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.

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

10 Stepts to Body Confidence

Low body confidence is an issue which affects all of us from time to time, irrespective of age and gender. It is recognised as a significant social and public health problem in the UK and throughout much of the rest of the world. Statistics show that 60% of adults say that they feel ashamed of the way they look. This feeling of shame often leads to engaging in less social interaction, leading to isolation, and in turn poor mental health.

Sadly we live in a culture where a woman’s thinness and beauty are highly valued, and where wealth and success are often considered to go hand in hand with this image of perfection. We’re fed images via the media of ridiculously thin but extremely glamorous women, and devastatingly, these images are seen by teenagers in a time when they are particularly susceptible to peer pressure.

Low body confidence is not exclusive to women and girls; men and boys suffer negative body image too – but are less likely to admit to being affected, as it is seen as less socially acceptable for men to admit to caring about what they look like enough to experience any hang-ups.

It is the aim of many advocacy groups to change the way the media portrays women, with national and international efforts being made to make marketers take responsibility for displaying unrealistic and achievable images of both men and women. But we cannot simply rely upon a change in the media to change the ways we feel about ourselves, but instead we need to act as individuals and change the way we perceive and feel.

So, what follows is ten tips for achieving body confidence: a mental detox to have you feeling better about yourself in no time.

Surround Yourself With Positive People.

Every day we are surrounded by and spend time with a variety of people, but negative people can affect your own outlook, particularly of your body image. Choose to be around people who will make you thrive, even if this does mean some drastic changes to your social life. The transformation should empower you, lift your mood, self-esteem and body confidence.

pos

Recognise the Use of Image Manipulation, and That Altered Images Are Altering Our Minds

These ‘perfect’ images we see in media aren’t all they seem. Celebrities have spent hours in make up, photographed under strategically placed lighting and air-brushed to perfection. Blemishes are removed, limbs are lengthened and stomachs are flattened, as demonstrated in the below clip. Learn to recognise that these alterations are unrealistic and recognise the harm that they are doing to your own self-image.

Celebrate Your Body and All the Amazing Things It Can Do

Shift your focus away from what you body looks like to what it can do. Our bodies are our means of getting about, seeing, feeling, smelling. It is the means in which we come in contact and get to know the world. We should appreciate and respect it for that.

Make a List of Things You Like About Yourself, Read and Add to It Often

These things don’t have to be physical attributes. What you look like is only part of who you are. Think of all the things you do and do well, such as your ability to make others laugh when they most need it, your quirks, or your ability to smile even when things get hard. These are all qualities that need to be celebrated. And when the critical voices start making themselves known, there’s some evidence to the contrary.

Overpower Negative Thoughts With Positive Ones

pos2

We affirm statements about ourselves and the condition of our life with every thought and word we speak, and we practice this habit subconsciously. As we ponder over specific thoughts again and again, those thoughts become beliefs. Pretty soon these beliefs become our reality, and the condition of our wealth, health and relationships depends upon our habit of perception. Practicing positive affirmations is life changing. Use more positive self-talk. When you find yourself in the midst of a negative thought pattern, stop and replace it with an opposite statement. So stop hating yourself because you ‘look horrible’ and learn tell yourself that you love yourself unconditionally.

Exercise

Research indicates that exercise can help to improve body image. People who exercise and workout regularly are more likely to feel self-confident than those who are largely inactive.

exer

Body image is a strong component of self-esteem – and taking part in an activity that you enjoy, and that you gain a sense of accomplishment from, will help to build your self-esteem. Other benefits gained from exercise include overall better mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress and depression. Exercise also releases endorphins which create feelings of happiness through euphoria.

Practice Self Acceptance.

Self-acceptance is embracing yourself as you are right now.

“You really have to look inside yourself and find your own inner strength, and say, ‘I’m proud of what I am and who I am, and I’m just going to be myself.”

– Mariah Carey

To get to a place of self-acceptance you have to be able to know and understand who you are, which is likely to mean making some changes. You may have to face some fears and step outside of your comfort zone. It’s about separating who you are from what you’ve done, and understanding that everyone makes mistakes, and that’s how we learn and grow.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Everyone has something they wish they could change about their body. Wishing you had someone else’s hair, smile, or teeth takes away from what uniquely is you. Learn to accentuate the qualities you like and minimize the things you don’t. Start to look for beauty everywhere, particularly in places you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to find it, then you will learn to find it in yourself. You might not be able to squeeze into those size 8 jeans, but you still have that killer hair.

Focus on What You Have the Power to Change

If you want to change something about yourself, do it. If it’s your hair you don’t like, try a new haircut. If you’re unhappy about your weight, look into changing your diet or maybe joining an exercise class. The sooner you start making the changes, the sooner you will start to feel better about yourself.

Invest Your Time and Energy More Wisely

Rather than worrying about food, calories and your weight, use that time and energy to do something to help others, whether it’s an individual, or even getting involved in charity work.

Sometimes reaching out to other people can help us feel better about ourselves and make a positive change to our world.

anxiety, clean 9, dance, depression, diet, excercise, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, mental health, wellbeing

Making a lifestyle change – two years on

On National Fitness Day September 2015, I  blogged about the affects a lifestyle change was having on me. That was 4 months into the decision to try and change my life.

It’s now two years since I decided to make the change and live a healthier lifestyle, and thought I might give a little update.

Going back just over 2 years ago, I was in a very dark place. I had zero confidence – to the extent that some days, I even avoided leaving the house. I had really low self-esteem and a negative body image. I hated my appearance so much I ended up having weekly appointments with a Clinical Psychologist for CBT. That was way back in 2011, and what I believed was my last resort and attempt to break free from this awful feeling which was both ruling and ruining my life. However, 10 weeks in, the treatment was proving unsuccessful as I was making no progress, so the sessions came to an end.

My days were spent at home on my own. Just me and my youngest daughter. I couldn’t face taking her to soft play like other mums. I couldn’t handle the social anxiety I’d feel in toddler groups. I’d spend my days on my own.  The only people I would see week in week out was either family members, or my hubby. They were my only source of adult conversation, not that i had any conversation. I mean what can you talk about when you’re sat in your living room all day with a toddler.

I felt lost. I was lost. I didn’t know who I was, what I liked/disliked, or why I was even here. I felt empty, I felt drained and in pain. Mental pain

Then on Facebook I just happened to see something about a dance fitness class about to start in the area. I’d already heard about the new fitness trend and I was actually on the mailing list for one class, meaning I would get an email once a place in the became available. But every time I got that email, I made an excuse to myself why I couldn’t go. But this time, as nervous as I felt, I decided to go along to this new class and give it a try. I had absolutely no idea that by just making that small move, I was about to change my whole life.

Over the next few months I progressed from one class, to two and by august 2015, I was attending all 4 classes a week. In addition to that, I’d also started training once a week with a PT I’d had recommended to me. I’ve since had to stop the PT sessions for the moment, but go to the local gym two or sometimes three times a week.

I went along to the first class thinking I might drop a few dress sizes, since that’s what working out is all about, right? Obviously my body has changed shape, I’ve lost weight and I am stronger, both mentally and physically, but I don’ want to highlight the physical changes, I want to stress the mental changes.

Over the last two years my confidence has gradually grown. I’ve done things I never thought I could do. If I want to do something, anything, there’s no thinking about what could go wrong, or doubting myself. I just go for it.

I can’t even remember the last time i felt ‘depressed’. I may have had a few bad days, who doesn’t? But the depression, those horrible dark days where I just did not want to get out of bed in the morning, they’ve gone. The anxiety, the inability to even some days go shopping as I just didn’t want anyone to even look at me, that’s gone too. The massive void I had in my life where most people have friends, that’s been filled. I have made so many friends throught Clubbercise, and as new girls come to class, I’m making more all the time. And our friendships don’t just stay within the classes. We see each other quite often. We go out for lunch, we’re in contact via messenger, I spend days during school holidays with Melanie (our instuctor) and we go out with our children, we go to each others houses, we have nights out. I can safely say these girls have been my saviour

By making that small but to me brave decision to go along to a fitness class a year ago, my whole life has completely changed and I now I have everything I’ve ever dreamed of.

 

 

 

clean 9, dance, depression, diet, excercise, forever living, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, mental health, wellbeing

Clean 9 – 8 weeks on

BY LOUISE SHARP | August 17, 2015

On June 22, I started something which I didn’t really realise would have such an impact on my life. After years of failed and half-hearted attempts of dieting, I began a 9 day detox. I documented each day on my blog, sharing what I’d ate, and how I felt at the end of every day.

It’s now almost 8 weeks since I completed the cleanse, and I thought that I’d provide readers with an update.

Like whilst doing Clean 9, my meals are still all fresh and cooked from scratch. I have fish at least once per week and chicken around three times. I no longer eat sandwiches for lunch but wholewheat pasta or soup. I’m also wary of how much water I’m drinking, and fill a water bottle up several times a day, so I know I’m not dehydrated like I was before. I’m finding that I don’t really do any snacking now, but I always have fruit in the house just in case I do feel a little hungry between meals.

I have gone from being an absolute chocoholic, who could eat a big bar of Dairy Milk each night, to eating no chocolate at all. In 8 weeks I’ve had two small packets of Maltesers and a melted Bournville on a pancake. Chocolate, crisps, fizzy drinks, biscuits just aren’t part of my diet now. I don’t want them and I don’t crave them. I did however, celebrate my son’s 16th birthday just two days ago and I had a small slice of cake. I also took my two daughters to a newly-opened ice cream parlour last weekend and I enjoyed the most amazing waffle, but these were special occasions and I’ve been extra active this week in order to work off the extra calories.

Just before I did the detox I had stated going to a Clubbercise class every Friday night, which I still go to, but I decided that one night per week just wasn’t enough, and I now go on Sunday mornings too. So no more sitting around the house in my pyjamas trying to find the energy to get dressed. I wake up, put on my leggings, neon top and trainers, grab my glow sticks and water and I’m dancing to club hits by 9.30am. I thought it was a great way to start the weekend on a Friday night, but it’s an even better way to start a Sunday morning.

In addition to this, a friend told me that her and three other girls do a session with a personal trainer once per week and asked if I wanted to go along and see what it’s like and possibly join their group. I went to meet the trainer and spent 20 minutes in the gym just to get an idea of where my fitness levels are currently at. As the other girls have been going for some months now, it was advised I do some catchup sessions first. I have my first session next week, which I’m both excited and nervous about. I guess it’s perfectly natural to be nervous about starting something new, but I can’t wait to see and feel the results.

I even really pushed my boundaries a few weeks ago by getting involved with a charity Clubbercise event. 75 of us eager neon-clad ravers filled a nightclub for an incredible hour and a half class… and we had fun, so much fun whilst raising money for a charity close to the hearts of the instructors. I’m looking forward to doing another in October; especially since I hear it is a Halloween special.

But that’s still not enough exercise for me. I feel I have loads more energy now which I need to burn, so I’m hoping to join yet another dance class one night per week, which is starting up in September. So I’ve gone from doing no exercise at all to two – potentially three – classes per week and sessions with a personal trainer.

I suffer from depression and low moods, and feel that I always will because it is part of me, but now I’m in control and I haven’t felt as happy in years as I have over the last two months. I wake up bursting with energy. I keep myself busy during the day with my studying and writing, which I’m finding much easier as even my concentration seems to have improved. My husband has said he has seen such a change in me; not only in appearance as I continue to lose weight, but also in my mood. He said that I look happier and my outlook on life is so much more positive. I’m aware that this new positive energy will also be felt by my kids, which is great. They don’t need to see their mum feeling sad any more or hear me say negative words about myself. They need a happy mum, with confidence, passion and full of energy, and they’ve got that at last.

I haven’t continued with any Forever Living products unfortunately, mainly due to cost, but I do drink Aloe Vera Gel three times a day, which I buy from a health food shop as it is slightly cheaper. My energy levels are still through the roof, and I’m finding drinking more water curbs any hunger during the day. So for those reasons I feel I that don’t need any supplements. I will however, be doing Clean 9 again after Christmas, as I know that there will be a few indulgences over the festive period. It may be an expensive detox, but it is worth every penny if it changes your life the way it has mine.

I can categorically say that doing Clean 9 is one of the best things I have ever done. It has changed my life, without a doubt. Sticking to the plan gave me a taste of what healthy living can feel like. It showed me that I don’t need to overeat, or comfort eat. Comfort eating is what was contributing to my negative feelings about myself and low self-esteem. I dealt with negative emotions by eating high calorie sugary snacks, which tasted good at the time, but was doing so much damage to my body (and mind). It was exercise I needed. It’s exercise which makes you feel good and lifts your mood. Exercise and a healthy diet go hand in hand because what’s the point in exercising then undoing all of your hard work with fatty, stodgy foods.

I no longer look in the mirror and hate what I see, or even avoid mirrors altogether. I see a work in progress and a happy person for the first time in years

(Origionally published in Cultnoise Magazine – currently under reconstruction. https://www.facebook.com/cultnoise)

diet, excercise, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, wellbeing

Title – there isn’t one

Started the morning with another 20 minutes of exercise, rowing machine again unfortunately, but I did also have a little dance in the kitchen whilst making my breakfast. Everything counts

I attempted to make the time go faster this time by listening to music on my phone, rather than watching a music channel. That way I could sing along to music I actually like, rather than the likes of Little Mix and Olly Murs yesterday. I need motivational, fast paced music. So that made it a little less painful, and the time did seem to go quicker.

I have ate very well today. Nothing exciting or which took a lot of thought or prep, so I won’t bore anyone with food photos.

After exercising thismorning I had a protein shake. We bought it over christmas after being advised which would be the best shake to not only add protein to our diet, but also assist weight loss.

 

So my hubby made it for me whilst having a shower and handed me a shaker full of really gross looking water. It tasted pretty vile, and not of chocolate at all. I was feeling doubtful I could drink it.

whey

However, upon reading the instructions of how to make it up, its 200 mils of water and one scoop of the protein powder. For some reason he decided to randomly add it to 500 mils of water. So after doing it correctly, it tasted much better. I’m not saying it was nice or anything, but it’s a small amount doing a lot of good so easily do-able. I bought unsweetened almond milk to make it with in future.

I’ve also had a shot of Aloe Gel. I’ve used it in the past as part of a detox, and it is really good and I do feel a difference when taking it, I just frequently forget.

aloe

I also tried a strawberry and cream Pro2go bar. Really, really nice. Also really, really expensive (£1.50 on offer, not sure of usual price). So doubt I’ll be buying many of them.

pro

So today is the last day of the holidays, and usually I would be feeling really sad round about now. Andrew is back at work, the girls are off school till tuesday. In the past I’ve hated the idea of going back to normality and spending my days alone and at home with the kids. But this year I’m feeling really grateful to have had such an amazing two weeks with my family. The girls have really understood and got into the Christmas spirit this year. We’ve had so many great days out over the last two weeks, and spent time with friends and family and I just feel really happy. I am focused, determined, and very excited for the days, weeks and months ahead.

Blogging is a great help and it’s like a diet tool. Seriously, if you’re going to do something you would normally give up on after a few days, blog it.