Monday, 4 October 2010

Depression - Two steps forward, one step back

I would love to say that after my CBT I was all well and cured, but depression doesn't always work like that.  it can be one step forward and two steps back.

My two steps back came after my failed reconstruction after the double prophylactic mastectomy.  I felt a complete and utter failure.  I was distraught.  MadDad couldn't look at me without thinking I had been butchered and he was angry.  Angry at me, angry at the surgeon and angry at the world and I had lost my support.

For the first time in our marriage I knew that he felt differently about me, but I also new that I felt differently about myself too.  I hated the way I looked and never, ever had looks been important to me.

But I looked like, well I looked like someone else and I was hurting. 

We immediately contacted my GP who arranged for a CPN to pop round again and with her she brought some information for a wonderful charity called the Tees Valley Councelling Service.  They are a charity who provide counselling to people who have long term illness  or a physical disability or to the people who care for them.

Within two weeks of asking for help, I was allocated a counselor who came out to my local GP's surgery once a week for an hour to help me.

This was wonderful, I met with my councillor, lets call her Helen once a week and she made an action plan with me and we decided that my goal was to be able to come to terms and live with my condition.  She also helped me challenge the fear I was feeling.

However, the most important thing she did with me was come up with a phrase that I could use when people asked me how I was.  I didn't want sympathy and also at this stage in my illness I just couldn't cope with peoples opinions of what I had done.
Together we came up with "I am doing well that you and I am looking forward to the future positively".  This one liner changed everything.  It empowered me.  It gave me the strength to go out in public without prosthetics, to collect the boys from school and preschool without running in and out.  It was amazing.  I was no longer fearful of people asking me how I was or if I needed further treatment, it cut off the last part of the question.

It also showed me the power in words and how the right one makes things so much easier.

I saw "Helen" for 19 weeks until we both realised that I was really looking positively to the future, that is was no longer just my stock in phrase.  She was a true blessing and I cried buckets when I left the final time, as did she.


Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Depression - Sleep or lack of it.

Over these years of my depression we have come to learn that sleep or lack of it plays a huge part in my ability to cope with life.

When I look back at the notes from the early part of my depression, it is lack of sleep, sleeplessness or insomnia that features heavily and this is often the case for most new mothers.

Mini and Maxi went bad sleepers, but I was under the impression that baby's often slept though and this myth was perpetuated by a lot of the "yummy mummy's" in my antenatal classes.  I though that my two were the exception to prove the rule and I was lucky to get 4 hours sleep a night.

It became a self perpetuating problem.  I didn't go to sleep as I know one of them would wake me and I couldn't cope with the anger I felt when I did wake.  I seemed to have become wired differently I woke at the slightest noise either of the boys made, it was like a mummy radar, so what was the point of going to sleep and then worst of all when I had the opportunity, when MadDad was sleeping in with them, well that's when insomnia came and I just could sleep. Often I was like a walking zombie.  

Again my consultant come to the rescue, his wife has experienced Mummy Radar too, as I now know so do a lot of mummies, so he prescribed sleeping pills.  We went through most of them until we found something that worked for me.  Not a traditional sleeping pill, but an antipsychotic (blush).

This little pill has kept me sane.  Through all the surgeries, through all the pain, through the depression, I have always know it is there is I need it and now I only take it when times are really bad.

They use sleep deprivation as a torture and it truly is, it makes me ratty, irritable, grouchy and generally not a nice person.

Thankfully MadDad and I realise this and we ensure that I have at least one nights unbroken sleep a week.  He also ensures that I get a lie in one day over the weekend.  It makes a vast difference and realising this was a turning point in my treatment.


Saturday, 28 August 2010

Postnatal Depression - The role that the media and society plays

I went in to motherhood wearing rose coloured glasses and with very unrealistic expectations of what motherhood was.

I didn't intend to, in fact I did all I could to not go in to motherhood blinkered in this way.  I booked an antenatal course with the NCT.  I talked to friends and colleague who had children.

Did it help, no it make things worse, The NCT talked about me about natural births, with birth plans and little or no pain relief.  Of breathing through the pain or breast feeding only and of reusable nappies.  I came away thinking that yep that was how it was going to be and with a list of acquaintances who all felt the same.

It was the start of the way things were to be.  Pick up any magazine and there was photographs of new Mommy's looking great, pushing Poppy or Daisy in the pram, glowing and back in their pre pregnancy clothes after a week.

There was talk of breast is best, but not only for the baby, but also for the new mum as it helps burn calories.  There was no such thing as couldn't breastfeed, only wouldn't breastfeed.

So I set off on this incredible journey, not only with the wrong map, on the wrong form of transport, but also with the wrong fuel in the car too.

I would meet up with the mums from my antenatal class, only to find out "Jonny is sleeping through", "We have put Mia in her own room", "Formula is why Maxi isn't sleeping".

So I felt a failure, a total failure.  My child wouldn't sleep, I couldn't sleep, I wasn't feeding him correctly, OMG I was pregnant again and Maxi would get no attention at all.

So The one thing I can offer to all mothers out there is that expectations, set them realistically.  Talk to people that you trust to tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Yes I wouldnt trade with of the boys for the world, but sleeplessness is a killer and sleeping though - yeah right.  I was happy if we managed 6 hours!  Being a parent changes everything, It intensifies everything - the good and the bad.

So for me I would have rather had honest answers and realistic expectations, the fall wouldn't have been so far or so hard if I had know just what parenting was like.


Thursday, 19 August 2010

First Kiss

We had decided to both go to the after work drinks at the pub.
We didn't work together, but you had just finished the audit on the company I worked for.
We were good friends and I had known you for 4 years.
"I will drop you off on my way home, I have to drive past your road" you said to me.
I got in your little white car, off we drove.
"I am not ready to go home yet" I said, tentatively wondering if you felt the same way about me as I did you.
"Let's stop and look at the sea" I mentioned
The tape deck was playing The Wonder Stuff as we watched the breakers hit the shore.
It was dark and you could hear the sea roaring as you wound down the window to stop the car steaming up.
And we sat, pretty much in silence.
Looking at the darkness outside the window, looming closer and closer.
My tummy rolled with the waves.
A hollow pit of nerves and anticipation.
You joked that we were parked in a notorious car park
I looked at you and you looked back at me and then we kissed.
I didn't want it to stop, but it had to.
We both had people at home waiting for us.
I was 20 years old and knew you were the one

We were married less then a year later.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Depression -Not knowing which thoughts were flowers and which were weeds

I thought I was a terrible mum, I really did.  I was not saying this for people to counter with "of course you aren't".  I truly thought that MadDad and the boys would be better off without me.

I couldn't separate the irrational thoughts from the rational ones, the weeds from the flowers and this was something that CBT allowed me to do in a really processed way.
When things got really bad, I would write.  I didn't blog then, I didn't dare, but I did write a lot of my feelings in a small notepad, which has been hidden away, so I am going to share with you some of the things I wrote

"Why cant I go back to sleep, when I know that mini has gone back off to sleep, why do I bother to even close my eyes, when I know that sleep wont come"

"Why can I not comfort him, why can I not stop him crying.  Why have a made a damaged baby?"

"I dread the nights, I am starting to dread the ticking of the clock.  I want to go away.  The tireder I get the harder it is to function"

"I want to drive the car in to a brick wall, to stop the pain in my heart and the feelings in my tummy, my boys deserve more"

£Everything is getting on top of me, I do not know how to cope, so I am hiding.  I hate the world for making me selfish, I do not want to live".

I wrote this was Mini was 3 months old on 22 September 2006 and re-writing it like that, it seems so alien.  I really did feel this way.  The biggest part of my treatment for me was to realise that I wasn't my mum and that in seeking and receiving help my children would not be as effected by depression as I was as a child.

At this point I would have rather been dead than have them suffer the way I did.  I wanted them to be sheltered from the repercussions depression can heap on to family life.

But my Mental Health Nurse empower me to be able to deal with these thoughts.  He and I used CBT to help me initially recognise the negative thoughts and feelings, then to challenge them and eventually to change them.
It wasn't easy, but it was effective.  I had to work hard to get where I am today.  I had to put in additional work every day at home.  I discussed this every evening with MadDad.  I had Thought Monitoring and Challenging Forms and I filled them in, until I could fill them in just by thinking about it.  The repetition in doing this really helped me and this major part of my treatment that I carry with me everyday and still use.

I am often found to be asking myself "what is the worst that could happen", "would I judge a friend like this" and "how would you see this if you went depressed".

More so than the medication I am thankful for the CBT.  It is what allowed me to start living and stopping bullying myself and looking for eternal perfection.


Monday, 26 July 2010

Depression - I am not my mother

I have said before that my mother suffered from depression as I was growing up and she still does and it was her that clouded my view on medication and treatment.

I love my mum dearly, but she was not always the most emotionally invested person, in fact I received more love and attention from my father and grandfather.  Now this is not to say that she wasn't a good mother, but it is to say that when she was depressed she would say some terrible things, which resonate to this day.

"I wish I had never had children", "If I was to do it all again I wouldn't bother", "your father loved you more than he loves me", "I wish you were a boy".  I Could go on, but I think that that will give you an idea.  I went though stages of hating my mother.  I left home at 16 and I really believed her to he a hard and heartless woman.

I never, ever wanted my boys to feel the same way about me.  We had tried every so hard to get them and to be where we were, so I felt that I needed to be the "perfect mother", the complete opposite of my mum.  They were always well dressed, I lavished them with attention, cooked food from scratch, sang to them and read to them.

If they were ill, I blamed myself, if they didn't do as they were told, well again that was me and not them.  I was the one letting the side down, I was the imperfect mother.

It took a lot of self realisation and bloody tears, heart ache and pain to realise that I am not my mother and I don't need to judge myself on her.  

I was looking to her for approval and it was never coming and that was her issue not mine and finally after all those months of counselling I asked her why she never commented on my parenting.  I wish I had asked her before then.  She told me I was the best mum she had ever met, that I did a wonderful job with the boys and she was proud of me.  I also asked her why she had never told me before, to which her response was "well you never asked".

That was an epiphany for me.  I realised that I am not destined to repeat my mothers mistakes nor was I responsible for her happiness.

It was the moment I started mothering for me and I set my own standards and finally realised that perfect is not what children want.  To this day I have a saying on my wall:

There is no one way to be a perfect mother,
but a million  ways to be a good one.


Wednesday, 21 July 2010

My Feelings Now

My Tummy

It is like a coiled snake.
A hollow nothingness.
A deep dark black hole.
The smudge that remains after an eraser has tried to rub out a mistake.
A physical feeling of impending doom.
Anxiety for I know not what.

My head

Lack of motivation
The state of the house
The ironing pile
The inability to make decisions (even the smallest one over what to cook for lunch)
My heath
The lack of jobs in the big bad world
The summer
The boys
My mum

My Heart

It aches
It weeps
It wants to stop beating
It is heavy in my chest
Jumping in to my throat

The tears fall hot and heavy
The anger is subsiding, being replaced by floods of salty water
I can not stop them
They are ever present
For no reason and for every reason

Friday, 16 July 2010

My Secret Shame - Depression

For the last three years the only reason I have managed to get through the day is due to the drugs I have taken.  I suffer with depression you see and I finally feel that I am able to let you all know that I am not superwoman and that I could not and have not managed to get through the trials in my life alone.

You see the thing is, you shouldn't have to get through them alone and  I have been very, very lucky in that the mental health care I have received has been second to none, right from the very start.

So I have decided it is time to "come out" and to share what it has been like for me, the boys and MadDad over the last 3 years.  I also need to say that my mum has always suffered from depression and that has clouded my opinion on it and also has had a huge impact on the treatment I received.
Initially I put my feelings down to tiredness, the sheer exhaustion of caring for a newborn and a 15 month old,  but finally I had to admit it was more.  Well that isn't exactly true.  MadDad couldn't take anymore and fearing for my life, he dragged me kicking and screaming to a prearranged GP appointment when mini was 7 months old.

Would I still be here without this intervention?  No, by this time I was already making plans for the children after my death and planning how I would kill myself.

So over the coming weeks, I am going to share with you my experience of depression, but firstly I want to share with you the fact that it is treatable, like any other illness, you just need to find the correct treatment for you.  I have been through stages where I was no longer on any form of medication.  I have been happy, in fact more than happy.  I am living my life and I am not fearful that I am a bad mum, which I would have thought as impossible when mini was born.

I really do want this first post to show you that there are people out there that can help and I owe it to them, yes I really do because without their hard work and dedication I wouldn't be here today.

So what happened after my initial GP appointment?  What I do need for you to know is that at the very beginning of my journey I made one promise to MadDad, only one and to this day I have never broken it.  He asked me to always tell the truth, not matter how painful I or he for that matter might find it.  To tell the truth not only to him but to the people who were trying to help me too.

So within 24 hours of my GP visit I was assessed by the crisis team at home.  MadDad was there with me and they came for 2 hours the first day and then again for 2 hours the second day and then they went away and arranged for me to see a physiatrist and for a care plan to be put into place.  In the 4 days that this took to arrange they rang me and MadDad daily to ensure that I hadn't made any rash decisions.  Now it was either accept this help at home or be committed, as things were pretty much as bleak as they could get.

MadDad took me for my first appointment with the consultant physiatrist, he was wonderful, he made me feel secure and also enabled me to tell him how I felt and I cam away from that first appointment with prescription for medication, Anti-Depressant and also sleeping pills (for as I tell my story you will see that lack of sleep has major impact on me).

But the thing that really made the biggest difference in the way I live my life was the opportunity I was given to have Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and this was offered immediately, weekly and in my own home at a time when both the boys would be asleep.  This was life changing and I believe this is what has allowed me to go on and deal with the BRCA mutation, the surgeries and the complications with the positivity that I have in my life.

So there you have it.  I suffer from depression, I am not cured.  I thought I was and stopped taking my medication 3 months ago and have had today to admit defeat and start taking the tablets again.

I am starting to understand that I will never be without depression and will always need to keep an eye out for the symptoms,  and hope to get to the point where it is happy to walk in my shadows, rather than by my side.


Saturday, 15 May 2010

Creative Writing - Unit One - Getting in the Habit

1.1 Moving Day

kettle out last
spilt milk
indentations of furniture
echo's of our lives
jangle of new keys
new locks to turn
new keys to learn
belongings in boxes
carried in by men like ants
a new start
a new dawn
tea makes the world turn
Phone lines
meter readings
new directions
new neighbours
no curtains
bare bulbs
every house sounds different
first night nerves
mattress on floor
loo roll on the door
living out of boxes
where is it
where is he
He 's in a box
finding its place
when is bin day

1.3 Describe an Object - My bed

fresh sheets
crisp linen
an place of renewal
the elephant in the room
roll over
A divan
my boat
many things to many people
a safe place
cool sheets
hotwater bottles
Making love
made with love
marital bed
huge, but not big enough
too big

1.4 Write a Paragraph about 1.1

Which key opens the door to our new life, our new house.  I look at the bunch of keys the developer gave me and try to remember which is the front door, trying each one in turn.  Sods law, it was always going to be the last one I tried.  Empty, still, quiet, not for long our new house soon to be filled with the chaos of removal men, hundreds of boxes and the feet of a toddler and the screams of a hungry baby.  I look around at the cream walls and the wooden floor trying to capture the newness, the emptiness for one last time, trying to picture this house becoming our home.