Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Lets Talk About Depression


It's official. I've had an actual medical diagnoses. I'm receiving treatment. I am one of the 1 in 4 people battling with my Mental Health. Namely Depression, Stress and Anxiety.

There's not one thing that's got me here. It wasn't like I woke up one day either and suddenly felt 'depressed'. It's sometching I've battled with in the past but for the most part it was always put it down to being an angsty teenager, or I had managed to pull myself out it of before it all became too much to deal with on my own.

If I'm being completely honest, this time around I can probably trace it as far back as 3 years. A lot has happened in these past 3 years so it's impossible to pin it on one single event but I know that there has been at least a few contributing factors...

Back to 2013. What was meant to be an exciting time, carrying a second son, a brother for [a then 18 month old] John, was tainted by crippling Hyperemesus Gravidarum (HG). Almost as soon as I got that positive pregnancy test, I ended up signed off work and bed ridden for 9 weeks. Unable to look after John, unable to clean my house, unable to even leave my house from fear of needing to be sick and simply not having the energy to climb the stairs to our first floor flat. I was also on anti-sickness tablets which although believed to be safe, no one could make any guarantees.

HG left me a burden to my family. Poor Iain had to take on all care duties of John, as well as me. He was left with the task of looking after our home, as well as being the sole wage-earner at that stage (statutory sick pay is pittance). Hospital stays also meant my family had to help out whilst Iain worked. The guilt of not being able to be the partner, daughter and most of all mother that I should have been has never really left me. In many ways John was too young to remember it but that offers little comfort when I still feel guilt for those who do.

As my HG improved my pelvis started to fail me. I was back at work by then but for each day I worked, I needed a day after to recover as SPD had taken grip. Yet again I couldn't care for my son the way a mother should - days at the park were replaced with time in front of the telly. I ended up having to start maternity leave earlier than planned, bringing more financial strain to our family. And yet again I was relying on my family, this time for childcare whilst I attended the hospital for physio and to help with the physical side of preparing our home for the baby who was well on his way.

When David finally came along it was a huge relief. My baby who I had gone through a 9 month struggle for was here and we could put it all behind us. Unfortunately though, life doesn't work like that!

Just 3 short weeks later, still recovering from a slightly more traumatic birth than with John (I lost quite a bit of blood but was otherwise ok & very lucky) David became ill and was admitted to the children's hospital with a temperature of 41°c and symptoms that could be interpreted as meningitis. Thankfully it wasn't anything quite as serious but we did endure a week long stay on a secluded infections ward, with my little weeks-old David wired-up to monitors 24/7. John wasn't allowed to visit either so aside from nipping out to the corridor one night to find him bewildered and confused as to where I was & what was going on, I didn't see him - torn between my two boys, both who just needed their Mummy.

The toughest part of that hospital stay was that I couldn't breastfeed David, simply due to picking him up being distressing for him (increased heart rate, nervous system in overdrive...) - instead I was expressing day & night for him to be tube fed. So if I wasn't getting sleep due to having an unsettled baby, burning up beside me, I wasn't sleeping because I was on a schedule to keep my milk supply up.

Thankfully David made a full recovery and we got to go home. Finally able to start adapting as a mum of two, I quickly realised how bloody hard it would be. David was dealing with some sort of reflux and would projectile vomit all over our house numerous times a day, meaning I'd avoid going anywhere in fear of the mess he could ensue. John was in full swing of the terrible twos, going through a sleep regression, attempting to potty train and giving us a whole lot of attitude.

There was one afternoon, just before Christmas, where I sat down on my kitchen floor and full-on ugly cried as I just couldn't cope. David was crying having been sick another full feed and once clean, was looking for yet another feed, which he'd no doubt sick-up also. John was screaming and stamping his feet for reasons I can't even remember. I couldn't cope, so we all cried.

My health visitor could obviously pick up on how I was feeling and arranged for me to see my GP about potential Post-natal Depression (PND). Looking back, I'm certain I was actually going through PND but I lied to my doctor through the fear of stigma and the thinking that admitting I was struggling would warp peoples perception of me being able to care for my children. I even went to the extreme of googling PND before my GP appointment, memorising the criteria of PND and actually scripting what I would/wouldn't say to avoid any official diagnoses.

Onto 2014. I continued to carry on through my internal struggle. Silently. At times things did get easier but for the most part I wasn't coping and did everything I could to make it look like I was.

On top of everything else I was struck with Cystic Acne which did nothing for my dwindling confidence and in many ways caused me to hide from the world. I've never been a particularly social person but I can't deny that this didn't massively contribute to my social anxiety and lack of self esteem. Thankfully I did eventually speak to my doctor about this and received treatment but the lasting affects of having a face covered in agonising cysts, as well as the constant worry of what people would think has never really left me.

Around this time I had also gone back to work following my maternity leave with David. All the usual mother guilt kicked in, about leaving my baby, stopping breastfeeding, putting him in nursery...but the biggest guilt actually came from the desire to actually return to work. I wanted to go back. I needed to go back. I wanted the one thing any mother is made guilty to feel; I wanted time away from my kids. But I could have never prepared myself for just how tough being back at work with two kids could be.

In 2015 I upped my hours, took on more responsibilities and seen countless members of staff - many whom had supported me for years before - leave and move on to other jobs. The added stress of training more new staff, doing nearly 50 hours a week, not having the usual support around me, juggling nursery runs & childcare is likely what eventually broke me.

If I look back on the past 3 years now with a clearer mind, it's obvious... I'm working more to avoid reality. I have hardly any photos of my boys, despite previously loving taking photos of them. I had given up this blog despite putting in so many hours to it previously. I've put on weight and stopped caring about myself in the way I used to. I've distanced myself from my friends, avoided any kind of social circles and became accustomed to doing things that involved very little human contact. I used to walk for miles with John, just to go to a different park where as now I would barely go to our closest park as my energy is non-existent. No sleep is ever enough. My temper is short, my patience is long-gone and I constantly feel like I'm on auto pilot, doing the bare minimum to keep up appearances.

It was the physical affects that finally made me realise I wasn't coming out of this on my own. That the short-lived 'good' days [were] literally no more. The exhaustion is the worst - it's gotten to a point where I could barely get through a day without needing to nap, even when I'd already slept 10 hours that night. But other things that I wasn't prepared for, like slurred speech, loss of coordination, being half way through a conversation and literally having no idea what I was even saying.

I'd become half a person. Living out my life on auto-pilot. It was time to admit defeat and ask for help. I initially took a week off self-certificated earlier this year and went to see my doctor. Depression. Stress. Anxiety. I am now receiving treatment, following a further 4 weeks signed off, which I'll not go into too much at this stage as I feel I've rambled on a bit too much already.

The purpose of this post is really for myself to write everything down and reflect on why I think I am where I am. And well, that's that.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Baking with Granny

Terry's Chocolate Orange Cupcakes Recipe

So it would appear I have somewhat abandoned this blog... But fear not, we're still alive! My attention has somewhat shifted. With returning to work full time last year I found keeping a lifestyle blog somewhat tedious, as life when you're a full time working Mum is not actually all that interesting. That being said, I've not left the blogging world completely behind me. In fact, I've started a whole new blog called Baking with Granny. If you're into tasty treats, home baking & lots of photos of delicious food then come over and say hello!

Great Granny's Coconut Ice Recipe
Empire Biscuits
Irn Bru Cupcakes


Thursday, 6 August 2015

Ikea Latt Table & Chairs Makeover

A DIY Makeover of the Ikea Latt Table & Chairs set.
A DIY Makeover of the Ikea Latt Table & Chairs set.
A DIY Makeover of the Ikea Latt Table & Chairs set.

For a while now I've been thinking about getting the boys a little table & chairs set. We obviously have a dining table but as our house is quite small, it's usually pushed up against the wall or buried under a number of forms of clutter. Plus the chairs are just a little low for John & the high chair can no longer contain the monster that is David, so a mini-version is just what we required!

After a bit of humming & hawing, I eventually settled on the Ikea Latt set. At only £20 it's an absolute bargain but given the price, it's a little bit boring. As soon as I unpacked it I knew I couldn't leave it in it's bare pine state: it was time to get creative!

The idea of painting it in some garish rainbow colours did cross my mind but as it would be pride of place in our living room I decided on something a little more neutral. In fact, the colours I chose are the leftover peach paint from when we first decorated the nursery before John was born & the blue we currently have on one of the walls in the boys bedroom. Talk about a thrifty project, eh?

The process was straight forward enough - as simple as a lick of paint! A few tips worth sharing though are:

  1. Paint the parts before putting everything together. This will allow for a neat finish and avoid any paint getting onto the table surface.
  2. Use a gloss paint. Assuming you'll be using your Latt Table set with children - who are obviously quite messy - gloss paint is wipe-able and won't stain from (most) food or drinks.
  3. If you choose to use more than one colour, masking tape around the already fixed parts of the chair and table to allow for neater edges.
  4. Do light coats of paint in the direction of the wood grain. You'll probably need about 3-4 coats of paint, depending on your paint colours.
And there you have it. A quick, easy and pretty darn cute DIY project. I also have plans to add the boys names to a chair each but that's yet to happen. For more inspiration on how to makeover your own Ikea Latt table & chairs, have a look at these below.

Monday, 3 August 2015

So We Finished Breastfeeding

From extended breastfeeding to tandem breastfeeding to self weaning.

It feels weird to type that... "We finished breastfeeding." I mean, I'm still not entirely convinced we have. It's been a week since David last breastfed but it wasn't a concious decision, more of a 'he hasn't asked and I haven't offered,' situation. But a week is the longest I've not breastfed in the 3.5 years since John was born and it very much seems like David has moved on, thrusting an empty bottle at me as opposed to tugging on my top.

So how do I feel? It's hard to say as I think I'm still very much in denial. I don't know what I expected to be honest. Maybe a, "congratulations on breastfeeding two kids for over 3 years," card or perhaps a, "sorry for your kids growing up and leaving you behind," card would be more appropriate? Either way it feels like the end of an era that is going somewhat unnoticed by everyone but me. Which isn't unreasonable as no one is really aware that we were still breastfeeding; even Iain asked me recently if I still breastfed David as it had become much less frequent and only done whilst settling him for bed, if at all. Even David doesn't seem phased by or to have even noticed the end.

I suppose it was inevitable when I went back to work full time. Most days I'm not there during the day so the opportunity to breastfeed is automatically forfeited. That combined with David now sleeping through most nights and only really having milk before bed, he has less opportunities to even ask to breastfeed. Since the boys started sharing a room we also got into a habit of giving David a little bottle of cows milk on those nights when he doesn't settle after breastfeeding to allow John to get some peace to fall asleep too. And slowly that bottle has taken my place.

I guess I'm glad that David has taken it upon himself to end this journey. John was 3 when he decided he was a 'big boy' and breastfeeding was 'for babies like David,' a conclusion he came to with a bit of encouragement & discussion from myself. I kind of figured David would follow a similar route but this as much as anything shows me just how individual they already are. I've always said I'd like to allow the boys to self-wean and with that you sacrifice a say of your own, whether you too are ready for the end. I guess it was easier with John too as we were tandem breastfeeding, meaning that when he finished it wasn't the end: This time though, there's no more babies, now at least and quite possibly forever.

But it's done. We're finished breastfeeding. Aside from being in denial and a little bit upset at the finality of it, I'm also a little bit relieved. It's been over 4 years now that I've not had my body to myself between pregnancies & breastfeeding; it'll be nice to have that back, regardless of how much I'll miss it. It means I can finally go back on the pill and hopefully once my hormones settle down I can become less reliant on antibiotic treatment for my cystic acne. Plus the addition of under-wired bras to my wardrobe has been welcomed with open arms, even if what they're only holding a shadow of their former selves!


Thursday, 23 July 2015

My Nerves Are Shot

It was obvious from the offset. I was barely 5 weeks pregnant and David was already making life difficult. A Hyperemesis Gravidarum pregnancy should have been a warning that this kid meant business! It carried on right through his birth and into the first month of his life, putting me constantly on edge and fearing for his safety - and that's when he was still just a newborn potato!

Fast forward 20 months and things have followed the same path. My nerves are shot. Kid is a whirlwind. When he's awake, I'm constantly on edge. God love him! He may be the sweetest, cuddliest, cheekiest & smiley-est toddler you'll ever encounter but he's also as-hard-as-nails, with not an ounce of doubt in him, no sense of danger & quite literally the only thing he is afraid of is the car wash. It's as if any kind of genetically programmed dangers that kids are born with, like heights, animals, water & fire, have been missed from David's DNA.

People say that boys can be a handful. This wasn't something we ever had with John. Of course, like any child he had his moments but on the whole, he has been a pretty easy boy. However it's like any kind of stereotypical boy-like natures that John should have also terrorised us with have been squeezed into David making him double the trouble in one happy little chappy with a butter-wouldn't-melt smile.

Be it trying to jump out our first flat floor window or running at flights of stairs with not a moment to stop & think - kid has me living on the edge. Gone are the days of having 30 minutes extra in bed after putting Cbeebies on the telly are long gone, unless I fancy fishing David out the toilet by his feet! Kid is a whirlwind and although he drives me up the wall, I wouldn't change the cheeky grin he gives me when he's up to no good for the world.



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