Liebster Award

Liebster-Award

I was so happy to be nominated for a Liebster Award by Ciara from City To Sticks (http://citytosticks.com/).  It is nice to be appreciated and know that there is someone out there reading my blog, so thank you!

The rules of the Liebster Award are as follows:

  • List 11 facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions I have answered below
  • Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate
  • Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award
  • Thank that person who nominated you and link back to their blog

11 facts about myself…

I was born in South Africa; I have two M.A degrees; I have green eyes; I won a holiday to Orlando this year; I have two tattoos; I hate jam; I can play two recorders at the same time (one up each nostril); I can touch my nose with my tongue; I am 5ft 3; I love make-up; I wanted to be an Archaeologist when I was young.

11 questions answered…

1. Why did you start blogging? I started blogging as a kind of personal journal, to try and make sense of the depression and anxiety I have had for the last few years.

2. If you could eat lunch anywhere in the world, where and what would you eat? Holguin, Cuba. I’d have spit roasted pork with rice and peas.

3. Whom, what, where does your blogging inspiration come from? It comes from my personal experiences of mental illness.

4. How do you handle a stressful day? A cup of tea. A mug of coffee. A glass of wine. Salt and vinegar crisps.

5. What do you hope that your children remember about you? How much I love them and always will.

6. What is your favourite recipe? I make an amazing Spaghetti Carbonara.

7. What is your favourite quote?In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.’ Albert Schweitzer

8. What projects are you working on right now? Moving house and potty training. Both very stressful!

9. What is the best thing about you? I am very empathetic.

10. Will you follow the bloggers that you nominate? I think I already am, via Twitter etc.

11. What makes you giggle? Seeing a car drive past with a dog hanging out of the window. I’m not sure why, but it always cheers me up.

11  Blog Nominations:

The Gruffalo’s Child & Rediscovering Myself

If you haven’t read the sequel to Julia Donaldson’s best-selling book ‘The Gruffalo’ with your children, then why not? Do it.

The story focuses on the Gruffalo’s daughter who, despite her father’s warnings, sets off in to the woods to discover the ‘big bad mouse’, which is the only thing her father is afraid of. During her journey she meets the snake, owl and fox who tell her where she can find the ‘big bad’ mouse. She eventually gives up her search, thinking she has been deceived and that there is no such thing as the big bad mouse. However, a little mouse does appear. In order to avoid being eaten, the mouse invites the Gruffalo’s child to meet the big bad mouse. The mouse tricks her by standing on a tree branch to use the moonlight to enlarge his shadow. The Gruffalo’s daughter flees, believing the shadow to be that of the real ‘big bad mouse’.

Like the Gruffalo and his daughter, I enjoy the safety of my ‘cave’. Due to having depression and anxiety, I could happily spend all day, every day in the little bubble that is my home. However, this is clearly not practical. My children poop often, so I need to go out and buy nappies. They also like to eat food, so I need to venture to the supermarket. These necessities force me to journey in to the outside world, just as the Gruffalo’s daughter is forced in to the deep, dark wood by her own curiosity.

The black cloud inside my head means that I get very anxious when I have to leave my house. My mind turns the non-event of nappy buying in to a major ordeal. My hands turn clammy and my heart races. I don’t know why. I don’t know what I’m scared of. I think, maybe though, that it is the big bad mouse. My depression is like the Gruffalo, snake, owl, fox and mouse, trying desperately to convince me that there really is a big bad mouse out there trying to get me. It tricks me in to thinking that there is something to be anxious about … like the shadow of the big mad mouse appearing to the Gruffalo’s child, a dark shadow looms over my life too. Both shadows are the products of our minds, and the anxiety that they cause is also ‘imagined’, in that there is nothing really to be scared of. The big bad mouse is just a shadow of the little mouse. And my depression and anxiety is just a shadow covering my mind at the moment. I know this, yet I just can’t shake the terrible spectre causing my anxiety.

However, there is hope! The Gruffalo’s child was courageous and actually sought out her father’s biggest fear and confronted it. Every time I face up to my anxiety and venture outside, I feel a little bit stronger. I feel a little bit proud of myself, like I should give myself a pat on the back. As much as I dread leaving my house, I still force myself to go out. It would be so easy to become a recluse, but that’s just not me. I like going shopping really, I love meeting up with friends for a gossip, I enjoy going on days out with my boys. I’ve not changed who I am, I just have a mental illness. So long as I keep forcing myself to do these things I don’t want to right now, I know I will eventually start to enjoy them again. I know I will eventually become ‘me’ again.

Mental Scars & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

What do you think of when you read the term ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’? Soldiers returning home from war? Perhaps people released from a hostage situation? The victim of a nasty car accident? How about mothers who have experienced a traumatic birth?

According to the NHS, ‘post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.’ This can include a multitude of occurrences and, furthermore, the trauma of certain events is entirely subjective. People will react very differently to each other when experiencing a distressing event. Some soldiers will return home from the battlefield completely unaffected, some may have lost limbs, others may bear mental scars.

Similarly, some women will give birth and be perfectly fine afterwards. Some may have scars from C-sections and others may have PTSD, especially after a traumatic delivery. Indeed, I suffered from PTSD after the birth of my first son. I realise that women have had far worse experiences during childbirth than me, however, I couldn’t help the fact that I was having constant flashbacks to his birth and suffered from anxiety. For me, my labour was extremely traumatic. Other women may have shrugged such an experience off easily.

I read an article in the Daily Mail today with great interest. It stated that increasing numbers of men are being treated for PTSD after witnessing traumatic births. I could completely empathise with these men and was shocked to see comments on Twitter from women telling these men to ‘get a grip’ and ‘man up.’  Some of these men have seen their wives hemorrhage and nearly die, witnessed their children being resuscitated … surely this is traumatic? Even if the birth of a child isn’t particularly traumatic in your book, perhaps the father really struggled to cope with seeing his wife in such extreme pain and feeling completely powerless to help her.

Would you tell someone with a broken leg to man up and stop whining? Or someone with clinical depression to cheer up and turn that frown upside down? Probably not. So please don’t judge people with PTSD, it is a mental illness like any other. Please end the stigma.

If Only I’d Known…

My husband and I were reflecting on the first year of our son’s life last week. Inevitably we ended up discussing the (very quick) birth of him too. If only I’d known that my husband’s recollections of those few hours would be very different to mine! So, here is my husband’s account, followed by my own:

0030hrs – I am dragged, kicking and screaming, from my dream about cheese on toast and informed that contractions have started, 5 minutes apart and are starting to ‘hurt like bu**ery’. (How does she know what bu**ery feels like?)

0031hrs – I leap from my slumber and stand on a plug. Informing my wife that doing this hurts far more than contractions, in hindsight, was not smart… proceed to attempt to come to life and consume coffee at an alarming rate.

0115hrs – The in-laws arrive to look after son number 1.

0130hrs – Line the passenger seat with a towel and black bag and lever wife into the car. No shoe horn required.

0215hrs – Arrive at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, contractions are now 3 minutes apart and apparently bu**ery is now preferable. (Hardly the time or the place…)

0300hrs – Internal examination by a midwife, 2cm dilated, a woman has her fingers in my wife’s foof… I am not aroused.

0310hrs to 0340hrs – Screaming, yelling, grunting, talk of epidurals and diamorphine, but we’re told that at only 2cm it could be a long time and to consider our options.

0355 hrs -Another internal examination, there seems to be some mistake, there’s a baby’s head getting in the way of the examination. Now, either the midwife has exceptionally long fingers…or…. WAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH….. one push and hello there, baby!

And here is mine:

2200hrs – I’m being forced to watch The Karate Kid, my husband tells me it’s a classic… I am dubious. Sitting on a big red birthing ball that resembles a space hopper. It also resembles the colour his testicles will be if he ever gets me in this predicament again. Contractions are mild, pretty sure it’s just Braxton Hicks…wax on…wax off…

2230hrs – The Karate Kid has finished, I’m still waxing on and off convinced it will help with the discomfort. Hubby has sloped off to bed, he thinks he is working in the morning…we’ll see about that.

2330hrs –  My friend, Kirsty, calls me in an effort to distract me from any pain I am having. Who knew you could talk for half an hour about the price of crisps in Tesco. She’s periodically shouting ‘BREATHE’ down the phone at me, as if I’d bloody forget to breathe! I’m pregnant – not stupid.

0030hrs – Since I’m now feeling like the main character in a scene from Alien where something is about to erupt from my stomach, I decide it’s time to wake Rip Van Winkle from his snoring. No mean feat. After 30 seconds of gentle whispering it appears the only solution is to shake him violently, but not before strategically positioning a stray plug by the side of the bed, he’ll pay for all of this.

0031hrs – Cue multiple swear words as the plug finds it’s target with tactical precision.

My parents arrive just after 0100hrs. Contractions are now five minutes apart and starting to smart just a bit. My dad feels the need to take the p out of my contraction timer app on my smart phone. Bad move. Instruct him immediately to “Shut up, just shut up” while on all fours now leaning over the space hopper breathing like a mating hippo. Attractive.

0130hrs – The husband negotiates the road to hospital with Stig-like skills, he has partially redeemed himself, gets me to the hospital in one piece, then feels the need to make jokes about bu**ery in the car park. Such a child.

Between 0215hrs and 0359hrs was pretty hectic. I’ll spare the gory details, the swear words and the threats of a home vasectomy/castration. There was no time for pain relief, I’m pretty sure I threatened an anaesthetist, I definitely had a couple of moments that would make Linda Blair look like Mother Theresa. I did refrain from using the ‘c’ word this time though. Go me!!

This post is The Melancholic Mummy’s entry into the Aptaclub ‘If Only I’d Known…’ competition”
PrepforBirth_ContractionTimer1
 http://bit.ly/prep-for-birth

Baby Steps & Recovering From Depression

My 10 month old son has been trying his hardest to walk over the past few days. This time last year I was pregnant and preparing for his arrival. This time last year I was also contemplating suicide. I can’t believe how far my son and I have both come in the last year … my baby’s developments since his birth also seem to mirror my recovery from depression.

Having a baby is a process – pregnancy, labour, the birth, and then the baby’s development in to adulthood. Similarly, recovering from depression is a process with many different stages.

In the womb, a baby is shrouded in darkness, protected from the outside world inside his mother’s body. That is until he is forced in to this big, bright world, crying his little heart out.  The first step in beating depression is to admit that you’ve been in your dark, black tomb for too long, cushioning yourself from the world by hiding inside your own mind. Like childbirth, forcing yourself out in to the ‘light’ is hard work, but so worth it in the end.

One of the first things a baby learns is to smile. They learn by studying other people’s faces and watching their lips curl up with happiness. When my son smiled for the first time he was so shocked and scared he cried. I also had to learn how to smile again. I would look at other people laughing and smiling and long to feel that joy. Just like my son, I cried when I smiled for the first time after seeking treatment for depression. I realised I was starting to feel better and that was a huge deal.

My son then started to gain head control. He would lie on his tummy and concentrate so hard on lifting his blonde head up so he could see the world around him. He was growing up and getting stronger by the day. So was I. I felt like I was finally able to hold my head above the dark, murky water I had been drifting under for so long. I could look around my world with new hope.

Crawling was the next step in baby’s development. He exerted an enormous amount of energy daily, dragging his body around the floor in order to experience more from his surroundings. I also made a huge effort to drag myself out of the house, to meet friends, go for walks and experience the life I loved before I had depression. It was tiring but I felt so proud of myself when I was lying in bed at night, recounting the day’s activities.

Now my son is taking his first real steps. Yes they are wobbly and his big brother pushes him over, but each time he falls he gets up back up again and is stronger than before. I realise that in the years to come he will fall down many times and graze his knees, but Mummy will always be there with a cuddle and a plaster to make him better. I also know that I will have down days in the future. But with help and encouragement from my loved ones, I too will pick myself up and be a stronger person for it.

What Not To Say To Someone With Depression

I’ve come to the conclusion that most people who have never experienced depression have no idea how to react when I tell them I have a mental illness. They either look away and change the subject, or say some infuriating things. I often bite my tongue to hold back my honest replies. Here is a compilation of my ‘favourites’, and the things I would love to say back but daren’t:

1. What do you have to be depressed about? – Do you really want me to explain how depression works!? There is often no reason, which makes it especially difficult to come to terms with. But if you must have something to blame then I’m struggling at university/in debt/going through a divorce/my mum has cancer and everything has got on top of me … queue more awkward questions.
2. But you don’t look depressed – What does a depressed person look like? Did you expect to come to my house and find me still in bed at 3pm, crying in to my pillow? No, because I’ve fine tuned my acting skills. I put a brave face on and pretend everything is ok.
3. Have you taken your antidepressants today? – Yes! Medication isn’t a magic wand. I’ll still have occasional down days. But actually the reason I’m annoyed with you is because you washed your red football socks with my white underwear and now it’s pink … your idiocy has nothing to do with my depression.
4. Oh my sister/cousin/great auntie in transylvania had depression. He/she swears by lavender oil baths/listening to beethoven/drinking her own urine. Have you tried that? – Do you really think 1 in 4 people would be diagnosed as having clinical depression every year if it was as simple as bathing in flowers or sipping on a glass of your own pee!?
5. Man up/pull yourself together/snap out of it – Ah so that’s all I need to do!? For 6 months I’ve been struggling with life and all I needed to do was man up? Great advice. Maybe I’ll man up and drink my urine.
6. Think of all your reasons to be happy, you don’t know how lucky you are! – I do! I think about it all the time. That’s why I feel so guilty for having depression. However, depression often has no one thing to blame, it is an illness. It’s like saying that thinking happy thoughts can cure the flu or genital warts.
7. Go to the gym/join a tennis club/try bungee jumping – I avoid seeing my friends and other social situations, why would running around, getting sweaty, with a room full of strangers help!? And bungee jumping? I considered doing that last week … but without the bungee cord.
8. I really don’t know what to say or do to help. Did you see Eastenders last night? – Don’t change the subject, ask me how you can help if you want to. I’ve plucked up so much courage to tell you how I’m feeling … tell me you’ll always be there for me despite not understanding why I am depressed. Tell me you’ll listen and never judge me. And tissues, bring tissues. Unless you like tears and snot on your new jumper.

Do you have any that you’d like to add to my list? Rant away :-) Or what are the most helpful things people have said to you?

Here are a few ‘helpful’ additions from Twitter:

‘You only feel that way because you’re depressed’ @diski

‘You should try living in Sudan’ @lajineta

 

Dear You … My Recovery Letter

Dear You,

I am the ghost of Christmas yet to come. I am here to offer you hope, and some words of wisdom.

I can see you preparing for Christmas present, you’re going through the motions of gift buying, making lists for turkeys and potatoes, and putting up the decorations … all with a false smile on your face. Inside I know that you’re crying, sobbing. You’ve felt like this for six months but you are too proud to admit how you’re feeling and ask for help. You struggle to get out of bed, you are angry and aggressive, you cry everyday, you see no purpose in life and no future, you think of ways to die and end your suffering. But as the ghost of Christmas yet to come, I can assure you that there is a future for you. It will be a difficult and emotional journey getting there, but it is worth the fight.

You need to find the courage to ask for help, it is not a sign of weakness to admit that you are struggling with life, it is the bravest thing you will do. Talk to your husband, your Mum, Doctor … anyone who will listen.

Be patient. You will feel better, but take one day at a time. You will not wake up one morning with a miraculous Scrooge-like transformation. You will have good days and bad, but eventually the majority will be good and you will start to enjoy life again.

Do not cut off your friends. You will be surprised how understanding and accepting they are of you. Next time they phone you, answer it. Next time they send a text message, reply. Your friends will get you through some of your toughest times if you give them the chance to help.

Do not blame yourself for having depression. There is nothing you could have done to prevent it; it is not your fault. Think of it as any other illness, like the flu.

Lastly, put down that mince pie! (It is your fifth today and it is only 10am) I can tell you that next Christmas you will be 3 stone lighter and much more confident in the way you look. You will be surprised what a difference this makes to your mental health.

You may not see a light at the end of the very dark tunnel you are in right now, but trust me – your future is full of bright, sparkly Christmas tree lights.

Take care of yourself,

The ghost of Christmas yet to come