Pregnancy and Parenting Diaries…puke, panic, perseverance and prayer.

Here is my story of my pregancy and first six months of parenting. It’s been a rollercoaster. I share this as a record for myself, to be honest about mental health illness and to shine the light on some awesome services.

So, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a very long time. Perhaps it will be like cheese or wine, it will have matured and improved with age?

Where to begin. Perhaps just under a year ago, in April 2016. I was entering my second trimester of a much prayed for and wanted pregnancy after four years of depressive and anxious episodes (due to a hormone imbalance condition) and I had weathered a dear friend disowning me, a stalker, difficult neighbours and lastly someone smashing into our car on our drive.

Oh and I might mention, Mike, my husband, being made redundant and searching and finding a new job, and moving church after 15 years…and being sick every single day. (puke)

So yeah, April 2016. Sadly I became low and anxious again. I was then ill on and off until two weeks before my son, Isaac was born, in August. I have to say, the mix of having come off all my hormone treatment and crazy pregnancy hormones, I experienced possibly the worst episode I have ever had and some of the very worst, most scary days of my life. However, over the years I have built up resilience and was able to cope to a certain level – still saw friends, still went to church, got up and dressed every day and made all my appointments. (panic)

Panic monster is coming to get you
Panic monster is coming to get you

Some things that happened in that third trimester and after the birth that weren’t particularly helpful or good:

I was referred to the mental health team and was diagnosed but could not access any therapy (which I desperately needed). I was stuck going around and around some MC Escher endless staircase where I was lead from psychiatrists to mental health services to doctors and back again.

Going round and round the mental health system...
Going round and round the mental health system…

I had appalling administration for my prenatal care (although the midwives themselves were awesome) like not being shown through my yellow folder, not followed through with the Jade team (mental health), sent to wrong hospitals, sent wrong dates, kept waiting for hours…I have forgotten a lot of it as it was so awful (although I suspect Mike remembers only too well.)

I got wrongly diagnosed with gestational diabetes (because I was highly anxious during the test) and had to prick my fingers and monitor my levels every day…not a great combo with obsessive anxiety and panic attacks. And Mike lost hundreds of pounds of consultancy pay having to come to loads of unnecessary appointments.

After being well for two weeks before Isaac’s birth (with the most bonkers nesting thing) and a brilliant hypnobirthing birth (genuinely no pain), sadly I got Postpartum Psychosis and ended up in a mother and baby unit called Coombewood for three months, on and off.

But it wasn’t all bad.

Me and Mike are out the other side of a very difficult, challenging time having grown stronger as individuals and as a couple. We are forming a Christian ministry around mental health that would never have materialised if it wasn’t for our experiences.

I have built resilience through some very testing times. I grew reliant on watching my negative talk, daily prayer, mindful activities like jigsaws, walks, seeing friends, making things and doing things I enjoy. And actually, the most mindful thing in the world is Isaac. Even at my worst, when I was at Coombewood, the love for him shone through the black fog of mental illness and I was able to care for him, even though every action was like wading through tar. (perseverance)

Gotta hang on...
Gotta hang on…

We had the most awesome, overwhelming, love-conquering support from family and friends. I am certain there were tens of dozens of folk praying and thinking of us every day. We were given home-cooked meals after Isaac was born. Friends came over with food, took Mike out to support him, phoned, texted, visited, sent thoughtful gifts. Great queues of people came to visit me at Coombewood.

I had some amazing times of prayer and grew in my faith, having to rely on God like never before. Even Isaac’s name is a blessing and promise. ‘Isaac Caleb’ means laughter warrior, and if you’ve met Isaac, I think you would agree he’s a little bit of a joyful and happy chappie! (prayer)

My laughter warrior, Isaac
My laughter warrior, Isaac

I am loving being a mum to Isaac. He is a total delight. He sleeps so well and is such a happy, smiley, chatty little boy. I have made some wonderful new friends, learnt to be even more mindful through adapting to Isaac’s time, not squeezing him into mine. I love reading to him, staring at him, chatting to him, showing him off and going on adventures together.

And lastly, but not least – the amazing Coombewood Mother and Baby unit. Mike and I simply don’t know what we would have done without the blessing of this place and the amazing staff there. Mike would have had to defer our course to care for me and Isaac. The nurses there taught us how to look after our little boy, while they looked after me. It always felt a safe and homely place to be, full of encouragement and hope.

The wonderful staff at Coombewood Mother and Baby Unit
The wonderful staff at Coombewood Mother and Baby Unit

I am aiming to crowdfund £500 (an amazing £220 raised so far) to help Coombewood to fit out their breastfeeding room. Well, it was the milk room and is now the place where mums breastfeed, but it has odd chairs, bleak walls and isn’t exactly made for relaxing breastfeeding at the moment. I want to give them money to kit out the room.

So…if you’ve been moved, or can identify with this story, or are grateful for the care Coombewood gave Isaac and me, then please do donate anything you can to help hit the target. After all, mental health illness affects one in four people (one in three women) so it’s likely you or someone you know has, is or will be affected.

If you want to, then go here. Thank you.

 

 

 

Time to Talk Coffee and Pamper morning: it’s time to end mental health discrimination.

Michelle ready to receive guests.
Michelle ready to receive guests.

On the 5th February, myself and my friend Michelle Kay (a stress management coach) hosted a ‘Coffee and Pamper’ morning, as part of the national ‘Time to Talk’ day. This is an initiative from Time to Change, whose aim is to end mental health discrimination, through giving people a chance to be educated about  mental health by learning from folk with ‘lived experience’.

I am extremely proud to be a Time to Change champion, which means I talk at events and stand at stalls to answer any question about mental health.

So, I hosted this event in my home to a) educate those who might not know about mental health illness and b) to pamper those who are having a tough time with it.

I was delighted to welcome folk to enjoy tea, cake, warmth (!) and some gentle prompts to talk about mental health illness. Time to Talk have fantastic resources, including this thingy we used to play with at school. Can’t remember the name!

Gill holds up her 'conversation starter'.
Gill holds up her ‘conversation starter’.

Michelle gave a fantastic talk about stress, it’s causes and how to reduce it. She led a relaxation time that was so relaxing, Barry and Marcia fell asleep!

We all had some good chats about different aspects of mental health, such as insomnia, being a carer, mindfulness, managing anxiety and relaxing.

I was really happy to do Gill and Marcia’s nails, to give them a taster of how it can be a relaxing experience.

Gill is pleased with her sparkly nails!
Gill is pleased with her sparkly nails!
Marcia is also pleased with her nails...and manicure.
Marcia is also pleased with her nails…and manicure.
John and Barry enjoy a Hot Cross Bun.
John and Barry enjoy a Hot Cross Bun.
Martin is the newest Time to Change advocate.
Martin is the newest Time to Change advocate.
Jason enjoys the cake.
Jason enjoys the cake.
Reece talks about his experiences.
Reece talks about his experiences.
David enjoys a sit down, cuppa and cake.
David enjoys a sit down, cuppa and cake.

Michelle was on hand next door to give folk relaxing chair massages. Reports were they were super relaxing. I can vouch for that!

Ahhh...Katie enjoys Michelle's relaxing chair massage.
Ahhh…Katie enjoys Michelle’s relaxing chair massage.

So in conclusion, a great day was had by all. People said they’d love events like this more often. If you’d like to find out more about Time to Talk and Time to Change, go to their website, here.

The worst day of my life

Robin Williams in my favourite movie of his, 'The world according to T.S. Garp'.
Robin Williams in my favourite movie of his, ‘The world according to T.S. Garp’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but the tragic news of Robin William’s death has spurred me into action. I confess, I had no idea that this great hero of mine battled with depression. Maybe to some readers, you might be surprised to know that I suffer from depression? I’m putting myself on the line here, but if it raises awareness of the silent torture of depression and anxiety then it is worth it.

You may or may not know that over the last three years I have had a strange hormonal imbalance that can turn on and off the switch of severe depression (and all its symptoms) over just two hours. It completely changes my personality.

Well, I’d like to tell you about the worst day of my life. The day before I had been completely fine, normal, after two weeks of panic attacks, crying, not being able to eat and struggling to get dressed. But on that day, my mum’s 70th birthday, I was delighted to feel normal.

The next day, having had the gut-churning warning signs that a change was coming, I came around to a sickening realisation that I was depressed again. My mum had been staying to look after me as for the first time, I had been really scared of being on my own. It was not that I was planning to kill myself, I would never, ever do that. It was more that it felt like a voice had popped up in my head, like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, saying, ‘What if you throw yourself down the stairs? What if you hurt yourself with that knife?” I got so scared, because when you are depressed and anxious, a thought comes into your head and it’s like, ‘Don’t think of an elephant’. I’d had similar thoughts like, ‘What if you are sick when you eat this food’, and I’d been sick and therefore was very, very scared of this whisper.

So, this thought came into my head as I was getting up the strength to have a shower. ‘What if you lock the door and you slit your wrists? What if you smash that glass bottle and hurt yourself?’ I went through my CBT exercises of rejecting the thought, I prayed, I spoke positive statements, but it took me two hours to have that shower and my mum was outside the door, with it unlocked. But, at least I did, and didn’t give in to the fear and just smell. 😉

You may be thinking, what? How can this Katie that I know, in whatever capacity, had thoughts like this? Well, this is my point. How could we know Robin Williams was nursing a deep darkness in his heart, which was the shadow to his apparent constant happiness? Even I question how I could have had such a thought.

It’s because it’s depression. It has a list of symptoms. One of which is suicidal thoughts. The biggest problem with depression and anxiety is where you start piling guilt on top of guilt, like, ‘I’m so guilty that I felt guilty about having that anxious thought about whether CBT will work,’ and so on.

I am receiving treatment for my hormone imbalance and as far as the depression and anxiety it suddenly dumps on me, I’m working on that too. I’m depression-proofing my work: telling people the truth, not chasing people, only planning a days work at a time, being upfront with all my clients, taking a lunch break and not working after 5.30 or on the weekend. Because I can. Because it’s my business and my health comes first.

Some people might feel uncomfortable about this way of working and living or reading this level of honesty. It might even stop them from engaging with me. But I hope you can see a little bit where I’m coming from and are still here, reader! 🙂

Through depression I have become so much stronger, more assured, braver, and more willing to stand up for the marginalised. I know many other amazing, strong people who would agree. And I’ve learnt the true meaning of ‘Joy’, not happiness all the time and a smile plastered on my face but a deep contentment in my life despite my circumstances, whether I feel normal or low.

Addition: I just want to be clear that I am sharing my experiences to hopefully show you that someone you know may be suffering but you have no idea. I am in no way, wanting it to be about me. You can draw your own conclusions, I’m not telling you what to do; it’s just to show you how depression effected me and maybe how to spot signs of those you love. Katie 🙂