Posts Tagged ‘mental health’
Tonight I am sitting on a panel for an event hosted by the Female Empowerment Network. We will be discussing whether women can have it all and stay sane, a hot topic for Mental Health Awareness Week. It seemed the perfect excuse to re-publish this letter, which originally appeared in Bristol Woman magazine…
Thank you for not judging me. But for listening, and nodding without telling me I was being silly. You never tried to fix me. You never tried to change me. You knew I was ill and you knew I’d get better. Even when I doubted I even wanted to.
Thank you for not abandoning me. For sticking by me even though I wasn’t very nice to be around, or easy to communicate with. For spending time with me when I couldn’t be alone. And for leaving me in peace when I needed the isolation.
Thank you for accommodating my paranoia without making me feel paranoid. You made the impossible seem possible and made me feel safe. You allowed me time to process decisions and events and protected me when I was unable to think clearly enough to do even the simplest of things.
Thank you for feeding me. And for making sure my children were fed when I was trapped on the sofa unable to move for fear of waking the baby. For the take away meals and cups of tea. For the juice and the dark chocolate.
Thank you for understanding why you couldn’t hold the baby. Or that you had to hold the baby when I couldn’t anymore. For getting why I cancelled plans and hid away. For still phoning even when I wouldn’t answer the phone or return your texts.
Thank you for calming me down when I couldn’t breathe. For never telling me I needed to pull myself together or that I was crazy. For staying strong when I was weak. For being patient.
Thank you for coming with me to the doctors and talking to them honestly about how I was behaving. For not showing your fear. For looking after me. For loving me.
Thank you for still being my friend, my mum, my husband, my family.
Thank you for giving me hope.
Love, me x
Blame: feel or declare that (someone or something) is responsible for a fault or wrong.
2016 was meant to be a tad more positive than 2015 was for me, but several days in and I already doubt whether that’s even possible. Not because of my situation or circumstance, but because of the general anger that appears to be gripping the majority of people I come into contact with.
I’ve been noticing it building for a while. There have been more incidents of unnecessary road rage. Politeness is becoming a fast declining quality. People everywhere seem to begrudge everything and lack any kind of empathy for anyone other than themselves. I know everyone has stresses in their lives, but that doesn’t justify taking it out on some poor unsuspecting person who undoubtedly has their own crap going on. But how did we get here? How did everyone end up so angry?
Maybe the culture of blame, which has been developing over many years, is an important part of how this has happened. The media and its scaremongering propaganda feed on blame. There’s always someone or something to blame for the atrocities the world is facing. No responsibility. No justification for the blame, but blame nonetheless. Making people feel hard done by, put upon, unlucky. Confirmation bias then bonds people through mutual annoyance. Who even cares what they are annoyed about or why they were annoyed in the first place? It’s not their fault they are annoyed. They are not in charge of their own destiny. Hell no. And then, pretty soon, bad things become expected. Looked for even. And worse case – you end up having no one to blame but yourself.
I listened to the news on the radio last week, to a piece about the sex attacks in Cologne. Women, it would seem, are expected to prepare for such things mentally as if they are a given and destined to happen. It was implied that in a crowded place where everyone is fuelled by alcohol what more could these women have expected? Of course they were going to be assaulted and if they cannot deal with that then it was their fault for not being prepared mentally for such an event. And if they were then affected by being assaulted it’s their fault for not having expected it. Or the fault of the government who, the news are reporting, have let the men into the country as asylum seekers. And whom do they blame? The culture they were brought up in where rape is committed and not talked about. Or the bombers who have destroyed their once safe home.
There are more examples of blame in the news – the gender pay gap makes you depressed, it’s what you get for being a woman and having children. Magazines on shelves and celebrity DVDs blame you, yes you, for being fat and unhealthy. The government is to blame for education being messed up and the NHS being on the brink of collapse – ok, I’ll give you that one, you’re perfectly entitled to be enraged by both of those things. But I bet you still blame the government. Right?
Blame isn’t healthy. When you blame you hold on to emotions and feelings that are never positive. Of course you may think that if you blame another it absolves you of all guilt, but it will eat away at you nonetheless. Blame serves no purpose and – back to my original paragraph – makes people angry. And angry people make other people angry. It’s a vicious cycle.
And yes…yes there are some things in life that will make you angry. And justifiably so. I’m still pissed off my dad died when I was twenty-two, and I am fuming that two of my children will have to live their lives blighted by an incurable genetic illness, but if I let that anger absorb me then it would destroy me and many others along the way. Life is too short. There are some circumstances where you can choose to be angry, or choose to see things in an alternative light. It’s not as hard as it sounds to make a change. It could be something simple, it just requires a change of mindset. What is harder is accepting the things that we can’t change and have no control over. In those cases anger is an understandable emotion, but it doesn’t have to be a way of life.
I’ve learnt that the hard way…and in all fairness…who can blame me?
Running Shoes: slang, related term: give someone his walking papers.
Depression has been in the news a lot over this last weekend and, sadly, for all of the wrong reasons.
It is as though there are two clear camps on either side of the debate; those who have had depression and ‘get it’, and those who have not, and believe it is simply a state of mind and not an illness. Something that going for a quick run can nip in the bud before it gets a little too self-absorbing.
There are many forms of depression, each one individual to the person suffering. Some may recover with counselling, some may also need antidepressants, and others will need a combination of the two. And yes, some may even find that putting on their running shoes and exercising will help them as well.
Depression can occur on its own or with a multitude of other issues. It may last for days, weeks, or years, coming and going out of your life like that unwanted friend you’ve tried to cut from your life several times in the past. It is not the same experience for anyone and each individual will need their own treatment plan.
Before I had depression, I admit (rather ashamedly so) that I thought some people who claimed they were depressed could do with pulling themselves together. I wondered if they liked wallowing in self-pity and playing the victim. However, since suffering from it three times, I know that those beliefs are an utter load of rubbish and I’m horrified that they were ever something I thought were true. It is a very real illness and incapacitates people every day, but it doesn’t mean that when successfully treated they can’t do their jobs, or raise their children,and I don’t for one single minute think it means they may want to harm hundreds of innocent people.
But I don’t know.
What I do know is that whatever is going on in the poorly brain of someone suffering from depression more often than not makes perfect sense to them. Suicide isn’t cowardly. It isn’t selfish. It is a rational decision to the suicidal person. They think it is the best for everyone andseems like the most sensible thing they may ever done in their life. They don’t feel they have a choice.
It is shocking that there is such a lack of understanding surrounding depression nowadays and it is causing so much damage.
I’ve never had a miscarriage, yet am able to support others through it. I have never had to deal with being terminally ill, and yet I have watched both my father and a close friend die and have helped others going through the same thing. Compassion and empathy aren’t difficult concepts and yet when it comes to mental health people seem unable to find it within themselves to imagine, for just one second, what it is like to suffer from depression unless they have experienced it for themselves. They judge. They reduce themselves to petty updates on Facebook and Twitter. They spout dangerous opinions,which harm others. They compound stigma and make people afraid to speak out.
I am not afraid.
I have depression.
I am taking anti-depressants.
I am having counselling.
I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and an aunt, and having depression does not make me any less of those things.
I am fighting and working every day to beat this illness and I will not let anyone make me feel worthless or pathetic for having it.
And may I kindly suggest, that if you don’t know what you are talking about when it comes to mental health, you keep your mouth closed.
Put your running shoes on and jog as far away from me as you can.
I wrote this post a couple of months ago, and today, on #timetotalk day where everybody is encouraged to take 5 minutes to talk about mental health, I thought I’d temporarily come out of blogging retirement and publish it.
Backwards: (of an object’s motion) back towards the starting point.
So where am I right now. Well, it’s safe to say I’m not somewhere good. It would seem life is handing me more shit and I’m firmly back at square one. Back where I never wanted to be. Except now it’s not post natal depression, it’s just plain old depression. And it fucking sucks.
It all started with a panic attack that came out of no-where and knocked me for six. A few weeks of trying to convince myself and everyone around me that I was fine only served to allow the depression to fully take hold until I couldn’t do anything anymore except take myself back to the doctors and admit it. And now, four days into a brand new batch of antidepressants, I am feeling worse than ever. It’s so cruel that the one medicine that helps cure this evil illness makes you feel a million times worse before you feel any better, and that it can take weeks and even months before you do feel better.
I forgot how much hard work goes in to simply surviving when you feel like this. A shower can feel like a huge achievement, actually managing to leave the house a fucking miracle. My anxiety is at a level I never knew existed and insomnia has taken hold once more. And we all know sleep deprivation is bloody cruel. My body feels like it is on fire and I am battling minute by minute not to let it overwhelm me.
Oh and the guilt. I feel like such a failure for being here again. I feel like I am letting everyone down. My husband, already not fully recovered from the last time I lost it, my children, all now that little bit older and that little bit more aware, and my friends, who have to deal with phone calls and texts at all hours when I can’t get my fears and emotions under control. I feel like a burden to everyone.
I am angry too. Angry that I’m here again. This year has been one of the most challenging in a long time and I thought I was coping well. Turns out that sitting at your desk on a daily basis crying because your job is so horrendously stressful, then leaving said evil job and embarking on a Masters with three demanding children possibly isn’t the best thing to do for good mental health. If only I spoke up more and asked for help and support instead of putting on the smile, being the joker and hiding behind my, often inappropriate, sense of humour. I knew a long time ago I wasn’t right, but refused to admit it or do anything about it. Powering on through really is a load of bollocks at times.
So what now. Well now I will wait for the side effects to go and the tablets to kick in. Thankfully this is the last week of university before we break up for the holidays so once my assignments are handed in on Thursday some of the pressure is temporarily relieved.
I will not let this beat me. I recovered once and I’ll be damned if I can’t recover again.
When it’s the middle of the night and I’m not allowed to sleep,
I panic and I feel wretched and I slowly start to weep.
The weeping turns to anger and I feel out of control,
Hate myself, hate no sleep, into darkness I begin to fall.
Evil words leave my mouth and cruelly abuse those who are near,
Words I don’t mean designed to sting all fuelled by anxiety and fear.
Not being rational I think the worse and always sink so low,
I want to run, I want to escape and get out of here just go.
There’s no air, I can’t focus, I need time out just to breathe.
But all I do is hear the noise, and scream and shout and seethe.
And when it stops or I’ve blocked it out the calmness soon comes back,
Rational again, able to cope, with everything colourful not black.
I say I’m sorry, guilt sets in and I feel I’ve let everyone down.
The day is hard I struggle through, wrinkles formed by a constant frown.
Will this always be a weakness, will no sleep a trigger be?
Is this what it’s lasting legacy is, the bitch that’s PND.
Hope: Hope is the state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or in the world at large.
Post natal depression – when you are living it, or watching someone live it – is hell on earth. It’s dark, isolating, terrifying. Intrusive thoughts are your daily companion and the world can pass by in a blur of tears and panic attacks. It is a part of my life I’ve worked damn hard to come out the other side of (three sodding times) and is something I’m terrified of returning. I didn’t realise, until this week, how good I have become at boxing up those hideous times in my mind, and moving those negative dark thoughts and feelings into a part of my brain that I never want to access. I’ve blocked it out, hidden it away and got on with life.
But ignoring something is never wise is it? Ignoring something never means it’s going to go away, and magically disappear. Generally I find that if I ignore something it can come back twice as hard to bite me firmly and painfully on the ass.
Life keeps me very busy and keeps my mind active and full of a multitude of different things…so it doesn’t have room for the past. It doesn’t like to share space with anything other than the present or the future. My mind likes thoughts about what I need to put in a packed lunch, or what I need to buy at the supermarket, or teach my year 5s that afternoon. I’ve become an expert at living in the moment and ignoring anything that stands in the way of that – even a panic attack. And I honestly didn’t realise how good at this I’d become, even almost convincing myself that I’d never really been that ill. That yes, I’d cried a bit and had been sleep deprived, but other than that I’d been ok. Just a bit down and desperate. A sleep deprived mum. It’s not like I was looking back through rose tinted spectacles…I just wasn’t looking back.
Today I met with some truly inspirational people. People who’ve suffered with pre and post natal depression, post traumatic stress disorder, post natal anxiety and puerperal psychosis, or who’ve supported a loved one through it. People affected by perinatal mental health problems and have lived to tell the tale an are now working hard to support others. And today we talked about the illness, discussed how we can raise awareness and start a national week or month dedicated to perinatal mental health awareness and support. Today I remembered what it was like, revisited a time in my life I’d give anything to be able to forget. It was exciting and draining all at the same time and tonight I am at a loss for words as to how best describe how I am feeling. The thought of others suffering what I did makes me want to cry, but it also puts a fire in my belly that is so strong and powerful it makes me determined to do everything I can to support them, and help them, and let them know that this isn’t the end, that they can get better – that there is hope.
Here is a link to the blog post I wrote in January that got the ball rolling 🙂
You know you’re not welcome here anymore,
Go away, get out, I’ve shown you the door.
Don’t you dare come back and ruin my world,
I won’t let you, I’ll stay strong for my boys and my girl.
Get lost, jog on, go away, just scram,
I’ve worked too hard to get well and to be where I am.
You were beaten, overcome, I was rid of your hold,
You can’t break me, can’t destroy me, I refuse to fold.
My ears are shut to your self loathing attacks,
I shan’t be irrational, I’ll hold on to the facts.
You will not absorb my energy and spirit,
You can say what you like for I’ll choose not to hear it.
I’m stronger than you and I win every time,
There’s no point in fighting, all choices are mine.
Try all you like you’ll never beat me,
So give up, f*** off and jog on PND.
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
A MONSTER ATE MY MUM
Written by Jen Faulkner
A children’s book, written in rhyme, looking at Post Natal Depression from a child’s perspective.
First Edition, published on 18th October 2013
Print version: £7.49
An important subject, and one that can be tricky to talk about, is Post Natal Depression, which affects between 10% and 15% of new mothers. To highlight this important issue and to facilitate its discussion comes the story ‘A Monster Ate my Mum’ by Jen Faulkner.
As a sufferer of Post-Natal depression herself, Jen knows how debilitating this illness can be and just how much it affects the whole family, especially siblings. Watching her older children see her suffer and finding it hard to find the right words to explain to them what was happening to their mum, Jen took to something she knows well, her love of writing.
She wrote a rhyming story talking about PND, as seen through the eyes of a child, to help her children understand what was happening to her. She hopes to help other families affected by the illness with the book. The central character, a young boy, goes on a hunt to look for the monsters that have taken different parts of his mum. He looks for her smile, her laugh, her spark.
“Excuse me but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun.
I want to see her smile, my mum.
Is she in your big round tum?”
The boy learns that they didn’t mean to eat his mum and that in time, all of the things they have taken will be returned.
“No she’s not here I just ate her smile.
I’ll give it back after a while.
I’m sorry I was hungry you see.
I don’t know where your mum could be.”
Aimed at children across the age range from 2 right through to 12, the initial response from the first appearance of the story on her blog instinctivemum.com has been amazing, and included an invitation to read it aloud on BBC Radio Bristol during Dr Phil Hammond’s Saturday Surgery show. More information can be found on the blog: http://amonsteratemymum.wordpress.com
Currently available through this link: http://www.lulu.com/shop/jen-faulkner/a-monster-ate-my-mum/paperback/product-21257893.html
Jen Faulkner is available to discuss her PND journey and the story it helped to create.
For further information please contact Jen Faulkner: firstname.lastname@example.org or @MonsterAteMyMum
For those of you who have read my blog from the very beginning, know me well or follow me on Twitter you’ll know that I have suffered, more than once, from post-natal depression. It’s a debilitating illness that affects the entire family and I was painfully aware of this after the birth of my third child when I was at my most ill. I witnessed my older children, then three and eleven, look at me with confusion when I was crying again and asked me why I was so sad. I saw them shy away from me when I was irritable and tip-toe around me when I was locked in my own anxiety ridden hell. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t anything they’d done, yet I know they were affected by it. I know they were confused by what was happening to their mum who was once such a confident and lively person.
Reaching out to them, and anyone in fact, when I was ill was hard. I hate asking for help and for a while battled with the reality of the illness, refusing to believe it had taken me in it’s grasp. Yet I did want to reach out to them, I did want to explain what was happening to me and that it wouldn’t be like this forever. So I wrote the poem A Monster Ate My Mum which looks at post natal depression through the eyes of a child, and initially illustrated it as a PowerPoint presentation on my iPad. My children loved the story and it prompted some very honest and open discussions about the illness. It helped us so much and even my husband understood a little bit more about what I was going through after reading the poem. Here is a little bit from the poem;
“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun,
I want to see her smile, my mum,
Is she in your big, round tum?”
“No she’s not here I just ate her smile,
I’ll give it back after a while,
I’m sorry I was hungry you see,
I don’t know where your mum could be.”
When I first published the poem on my blog the response was overwhelming. It seemed there was nothing like this out there to help children and families and that’s when I first thought about contacting publishers and agents in the hope that the book would be real, would be in my hands and in those hands of many other sufferers. I met a literary agent this year at Britmums Live and she was wonderfully supportive. We’ve been in touch ever since and she has encouraged me to self-publish the book, as generally children’s publishers like books on slightly happier topics. (frustrating much?!) She believed the book to be a brilliant one and very well written and gave me the encouragement I needed to self-publish.
The next step was to find an illustrator; someone who believed in the book as much as I did; and someone who would be able to draw some monsters that weren’t too scary (it was for children after all!) I needed someone I could trust and when I saw Helen Braid from allatseascotland.blogspot.co.uk advertise her services as a graphic designer I knew she would be the lady to ask. She is so wonderfully talented and has exceeded all of my expectations for the illustrations. They are stunning and I’m so honoured that she agreed to work with me. The print-ready CD arrived in my hands this week and now it’s down to me.
I have extensively researched self-publishing, to the point where I thought my head would explode. It is an absolute minefield and for several days I felt totally overwhelmed. Should I employ the services of a company? Should it be published as an ebook or in print? And if I did decide to go down the DIY route what company should I use to do this? Thankfully, as if often the case, Twitter came to rescue along with some lovely people at the writing club I’ve recently joined. It would seem both ebooks and printed books are the way to go as then you get the best of both worlds. Kindle Direct Publishing was recommended to me by almost everyone I asked, however many have said that actually uploading the book onto the site is very challenging, even for the technically able. So this scares me a lot, I’m not the best technically, however since blogging and going self-hosted I have learnt so very much, but I’m far from being an expert.
With regards to print on demand books this was slightly more complicated. I downloaded ‘Choosing a Self-Publishing Service’ by The Alliance of Independent Authors, and so far it has proved very useful. It recommends several companies, but mainly CreateSpace and Lightening Source. The third it recommends is Lulu. These are all companies where you again upload the book yourself, order yourself a copy as a proof, and then when you’re happy scream about it from the rooftops! On chatting to the brilliantly helpful @wombat37 who has self published more than once, Lulu seemed like the best option as they print and distribute in the UK and many of the others do not, which could prove more costly.
So now I have decided which companies to go with the next step is to actually do it! Eeeeek! I have planned for this Friday to be completely child free all day and am intending to sit at my laptop and not move until the book has been uploaded on both Kindle Direct Publishing and Lulu. (or at least one of them!) If you would like to keep up to date with how I am getting on please follow me on Twitter as @MonsterAteMyMum and hopefully there will champagne corks popping and excited tweets on Friday at some point, celebrating that I’ve successfully self-published!