Author Archives: Amy Ransom

Amy Ransom

About Amy Ransom

in no particular order... mum to two small people, PA / biscuit arranger (says husband), author, marathoner (ok just the once), pursuer of whims

The happy truth about anti-depressants

This morning, I shared a post on Facebook and Instagram about my relationship with anti-depressants (ADs). The response has been overwhelming and I’m so glad it’s opened up another conversation about mental wellbeing. I realised that, in all my posts about anxiety, PND and depression, I’ve glossed over the use of anti-depressants. And yet there are a lot of people who are scared of taking them or ashamed that they are. So I wanted to write something real and positive and to share what I know about them from being on them for two and a half years. *Disclaimer: I’m obviously not a medical professional and this post is based on my experience and conversations with others. Always talk to your doctor.  

  1. If someone doesn’t understand taking a pill to be ‘happy,’ they’ve never been unwell enough to need to. The thing I hear repeatedly about ADs is STIGMA. People feel ashamed. They are made to feel ashamed. For the record, I am NOT ashamed. I do whatever it takes to stay well. The most useful and simple summary I’ve ever read about anti-depressants is this. ‘When you are REALLY unwell, you will do ANYTHING to get better.‘ It’s that hard and that simple. If someone else judges you for this, thinks you’ve copped out or whatever, they just don’t understand what it feels like to be in a really dark, lonely and physically tortuous place. That’s their issue, not yours.
  2. Taking responsibility for your happiness and your mental wellbeing is to be applauded. Where is the shame in taking a tablet that helps you feel well? For me, there is far more shame in being irritable, not coping and shouting at my poor kids. (OK, I still shout. ADs aren’t miracle workers and they don’t help your kids put their shoes on any faster when you’re late for school. AGAIN. But they do help me feel better about it.)
  3. You haven’t failed. You haven’t failed because, today, you need to take a tablet to function better. You’re only failing when you don’t get the help you need and deserve. Also? More people are taking them than you could ever know.
  4. How do you know if you need to take them? Personally, I think you know. This doesn’t mean you will necessarily feel any easier about doing so. But for me, I knew. After my second daughter was born, I felt anxious. I went to the doctors and, after a long chat, she prescribed me some anti-depressants. I’ll be honest, they scared the bejeezus out of me. ‘I’m not the sort of person that takes these,’ I thought, ignorantly. I went home, sat on the sofa and stared at the packet for a long time, before calling my dad. ‘I don’t want to take them,‘ I said. ‘Do you think I should?‘ My dad said simply, ‘If you really needed to take them you wouldn’t even be asking me.’ He was right. And that time I made it through on my own. Fast forward three years to my third baby and the experience was COMPLETELY different. I felt SO unwell in every way, I would have taken ANYTHING to feel better. My doctor herself said that if I hadn’t been so open to taking them, she would have insisted I did. That time? Nothing but those tablets (alongside a combination of CBT) was going to make me function again. I can still remember the relief when I started to feel better.
  5. Sometimes going swimming, running or meditation is not enough. I run three times a week and it is essential to my mental wellbeing. But, right now, it is NOT enough on its own. And anyone who’s ever tried to meditate in a house full of three under eights would probably find they want to pop a couple of pills too.
  6. It can take up to 6 weeks (or more) for ADs to work. Lots of people don’t realise that ADs take time to have an effect. IT IS NOT INSTANT. It was almost a month before I started to feel less foggy and less teary. Even then I had to double my dose from 50mg to 100mg to really start to feel the benefit. It can also take time to find the right type for you. So keep in regular contact with your doctor in those early weeks so you can both monitor your progress.
  7. How do you know when you’re ready to reduce your dose/stop taking them? I think your body tells you. For me, the lightbulb moment came 18 months after starting them, when I was at a funeral and I couldn’t really feel sad. It showed me how well I had become, that my body was obviously producing its own serotonin again and the 100mg I was taking was too much. After that, I called my doctor, we discussed it and I set about reducing my dose. I felt ready and I was. Some people might never be ready. And that’s also ok.
  8. Don’t rush to come off them. If you go on them already thinking about when you’re going to come off of them, you’re just adding more stress, expectation and potential disappointment to your life. Enjoy feeling well! My doctor told me I would be on them for a minimum of one year for my PND. When I started feeling better, I remember thinking, ‘Only a year? I like feeling well again!‘ Almost three years later, I’m on a daily ‘maintenance’ dose of 25mg. My doctor and I stay in regular contact and she fully supports my decision to remain on it, post separation. I have no plans to come off of them at the moment. Maybe when the kids leave home. Maybe not even then.
  9. If/when you are ready, come off them gradually. Side effects are inevitable (people talk about feeling more emotional and also unpleasant physical symptoms like an ‘electric shock’ feeling when you move your head) but if you come off them slowly, these are minimal. I took six weeks reducing my dose from 100mg to 25mg. It felt fine. Do not rush the process.
  10. If you do come off them, you might choose to go back on them again. So what? You don’t take a Lemsip pledging never to take one again, do you? Foolish people limit themselves. They say things like, ‘I’d never do that,‘ or ‘I’m never doing that again.‘ The less foolish amongst us recognise we’re setting ourselves up to fail, if we make promises we possibly can’t keep. If you’re well today without tablets, that’s brilliant. If you hit a bump in the road next year and find yourself back on them, that’s also brilliant. Because you’re taking responsibility for your mental wellbeing. Again.
  11. We do WHATEVER IT TAKES to stay well and that is different for everyone. Some people will have a ‘blip,’ recover fully and never look back. Some people will be on and off ADs, as ‘life happens.’ And some people will never come off them. Because they NEED them for a chemical imbalance or something physiological that means they can’t function without them. Or, they’ve simply made a personal choice because they feel better on them, than not. We don’t say to a diabetic, ‘Here’s some insulin. Have it for a couple of years and then we’re going to take it away and you can just wing it.’ In this regard, mental health is misunderstood and it shouldn’t be. Always remember. We do whatever it takes to stay well. And that is different for everyone.

Take care of yourself. And much love to everyone struggling, recovering and taking brave steps, today and always. If you need to know you’re most definitely NOT alone, check out today’s Facebook and Instagram post and read all the many amazing comments from people doing whatever it takes.

 

If you’d like to share your comments and experiences with the #whateverittakes, please do. You can do so below and also find me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. I would ask that we keep the comments positive and encouraging, just because this post is about removing the stigma, not adding to it! New mums needing some support with their mental wellbeing might like to check out The New Mum’s Notebook, sanity saving journal, available online now.

Can we think ourselves happy?

By Amy Ransom on April 11, 2017 , 1 Comment

This post is for anyone who’s tired of seeing the hardships before the good. Of struggling with fluctuating moods or a persistent level of anxiety. This may just help you to feel happy, every day.

My epiphany.

The past few weeks have been a bit strange. In a good way.

It began a few Tuesdays ago. The kids were at school and nursery. I had done all the things that usually make me happy. A run. A nice coffee. Some work and writing. And yet, I felt utterly miserable and teary. I couldn’t blame hormones – as I so often do – it was supposed to be my ‘good’ couple of weeks. There was no tangible reason at all.

That Tuesday turned out to be the climax of a year that has, so far, largely been dominated by anxious thoughts.

And I had had enough.

No one to blame but myself.

Living your life with frequent feelings of lack and anxiety is joyless and frustrating.

Having so much to be thankful and happy for and yet completely missing that abundance is such a waste of time and energy. And it makes you feel sad. Especially when it feels you have no control over it.

That was the place I had found myself in, despite all my CBT practice. That Tuesday proved it. What could I attribute my misery to? What external influences could I blame? There were none. There was only one thing I could hold accountable.

Myself.

Keep on swimming.

So, there and then, on that precious child free Tuesday, I decided to change it. Anxiety and feeling low have stolen enough of my days. They’re not getting any more.

I decided to plough on regardless of the fact I felt rubbish and just wanted to curl up on the sofa and watch Gilmore Girls. I worked. I tried to be creative. I did my best to create opportunities. So at least if I got to the end of the day and I still felt awful, I wouldn’t also feel guilty for wasting those precious hours.

Of course, by the end of the day, I didn’t feel awful. I felt much better.

And I felt a real sense of achievement for pushing on through.

The law of attraction.

That day taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me that I can choose to be happy. That I can attract happiness, even if I’m not initially feeling it. That I can flip my mood and choose to look at things differently and, in doing so, override those low moments and the anxious thoughts.

I have that power.

After all, if the anxious and negative thoughts can feed off each other, why can’t the happy ones?

Being happy.

So I have decided to try it, every day. To commit to the happy, positive thoughts and the feeling that everything will be ok, in the end.

I have always believed this, ultimately. I like the idea of destiny (in the sense that you can influence it and shape it if you listen to your instincts, not that you’re entitled to it). I’d just lost my connection with it and in that void the anxious thoughts had had room to grow.

The thought that you attract whatever you think about isn’t really a crazy one. It’s like those days we label as bad, where one thing goes wrong after another. It’s only us who call it bad. If we choose to reframe it after we’ve spilt the milk, missed the train and broke our heel on the escalator, is it a bad day or does that day suddenly become defined by something else? The nice conversation we had, that we wouldn’t have had if we’d missed our train. It’s what CBT calls ‘challenging unhelpful thoughts.’ And it works.

Listening to our instincts (our inner beings) isn’t an alien concept either. As mothers, it’s how we raise our kids. Our instincts are strong and any mother who’s ever gone against them (and paid the price) knows what good guides they always are.

After a while, you start to do both without even thinking about it.

It really will be ok.

Since choosing to see the good as often as I can and simply being aware of the direction in which my thoughts are taking me, the anxious thoughts are at bay.

I’m in the most anxious part of my monthly cycle and still there is nothing on the horizon. I am able to refocus myself in a way I never have been before.

And it’s a much happier way to live.

Can we really think ourselves happy?

Surely, there are flaws? What about those having a really hard time? Those that are seriously ill? Those that are lonely or jobless or homeless. The list goes on. Do they just think happy thoughts and ta-dah! But those that have the desire or the ability, actually manage to do it.

We see them every day. They are those amazing people who are experiencing huge challenges that the rest of us marvel at and say, ‘How on earth do you find the strength?‘ But do they really have a unique strength waiting to be sourced? Or do they make a choice to be positive, often amidst no choice at all?

And maybe at the most basic level, that’s the difference between happy people and unhappy people. Making a choice. Making a commitment to finding peace and happiness wherever you can, whilst really getting to know yourself, your inner being and trusting your instincts, no matter what.

We must also have a realistic interpretation of the word, ‘happy.’ Because choosing to be happy doesn’t mean we will be all of the time. Or that we will be miraculously immune to pain. The Buddha’s teachings tell us that suffering is a part of life, that we must all acknowledge. And find our peace with. That’s the challenge, right there.

But it’s like anything you practice. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes.

And being happy feels pretty, blooming good.

Note: This post isn’t meant to make anyone feel bad or less validated in whatever they’re feeling. If you’re going through a hard/dark/sad time seeing positives will be hard right now. We all have to get places in our own time. Also? If you’re suffering from any sort of clinical anxiety/depression, this will seem insurmountable. I know that feeling first hand. But one day, it will all seem more doable, believe me. There’s lots more on the blog about living your life happily, CBT and the devil that is anxiety. Put ‘anxiety’ in the search box and more posts will come up. You can also follow the Facebook page and find me on Instagram.

Kids and money.

Contrary to the title, this isn’t a post about selling your kids and how much you can get for them. (Although, there’s an idea.) It’s about kids and their relationship with money. Their money. Your money. (Mostly your money.) I want my kids to understand the value of stuff but have no idea exactly how to teach them this. So when I was introduced to this brand new parenting app, Kidibank™, I was like, ‘WHY has no one thought of this before?’ This post is written in partnership with Kidibank™, the positive parenting app.

‘Can I have my pocket money?’

We’ve been giving our seven year old weekly pocket money for a few months now.

I say giving it. What’s actually been happening is she’s spent a lot of time reminding us and one of us has scrabbled around for a quid. Because who carries cash these days? And apparently, she doesn’t take contactless. She’s then put it in a purse or bag never to be seen again, we go shopping, she sees something she wants to buy and I buy it for her. She then promises to pay me back. She ‘forgets.’ I forget. And on we go.

I think this is what they call payback. Literally. (Sorry Dad for raiding your not so secret coin stash when I was a kid.)

‘How much is £9?’

On the odd occasion Beaver’s remembered to bring her purse out with her, she hasn’t really understood how much is in there and what that can buy. The last time we went shopping she had three £5 notes and a few pound coins. Suspicious, no, when she’s paid in coins? Mmmmmm.

Anyway, she picked up the first thing she saw. A t-shirt that cost £9. ‘I’ll have this,‘ she said. I told her that if she had that it would use up most of her money and she’d only have a few pounds left. ‘Oh I don’t want it then,‘ she said. ‘Unless you want to buy it for me?

And there it was. The expectation. I remember it well. Not wanting it enough to part with your own money but being very happy to let someone else buy it for you.

Anyone got an abacus?

Neither of us bought the t-shirt and Beaver ended up spending her money on a toy for her and generously (and rather uncharacteristically) also bought one for her sister.

When I got home it bothered me that I’d been so rubbish at helping her to understand the money side of things. And it often bothers me that Beaver pesters me for things when we’re in a shop, without remembering or caring she already had something last week. None of us want to raise spoiled kids.

But I get it. The expectation. After all, kids don’t really understand the cost to us. So it’s our job to teach them. But where on earth do you start? I want my kids to know the value of stuff and, further down the line, to be in control of their finances when they get older.

And not to sound REALLY dull, but a good relationship with money starts young, right?

Can you tell I’m an accountant’s daughter?

No more cash!

The Kidibank™ app solves this problem (and many more).

It allows you to set up a virtual ‘bank’ for your child and pay virtual money into it. Which means you never have to get caught short again looking for a stray coin. WOOHOO! This could even help when the Tooth Fairy gets caught, erm, off guard. Just saying. ‘Ooh, look at that! That clever Tooth Fairy has paid it straight into your Kidibank.’

Rather brilliantly, you can sync it on your own phone, your child’s tablet (if they have one), and other family members’ gadgets too so you are all looking at the same account (up to 4 adults and 6 kids per account). When you go shopping your child can spend the virtual money (whilst you hand over the equivalent amount via your actual payment method) and your child can visually see how much they’ll have left if they buy that t-shirt or toy or whatever it is they want. This might even mean you can risk the gift shop on a day out. Steady now!

You can also set goals on it so your child can earn extra money. For younger members of the family you can set it to stars rather than money, so you’ve always got a reward chart system with you. Perfect for those times when you’re out and about and your reward chart is stuck on the fridge at home, long forgotten (if you’re anything like me). You can even encourage your child to monitor their own screen time and understand how to save a bit more screen time for tomorrow so they can watch a longer programme, for example or play more levels of a game. Fully customisable with animated characters, the app is all about encouraging your child to think for themselves and allowing them to have some responsibility for their own conduct rather than micro-managing (nagging) them.

An end to nagging? You’re on.

(Now. If it could also just do the school run too and maybe even my washing, my life would be perfect.)

This post was written in partnership with Kidibank™. Click here to download their amazing app on iTunes, Google Play or Amazon. One month trial FREE!

Before I became a parent…

By Amy Ransom on March 20, 2017 , 1 Comment

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, eh? Here’s 8 things I’ve changed my mind about since having kids.

Before I became a parent…

1. I never thought I would want to eat lunch at 12.00 PM. Most days I’m thinking about it at 10.30 AM. Oh who am I kidding? I’m eating it. OK? I’m having a full on lunch at 10.30 AM.

2. I wondered why parents looked so frazzled and found it so hard to manage their kids.My kids will NEVER be like that.‘ And they’re totally not. They’re worse.

3. I was impatient. I think I still am. However, the fact I watch my children take an average of 37 minutes to put on their shoes (at least twice a day), suggests I’m probably not.

4. I thought bedtime would be beautiful. The smell of a clean child. The serenity. Now I mostly just wish for a giant meteor to strike earth so I don’t have to do bedtime. Ever again. Until I realise that my three kids ARE the giant meteor. And I’m living at the very bottom of the huge crater they’ve left behind.

5. I made decisions carefully. Now I just choose the path of least resistance. That’s paved with coffee or gin.

6. I never realised how quiet silence actually was. When my kids are out, it’s like I’ve gone deaf.

7. I didn’t appreciate the true value of personal space. Or the sensation of not being touched, licked, stared at ALL of the time.

8. I didn’t know what it was like to love another with every core of my being. Whilst also often being ever so slightly irritated by them and missing all the personal space. Haha.

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog for the first time, welcome! You can see my other posts on Facebook and Instagram. New mums/dad/mums-to-be/kind gift-givers might want to check out my new book, The New Mum’s Notebook, sanity saving journal for new mums. A survival guide, if you like.

To the mum who doubts herself.

Dear Mum,

If you’re reading this, then you have probably doubted yourself, at one time or another. Who hasn’t? Maybe you’re doing it right now. Doubting yourself doesn’t feel good, does it? It feels uncertain. But not only is it normal, it’s healthy. Usually. Because it means we’re questioning ourselves, which comes only from the desire to do right by our children. Yes, Doubt (just like its good buddy, Guilt) is also love, in disguise. LOVE.

Doubt is wanting the best for our children. But not always knowing how to provide it. Every parenting stage is new and challenging. Getting our babies to sleep. Helping them start school. Supporting them as they grow physically and emotionally. The phases come and go. And we’ve just got to learn on the job. No parent is completely confident in their abilities. There’s always that niggle in the back of our minds, ‘What if I get it wrong?

And we will get it wrong. Many times over. We haven’t done this before. We’re dealing with human beings, not a maths equation. But the best thing about parenting? We always get another chance to do it again. Better. Differently. And every time we do, the doubt passes and that’s another phase mastered. For now, anyway. We’ve learned something new and, in the process, given our children the greatest gift of all. We’ve showed them that making mistakes is not something to be scared of. That it’s a crucial part of getting it right. Eventually. That they never have to be perfect. (Amen to that.)

Sometimes, however, doubting ourselves as a parent isn’t healthy. It’s a negative emotion. And that’s when the doubt doesn’t come from us but from someone else. Other people start to sew seeds of doubt the minute we start this parenting journey. And they won’t stop. Sometimes it will be an innocent, throw away comment. Other times it will be more loaded than that and come from a place of insecurity where they need our decisions to reflect their own. So they can make peace with them. In short, it’s about them, not us.

We can’t stop the seed being sewn. But we can prevent it from growing. Let them plant it in their garden, not ours. If it isn’t constructive. If it doesn’t sit right with us or leave us feeling inspired. If it leaves us with that lurching feeling in our gut and asking, ‘Why did they say that?‘ it’s not a doubt that will ever serve us well or move us into a better place. It will grow weeds not flowers.

It’s hard to rise above it, especially when you’re a new parent. But as we become more experienced, as we get to know ourselves better as parents, we learn to ignore idle criticism. Because we have more confidence. And we realise that any sort of judgement is born out of insecurity and, very often, boredom. It has no truth. And if we choose not to listen to it, then it also has no audience. So, never get drawn into judging someone else’s parenting style, their choices or even their kids. It will only make you feel bad.

Finally, when you lose faith in yourself or your child. When you wonder if you can do this. When you lie awake at night feeling anxious. Look at how far you’ve already come. At what you’ve already achieved and mastered. You can do this better than you think.

There’s no doubt whatsoever, in fact.

Because you already are.

Much love to you.

 

 

If you’re a new mum in need of a little reassurance, check out The New Mum’s Notebook, 304 pages of sanity saving support. It’s available online now. More of me over on Facebook and Instagram.

The most liberating piece of parenting advice. Ever.

The other day a conversation with another parent, about TV, led me to the most liberating piece of parenting advice I’ve heard in my eight short years as a mother.

I haven’t read a parenting book since 2009.

I’m not bragging about this. I should probably be reading loads. Especially now that my seven year old is almost eight and having emotions I don’t really know what to do with. If this is a warm-up for the teenage years then I CANNOT WAIT. (Tip for parents navigating conversations about kids feeling left out: don’t have this conversation when you’re tired and basically tell your child, ‘This is life and you need to get used to it.‘ Then watch their face crumble as they realise their mother has no better handling on this thing called life, than they do.)

So far, I’ve picked up everything I know (or don’t know) about being a mother from those around me. Friends. Other mums (and dads). My own parents.

I take all the different snippets that I like and piece them together into some wonderfully chaotic bespoke jigsaw puzzle that fits my family.

And I ditch the pieces that don’t.

Take everything with a pinch of salt.

Other parents, especially ones going through the same shizzle as you are, are a brilliant resource. They will have discovered stuff you haven’t thought of. They will inspire you. And motivate you. Occasionally, though, they will scare the bejeezus out of you, cause complete panic and make you do crazy stuff like COPY THEM.

When this happens, take a step back, evaluate and breathe.

Because every piece of advice you come across as a parent must be taken with a pinch of salt. We all parent differently. We all have different circumstances. So it can never be one size fits all.

You are always going to need to adjust the seams a little.

The end of Netflix.

Take the other day, for example, when someone mentioned their kids never watch TV. Like EVER. ‘Oh mine don’t watch TV either,’ I said smugly. ‘They watch Netflix. That’s different, right?

Er, no. Apparently it’s not different. F***. Who knew? (Clever Netflix convincing me that you are a cultural institution.)

The timing of this conversation was uncanny. It came, unprompted, at the end of a week where I was feeling really guilty about how much Netflix my kids had watched that week. Because I was tired and lacking in energy to do anything else with them.

(Before you also start to feel guilty and stop reading, this post ends really happily, with TV AND you having a rest.)

Make it work for you.

Like the next parent, I am brilliant at beating myself up about the stuff I don’t do and ignoring all the stuff I have managed to do. And some weeks I forget that it is just impossible for everyone to have clean pants, a hot meal AND everything else.

But in my already guilt-ridden state, I obviously needed to take action. So I instantly banned Netflix and then spent the next 36 hours wanting to kill myself.

Because I had (stupidly) forgotten to assess all the pieces of the puzzle and ditch the ones that didn’t fit. With mostly sole responsibility for three kids and work, it is simply not feasible for me to live in a world without Netflix. And anyway, my kids enjoy the downtime and, as long as they are doing other stuff as well, they mostly don’t turn into monsters.

Kids have to learn to amuse themselves.

BUT. It wasn’t so much the conversation about TV, as the conversation it led to.

Because when I asked the other parent, ‘How on earth do you entertain them ALL day?‘ they said, ‘We don’t. It’s not our job to amuse them all of the time. They have to learn to amuse themselves. Out of boredom comes creativity. And when there’s no media kids have to find other stuff to do.’

And there it was. The most liberating piece of parenting ‘advice’ I have ever heard.

‘Kids have to learn to amuse themselves.

It’s good for kids to feel bored.

I think this is something that has really changed since I was a kid. The feeling now that we need to be our kids’ playmates.

When I was young, I never remember my mum and dad playing with me ALL of the time. Nor did I watch tons of TV. I remember going off to my room. Playing make-believe. Scribbling and writing. Inventing imaginary clubs with no members (sad but true haha).

And yet so many of us feel we should be our kids’ primary source of entertainment. I know I always have done. I’m not alone. When I once asked other mums what they felt most guilty about, ‘Not playing with our kids enough‘ topped the list. I would hazard a guess that’s why so many of us use TV and other media as a crutch.

Because we’re scared of what we would do with them otherwise.

A final thought.

But now, since having that conversation, when one of my kids tells me they’re bored, I don’t feel guilty or that it’s my responsibility to relieve this instantly. I suddenly have the confidence to suggest lots of things they could do before leaving them to figure the rest out for themselves.

Because actually? Kids are kids and play comes instinctively to them. Much more so than it does to us. My two year old and five year do role play constantly and are fully capable of enjoying this without me. And my seven year old is happiest when she’s writing and doodling in her notebook without me. All that the small act of turning the TV off every now and again is doing is breaking some habits we’ve accidentally fallen into and making room for new ones.

There is NO WAY ON EARTH we are ever going to have a TV free household. We like films. We enjoy watching them together. And there is the small matter of me going completely insane if me and Netflix went our separate ways. We might just be soulmates.

But I am so glad that I had the opportunity, again, to learn from another parent’s perspective. Listen to their reasons. To their insight. And then take from it the piece that works for us.

To add to our wonderfully chaotic family jigsaw.

This is NOT a post to make anyone feel guilty and if it does then I’ve written it badly! I just found it really liberating realising that our kids are fully capable of entertaining themselves. May I also add that if you have a baby/and other small children, TV is your friend and you must do whatever (and as much of it as) you need to, to get through the day. No guilt. More of me over on Instagram and in our lovely Facebook community.

One day at a time.

Being a parent. Getting older. Facing up to the idea of our own mortality. None of these things are easy. Some days life is serious and leaves us feeling really vulnerable. And anxious. It’s a lonely place. But actually? Most of us feel like this at some time or another (or often). And there’s great comfort in that.

It’s about balance.

This year, I’ve been feeling anxious, on and off. Sometimes for no reason. Despite being predisposed to anxiety, it still always catches me by surprise.

I mostly have no reason to feel this way. And that’s the thing about anxiety, it doesn’t always make sense. Good things are happening. I am happy. Yet, ironically, this unnerves me almost as much as if bad things were.

I feel like something is going to happen, to counteract all the good,‘ I found myself saying to a friend yesterday. ‘No,’ she said. ‘It doesn’t work like that. It’s about balance. There are good times. And bad times. And then good again. I think you’ve had your share of the bad. For now.’

Even writing this makes me nervous. Crazy, eh? Because as positive as we all know how to be, sometimes it can be just as scary having faith in the good.

It’s like the Sex and the City film where Charlotte says to Carrie, ‘I feel like something bad is going to happen. Because no one gets everything they want,‘ when she finally falls pregnant. ‘Erm, you’ve sh*t your pants this year,’ Carrie says. ‘I think you’re done.’

Good point.

FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.

Our natural reaction to anxiety is to feel fear. FEAR. False Evidence Appearing Real. Which is basically what anxiety is. Something that probably isn’t going to happen, except in our minds.

The fear brings on all those unpleasant physical symptoms. The dizziness. The nausea. The general state of feeling unwell. Which further convinces us that something must be really wrong.

On a primitive level, this is the fight or flight response but rarely are we actually in this situation where our lives are in immediate danger. So, in our modern lives, where we aren’t running around in loin cloths being chased by lions, we have to learn how to manage this.

To be able to figure out what’s real and what’s not.

Waiting for the thoughts to pass.

Anxious thoughts always pass. This I have learned. Usually once you’ve accepted them and allowed your brain to rationalise them, rather than fighting against them, increasing the fear and that fight or flight response.

Health anxiety for example, which plagues so many (especially us mums whose greatest fear is not being around to see our kids grow up), is particularly receptive to rationale. Thankfully. The headache you’ve got. The dizziness. The exhaustion. What if it’s something serious? Or, more likely, what if it’s because you’re dehydrated, tired and stretched, you forgot to eat (again) and you’re just not looking after yourself as well as you should be. The moment you build up that very rational list in your head, the relief washes over you and the physical symptoms you’re feeling start to fade.

We can teach our brains not to be so scared of the anxious thoughts, to be more tolerant of them and instead wait for them to pass.

One day at a time.

We only have today. That’s our only guarantee. And concentrating on living today makes it much harder to worry about what might happen tomorrow.

It’s not easy to do but we can choose to make the effort to take one day at a time. And to make that day pleasurable in some small way, every single day. Whether it’s going for a walk in the fresh air. Getting a nice drink or coffee. Watching an episode from a cracking box set on Netflix. We have the power to make sure every day is worth concentrating on, in some small way. Because those pleasurable moments lift the mood, increase the serotonin levels and prevent the anxious thoughts from seeping in.

Of course, they will still find a way. And accepting this is part of the process, of not being surprised by their sudden appearance. Anxious thoughts, although unpleasant, are very normal. Even that confident person who you think is rocking life is having the wobbly moments that you are. But it is scary, nevertheless. And I know that some days it’s really, really tough to see the positive. To ditch those thoughts you didn’t invite in and have faith in the good.

And on those days, all I can say is, you’re not alone. Ever. We’re all just trying to remember to take one day at a time. And there is great comfort in doing that together.

Much love to you.

 

 

Look after yourself and never think you are the only person with all the crazy thoughts. More posts about anxiety and depression below:

You will be ok

The monster in our head

Me and PND

Lots of mums feel anxious

World Book Day. You b*stard.

World Book Day is a bit like going to the dentist for a root canal. You know it’s coming but if you can just stay in your current state of denial, maybe it won’t happen or the end of the world will come first. Here’s what happens in the 24 hours before the dawn of the day most parents have come to dread.

24 hours to go.

Parents across the land wake up with that feeling. The one where you know you’ve forgotten something but you can’t remember what the hell it is. What is it, what is it? Suddenly it hits. S***. Tomorrow’s World Book Day! DOUBLE S*** as you remember you now have two kids in school, which means TWO COSTUMES. Arggghhhhh! Why have you left this until the last minute, AGAIN? Some parents, on the other hand, have been planning their costumes for weeks. You are not friends with these parents. You probably should be.

23 hours to go.

Ask kids what they want to go as. Kids name several characters. All from films. You say, ‘No, it has to be from a book? What’s your favourite book?‘ Your kids give you that same dumbfounded look they give when you ask them to put their shoes on, ‘What’s a book?‘ You storm out of the room muttering something about, ‘Sodding World Book Day.’

22 hours to go. 

Text friend to ask what her kids are going as. She hasn’t a clue what you’re talking about because she drank two bottles of Prosecco last night and isn’t quite sure what her name is. You make a mental note to get friendly with those parents who’ve been planning their costumes for weeks. Who knows? If you get REALLY friendly, they might make yours next year too.

14 hours to go. 

Having spent the whole day procrastinating because, well, the world could still end and save you from having to go through this hell, you decide to procrastinate just a little bit more, turn on Netflix and eat a pack of chocolate digestives.

12 hours to go.

The world still hasn’t ended. S***. You really might have to get your act together at this rate. Right now, traffic to YouTube is at an all time high as parents watch videos like ‘How to make a cape out of absolutely nothing,’ and ‘World book day costume ideas you can make out of absolutely nothing,’ before getting completely sidetracked watching a video of some crazy dudes putting stuff on their heads and trying to guess, ‘What’s on my head?’ (It was a blender, in case you’re wondering.)

10 hours to go. 

Sip gin. Mess about on Facebook. Look at old dress on floor, which you found sometime between the chocolate digestives and the gin and thought you could make look a bit cape-like. It’s all a bit hazy and you’re exhausted from all the procrastination. Fall asleep on sofa in a pool of dribble. Wake up two hours later having completely self-sabotaged yourself. Oh well, off to bed. There’s always tomorrow.

Next morning. World Book Day. 45 minutes to go.

Wake up with that feeling. The one where you know you’ve forgotten something but you can’t remember what the hell it is. What is it, what is it? Suddenly it hits. S***. Today’s World Book Day! Rummage about in kids’ wardrobes. Find an old halloween cat costume and something that is most definitely Disney. But anyway, who’s to say what came first? The book or the film? It’s a bit chicken and egg really, isn’t it? That’s your line and you’re sticking to it.

(World Book Day. You b*stard.)

Sign the petition here to end World Book Day and get it debated in parliament. More of me over on Facebook and Instagram. Best go, I’ve got to go and make a cape out of absolutely nothing. 

Doing stuff with kids. Blurgh.

Every now and again I forget about my kids’ limitations. And mine. Or sheer necessity forces us to do something merry like take a trip to the shops together. When I say ‘merry’ I mean pretty blooming miserable. Here’s 6 things that happen pretty much every time we try and do something with an actual goal (which we mostly abandon halfway through because someone is crying).

1. ‘How hard can it be?’ I think this often. It’s the thought that leads me to do repeatedly stupid stuff with three kids that I shouldn’t attempt. Ever. Like yesterday when I took them all to Holland and Barrett to browse for some vitamins. To combat the exhaustion of having three kids. Oh the irony. Like, erm, what was I thinking? ‘Oh my kids are so well behaved I will be able to debate the merits of magnesium citrate against magnesium oxide whilst they stand nicely and ignore their curiosity to touch EVERY SODDING THING IN THE SHOP.‘ FFS. Pharmaceutical companies, if you’re reading this, please just make a vitamin called ‘I Have Kids and Am Completely Knackered,‘ for all us parents out there who don’t have time to actually look and need to get in and out. QUICK. I imagine it will mainly consist of caffeine, gin and chocolate in case you need a starting point.
2. ‘Just give me a minute.’ I don’t think there is a child in the world who understands what a minute is or how to give you one. Mine don’t anyway. It doesn’t stop us parents saying it 237 times in five minutes though, in a desperate plea to get a chore done that should take 15 seconds, right?
3. ‘Stop hitting your sister.’ I love how antisocial your kids can be in public. No, really. I do. It’s even better when you shout at them LOUDLY and draw other people’s attention to it who probably hadn’t even noticed until that point. Or were at least pretending not to have done.
4. ‘You’ve got your hands full.’ Roughly translated this means, ‘Your kids are hideous and could you please take them at least three miles away from me. RIGHT NOW.’ The people who say this aren’t complimenting you on your parenting skills or your incredible patience. Quite the opposite. Sorry.
5. ‘Bing bong. There is a rogue toddler eating dog food in aisle three. Please could the parents come and collect him immediately.’ Before you even look around and realise that one of your kids is missing, you know this child is yours. Obviously. But you momentarily hesitate rushing to aisle three at the sheer humiliation of rescuing him. Could you just leave him there? You quickly evaluate which would be worse and only reluctantly choose the rescuing option. Still. At least that’s dinner taken care of.
6. ‘Sit really still and don’t move a muscle or the alarm will go off.’ You can’t possibly realise the pure joy and sheer genius of a shop forecourt until you have kids. Sometimes I just want to lie down on the tarmac and worship the very ground beneath me. Maybe even have a quick nap. I don’t care that the alarm goes off some 57 times whilst I’m in the shop. I AM ON MY OWN. And buying a loaf of bread without repeatedly explaining why or trying to keep track of three kids trying to decapitate themselves in the automatic doors. I am pretty much in heaven at times like this.

More of me rocking motherhood with three kids over on Facebook and Instagram.

Let’s talk about PND

Today is Time To Talk Day. Another important opportunity in the calendar to keep the mental health conversation going. And whilst I have no desire to become that broken record, ‘When I had PND…‘ (YAWN), actually? The conversation mustn’t go away just because the illness has. For this morning, there is someone (and a million more ‘someones’) waking up feeling desperate. And we, those that are well today, have a responsibility to make it ok for them to speak up and seek whatever help they need and deserve. This extract about PND is from The New Mum’s Notebook, the sanity saving journal for all new mums, no matter what round she’s on. There’s 10% off today with the code TIMETOTALK17.

Don’t be scared.

Around the four month motherhood mark, some new mums may be thriving. Others, not so much.

Some might even be feeling beside themselves and that can often be an indication that things aren’t quite right. So, let’s talk a little bit about post-natal depression (PND). Because it shouldn’t be something we’re scared of, or afraid to mention. It does happen unfortunately, to one in seven of us, but it can be treated very effectively and the sooner it’s diagnosed, the better.

All new mums deserve to understand what to look out for because it can be difficult to know, especially when you’re a mum for the very first time. How are you supposed to feel?

‘What is PND?’

PND is very different to the baby blues, which most, if not all, women experience in the first couple of weeks after birth, as their hormones literally crash. It is also more than feeling tired or occasionally low.

PND is different for everyone but typical symptoms include frequent tearfulness, anxiety of any form (health anxiety is common), panic (may include panic attacks), insomnia, extreme lethargy, trouble bonding with your baby (or detaching yourself from any other children) and a sense of doom or hopelessness. It can also manifest itself very physically with muscle aches, headaches and a general state of feeling unwell, leading new mums to think it must be something serious (that’s usually the health anxiety talking). Because what a lot of people don’t know is that when you’re very depressed, you can actually feel it. Another common factor is an overwhelming feeling that you just can’t cope. With things that never fathomed you before. It might be getting up in the morning. Dressing yourself and your baby. Doing the nursery/school run, if you have other children.

You just can’t seem to manage it.

‘How do I know?’

One of the cruellest things about PND is that when you’re in it, you can’t really see you’re in it.

You know you’re in a fog. You know you feel the worst you’ve ever felt. ‘But I’ve got a baby,’ you reason, ‘I’m not going to feel amazing, am I?’ Well, actually, yes you have got a baby but no, you shouldn’t feel like that. At this point, the support of someone who knows you really well is helpful.

Someone you can turn to and say, ‘I’m really, really struggling. Do you think I’m struggling?

You can do this.

I’m not ashamed PND happened to me after my third baby. It was nothing I did. And it’s nothing you’ve done, either.

With a combination of antidepressants and CBT counselling, I now have coping mechanisms I never would have developed without it. PND isn’t a pleasant experience but the good news is you do get through it, once you get help. If you suspect you may have PND, speak to your doctor (ask them to do a full blood count to rule out any other cause). They can discuss treatment with you, which may take the form of counselling or a combination of counselling and medication. Don’t be afraid of medication, if this is recommended to you. You haven’t failed. It isn’t your fault. Sometimes after birth, the hormones are a bit wonky and your body fails to produce enough of the happy hormone, serotonin, so you need a little help. Either way, things won’t improve overnight but a few weeks in, you’ll start to feel a bit more like you.

Be patient with yourself. Recovery does take time. But you WILL get better.

If you’re struggling, pick up the phone today. Make that call. To a friend. To your doctor. To someone you trust. But don’t suffer in silence. The moment you take that step and open up, you’ll literally be falling over yourself when you realise just how many of us struggle post birth. And those women, the ones who really, really understand what it’s like to be ill, will have your back most of all. That, I promise you. 1400877817024713111213

Further reading…

Me and PND

You will be ok

The monster in our heads

GQ Dads – How to support your partner through PND

The Telegraph – I’m not ashamed PND happened to me