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

What happened since my last blog..

So my last blog was an update of how my life has changed in a year since deciding to make a bit of a lifestyle change. I always planned to write it, but I didn’t actually sit down and plan what to write. I just knocked it up in about half an hour off the top of my head. I wrote a quick update and didn’t really think much of it. I actually thought ‘who even cares’?

But after I wrote it, and noticed people were actually reading, and sharing it, I felt kind of weird. I think it then sunk in that I’ve talked openly about my difficult times for a while now and I’ve done it not only for me, but for other people too. Right now, as I write this I’m still feeling like I’ve been given this thing called life and I’m still getting used to it. It’s like I’m adapting to freedom.

So, I feel I’m at the point now where I want to do a little bit more than just blog (although I’m know I’m not very consistent with that). Now I want to actually be there to help anyone who can relate to the feelings I talk about.

I want to offer hope, and encouragement and if I could help change someone, even just one person – to pull them out of that black hole I spent way too long in, that would be freaking amazing.

So, I want to reach out to as many people as possible living with mental illness and tell them YOU CAN BEAT IT. I know you can. Everyone can. I’m proof you can.

There are so many women who look in the mirror like I did and hate every single bit of what they see. Who believe they aren’t attractive because they have a tummy, or they have ‘cellulite’. I want to make them change their thoughts and understand that you ARE beautiful.

There are full-time mums sat at home with children all day who feel they’ve lost their sense of identity. Who feel they’re ‘just a wife and mum’. You aren’t. You’re more than that. You just need reminding

I want to find the women who struggle with anxiety. The ones who really want to go along to something new, but don’t yet have the courage to go it alone. And tell them to just bloody well go for it

I want to find the women who are experiencing loneliness, and bring them together. It is to me, the worst feeling in the world. Loneliness IS a soul destroyer.

I want to find the women who feel they want to improve their health and join a class or gym, but are hesitant that they ‘won’t fit in’, or worry they will ‘feel silly’, or even just don’t have anyone to go with. I want to tell them to forget all that and again, just GO FOR IT. Do it. Do it today (or tomorrow depending on what time I press the ‘publish’ button on this)

If I can reach out to anyone who lives near me, I’d happily accompany someone who wants to give the gym a go but has no one to go with. Or even bring them along to a class with me one night. I’d even pay for them because I personally believe that exercise is the answer to fighting anxiety and depression. I feel like exercise is what’s ‘found’ me. It’s the music, the dancing, the other girls, that feeling of just letting go for a while. It has given me a total mindset makeover.

I’ve actually found it better to go along to classess on my own. That way over time you find yourself chatting to the other girls rather than whoever you’ve gone along with and there is so much potential to make some amazing friends. I know this

And how do I plan to do this? Over the next few days I’m aiming to set myself the task of setting up a Facebook page aimed at women who can relate to any of the above together and we can all kick depression/anxiety/insecurities/lonliness  in the ass.

I want to do it because I mentioned the idea to my hubby and he keeps telling me to go for it and asking what’s holding me back (that would be the tiny bit of anxiety I do still have). Friends I’ve spoke to it about have been encouraging, and I’m experiencing that thing where everything around you seems to remind you of that something which you keep thinking about.

Every single person on this earth has so much potential, and so many reason to be happy. We just lose our vision sometimes and need a little help, encouragement and guidance to find that key which will unlock it. And when you do, life becomes just truely awesome.

 

 

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, diet, excercise, forever living, general, health, health and fitness, lifestyle, mental health, wellbeing

Day 4 – Clean 9

Keeping this one really short as I’m doing this on my phone as I’ve lost patience with my lap top today.

Today has been pretty much the same as yesterday. Had a bowl of strawberries, grapes, cherries and grapefruit with sour cream and a shake for lunch. I used soya milk rather than rice milk today, and gave it a really good shake making it all frothy and a bit more like a McDonalds milkshake.

For dinner I had the same as last night.

I feel lighter, much more energetic and I’m even sleeping better. I’m not experiencing any hunger other than hunger you would expect to feel before mealtimes. I’m not missing eating things I shouldn’t be at all.

So all good

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autism, general, health, metnal health, wellbeing

Ways to deal/cope with lifes lows

Over the last year or so, I’ve finally learned how to deal with any merging feelings of depression/anxiety (they never fully develop. I won’t let them), and can now effectively deal with a symptom as soon as it appears.

The onset of depression can often be indicated by a feeling of low mood or sadness. A feeling of becoming more tearful, or less tolerant of others. A feeling of a being in a constant state of panic, or worry, just that feeling that you really aren’t enjoying life at all.

In addition to those psychological symptoms, there is also they physical symptoms to deal with, which I actually never linked to depression, they had to be pointed out to me. The change of appetite, not wanting to eat, although typically I went the other way, leading to an increase in weight, then a decrease in self-esteem. Physical symptoms also include aches and pains, and the most common,  finding it hard to sleep, or sleeping too much.

These symptoms obviously have an affect the way we function and interact with the world. We may find that we are not doing as well at work, neglecting hobbies and interests, and experiencing difficulties at home or isolating ourselves.

The easiest and often most popular way of dealing with these symptoms is with medication. Antidepressants work  by increasing levels of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and noradrenaline can improve mood and emotion. The increasing levels of neurotransmitters can also disrupt pain signals sent by nerves. Sound like a pretty efficient quick fix (although antidepressants do generally take two weeks to start taking effect).

The ways in which I have managed my mood are:

Know the symptoms By knowing the symptoms of depression, you can then deal with them, which has probably been the most useful advice I have been given. The minute I start to feel low, I’ll tackle those feelings

Identify the cause If I start to feel low, I’ll think about what has been going on in my life recently. Is it something someone has said which has knocked me and having a busy life which goes at a million miles an hour, I haven’t dealt with it. Have I been doing so much recently that I’ve just not taken any time to relax, and its a feeling of exhaustion?

Act on it In the early days when life took a different turn as expected, I’d to spend quite a lot of time just talking about how I feel, letting it all out, having that feeling of slight relief, then continuing on with the same problems or issues, which would again build up. I very rarely complain to anyone about feeling depressed or low now, because I don’t. Maybe I may have just became hardened to it (it takes a lot to upset me now, and I’ll challenge anyone or anything which does) or most importantly, I’ve accepted life as it is. We never anticipated or planned to have a child with a disability, but we have, and I embrace it.

Let it go – Who would’ve thought of getting advice from a Disney film, but it’s true. Let things go. Let go of your expectations, any criticisms you may have encountered, negative thoughts or beliefs. Leave them where they belong, in the past.

Belive in yourself – We’re all born with the capacity to achieve whatever we want, just some of us lack the confidence. I’ve put myself in situations I would completely avoid, or never dream of being in over just the last few months. I’ve signed myself up to something, or arranged to do something, said ‘I can’t do it’, but been reminded and encouraged that I can, so I have. I thrive on that feeling of achievement, and the adrenaline of the build up.

Surround yourself with positive people – This should be a rule of life, not a coping mechanism. Don’t soak in other people’s negativity, let them add to your positivity. Even if this means re-evaluating those around you.

Stop ‘being strong’ – This is just my opinion, and I may be going completely against the grain, and it may not work for some people, but STOP BEING STRONG. It’s cliched advice to ‘stay strong’. I’ve never stayed strong. I’ve stayed focused, but never been strong. If I wanted to have a good cry, I’ve had one. If I’ve wanted a day to myself,  Andrew has taken care of the kids whilst I’ve lay in bed away from the world. I’ve always felt better the next day and ready to move on. Staying strong only allows the feelings to mount up, and will eventually explode. I think it’s more useful to deal with how you are feeling, day by day.

Take time out for yourself having a busy, noisy life, I find I need to have proper wind down time once a week. It’s something to look forward to, and something I really appreciate.

Take care of yourself Excercise is the best way to release serotonin and endorphins. I’m not going to pretend I assign to this method, because I don’t. I detest exercise. I joined the gym, left the gym. Bought trainers, threw them in the cupboard. Bought a pedometer, and the last time I saw it it, was wedged between the fridge and the kitchen unit. But if you do enjoy it, do it.

Eat healthy – Something which I do do, just I get my serotonin fix from chocolate. I don’t eat any fried, processed, or frozen food. These foods will have an affect on your mood, aswell as your health.

So, I can say that I’ve never taken any long medication at all to deal with anxiety/depression/stress, and never will. It’s all about keeping in check with yourself, and being open and honest about your feelings and experiences.