Tag Archives: anxiety

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.

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

The monster in our heads

If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety, depression, panic attacks or any form of mental disorder, I don’t need to tell you how utterly hideous, scary and crippling it is. One in four of us know the horror first hand. I was reminded that this monster can come out of the shadows anytime when, last week, I almost had my first panic attack in over two years. So I hope that today’s announcement by the Prime Minister, to overhaul mental health care with a focus on children and teenagers, will be a step in the right direction to identifying and managing these conditions better so that those of us who suffer with them can get on and live our lives.

When anxiety rears its head.

It is over two years since I was diagnosed with PND and I have been well for 18 months.

But last week, I had a bit of a relapse, brought on by starting Cerazette*, the mini-pill (ironically to regulate my hormones) and I was reminded of just how awful the anxiety/depression beast can be. That it can lie dormant for months, even years and then something triggers it and it rears its ugly head again.

And boy, is it ugly.

Relapses happen.

Although I work hard on my mental wellbeing, I had completely forgotten how debilitating the monster in our heads can be when it takes hold. And although I would quite like not to have been reminded, it was a prompt to me to be grateful for my mental health, when I am well and to think of all those people right now who are not. Who are completely overwhelmed by life. Who don’t understand what’s happening to them. Who may be so unwell they aren’t even aware that something is happening to them. Because they just don’t know anything anymore.

My PND days were the darkest of my life. I’m certain anyone else will tell you the same. Last week was the closest I have come to feeling like that again since my recovery and it scared the bejeebers out of me because the relapse was completely unexpected. It took me by surprise. Fortunately, I identified the trigger pretty quickly (thank you Google) and stopped taking Cerazette as soon as I realised but it still took a further five days for me to start to feel better. And it has knocked my confidence just a little.

Because I had forgotten the monster could still be there in all its horror.

What is the point of this post?

I’m not sure, really. I just wanted to acknowledge that even when you’ve recovered, even when you are well, even when you are vigilant about maintaining your mental wellbeing and keeping an eye on your triggers, relapses can happen. That once you’ve suffered from anxiety or depression, unfortunately you are more likely to suffer again, not less. And future occurrences are likely to be worse and more intense. And that all the medication and CBT in the world (and I credit both for my recovery) can feel like it’s failing you in the midst of an attack.

Because that is the cruellest thing about anxiety. It warps your rational thought, it cripples your confidence and it makes you feel so unwell that you doubt everything you thought you knew.

You will be ok. (Read the full post about getting help here)

Don’t lose faith. If you ever feel like you’re relapsing, get to work on identifying your triggers immediately. Before it takes hold and becomes so much harder to see. A change in circumstances. Medication. Diet. Caffeine. Sleep patterns. All of these factors (and more) are critical when you’re predisposed to mental health issues. Because when your balance is disturbed, this is when the monster sees its opportunity.

Remember you will be ok and you will get through it. You’ve done it before. You can do it again.

And you’re never alone in keeping those monsters at bay.

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*I found a lot of material online from women sharing their experiences to suggest that Cerazette aggravates anxiety and depression. If you’ve had PND or are hormone-sensitive, I would suggest you discuss this with your doctor before taking any hormonal contraception. 

Thank you for reading. If you’re struggling, reach out to someone. Anyone. Feel free to follow the Facebook page and Instagram feed. (Finally, I was unable to credit this image used as couldn’t find the source – if it’s yours please get in touch so I can add.)

You will be ok.

By Amy Ransom on October 10, 2016 , 1 Comment

Today is World Mental Health Day. If you’re sitting at home, work or wherever struggling. If you know someone who is. This post is for you. Because days like this are important and remind us that we can get better when we feel able to put our hands up and ask for help.

Depression can happen to anyone.

I would say that I now know as many people who are struggling or who have struggled with anxiety, depression or some sort of mental health condition, than not. Lots are taking medication alongside counselling and are living happy lives again.

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, the society we inhabit, which is now making it more acceptable to talk about it or just the fact that we expect so much from our lives these days. But it’s happening. And it’s happening to anyone. It’s not just people we might expect it to happen to or people that we can rationalise it’s happened to. It’s also happening to people we perceive to have their s*** together. Those we perceive to be happy, strong and successful, those people that firmly fall into the ‘what do they have to feel low about?’ category.

Yes, even them.

‘I haven’t got anything to feel low about.’

This is perhaps the biggest myth about depression. That you have to have a reason to feel depressed. (I’m only going to talk about depression and anxiety in this post, because that’s the only thing I have personal experience of. I’m not discounting the importance of other mental health conditions like OCD or bi-polar, for example, by not referring to them. I’m just not ‘qualified’ to have an opinion on those.)

Yes. You have to be bereaved, or have lost your job or in a really dire situation of some sort to be depressed. Sadly, that’s simply not true. You can have all the luxuries and benefits in the world and still feel really, really crap. And that doesn’t make you less deserving of help. It doesn’t.

Why would anyone want to struggle through life, continually trying to dig themselves out of the quicksand that just engulfs them a little bit further every time they try? It’s miserable. It’s debilitating. And it doesn’t have to be like that.

Once you get help, you will be ok.

When I had post-natal depression the ONLY thing I wanted to know was that I would be ok. Because, I simply couldn’t believe that I ever would be. Depression knocks that confidence out of you and any faith you had in anything. In yourself.

Having people around me that had had depression or anxiety and recovered was the only thing that got me through. Alongside CBT and medication. So I’m here today to tell you, ‘You will be ok.’ Confide in a friend you trust. Go to the doctors (ask for an empathetic one, preferably with experience in depression/anxiety), get a full blood count (to rule out any other medical reasons) and then discuss a way forward. Your way forward.

You will be ok.

Depression needs to be managed.

It’s been two years since I was diagnosed with PND. I would say it took me a year to recover, to feel totally myself again. But. And here’s the big BUT.

Depression and anxiety need to be managed. Every day. You need to know your triggers and be mindful of them. Despite CBTing the s*** out of life and continuing to take a very small dose of my medication, I still have low days, where I feel overwhelmed. Usually when I am tired, taking on too much, not exercising enough, eating badly, drinking, or coming down with a cold. Some days, I handle myself with grace and purpose. Other days, I feel low and teary and I’m not the best version of myself. I’m not even the best version of my worst self.

But I know what I need to do to stay well. And if I choose not to do that, I know there will be consequences. Even then, with all my ducks in a row, I no longer expect to feel amazing, all of the time. Life just isn’t like that, right?

Making your way back up.

I hope that this post helps someone today. I hope it helps you pick up the phone and make that call.

I know it’s scary, asking for help. I can’t possibly do the scariness justice by writing about it here. But I promise you, I do know. I know that the vulnerability you’re feeling right now is crippling. But I also know that, once you get that help, it will make you stronger. Because depression is a very humbling experience. It still brings tears of gratitude to my eyes, when I think about how bad I felt and how much better I am now. When you are at your lowest, you reach a point where you are essentially stripped bare and forced to face yourself as you’ve never seen yourself before. It’s unpleasant and unnerving but once you start to emerge from the fog, you get to know who you are. Who you want to be. And you know that you can handle anything because you’ve reached rock bottom and made your way back up.

And you will make your way back up.

Sending you love, support and encouragement to get the help you deserve.

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No footnote today. No plugs. Just remember that you deserve help. And you don’t have to feel like this.

Me and PND

I have been writing this post in my head for a long time. Now, I’m finally writing it here.

A fresh start.

In a week’s time we are having The Boy with No Name baptised. In contrast to Beaver’s and Godivy’s baptisms, it is a very small affair. Daddy Pig jokes that we pushed the boat out for the girls. And the boy is only getting a dinghy.

But there is a reason I want to keep it small. An actual reason other than the fact we can’t fit everyone in our tiny courtyard garden. And that is because, more than ever, his baptism is a time for reflection. It marks the end of a difficult time.

And the beginning of a new one.

Bless-ed. And Blessed.

When we stand up at the font, I will be grateful to be there. In one piece. With our little, but as it turns out, tough family of five. We’ve come through a tricky nine months. A new baby. Family illness. And my own struggle with post natal depression. Especially that.

I have questioned many times, whether to share this here. Because my blog is supposed to be light-hearted and this is far from it. But then a few women, expecting accidental thirds, wrote to me to ask how I cope because I seem to have my s*** together. And I guess I wanted to say that I don’t.

Some days, I really, really don’t.

‘It was nothing anyone did.’

I’m not ashamed PND happened to me. It was nothing I did.

My hormones were wonky. We had a lot going on. I was on my own with three small kids, through no one’s fault. These unfortunate circumstances were a catalyst for an illness I possibly would have got anyway. Because of the flipping, wonky hormones. Circumstances just forced its hand.

But I was worried about PND defining me. That I wouldn’t be the same, resilient, optimistic person I once was. That I would see myself differently.

That others would see me differently.

Me and PND.

Now I know that I am defined by PND.

But not in the way I feared. But because I am different. In the same way that any person who gets through an illness is. And I am grateful every day, that I know how to find something to be grateful for. Even on the most challenging of days.

(Whilst obviously moaning a great deal too. I still have three kids and a husband who doesn’t remember where the cereal lives. All the tablets and counselling in the world can’t cure that.)

Thank you.

I was lucky. Because I had people looking out for me.

I was fortunate to have a friend so honest that after a series of panic attacks, I could call her and say, ‘Do you think I have post-natal depression?’ and for her to say, ‘Yes.’

I was blessed to have people around who had their own experiences of depression and anxiety. Who understood that it wasn’t ‘just a bad day.’ Who walked me through it. Who told me that I would get through it.

I will be forever grateful to those who did this for me.

My achille’s heels.

Post-natal depression is different for everyone.

But the one common factor is an overwhelming feeling that you just can’t cope. With things that never fathomed you before.

For me, in my bleakest moments, I couldn’t take or pick our children up from school and nursery. Because getting in and out of the car with all three was impossible. In my less bleak moments, I managed it but not without the threat of a panic attack. And whilst I bonded with the baby, I felt incredibly detached from our middle child. I had crippling health anxiety and thought I was going to die. Because I felt so physically unwell.

All of the time.

Going for a swim will not cure PND.

I was lucky to have a lovely doctor who knows me and, more importantly, knows PND. I’ve heard of women whose PND remains undiagnosed and their doctors tell them to go swimming.

The combination of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and anti-depressants gave me my life back. The former taught me skills to manage the anxiety; to live in the moment and challenge unhelpful thoughts and I keep this in the back of my mind every single day. The latter balanced out those darn, wonky hormones and a lot of the physical symptoms. There were marked improvements after a few weeks but actually it’s only in the past month or so that I feel like me again. That others have commented I’m myself again. Nine months later.

Even with help, recovery takes time.

A cat’s lick and tin of beans may be as good as it gets. (And that’s ok.)

Now?

Although I still hate the hassle of getting in the car, I don’t think twice about it. I can’t spend enough time with our middle child, she’s blooming hilarious. And I don’t worry about dying anymore (well, no more than the next person anyway).

And when I survive another day with all three kids (and surviving is honestly what we do some days with a cat’s lick and a tin of baked beans), I feel proud of myself. That I can do this. Sort of. With a smile (grimace) and a healthy dose of shouting.

Then there are the times when someone else validates that what I’m doing is hard. That what all of us mums are doing, day in day out, is hard. That it’s not just ok to struggle, it’s par for the course.

Like last week, when I bumped into my dentist and he looked slightly scared as Godivy went in one direction, Beaver plucked The Boy with No Name out of the buggy and I had to decide who to rescue first.

‘It’s quite a handful, isn’t it?’ he said.

‘Yes it is.’

And it is. It really is. But you know what?

Now? I’m handling it.

If you have post-natal depression… or you’re concerned you may do… if you’re worried about someone you know… the only thing I can say is ask for help. It’s hard. But once you do, you’ll be overwhelmed by the support that comes from the most surprising corners and the people who say, ‘I’ve been there. I know.’ The relief that comes from that support is palpable. There’s comprehensive (and useful) information on PND here. And a forum thread here, which helped me identify my symptoms and realise others were going through the same thing. I’m happy (and would encourage) you to share this post, if it will help another mum. Remember, getting help is the first step to getting better.

And you will get better.

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Footnote: this is a very personal post about a very sensitive subject. Just one person’s experience of PND. And whilst, naturally, we all have different experiences and opinions, I would ask you not to share any negative reactions here. This blog and the facebook page have always been places for mums to support one another. And for mums to speak out without fear of being judged. This has never been more pertinent than it is for this post. Thank you.

Lots of mums feel anxious

Mums who get anxious or worry about dying aren’t crazy or alone. And there are more of us than anyone might think.

Four intelligent, capable and funny women.

A while ago I had dinner with friends.

Four intelligent, capable and funny women.  All mums of under fives.  I loosely count myself in this four.  In number and occupation if nothing else.

After a couple of bottles of Proseccos, tongues sufficiently loosened, one of my friends said, ‘Can I ask something really silly?’

The sillier the better.

‘Does anyone else worry about dying?’

Not so silly then.

The response she got was astounding.  She may as well have asked, ‘Does anyone ever dream about Bradley Cooper?’  (Or whoever else floats your boat).

‘Oh my God, all the time,’ said one.

‘I sometimes wish I had a crystal ball just to know that I’ll see my son reach 18 years old.  When he won’t need me so much,’ said another.

Now before this sounds intensely morbid.  Let me reiterate.  Four intelligent, funny women.  All thinking the same thoughts.  All of us thinking we are alone in them.  All thinking ourselves slightly crazy.

Scary but normal.

We aren’t crazy, by the way.  I don’t think.  And doesn’t this just show that these feelings, which are dark and scary, are more common than any of us could ever imagine?  That often, the confident, happy exteriors we present to the world hide interiors that are vulnerable and anxious.  That are in need of some reassurance.

I’m sure if someone was to research this properly, they would find that there is a syndrome, which plagues mothers of new babies and young children.  A syndrome, which makes them worry about dying and leaving their offspring when they need their mothers most.  Something that is scary but is also actually a deep-seated, natural reaction to the responsibility that comes with having someone completely dependent upon you.  Something that is made worse by how tired, stretched and claustrophobic we sometimes feel.  Something that is, dare I say the word, normal.

Four intelligent, funny women can’t be wrong, right?

‘Why not me?’

I have my own demons in this area.  Since having Godivy, I have experienced sporadic health anxiety.  I have had all sorts of strange physical symptoms as a result.  I have gone to bed at night worrying that I won’t wake up.  And wondering what will happen to Beaver and Godivy if I’m not around.  Aside from the obvious things like Daddy Pig dressing them in tights and sandals and letting them eat Coco Pops and baked beans until the end of time.

This type of health anxiety, which is so common in mums, can be triggered by any variety of things and is often exacerbated by the world we live in.  The world that shares everything via social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  The world that makes you think, ‘Why not me?’  The world that no longer allows you to live in peaceful ignorance that you will get married, have babies and live happily ever after.

Because there are a thousand stories out there that tell us, no sorry, it doesn’t always work that way.

Get it into perspective.

These days, our Facebook and Twitter feeds tell us about things we would never otherwise know about.  We hear about the hardships and tragedies that befall strangers (including our peers, those mothers of children that are so like us), living hundreds of miles away when 30 years ago, we’d have only known about those living at the end of our road.   Suddenly, the odds don’t seem to be in our favour when in reality it is more likely to be a case of our social reach being wider.  And us knowing more than perhaps is good for us.

It’s important to remember this.  To sometimes get it into perspective.  It’s more important to remember that these feelings of anxiousness are commonly felt and nothing to be ashamed of.  They’re better once shared.  They don’t make us less intelligent, capable or funny.  They make us more real and connected with one another.

Because at 2.00 AM it helps to know that somewhere, probably not so far away, another mum is lying awake worrying about the things that you are worrying about.

Like whether their other half can do a plait.  Or knows that a potato is not actually ‘one of your five a day.’

You’re not crazy.  And you’re definitely not alone.

You’re a mum.

If you’ve ever had thoughts like this.  If your other half’s hairdressing skills keep you awake at night.  If you just need some reassurance.  Leave a comment below or come and visit Surviving Life and Motherhood.  We’re a nice friendly bunch.  Intelligent, capable and funny even.

The seeds of anxiety

You know that saying, ‘If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?’

Well, I think that goes for writing too.

So I nearly didn’t post today.  Because whilst there is nothing in particular amiss, there are definitely some fraying edges and it has been harder than usual to tune into the lighter side of life.

But this evening, a calmness has descended upon me.  Out of nowhere.  Or possibly from tiredness.  Or the macaroni cheese I’ve just devoured.  It doesn’t really matter which.  And here I am.  Hesitant.  But here nonetheless.  Plus when I log on it always says, ‘Howdy, Amy Ransom.’ And there is always something really friendly about that.  Friendly is good right now.

You see, there have been some anxious thoughts of late.  About all sorts of things.  Health. Raising kids.  Relationships.  Even blogging.  Anxiety is very common apparently and it can creep up on us at any time and manifest physical symptoms that make us believe the anxieties are real.

Interestingly and rather timely, Grazia reported today on GAD (General Anxiety Disorder), which affects 1 in 50 people with twice as many women as men affected.  Apparently, the prevailing symptoms include tiredness, irritability, mind going blank and poor sleep for a period of six months or more.  Wow.  It sounds remarkably like another disorder called HC (Having Children).  I’ve definitely got it.

The origins are unique to each individual.  Loss.  Trauma.  Everyday life.  It occurred to me today that my particular anxieties might have come from seeds.  Seeds that have been sown by others, not me.  Like a throwaway comment that someone makes, innocently or not, which I should have thrown away rather than letting it take root.  Because they are seeds that grow bad lettuces when I’d wanted to grow lovely, orange carrots.

I’m hoping that this discovery gives me back a little control.  So that next time a seed is sown, I decide whether to plant and water it.  Or instead leave it for the birds.

Then perhaps the calmness will stay, the lightness will return and I can once again write about stuff like why I don’t have a bathroom bin.

You know, the really serious stuff.

Footnote: for anyone else who is experiencing anxiety, you might like to check out this website for a really insightful approach to managing it http://www.anxietyhappens.com/  

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