Christmas dinner on Boxing Day.
In the UK we have a lot of emphasis on Christmas Day; the perfect Christmas box, now the trend is to have matching pjs as for the family and photos round the tree to show them off to everyone. The perfect stockings hung up by the fireplace and a festive plate to put the treats out for Santa. The perfect Christmas morning, breakfast, presents all leading up to a beautiful table decorated with all the trimmings worthy of a Good Housekeeping magazine article. In general our expectations at Christmas never add up to the reality and even less so if you suffer with postnatal anxiety or postnatal depression. What you want is to be able to enjoy this time with your children and family but the reality can be somewhat different. In the last nine years I have had a variety of reactions of emotions to Christmas. Going to my mum’s and having my first Christmas as a mum was all about the 3 hrs in between feeds, the second Christmas I would get very anxious about the break in routine and would mean I was constantly worried with a knot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.
The third Christmas as a mum and now a mum of a 1yr old and 3yr old can only be referred to as my Pizza Wearing Christmas! I was still hiding behind my mask of postnatal depression and anxiety, having just begun taking antidepressants and only my close family knew; I decided to invite everyone and host Christmas dinner. Talk about putting the pressure on myself. On Christmas Eve whilst I left my hubby and brother in law sorting out rearranging the house so that two tables could be put together for us to host 20 family members I went out to a friend’s house for her daughter’s birthday. Walking back with the double buggy, the heavens opened and it started to pour with rain and the wind started to whip up around us. I stopped to take shelter in a pizza shop and decided that the boys back home would be hungry so bought a pizza. I turned for home, struggling against the wind and before I knew it a gust of wind lifted the pizza box off the buggy and I ended up wearing the pizza. I can laugh about it now but as you can imagine that was the final straw for me. I also made the decision that I wasn’t coping and upped my medication.
I tried to power through a couple of other Christmas’s and even decided for one new year to start to reduce my medication. My youngest was 3 and I decided to reduce slowly over the year. I felt ready. Through the year I was doing fine but by the time we had celebrated their 4th & 6th birthdays in the same month I was feeling the anxiety start to worsen. By Christmas Day I hadn’t realised how low I had started to feel. Until that is my eldest opened up her Santa present. The letter had been duly written and sent; please can I have a mermaid dress and Elsa powers. Nothing extravagant just simple requests for the magic to be delivered. I had thought about getting some glitter in a bottle to be disguised as “Elsa powers” but in all the hectic build up to the big day it was the one thing I hadn’t done. I paid for it, as the first thing my daughter exclaimed when she opened her stocking was ooo my mermaid dress, but where are my Elsa powers?” That small statement completely floored me. I just cried and the tears wouldn’t stop. I literally couldn’t get out of bed. I would venture downstairs when my husband said the girls wanted to open more presents and to Skype my mum but then I would go back upstairs and cry in my bed. Again I made the decision to go back on my antidepressants. I decided not to pressure myself the following year and
Last year was much better; I scaled down the entertaining and even though I was hosting Christmas dinner I reasoned with myself that it was my mum who was our only guest. The thought that Christmas dinner is just a big roast dinner helped my mindset.
This year I can honestly say that I’ve had the most relaxed unstressed Christmas. We hosted no one on Christmas Day and had a rolling table of picnic style food. We didn’t get dressed properly all day and just chilled out as a family. We hosted my in laws on Boxing Day and I actually cooked a turkey for the first time! Leading up to Christmas I felt my anxiety was under control and I had booked a family ice skating session for us. This is another hurdle conquered as for years I’ve wanted to do this but been so anxious that an accident would occur to one of us that I couldn’t even give it a thought. We have even travelled abroad for a family event which involved me travelling solo with the girls. Something which I could never have imagined me doing a few years ago. I did well up when the girls met Santa for their annual visit but then doesn’t everyone?
It has been a long journey and one which I take a moment at a time. But for now I’m feeling really good and proud of myself that Christmas has buried some anxiety ghosts.
Out of all the photo challenges so far of this perinatal mental health photo challenge this theme I’ve found the hardest to comment or find a photo for.
I can gush and have done previously in this challenge about my deep love for my friends and the amazing support they have given me. However the elephant in the room here are friends and friendships that have fallen by the wayside over the years. Thankfully there aren’t many but those that have gone I still think about them and hope they’re doing okay in their lives.
Loosing a friendship for whatever reason is really hard to come to terms with. It has to be said it is a grieving process of sorts and is highly emotional. Disbelief, anger, sadness are all there, along with a deep questioning of what went wrong, how did we get to this and ultimately “what did I do?”
I have spent many hours thinking about what has happened to the relationships I have lost trying to understand. After all the internal questioning for your own sanity you need to conclude that it is a two way situation of misunderstanding and unsaid words.
Then comes the crux of the situation; what do you do about it? Do you try and maintain contact despite feeling hurt? Leave contacting each other for a while? Or cut that person from your life. Sometimes if a moment of peace and the white flag raised communication and conversation can return. However honesty has to be at the heart. You need to let that person know how the falling out has affected you. The other person may feel the same or simply have been going through a difficult time too and felt unable to say. Only when that honesty has happened can the mending begin. And sometimes even either that amount of honesty things happen that mean for your own good you need to cut off that person as they are too toxic in your life.
Whatever happens you need to do what is best for you.
Friends come into your life for a reason and so they leave it too.
My definition of self care;
Self care is defined by doing something for ourselves that rebalances our state of mind to ensure our mental health and wellbeing is in a positive and happy place.
My top 10 self care tips
My self care priorities are
1. Sleep; getting enough sleep
2. Food; eating good food. Trying to be healthy but allowing myself to eat the junk food too.
3. Family; making sure I spend quality time with my family, not doing homework or trying hard to “make memories” but living in and appreciating the little moments.
4. Closeness to loved ones. For me this is closeness to my husband:Remembering who we were before we had children. Going on dates, appreciating each other.
5. Friends; spending time with friends and catching up with old friends.
6. Pampering taking time out to pamper myself; paint my nails, have a massage, get a haircut, going shopping, buying and reading a magazine.
7. Reading I have always loved readying and getting into a good book.
8. Nature; appreciating nature, making sure I get out during the week to hear the birds singing and sense the stillness in the woods.
9. Laughing; a chuckle, a snort, a giggle, nothing can beat the laugh out loud, can’t actually make a sound, struggle to breathe situation of hysterical laughter, hearing it or falling about yourself is one of the best highs I can experience. It might not happen often but I love it when it does.
10. Confiding; telling others you’re not okay and needing to share and talk with them.
It is totally personal to you and what defines a happy and positive place for some could be the opposite for others. Find yours …
It’s so important to show yourself the love. We think of others but when it comes down to our needs we let them take a back seat.
So step it up. Give yourself the love you deserve. Let your internal voice be kind, let your actions be generous; make sure you treat yourself with kindness. Make yourself feel good about yourself. When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror without a critical eye. Personally I can’t remember. Today I’m going to make sure I spend some time on myself, for myself. Put something nice on, put a bit of make up on. Look in the mirror and say I love you.
I’m always out and about. Doing something and often crazy! I love having fun, dressing up and showing you my silly side. I also like to keep myself active. Not in the keeping fit kind of way, the last place you’d see me is at the gym! I love learning and meeting new people. I have found several tribes which make me feel happy and loved; my oldest friends, the ones where we can go months without actually talking to each other but as soon as we meet up we can’t stop talking. The mummy tribe, I have lots of mummy friendship groups as well as mum friends who like that one on one time together too. My PND family; those who I have gotten to know since having postnatal illness. Support group mummy’s to online mummy’s. They “get me” and I get them. My Forest Tribe; is my most recent gathering of lovely woodland obsessed peeps who like to go crazy in the woods and have a insurmountable amount of fun. When I’ve spent time with them I feel like my cup of nature and craziness has been filled to the brim.
I love my crazy active life.
It’s hard when you can’t put into words how you actually feel. Mental Health is being talked about a lot more now. On social media, in the news, in your office, on your street. However when you are going brought the worst mental turmoil the last thing you want to do is talk. Talking signifies you acknowledging that something is actually not right. You can’t even find the words to describe the feelings of despair or anger you have going through your mind.
However I know from experience that talking about your mental health is the best thing you can do. By opening up to others they can begin to understand your silence. You can begin to understand your feelings and only then can you start to put together a plan for getting better.
When I had pnd I spoke found a support charity which literally helped me find the words to then talk to my friends about when I had been going through in silence for 6 months. It’s helped enormously and I will be forever grateful to those who listened when I shared and picked me up when I couldn’t face getting up.
My close friends mean the world to me and I know that I can talk to them about anything and they will be there.
Defined as “a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.”
Pretty much sums up my motherhood journey. I’ve cried rivers of tears, had my hear filled with oceans of love, climbed the postnatal depression mountains and experienced mountain top moments of pride. Stumbled through valleys of despair, And wandered through the wilderness of anxiety. To emerge to see the canyons of support from family and friends witnessed my recovery into the daylight of becoming a well mummy.
An emotional journey to say the least, I’m still on a journey of sorts, encouraging others to believe that they will recover and become well mummy’s.