anxiety, autism, dance, depression, diet, excercise, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, mental health, parenting, post natal depression, special needs, wellbeing

My postnatal depression story

I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I have trouble remembering the first two years of my sons life. I can not tell you at what age he got his first tooth, his favourite food as a baby, his first word or when he began to sleep through the night.  I’m not even sure of what age he took his first steps.

My second child, I can tell you all her milestones. I think that’s mainly due to the amount of times I’ve had to go over them with paediatricians, therapists, doctors. She has autism, and was finally diagnosed at age six just last year.

My youngest,  Emily. I know all her firsts. Mainly because I was extra vigilant looking out for any red flags we had with my eldest daughter.

Each pregnancy was different. All had the usual sickness and discomfort.  But my third pregnancy, I just wasn’t feeling those feelings you associate with pregnancy. The excitement,  the happiness, the eagerness. I didn’t really feel anything.

I brought my feelings (or lack of) up with my midwife whilst getting my bloods done. I was assured it was perfectly normal , due to hormones and it would all settle down probably by my next appointment.

Only it didn’t.  I didn’t take joy in shopping for baby clothes, I was in no rush to pack my hospital bag, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was emotionless.

I booked a 3D scan around the 32 week mark, hoping that would make everything feel more real, I don’t think it did. It was a wonderful experience, of course it was, but the sadness continued.

The years which followed my daughters birth in September 2011 were dark, very dark. I was dealing with the likelihood of my oldest daughter having autism, which was causing stress along with that lingering feeling of worthlessness. But before even falling pregnant with my daughter, I was dealing with body image issues. I hated my appearance to the point it was affecting my everyday life. These feelings got worse. I’d stay home all day unable to face the world, or I’d only leave the house when it was dark. I’d avoid mirrors and my reflection in windows. I’d panic if we had a party or wedding to go to. I hide away in the toilets to avoid any social interaction.  And my heart would pound and my  head spin if I saw anyone with a camera.

I’d apologise to my children, as small as they were and unable to understand, for being a useless mother. I’d tell them I loved them as the tears rolled down my face, and that I was doing my best. I’d ask my husband why he was with me and give him the option to leave, which always left him gobsmacked and confused.

I’d go to bed each night and secretly wish I wouldn’t wake up. I’d have dreams of living a life where I am happy and have friends around me, and wake up devastated when I realised they were just that. A dream

My husband found me a video on Youtube about the ‘Black dog’, and asked me to watch it. I did. I broke down and he told me to get help.

I went to my GP, told her my feelings and filled in a questionnaire. From that she gathered I had depression and extreme anxiety. I was referred to the Mental Health Team. Again. I was already in therapy before falling pregnant with Emily dealing with body image issues. Hence my panic when faced with the prospect of having my photo taken. I was a mess. An absolute broken mess

That was September 2013. From then on I had fortnightly visits from my Health Visitor. She didn’t come to pry or check up on me. She came to lend and ear aswell as advice and support, and I thanked her for that.

October 2013 I began attending well-being courses. I picked up techniques to deal with stress, become assertive and gain confidence.

Summer 2014 I had my first appointment with I think it was a life coach. She pretty much assessed me to see if she could help. She couldn’t. My condition was too extreme.  I was then referred to a clinical psychologist. Again

I met with my therapist every two weeks and I think I had around 10 sessions before I decided I felt ready to face the world alone once again.

I learned through these sessions I was suffering with post-natal depression, and that the depression had even grown DURING pregnancy. I found out through a quick glance at my notes at the doctors surgery as they came up on the computer screen during an appointment, that  I had been suffering with PND after the birth of my second child. I found out through a letter sent to my doctors and a copy to sent to me, that I’d even been suffering with PND after the birth of my first child way back in 1999. I had my son at 21 so I’d spent most of my adult life with depression. I genuinely thought I was just useless, unlikable, disgusting. I was non of those. I was depressed.

PND took away my memories of my first child growing from baby to toddler, it kept me indoors, it filled me with fear, took away my self-esteem and stripped me of my confidence

When the therapy ended, I took up blogging. I decided to chase my dreams and enrolled on a distance learning course. This both occupied my mind and my confidence began to grow. I‘ve taken up exercise, and spend most days either in a gym or an exercise class. I’ve made new friends. I even spend two hours on a Sunday night as part of a team for a local radio station. I’m still building up my confidence to become more involved, but I know I will. I know I can do it. I can do anything if I continue to believe in myself.

Over the months I’ve thrown myself into situations I would usually avoid. I’ve done things I could never imagine doing and I am in a place now where I have never been in before. A very good place and although I am an anxious person by nature, I have my anxiety under control and I will never let depression take over my life or steal my memories again.

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anxiety, depression, excercise, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, mental health, wellbeing

Dear Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

It is not often that we personally address something which we cannot physically see, but I can feel you, and I have been able to for as long as I can remember. You’re part of me and I dislike you as much as the lumps, bumps and flaws I’ve beaten myself up over for the longest time, which I can see. The lumps and bumps and flaws which aren’t even half as bad as you’ve had me believe. I was even convinced at one point in my life that I was too ugly to leave the house, so would spend my days in doors, hidden away from the world. But I wasn’t too ugly, I was too anxious.

I have periods where your toxic thoughts take over my mind and fill my soul with negative feelings and take away every bit of self-belief I have strived to gain. I have no photos of me holding my three children as babies, not one single photo.  No visual memories of days out or birthdays with their proud mum – until this year. I did not want to look at myself as I could not deal with the repulse I would feel, or have anyone else look at me and squirm. And I hate you for that.

You’ve stolen hours, days, weeks and months from me,  even a large part of my childhood where I struggled to make friends. The school days where I sat in my chair with my head down avoiding any kind of eye contact with the teacher during reading, filled with dread and fear that I would be asked to read aloud to the class. My heart pounding. My head spinning. Sitting knowing the answers to questions, but not daring to raise my hand for the fear, the absolute humiliation of being wrong.

University wasn’t easy either. Believing I wasn’t smart enough to be on the course and I was heading for a fail from day 1. Luckily, every single assignment I got back, proved you wrong. I graduated with a 2:2 which I worked so hard to get, and around being a single parent. I was good enough, and my confidence hit an all time high. I thought I’d beat you.

I hadn’t. You’ve been the most prominent part of my life for the last three or four years in particular. Where I have battled with you literally every, single day. You’ve made me tear myself up inside to the point where when asked what it is I don’t like about myself, I had a list. I hated everything from the colour of my hair to my overly bitten fingernails. You had messed with and taken over my mind to the extent that when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see what everyone else saw, but a horrific, distorted image. You made me want to hide away. So I did. I isolated myself. I couldn’t deal with the world of thinking people are pointing and laughing at me. Thinking that everything that came our of my mouth was just plain, insignificant rubbish. Convinced I’m unlikable, and undeserving of friendships, which I find incredibly hard to make and maintain.

Eventually I went for help. And it’s from that help I was given the ammunition to fight you. I was put in a position where I had to identify and talk about my positive qualities, and given the tools to challenge negative thoughts. I was given enough self-belief to realise I can be anything I want to be, and began to pursue my dream.

I’m fully aware of you now. I can feel how you flood my thoughts and infest my mood with dark paralysis and despair. You are literally a demon.

I’m now at a place where I’ve become completely mindful. I’m finally in tune with my body and emotions. I can feel you creeping up on me, and as recent as three weeks ago, you had me convinced yet again that I’m a failure. You drained me for days. All the tears, the effort of pretending I’m fine when around other people whilst forcing a smile. The listening to my husbands words of positivity but choosing to ignore them, makes me exhausted, and him frustrated. But just like any illness, I knew it would pass and just had to ride it out. You’ve gone now and yet again I’ve gained more strength. I’m winning.

So thank you anxiety, for giving me the courage to chase my dreams. I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for you. I wouldn’t be working my way towards a diploma in journalism, and I wouldn’t be taking care of myself and working out so much to release the natural endorphins which help to keep your evil thoughts at bay and act as a must needed distraction as I feel you creeping around me, smirking.

I’m taking back my life, anxiety, so next time you try to worm your way in, don’t worry, I’ve got this.

(Origionally Published on Cultnoise Magazine)

 

 

 

dance, general, health, health and fitness, mental health, wellbeing

WARNING – Things THAT will happen to you when you start to exercise

It’s just gone 2 years since I went out and purchased my first pair of trainers since school (I’m not even joking), threw on the leggings, bit the bullet and ventured into the world of ‘fitness’.

So if anyone is thinking of doing the same, I should highlight some of the changes, in both body and mind, you can expect to experience.

These aren’t a load of scientific facts I’ve googled and threw together, but all based on personal experience.

First off, expect to feel an increase in energy. You know when you find it really difficult to get up in the morning, particularly in the winter? You’ll find yourself waking up rearing to go. Especially if it’s a class day. And if that is the case, you’ve probably went to bed the previous night excited for morning. I mean who actually looks forward to 6am? That’ll be me

Your physical co-ordination will improve, helping you navigate even the most cluttered of tasks or busy crowds like the ninja you are

You’ll find yourself feeling good. Like really really good, less stressed and so much more relaxed. That’s the beauty of serotonin

You’ll gradually notice you are feeling so much more confident. You know all the things you wish you could do, but believe you can’t? The things you’d love to try but worried you’ll be no good at? The changes you’d like to make in life but are held back by the ‘what ifs’? You’ll do them. Because you’ll have the self-belief and confidence to have a go at absolutely anything you desire. And if it doesn’t work out as planned – you won’t care because at least you’ve given it a go

Your wardrobe will change. I have way more gym gear than ‘normal’ clothes. Barely any of them fit and I prefer to stick to black or gray, but I saw, I liked, I bought, and I’m sure they will at some point. Trainers will become the new heels. Especially if you go out for a few sociables after class. It happens

You’ll experience a sense of pride as your self-esteem begins to rise as you set and smash those goals you will start to set. Some fitness related, some not. Whether it’s to run a mile, fit into a pair of jeans or go along to a new class. There is no better feeling than that of achievement and you’ll reach a point where you believe you can have a go at pretty much any thing, although it’s important to not become too delusional. Don’t think after two weeks of pumping iron you’re ready to fly a plane. Keep it real

You’ll meet new people. People you’ll strike up friendships with, as you’ll all share a common interest and passion. Friends you’ll look forward to seeing, who cheer each other on, lift each other up and will play a special part in your life.

You’ll start to care so much less about what others think of you. As your confidence grows, so does a layer of thick skin which any unwanted negative comments you may unfortunately find being thrown your way, just can not cut through. There will be no room for negativity in your life. Good vibes only, people

In addition to all the above, your body will inevitable change. Not only will you be losing the pounds, your shape will change. You’ll notice you look and feel toned as muscle starts to form (especially if mixing weights with cardio).

So unless you want to feel utterly fabulous, completely change your mindset and open doors to a whole new you, you best avoid the gym and all the funky new fitness classes I just can not get enough of