do you know what? What you see in the mirror isn’t what everyone else sees. My other half genuinely made me cry recently after I asked him what he would change about me. I expected it to be something superficial, because that is what I would change, magic me up some visible abs or something. No, instead he said he would change the way I see myself so that I can see what he sees. So to you all, YOU are still attractive, your body is still phenomenal, and there will always be someone who sees you differently to how you see yourself. Next time you look in the mirror, try to love yourself, see what your significant other sees. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so BEHOLD IT!
 
 
I think 5 is enough and I feel like I’ve rambled on a lot, but if you’re struggling you know you have people to turn to. If you truly do feel alone and you want someone to talk to who can’t and won’t judge you then you can contact any of the mummykind gang via Facebook, twitter or email – go to our contact us page to get the links!
 
Harriet and I also started a Facebook group for mummies suffering with PND, a safe place where you can share experiences and ask for advice without having to worry what people think of you.
 
I hope that this helps someone. It’s not an easy road, this parenting thing, and it’s okay if you’re struggling, just take steps to get better! It feels like a huge weight being lifted once you’ve made that first contact to someone.
 
Be strong my lovelies, it will get better. It always does.

If you liked this you may enjoy reading…