This Christmas and New Year, I am fortunate enough to be well. I am lucky that I can see the joy in Christmas and celebrate it with gusto. But for many, I know this may not be the case at all; just like it wasn’t for me last year when I was recovering from post natal depression. Christmas and New Year can be extremely difficult for people suffering with depression. It is not always a merry and happy time of year. It is often a very lonely and difficult period for everyone who is affected by the illness, and supporting someone through it can be – in its own way – as challenging as it is being the person who is ill.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting a moving post about just this…supporting others with PND. And in particular supporting others when you are suffering or have suffered yourself – for many of us who are recovering or have recovered are determined that no one should suffer like we have, because that thought is simply unbearable; you wouldn’t wish post natal depression on your worst enemy.
The post is from the lovely Pumping Mama who blogs, amongst other things, about her experiences of PND with raw honesty at thepumpingmama.wordpress.com. She’s recently blogged about Christmas, and describes it as a ‘two sided coin,’ one side where you are able to enjoy it, and another where you are suffocated by other’s Christmas cheer and possibly feel at your lowest point ever. The Pumping Mama is passionate about mothers not feeling alone, about us all supporting each other through talking, texting, and tweeting, giving hope and encouragement to each other. This post has verbalised many thoughts I’ve had when talking to others suffering from PND, for even though I’ve suffered my experiences may be very different to those of others. For me in particular, the last line says it all.
Supporting Others With PND
Do I make my reality theirs? The feelings they have, the things they’re suffering, may not be anything like my personal experience.
Do I tell them the gritty truth? Do I tell them that I don’t remember a lot of the first year of Moos life? Do I divulge to them that I still have bad days, even now, more than two years on?
Do I just listen? This isn’t about me now. Do I tell them that I can empathise, that I’ve been there, that it gets better?
No one tells you how to support others in life. Is this why we live in such a fractured society, often lacking in compassion for mental health issues? How do we learn how to love other human beings, to hold each other up, to comfort and nurture one another?
I don’t know the answers. I just know my experience, my reality, my journey, and what works for me. All I can do is hold a hand, make a cup of tea, and listen. I’m no expert on mental health, no degree backs up my support. But in the midst of a vastly lonely head space, someone simply walking alongside you is enough.
You can follow The Pumping Mama on Twitter @ThePumpingMama, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ThePumpingMama and her blog is http://www.thepumpingmama.wordpress.com
Disjointed: lacking a coherent sequence or connection.
You may or may not have noticed my lack of blog posting recently. It’s been a funny few weeks. Not necessarily in a bad way, but not entirely good either. I’ve had ups and downs, good days and bad – and have desperately been trying to promote my book by writing several guest blog posts which will hopefully be live soon. There’s been vomit and nativity plays and nights out with wonderful friends. There’s been a visit to Father Christmas and endless shopping and wrapping of presents. But what there hasn’t been for me, is festive cheer.
I’ve desperately been trying to get into the Christmas spirit – normally by now I’m totally Christmas crazy – yet this year it’s just not happening. And the reason, the painful truthful reason as to why I’m not in the festive spirit, is simply because this year, for the first time in twelve years, for the first time ever in her beautiful life, I will not be spending Christmas Day with my daughter. For she will be with her father, at her wish.
As many of you regular readers will know her father wasn’t exactly enamoured with the idea of becoming one at such a young age and he did pretty much everything in his power to make it not be true. And so for the first few years, when he was rather inconsistent in his presence, she was blissfully all mine at Christmas.
As a single parent, who’s father had passed away just two years previously, Christmas was always spent at my Mum’s house, where we carried on all of the wonderful Christmas traditions that had started during my childhood. It was wonderful, something I always looked forward to with immense excitement, and soon there came new traditions as we grew as a family and welcomed more people in. The phrase ‘all good things must come to an end,’ now springs to mind for after a long time of me trying to get her father regularly involved in her life – because even though I had formed a firm opinion of the type of man he was, I strongly believed she had the right to know him and make that decision for herself – we started alternating Christmases. He would have her from shortly after her school broke up until Christmas Eve, and then the next year he would have her until Christmas afternoon, when she was picked up on the way to my Mum’s.
This year, without either of us talking about it (our communication has been a bit crap of late) I assumed the same would be true. However my daughter’s father had other ideas which promptly placed her rather uncomfortably in the middle. Now I know at times she can be – along with every other twelve year old – quite a challenging human being, deep down behind all of the pre-teen hormonal rage she has a truly beautiful nature and hates upsetting people. She was torn and teary and it was horrible to see. So, in spite of everything I was thinking and feeling at the time (namely rage as her dad hadn’t been particularly friendly in the discussion) I handed the decision over to her and told her that I would support her 100% in whatever she chose. I reassured her that her Nanna and Uncle wouldn’t hate her, and neither for that matter would I. And – frighteningly quickly – she chose to go to her Dad’s.
I didn’t show her my hurt or upset, I didn’t voice my dismay all at her decision. I hugged her and told her I hoped she’d have a wonderful Christmas, and reassured her that yes, we’d do Christmas Day all over again for her on Boxing Day when she was to be collected. My husband and I then worked out our Christmas with the boys and my family (his mum and dad always come to us on Christmas Eve and prefer to spend Christmas Day at home just the two of them, so that was sorted!) and how and when we could pick her up on Boxing Day. All worked out. Daughter happy. Dad happy. Me…well you can imagine.
I hope you don’t think me trivial or indulgent for writing a blog post about my upset, because yes, it is just one day and I am incredibly fortunate in so many ways…yet for me without my daughter there, even for one day, Christmas simply will not be the same. There will be something missing. Part of me missing. Christmas undoubtedly becomes magical all over again once you have children, and that magic doesn’t stop when they become a pre-teen (she still wanted to see Father Christmas the other day) and it’s hard to know that for the first time I’m not going to be there to see it. And this will be the first of many, a new tradition now formed whereby every other year she is not here to celebrate with me, with us, with her brothers.
Since making the decision I can tell she’s still been torn. Whenever Christmas has been talked about I’ve also been incredibly torn – for if I say how excited I am she gets hurt and thinks I’m not going to miss her…and yet when I say it won’t be the same without her she gets equally upset and demands that I will be ok and have fun! Safe to say I’ve not been able to do right for doing wrong so to speak! No change from the norm there though really either – living with a pre-teen really can be a mine field!
So for now my job before she goes on Christmas Eve, is to embrace what time we will spend together over Christmas, and make it as magical and special as I can. I’m lucky I have my awesome husband and gorgeous boys to celebrate the day with and my heart goes out to others who are not so fortunate. For families come in all shapes and sizes and each have their own challenges to face.
And for us, I’m determined that Christmas this year will still be a magical one…just a little disjointed.
Imagine you had just won the lottery, or had a delightful little windfall… Imagine the world of Christmas shopping is your oyster and all of your children’s Christmas wish list dreams could come true… Where would you shop, and what would you buy?
I know at this time of year every parent is embroiled in the dilemma of what to buy their little treasures for Christmas. So far mine have asked for new beds with ladders and slides, cars, a new house, some earrings, a dog and…an iPad .
Out of all of the above, the one I am most likely to plump for – if I had the money – would be an iPad. Whilst I’d love to furnish a brand new house with slides and ladders, essentially turning my home into one giant softplay, an iPad seems by far the safest and easiest choice. Yes yes, I know they are expensive and if you’ve got more than one child the thought of buying them one each is rather terrifying, BUT – remember the opening sentence, we are looking at this from the point of view of someone who has the money!!
We have two iPads in my house, gifts from Christmas past before I went on extended maternity leave and had money 😉 I’m currently writing this on mine now and the other one is shared between my husband and our three children. All of their independent apps neatly filed away into their own personal sections. I think iPads are absolutely fantastic. They are both educational, and enjoyable! Technology is, as they say, the future. Children need to be tech savvy and many schools (I know the one I work in does) and nurseries now have iPads to be used as part of the teaching and learning process. From an internet safety point of view it is so easy to set up the parental controls; for every app, videos, songs and the internet. These settings can be done for a variety of different ages as well, so it’s not all or nothing.
There are of course many other tablets available, and they are also brilliant. The huge variety of apps you can buy or download for free also help to make them as amazing as they are. There is literally an app for everything. I mean…there’s even an app where you can turn your heating on when you’re not even in the house! Goodness only knows what they’ll think of next. If it was up to me, and apps could do anything, it would be these five… (use your imagination and go with me on these!)
1) Coffee-o-meter: I would love an app that somehow produced a cup of yummy coffee for me whenever I needed one. It would detect my energy levels and produce the perfect mug when I began to flag. Maybe it could switch to wine production after the children are all in bed…
2) Make me up: I love make-up – and let’s face it, it would be cruel of me to leave the house without any on – and would buy an app that applied the perfect make-up to my face every time I left the house. Not sure this would ever be possible though, maybe I’d need a robot for this job instead?!
3) Clean the place: Urgh I hate housework, which is ironic given that at the moment I am a housewife! If there was an app that could control my vacuum cleaner by remotely I would be a very happy woman! How I’d love a self cleaning toilet alongside this too!
4) Diet Buddy: This app would absorb all the excess calories I ate. Or maybe give me a gentle electric shock every time I reached for the biscuit tin or cheese shelf in the fridge. Hmm, no, not gonna work this one is it? I’d endure a lot before I put the chocolate down.
5) Find my stuff: The remote control, my phone, keys, my mind. This app would entrust that I never lost anything again as it would have details of where everything I owned ever was! I think this one might just be my favourite!
Maybe one day our tech savvy children will invent these delightful apps, now wouldn’t that be the perfect Christmas gift?! 😉
This post was written for John Lewis, for which I was compensated.