I can see clearly now the rain has gone…

…I can see all obstacles in my way.

It’s leaving me. The cloud of PND that has been following me for so long is leaving.

It’s a very strange thing to feel happy. This feels like true happiness.

Not the kind of happiness that makes you see the world with rose tinted glasses, but the kind if happiness that makes you see the dull colours just as clearly as the bright ones. I can see the bad in the world as well as the good and I can cope with it. This, to me, is a much more sustainable form of happiness. This is not a bubble that could be burst at any minute, this is a house. A brick house with solid foundations.

In fact, things have been far from easy recently. Family illness and work pressures have made things tricky, but the exciting thing is, that despite all of this, my head is above water.  Waves that would previously have drowned me are simply washing over my back. I can cope. I am coping.

I can indeed see all obstacles in my way, and by seeing them I can face them.  My head was covered in a rain cloud that made me unable to see the path ahead, unable to see what was in my way and therefore I stayed still. I was scared to move towards happiness as I feared tripping on route and being stuck in deeper mud that I was before.  Well, now the rain has cleared and I can see the path clearly ahead of me. I can even see the destination. I am not there yet, but I do now have my map.  I can make it.  There will be ups and downs along the way, but I can get there.

 

 

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In fear of stopping

Doing nothing sounds like an easy achievement. But the ability to just be is one that we find increasingly hard in today’s world.

Am I the only person that is scared of doing nothing? Scared of stopping for fear of what will happen next?

I feel guilty all the time. All the time. When I am working I feel guilty not to be playing with my daughter. When I am playing with my daughter my work to do list is running over and over in the back of my mind. The idea of just sitting, doing neither of these things is an alarming one. Of course, I do, I’m doing so right now in fact. My daughter is asleep and my laptop is off.

But I have not stopped.

When was the last time you just sat? Not listening to music, chatting, reading, writing, working or watching TV? I can’t remember either.

Silence scares me. Instead I over stimulate. TV, phone, chatting and a magazine to the side are a standard for me. Even at night time I need some background noise. In silence I can think. Think clearly and think properly. And then I get sad.

If I am not regularly chatting, on emails, on Facebook or on my phone then I could be missing out. I don’t know what on- but that’s the point. Social anxiety is becoming more prevalent and my fear of rejection makes stopping a truly dangerous thing.

On top of this is the pressure to be perfect. Perfect people do not stop. They are busy all the time. Even when they are relaxing they are busy. They make relaxing look like a fine art, something that I strive to achieve. Massages, holidays, food and usually ‘nice’ things become a pressure to do right.

As a result I am always doing. Scared to stop for fear of failure. Failing to stopproperly, failing to complete the to do list. Failing to be included, failing to be perfect.

If I stop, then, with no paraphernalia of life surrounding me, I am just me. And that is the scariest thing of all.

I’ve found it! The Meaning of Life.

I stumbled upon it, almost by accident, tripping over it as I searched for happiness.

It came to me in the form of Stephen Fry. Or rather, in his voice. Stephen Fry has just narrated a series of short animations for the British Humanist Association.

I do not belong to any Humanist groups, but I do consider myself a humanist. My husband and I did not have a religious wedding and we chose a Humanist Naming and Welcome Ceremony for our daughter rather than a Christening. I respect other peoples religions and views on the world but I have never felt religious myself. I first researched Humanism after my grandfather’s funeral, saddened by the suggestion that God will comfort those who believe and that if you are Christian then you will receive support. It angered me that a time of grief I felt was being lectured about God.  I felt that there had to be a way to celebrate life and to guide people to live good and just lives without it being because God told them to. For me, humanism fits. It makes sense. It just works.

So, anyway, I stumbled across this animation, and I had a light bulb moment.

At first glance, I can see that a video about death, being the catalyst for me finding a reason for life, may seem a little contradictory, but, think about it.

Here and Now.

Meaning and Purpose.

For the one life we have.

This is it folks. I realise that to some that may seem a bit depressing, frightening even, but for me it has given me a burst of energy and positivity.

This is it.

This is all there is.

ENJOY IT.

I will live on in the minds of those who I loved, and who loved me. The good things I have done with my life, will have an impact on the world I am in, the world my daughter (and any future children and grandchildren) will grow up in.

This inspired me to watch the other animations on this page, and “How can I be happy” sums up exactly the conclusion I had come to myself.

The time to be happy is now.

I can do it,  and I will do it. In fact, I’m doing it now!

These animations have really given me the kick I needed to get up and get on. And to do that with a genuine smile on my face, not a mask, a genuine smile.

I am not naïve, I have post natal depression and I know that this will not go away with the discovery of a cool cartoon. But it will go away with support of medication and with a practiced new way of thinking.  For now I have found that, and I am working hard and practicing hard.

I will enjoy life, and live it to the full. I will continue to strive to make an impact on the world and to  develop myself through creative and intelligent projects. (I have one simmering right now.)

Myth busting, (or why I told the Facebook world about my PND)

The Diary of an Insecure Mother

I shared.  I opened up to the Facebook world. I admitted to my post natal depression.

It was terrifying- and it was done somewhat impulsively, but I am pleased I did.

I realised that as long as I, and others like me, continue to keep quiet about things like this, then change will not come.

I was scared of judgement, scared of what people will think about me.

Yes, I have PND, let me explain to you what that means, and what it does not mean.

I do not regret being a mother. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a mum, and now I am I feel complete. My life, pre motherhood, was missing a piece, and now it is not.  I have regrets about labour, I have regrets about how I parented in the early days, but not for one second have I ever regretted…

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Myth busting, (or why I told the Facebook world about my PND)

I shared.  I opened up to the Facebook world. I admitted to my post natal depression.

It was terrifying- and it was done somewhat impulsively, but I am pleased I did.

I realised that as long as I, and others like me, continue to keep quiet about things like this, then change will not come.

I was scared of judgement, scared of what people will think about me.

Yes, I have PND, let me explain to you what that means, and what it does not mean.

I do not regret being a mother. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a mum, and now I am I feel complete. My life, pre motherhood, was missing a piece, and now it is not.  I have regrets about labour, I have regrets about how I parented in the early days, but not for one second have I ever regretted becoming Mum.  This post explains my before and after feelings.

I do appreciate what I have.  Please stop reminding me that life is great and I am lucky to have a healthy beautiful girl, a job, a house, a loving husband and anything else you may think I am ungrateful for. I know all of this.  I do not choose to feel miserable (who would!?), and your expectation that I should be happy only adds to my depression.  It leaves me feeling guilty and feeling selfish.  I am fully aware of all that I have, and I value and appreciate it.  I count my blessings every single day. Twice.

I did not have difficulty bonding with my baby. I fell in love the moment I urinated on a stick.  I fell deeper in love as she grew inside me, and when she was placed on my chest as she entered this world my heart stopped. She and I have an amazing bond. Nothing can rival it. The joy on her face when I return from time away from her is beaten only by the joy in my heart.

I do not avoid spending time with my daughter. In fact the opposite is true. Whilst it is the case that some women with PND may not want to spend time with their babies please do not assume that this is the case for us all. In my case, time away from my daughter is like time away from oxygen. A half life with half my heart missing. This is how my PND manifests.

I am not a risk to my child and I would never ever hurt her. In reality this is incredibly rare. There is a different condition which does require strong monitoring to ensure baby is safe, I am no expert on this, (but I do know that this also is an illness and not a choice), PND does not, in any way, mean that I will hurt my child. If anything, I am a risk to myself, but support has kept me from that dark path.

I am not sad or crying all the time. Equally, just because I smile or laugh does not mean I am better. I can function in the world, granted, some days I find this harder than others, some days you will find me crying in the stationery cupboard, but not every day. Not all the time.

I do not need to be told to cheer up. Or to look at the beautiful flowers and enjoy the glorious sunshine. This shows much more about your ignorance than about my illness.

A good nights sleep will not “fix” me. Yes, it is true, I have not had a full nights sleep in over 8 months. However, sleep is not the problem. I actually love my nighttime cuddles. I no longer feel exhausted all the time, my body has adjusted and sleep is really not an issue.

Stopping breastfeeding will make things worse, not better. I breastfeed. I love it. You may think that the hormones attached to this are causing my problems, you would be wrong. The truth is that if I were to stop before my daughter weaned herself naturally then I would be overwhelmed with such deep feelings of loss, guilt and regret that I would fall deeper into the pit of depression, not start to climb out. I breastfeed because I want to and because she’s worth it.

Having PND does not make me weak.
In fact, I was once told by a therapist that it is usually stronger women who get the illness. Strong women who hold things together, over analyse and strive for perfection.

I don’t expect, or want you, to offer me solutions Please don’t suggest ways for me to cheer up. Please don’t offer advice or helpful suggestions. Just listen. Smile at me, and nod in the right places. I am receiving professional help for my illness. You would not try to cure someone who had flu or asthma with helpful tips, please treat my illness with the same respect.

My daughter is not starved of affection. You just need to look at her to see that. She is a loving, kind, strong, confident and secure individual. She has a mother who loves her and who tells her so every day.

A Facebook status and picture can hide a thousand truths. That status that tells you I am happy is not a lie, but nor is it the whole truth. It does not tell you how hard I have worked for that happiness, nor does it tell you that the happiness is singed with guilt and worry. The picture of my daughter crawling or laughing does not show you what is behind the camera. A mother who is so proud that she cries. Cries for the time that has already passed, the tiny life that is already going so fast. She cries for opportunities missed and with guilt that she can not spend every second with her daughter. She takes this picture, and all the others, in an attempt to hold on to the moment, to record the memories and make them last forever.

I am not a bad mother. I will repeat that. I am not a bad mother. In fact, do you know what? Excuse the pride, but I think I am a bloody brilliant mother! I love my daughter, I put her first and I consider her in everything I do. I chose my words carefully and I praise often. PND does not change this and it certainly does not, in anyway, make me a bad mother. (Although in my lower moments it might make me question myself.)

So, here I am. I have post natal depression. But it’s not what you think. 

Please don’t assume you know me, please don’t stereotype me. I might need you to smile at me more than others, I might worry more than others, I certainly have days when I feel like I have failed at everything and I may well cry more than most.

Don’t judge me. Just try and understand me.

Help me if you can I’m feeling down….

And I do appreciate you being round…

I have now been back at work for 6 weeks and have made it to the first half term break. There were times I didn’t think I would make it, and right now I really don’t know how I did.

My daughter is taking to solids slowly, so I am still needing to express at work at least twice a day to be able to keep up with the volume of milk needed for her days with Daddy, and to ensure that my supply is not compromised and I can still feed when I am with her. My pumping breaks have become my prison. I say goodbye to my husband and daughter at 7am, I then often do not speak to another adult until I return home at 4.30pm. I would love some company during these lonely times.

I feel like my PND has reached a peak. I am in danger of it beating me. I don’t have much fight left but I will fight it the best I can. I have asked for help, called on my army of supporters to help me defeat the enemy. Sadly only half of my troops have come forward.

If you have never experienced mental health problems you may not fully appreciate the challenge of asking for help. It’s hard. Really hard. Harder still when you build up your courage, ask for help, and are denied the support that you so badly need. My family has a long history of mental health concerns and we have been both supported and let down by the NHS, when desperation hits they have not always been there to support. I am still to hear from my CBT worker to rearrange the appointment that they cancelled on 16th January. I have chased this.

Of course, the NHS and medical professionals are not the only soldiers in your army. Friends, family and workmates all play an essential part in the battle. So, I have asked for help. My family remain amazing, understanding and supporting without judgement.  My friends have, in the most part, been amazing.

Sadly however I have once again found myself defending my decision to breastfeed. This is even more the case now my daughter has passed the six month mark. Adverts for follow on milk, (a substance invented purely to allow the manufacturers to get around the ban on advertising first milk formula) suggest that when baby hits 6 months it is time to “move on from breastfeeding”. This is not what is suggested by the World Health Organisation, who encourage and advise extended feeding to two years. I hope to eventually reach a stage where I no longer need to express at work, where I feed my daughter in the morning and the evening, but, as with the way I have approached all aspects of parenting so far, I will let my daughter guide me.  I will not dictate the speed at which this happens, I will allow her to go at her own pace. For now, I need to be expressing at work. Sadly, this seems to mean choosing between company and my daughter. As lonely as I may feel, this is an easy choice. She is, and always will be, my priority. She’s worth it.

Meanwhile, the troops I have been able to gather are fully behind me. I know that they understand, they support and they will help me keep going.  Thank you. Thank you for being the listening ear, the voice of reason, the shoulder to cry on, the wisdom of experience and above all, thank you for understanding me.  I will not, (and should not have to) choose anything above my daughter.  Company at break times will come again in time, my daughter will only need me this much for a short time.

This too will pass.

Reflection on the new years resolution.

I need to get myself back on track. I set out to reclaim my happiness this year, and after a great start it is slipping away. I will not let this become just another failed resolution.

So, time to reflect. I broke my simple resolution down into steps.
Count my blessings
I am grateful every day for my beautiful daughter and loving husband. I am grateful for my house, my job, my family. I count my blessings daily. TICK.

Remember those that matter
Yes, those that matter are never forgotten, but I sadly spend time worrying about those that do not matter too. HALF TICK.

Unclutter my life, (including my brain and my to do list!)
Slowly getting there…. HALF TICK

Be a better wife
Big fat fail. I still need to do more for my husband. 😦

Ask for help
Sometimes… HALF TICK

Stop comparing myself to others
Another big fat fail 😦

Give everything I do my full attention
Nearly there. There is still too much multi tasking, but I am improving. HALF TICK.

Don’t obsess
I STILL spend too much time thinking about things and people that really don’t matter. To the point of obsession. I MUST stop. Another fail.

Cut down on facebook
A definite success at the start of the year. Now not so good. I have decided to stay off Facebook completely for the first week of every month.  HALF TICK.

All aimed at helping me to BE HAPPY.
In conclusion some days good, some days not so good. This was never going to be a quick fix.  I haven’t given up. I’m still trying.