Tag Archives: PND

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.

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

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

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.

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.

Is THIS why mums drink?

Looking after kids can be really tough on your mental disposition. There are so many points during the day where you feel stressed, tense and at breaking point. And that tension always needs to come out. I’m sure it’s why so many of us need that teatime or evening drink (or why we’re smashed on the school run, if we believed how the media portray us). There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink. But what if we’re doing it for the wrong reason?

I hate Wednesdays.

Wednesdays are my hardest day of the week, no question about it.

Because of nursery and school schedules, it’s the first day since the weekend, that all three kids are in each other’s faces. And don’t they make sure I know it.

By 5.00 PM, I am looking at the wine bottle. And by 6.30 PM I am sending Daddy Pig angry texts.

Tonight was no different. Except I’m trying to drink less, so when I found myself eyeing up the bottle at 4.45 PM, I knew it wasn’t because I particularly fancied a wine but because the kids’ bickering over Barnaby, the sodding class bear (who we’ve got again), had left me feeling so frazzled I desperately needed a release.

If I could just go running, I thought. But Daddy Pig wouldn’t be home until 7.30 PM.

I’d be climbing the walls by then.

Mum on the run. Literally.

Running has always been my thing. For me, there’s no release like it.

I don’t run huge distances. 5K two or three times a week does me. I did do a few half marathons in preparation for the London Marathon 2011 and despite being told by some that I need to do another marathon to get below the four hour mark (I did it in 4.04), I’m not particularly tempted. The memory of getting to 20 miles and having a debate with myself about which was more painful, a marathon or labour, will probably never leave me.

So, I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead (with marathons AND babies).

Running and writing.

Don’t ask me how, but tonight, I managed to hold out on the wine. In favour of an evening run, the first I’ve done in goodness knows how long. Maybe two years?

And as soon as DP got in, I was outta there. Pounding those pavements and breathing in that cold air, the type that makes you catch your breath and hurts the back of your throat. It wasn’t my usual picturesque daytime route of Greenwich Park (if you’ve ever driven the A2, you’ll know what I mean). And I didn’t listen to music because I never do. My life is filled with enough noise; I want to be able to hear my thoughts, for once. Which is probably why I often write whole blog posts in my head when I’m running.

In fact, I wrote this post whilst I was running.

How to be happy.

If you’re still reading this and thinking, ‘Crikey, I hate running. What’s her point? She’s a right, smug cow tonight,‘ I’m getting there, I promise.

I’m just sharing something that I’d totally forgotten. That there are a million other things, better than booze, for releasing tension. Yoga. Pilates. Zumba. Swimming. Any exercise, which lifts the heart rate lifts the mood, something I have to personally watch since having PND. But if exercise isn’t your thing, or you can’t get out because of childcare, studies show that engaging in non-cardio hobbies, like painting, baking or writing also raise serotonin and dopamine levels, the chemicals in our brains that make us happy.

(Gin. Don’t worry. I still love you.)

Running for our lives?

This is not a post to make you feel guilty. We’ve got enough of that in our lives. So, if you’re tucking into a glass of red right now, good on you.

But, we’re all smart enough to know that any form of regular exercise is good for us. And our amazing bodies that have given us our babies probably need a bit of nurturing in return, especially when they’re under so much pressure looking after young kids. So, if you’ve never tried running, maybe give it a go. It’s free. And it’s liberating. I have tons of friends who didn’t discover running until they had kids (there’s something in that, I’m sure. Are we trying to escape?). Or go for that swim that you used to love, that you haven’t done since you had kids and can’t quite remember why not.

Finally, ditch those fad diets that make you miserable and focus on what you can give to your body and mind, not what you must take away.

Because as amazing as a damn good double gin is, there’s nothing quite like experiencing the natural serotonin that comes from using your body.

Let me know how you go.

I’d love to hear your stress release tips. Leave a comment below and join the FB page for more posts, which are usually much more light-hearted than this one.

The Lonely Mums Summer Club

Worried about the school holidays? Worried about feeling lonely this summer? Worried about what to do with the kids? Then check out The Lonely Mums Summer Club. Come to ours. Or start your own. It costs nothing. But it could be worth everything.

Why I’m starting The Lonely Mums Summer Club.

I have never felt as lonely as I did last year when school and nursery broke for the summer.

I had a 5 year old, a 2 year old and a 2 week old. It wasn’t easy to get out with three young kids. And I didn’t always have a reason to. My family weren’t to hand, my middle child got chicken pox. And suddenly we found ourselves housebound. I went from seeing people every day to some days seeing no one.

Even now, the memory of those endless days and those endless weeks makes me feel sad. At times it felt so bleak, I’m not sure I will ever forget the loneliness of the summer of ’14.

And I’m in no doubt that it was a major factor in my PND.

You are NOT alone.

Having spoken to many mums since, I’ve realised that my situation wasn’t unique.

Other mums were lonely too. The summer holidays can feel like an evacuation has taken place, especially if you live in London. People just vanish. They go away on holiday. The term time classes and playgroups that keep you sane close down. You can literally find yourself alone.

If only we’d known that we weren’t.

Why not have a summer club?

On my way to playgroup this morning, I felt a bit low.

It wasn’t just because the three fabulous girls that have been running it for the past few years are leaving for school. It was also the thought of the school holidays looming and losing our Thursday morning routine. Of not having somewhere to go each week where the kids can play and we can chat. Cry. Laugh. Have a cup of tea made for us. And drink it HOT. 

Then I thought, why can’t we still have this? Why can’t we have a club that runs over the summer?

Erm, actually WE CAN.

Start your own.

So we are starting one. In our local park. The Lonely Mums Summer Club. A club that can be run nationwide. Anywhere. By anyone. By you.

A club that requires nothing more than someone (or a few someones) willing to start it. It costs nothing. It takes very little effort. Just set a day and time (picking a day you’d usually attend a playgroup would work well) choose a park, pack snacks and games and spread the word. Amongst your playgroup mums. Your school mums. Your nursery mums. ALL MUMS.

We need this over the summer break. Something regular in the diary. To keep us sane. Because with all the best intentions in the world, you might not get around to texting that other mum to meet up for a coffee. Sometimes, it can feel like too much of an effort. You’ll come up with a million excuses not to call them. Perhaps you don’t know them that well. Perhaps they’ll already be busy.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Spread the word.

Yet if there is a club set up to run EVERY week (come rain or shine), as it does during term time, it takes away the thought process. You just go, don’t you? Because you know there will always be at least one other mum there. Needing that company. I guarantee it.

So please. Let’s spread the word.

Start your own Lonely Mums Summer Club. Download this graphic. Use our example above and an app like A Beautiful Mess or Word Swag to personalise it with your date, time and venue. Then share it on your Facebook page. Your Facebook mum groups. Twitter. Wherever. Invite all the mums you know. Use the hashtag #TheLonelyMumsSummerClub

And let’s be there for each other this summer. Let’s look out for all mums, new and old. Let’s have some fun.

But most of all, let’s stay sane (whatever that is).

Note: This club is not exclusive to mums, obviously. Dads are always welcome too. Especially fit ones. 

Surviving Life and Motherhood will be running a SE London branch of The Lonely Mums Summer Club in association with Pond Road Toddler Group (like our pages for reminders and info). This will take place at the bandstand in Greenwich Park, every Thursday from the 23 July until the 27 August 2015 (inclusive) from 10 AM – 1 PM. Everyone is welcome. Mums. Dads. Babies. Big kids. Your dog. Your gran. The more the merrier! Bring snacks and drinks and just hang out. Chat. Cry. Laugh. Get a HOT cup of tea from the cafe. And stay sane this summer #TheLonelyMumsSummerClub

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.