Meme: Desert Island Discs

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I’m so excited to have been tagged for this Desert Island meme by Mummy Tries. I really enjoy music and having to pick just a few songs has been challenging but a lot of fun! It also gave me a great reason to rediscover my iPod.

I picked 6!

That’s What Friends Are For

Written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager in 1982, it’s the cover version by Dionne Warwick and Friends. A one-off collaboration featuring Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder – I mean seriously – wow!
http://youtu.be/V22ahe9xzC4

This was the last song played at our wedding reception – everyone was in a large circle hand in hand – despite it being over 7 years ago I can still remember it so well. It was just a perfect ending to the best day.

You’ve Got a Friend

I grew up listening to Carole King’s Tapestry album – it was definitely one of my Mum’s favourites. Watching her and James Taylor perform this together in 2010 during their Troubadour Reunion Tour has really stuck with me.
http://youtu.be/sIMJBDj_JkE

Make you feel my love

This is a song written by Bob Dylan a fact I didn’t know before compiling the list! The version I’ve chosen is by Adele it was on her amazing album 19 but her performance of it at the Royal Albert Hall ensured it was on my list. She’s such an honest performer and the whole concert is well worth a look.
http://youtu.be/xweqsdRpG9Y

Lightning

Just a happy bit of boy band pop – I was/am a massive Take That fan but Westlife/Boyzone/JLS you name it really…
http://youtu.be/glukfeQJzF4

The reason this particular song made the list is because it brings back a really happy memory. When I was unwell in 2011, I asked my Dad what he wanted for his 70th birthday that was at the start of the following year. His response was simple and honest “I just want you to be well”. At the time I thought that was totally bloody impossible but it wasn’t – we did lots to celebrate his 70th but the memory of dancing round in my brother’s kitchen all of us together with his grandchildren still gives me goose bumps.

(Something Inside) So Strong

Written and recorded by singer-songwriter Labi Siffre in 1987. The song was inspired by a TV documentary on Apartheid South Africa seen by Siffre in 1985 in which a white soldier was filmed shooting at black children.
http://youtu.be/7B-4Lsrx8IA

F.E.A.R.

So I nearly picked a track by The Stone Roses but every time I listen to this song I hear something new. The video was also directed by Ian Brown and it is in London (I Love London). The song incorporates a creative lyric scheme where each verse forms the acrostic “F.E.A.R.” (for example, “For each a road” and “Fallen empires are ruling”). I’m in awe of the hundreds of acronyms created from the word “fear”.
http://youtu.be/8f8wAXDZ9D0

So that’s my 6!

Now I’m passing it on to the beautiful and talented ladies at Silver Linings Project, Mummy Kindness and milkwithtwo.

Learning to live…

Yesterday was Time To Talk Day, there were some fantastic honest and open conversations with the Time To Talk Mums (#TTTMum) so it seems the perfect time to write a post I’ve been thinking about for a while…

I’m not sure I can express in words what I want to get across, but I want to give it a try.

I am in recovery – I’ve lived with depression on and off since I was 13. It came at different times and the strength varied massively.

I was hospitalised in 2005 for 4 weeks, when I was 29. I’d been seeing a psychiatrist and he’d hoped, as did my family and I, that an inpatient stay would really help me. It was a wonderful place and did help a lot. It was at this point that I started to realise that actually it might be ok that I may need medication.

It had been 16 years and I’d managed to do a lot of damage to myself. I needed some help as my mind just wasn’t able to cope – my emotions/feelings left me floored on a regular basis and affected all aspects of my life. I made bad decisions, was so hard on myself and found living so difficult.

My life continued and was better than it had been before mainly because I was kinder to myself, I was medicated and had regular therapy. However looking back I still don’t think that I’d got to a point of understanding why my life had been the way it was – there was nothing overly significantly to explain it.

I then fell pregnant

My dear friends from school still remember me being one of the first to want a baby. I’d even seriously considered having a baby on my own before I met my husband.

My thinking was that it was the one thing in my life that I was going to be good at (no pressure then?!). Motherhood was going to be the making of me – well if that was the dream, the reality was a nightmare.

My pregnancy wasn’t the easiest but it was ok – I was ok. I got a bit scared when the therapist I’d been seeing went on maternity leave herself but my local hospital got me an appointment with a psychiatrist which helped.

Knowing I was having a boy also helped a lot – I couldn’t bear the thought of having a girl and her turning out like me.

I tapered off my medication, I wanted to give my son the best start and this seemed to be the accepted view of the best thing to do.

The birth was horrific and I think that was when it started – the stream of negative thinking…

“You couldn’t even have a straightforward birth”
“You can’t breastfeed – useless”
“You caused the placental abruption because you had a drink and a cigarette that night”
“You are asking too much from the midwives – that’s why they are being mean”
“He’s having problems feeding because you’ve failed him”

It went on and on and on…

When my husband was home for those first two weeks it was good and I coped well for a few weeks but then it changed.

I had a complete breakdown – I couldn’t function or do anything normal despite being asked to, often.

I felt like I had made the worse decision of my life and wasn’t sure how it was ever going to be ok.
I was scared, well actually terrified all the time, my anxiety spiralled out of control.

It broke my heart and my mind literally collapsed. I didn’t want to be responsible for my son for his wellbeing – I thought he would have a safer future without me.

I was hospitalised with my son in March – we stayed there for just over 5 months and if I didn’t think I could get any lower I was wrong. From day 1 I said it wasn’t the right place for me that the problem was about me not my son.

I walked along roads wondering if I could step out in front of lorries more than once, I researched ways to die on the internet. I took an overdose and was almost sectioned and yet it still felt like I was no closer to any kind of recovery.

Despite dreadful thoughts, I kept my son safe.

I knew that any hope I had was just getting less and less.

When in August the psychiatrist told me to stop being a silly girl and return home to my loving husband and beautiful son I knew something had to change – I had spent 5 months under her care and was no better.

I reached out to two amazing friends at work who helped me to navigate the private medical insurance I had.

I moved hospitals within days. My new psychiatrist was horrified by the treatment I’d received and will never let me return to the NHS, something I find amazing and sad at the same time.

So I had to be completely detoxed from the medication I had been prescribed and restart all over again.

The therapy was intense – full days taking everything I thought about myself and challenging it.

I was assigned a wonderful psychologist who helped me to start processing things. I still see him now.

I still take medication every day – it’s a mixture of types. My brain is an organ and it misfires and the years of damage I did with my thinking patterns have left a lasting imprint.

But I live better than I’ve ever lived before. There is still grief and anger about the time I missed with my son that I can never get back.

I can’t regret what happened – it was an illness and it finally made me see myself properly for the first time since I was 13. It’s meant I have connected with amazing people. That how I am and in fact how I was are all ok.

I live life with my whole heart and I tell people about what happened because there is nothing more important than making the unknown, known. I felt so alone for so many years, that I was odd, that my empathy for others and general sensitivity was something to change. I never learnt that all emotions and feelings are “allowed” – that if you sit, they pass like waves.

I love my son more than I ever knew was possible…

Love and light…

There’s a new train…

Well that’s Christmas, New Year and my 3 year old’s birthday celebrated. Even with a bout of tonsillitis it was wonderful.

I’ve learnt that if you surround yourself with family and friends there isn’t much that can knock you. Or even if there is, then someone will help you back up.

So in to 2014… Who knows what will happen over the next 12 months but if it’s anything like the last 12, I can only guess it will be filled with ups and downs.

I’m not a believer in resolutions – I think change happens all the time so trying to enforce it at the start of the year feels icky. Why wait 12 months to reflect…

Every day you get to start over. You can learn and do things differently. What an amazing opportunity!

So the journey continues, I’m going to keep on sharing and hopefully you’ll keep on reading… The new service at the train station this morning felt symbolic.

Love and light…

This will be my last post of this year…

I’m going to take some time out with my wonderful family and friends. I’m going to enjoy and reflect – I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by…

There is a lot to celebrate, as well as Christmas and New Year, two 72nd birthdays, our 7 year wedding anniversary, our son’s 3rd birthday…

But today marks an anniversary for me – not one I’m particularly proud of – but one that changed a lot for me and those around me. I broke my wrist at last year’s Christmas party. I was a mess, not just at the party but throughout 2012.

When I left the hospital in October 2011 I had thought everything was going to be great, straight away, probably because it couldn’t be any worse, right?!?

So my maternity leave came to an end and I went back to work, as that was what was always going to happen… It was the plan.

Looking back now it was the wrong decision but that’s only with hindsight. In future I’ll never return to a mapped out plan if everything has changed… In fact I don’t actually map out plans anymore…

I spent 7 months in hospital out of my 13 months maternity leave – that’s over half the time. Putting it in writing makes me shake my head (I know you can’t see that) but it’s important. If it had happened to a friend, I’d have probably been more questioning – “are you sure you’re ready? do you think maybe you need a bit more time?”. But instead and in spite of everything I wanted to be “normal”. I wanted to slip back in to life and just carry on – those around me wanted it too.

But when something has happened that’s changed parts of your core you can’t just go back, like it never happened but you equally can’t let it become all that you are.

Throughout 2012 I really struggled with this and honestly, it made me so angry. It simmered under the surface. The grief of not being able to enjoy those first 10 months of my son’s life mixed with the lack of support and understanding that I needed to be different. I was offered help but my pride and damn obsession with being “normal” wouldn’t let me accept. I had to get back on track.

And then I broke my wrist…

The party was on a Tuesday and thankfully I had pre booked the Wednesday off work – I was meant to be spending time with a friend and her son who were home from Thailand for Christmas.

What actually ended up happening was that by 8:30 with a dreadful hangover, I realised I couldn’t look after my son and had to phone another friend – she came like a shot, at 30+ months pregnant and with a 23 month old to take to nursery first, it was amazing! She held my hand and sat with me whilst I sobbed – we were then joined by my other friend. I cherish friendships so much and I was so lucky to spend the day with two amazing inspirational friends.

Things were not working out for me at work or at home. I couldn’t fathom why – I’d got better what more could be needed from me… So on the Thursday I tried to go to work – it took my Mum and my manager clearly saying that I needed to go to hospital, to convince me. And it was a break and I was put in plaster…

I was signed off work for nearly six weeks – I’m right-handed and you guessed it, right wrist. I felt huge guilt not being at work. Nothing was easy. My son went to nursery and my husband to work. And I was on my own but it was ok.

Since depression entered my life as a teenager I have never felt comfortable in my own company – there are a myriad of reasons but I guess the single most important was that it gave the negative tickertape in my mind an opportunity to take over.

Over the 6 weeks I slowly started to heal. I sat, read a lot and I thought. I didn’t plan but I did decide on a number of things.

I decided that I would start to treat myself the way I would a friend.

I decided to be myself. (In many ways I have only returned to being how I was before the depression muddled everything but it is part of me.)

I decided that love and truth would guide me.

I decided to keep on learning.

So this year has been remarkable! I often have to pinch myself that I am actually living the life I imagined.

There have been such sad times – close friends have lost relatives and illness has struck – the dignity and strength shown has been inspiring.

There have also been happy times – new babies, amazing achievements and general life!

I found accepting that this will always be the case has helped – the only constant is change. There will be sad and happy times.

With a very open heart, I have taken opportunities, met amazing people, read inspiring things, supported others and been supported.

But most of all I have realised how beautiful it is not to be “normal”!

Love and light at this festive time and always – here’s to 2014.

Root Before Branches

I love music – lyrics, singing and dancing. It amazes me that people are able to craft such emotional pieces and then share them…

This is my song – yes, it was in a Glee episode (I may do a post on why I love Glee…) but the version I listen to is by Room for Two. For a long time I didn’t realise that my roots were strong but when life almost breaks you and you find the strength to pull yourself back, you start recognise that actually they are there.

So many things
To do and say
But I can’t seem
To find my way
But I wanna know how
I know
I’m meant
For something else
But first
I gotta find myself
But I don’t know how

Oh, why do
I reach for the stars
When I don’t have wings
To carry me that far?

I gotta have
Roots before branches
To know who I am
Before I know
Who I wanna be
And faith
To take chances
To live like I see
A place in this world
For me

Sometimes
I don’t wanna feel
And forget the pain
Is real
Put my head
In the clouds
Oh, start to run
And then I fall
Thinkin’
I can’t get it all
Without my feet
On the ground

There’s always a seed
Before there’s a rose
The more that it rains
The more I will grow

I gotta have
Roots before branches
To know who I am
Before I know
Who I wanna be
And faith
To take chances
To live like I see
A place in this world
For me

Whatever comes
I know how to take it
Learn to be strong
I won’t have to fake it
Oh, you’re understandin’
The wind can come
And do it’s best
Blow me North and South
East and West
But I’ll still
Be standing
I’ll be standing

I gotta have
Roots before branches
To know who I am
Before I know
Who I wanna be
And faith
To take chances
To live like I see
A place in this world

I gotta have
Roots before branches
To know who I am
Before I know
Who I wanna be
And faith
To take chances
To live like I see
A place in this world
For me

I gotta have
Roots before branches

Magic Words

It appears I missed a week… I had something in draft but I read blogs whilst travelling and felt what I wanted to say got covered more eloquently by others and I’m totally ok with that.

One of the real positives from being ill (and there are many) is that I’m so much more open to change, in all it’s form. It is the only constant and embracing it is working for me.
I still struggle with it at times, don’t get me wrong but I’ve found a peace in myself that never existed before and it gives me so much hope for the future.

All the emotions I tried to suppress for so many years now just are… It’s ok for the “negative” ones to be there too… I have the power to interpret any situation in more than one way. I’m constantly learning and it’s fascinating. Taking time to listen and read is enriching. People are generally amazing and inspiring.

I believed in God for a large part of my early teens, I now don’t but I still have faith – we all do whether we realise it or not. We get up each morning and breath – I don’t know how that happens but it does… Wow!! What I believe in now is myself and others. I’m a humanist – I believe in people…

We’re currently teaching my son the importance of manners and what I’ve realised is that there is no such thing as magic words… Of course I’ve been guilty of saying it – it’s a phrase used so often. But having thought about it, I’m going to change and not use it. Pleases and thank yous are not magic – the use of them is to do with respect for others not magic…

Recovering but never forgetting…

Having resisted the urge to write all week – breastfeeding vouchers (um – NO!), the benefits of exercise in pregnancy (more pressure on mums-to-be!), Gove and Hunt’s continued destruction of education and health (frustrating and grim!). I’ve realised that actually taking my time to collect and digest a week full of events may be a better approach.

I’m still finding my feet as to how this blog will work for you and me. Opening up and sharing what’s in my mind may seem unusual/strange but I think it’s necessary. I think there’s an honesty missing in general about life and living.

There are three mothers at the front of my mind as I type, all totally tragic deaths. My thoughts are with their family and friends at what can only be a heartbreaking time.

The awful thing is that 1 mother a week will lose their battle with post-natal illness in the UK. How is this not headline news? Why are mothers having to fight to get the care they so desperately need? And it’s not just mothers. Becoming a parent is life changing and it’s hard without mental illness.

We need more specialist mental health midwives. More and better mother and baby units. And we need to start having more honest conversations.

There are amazing organisations (PANDAS,APNI, PNI ORG UK for example) and health professionals out there who’s work I admire so much and who are helping. But it’s not enough when mothers are still dying.

Finally the door of the Department of Health has been opened a little by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and this gives me hope.

I know my blog won’t always make comfortable reading but I won’t apologise for that because something has to change. I’ve been told that I’m lucky that my family and friends stuck/stick with me while I recover – really well if that is true then I guess they are lucky that I didn’t take my own life while I was ill – I don’t think life works like that…

RIP Elizabeth, Emma and Linzi – gone but not forgotten.

What is it with all the labels? Mummy blogger or mummy that blogs….

I spent Saturday learning… as I spend most days really…

The Mumsnet BlogFest was just what I needed to give me the push to get writing. This will be a short post as I’m still digesting all I learnt on Saturday and since. It was difficult to make a choice about which sessions to attend because the programme was crammed with so many excellent options. I’m happy with what I picked but so wanted to do it all…

I spent the day listening and learning mostly, but had to speak up in the “Can you be a ‘mummy-blogger’, and still be a feminist?” session.

I’m unsure whether I’m a feminist (there, I said it…) – I had hoped the session might give me a better idea but instead what it reinforced was that sometimes being a woman sucks! I really don’t understand what happened but it wasn’t good. The “fight” between the panellists/audience made me so sad. Women need to be supported by other women and that is not what happened in the session. I’ve read some excellent posts since Saturday which have made me feel less alone – one of the many things I love about blogs!

People are free to label me as they wish….but I kinda wish they wouldn’t.

Am I someone’s Mummy? – Hell yes! I fought severe PND and dragged myself back to be just that but it isn’t all I am. One of the positives of my battle with PND is that I now understand myself – not fully obviously because we evolve every day and change is the only constant in life. I want to challenge stigma particularly around mental health. I want to give other people hope that no matter how dark life seems there is a way for it to be better.

I loved what Daisy Griffith’s said in her session “If you don’t know what you are trying to do, there’s no point in doing it” – I need to think about this before I write again.

For Miriam

My post from 2012…

For many months of 2011 my life was black and there really seemed no way that I was going to get out alive.
I had suffered from depression before but nothing could have prepared me for the depression that came after my son’s birth.

Sebastian’s arrival was very traumatic, not just in one particular way but in many. We both could have died and although at the time I felt (or was told to feel) lucky, I was soon to wish that I hadn’t been saved. It is with a mix of happiness and sadness that I will live my life without ever experiencing contractions. The care we received at our local hospital ranged from woefully inadequate to good. I do believe this contributed in some part to what happened, as did the whole arrival itself, however I’ve learnt it was more about my interpretation of these experiences than the actual experiences themselves.

It took about 2 months after Sebastian’s birth for the darkness to fall. It felt at the time that one day I was ok and the next I was standing in the shower looking at a razor wondering if I had the bravery to slit my wrists there and then. However, in hindsight (such a powerful but useless thing!) I’d been ill since I was a teenager and I had been experiencing this particular encounter with depression for months before my son was born. I felt that the emotions I was experiencing were all my fault and because I couldn’t stand the psychological pain of admitting this I projected it on to my son – Sebastian became the focus – if he hadn’t entered the world then this wouldn’t be happening……

The days between the 16 February and 16 March, when I was finally admitted to an NHS Mother and Baby Unit (MBU), were filled with increasing desperation – I was “screaming” to be helped and although friends, family and medical professionals were trying, nothing was even touching the surface. My GP represcribed my antidepressants – I had been on them since 2005 and had carefully reduced them during my pregnancy to give my baby boy the best start! The Mental Health Team was assigned. My family tried to ensure I always had help with the baby.

Although grateful for all of these attempts at help, I felt that no one understood (or still does understand) how close to the edge I was. Despite being as honest as I could be – imagine sharing with your parents and husband (the three people you love the most in the world) that you are having images of hurting your own son – the images filled me with horror and eroded any element of self respect I had left, yet still you are expected to be with the baby.  When I talked of suicide during this time and also for many months afterwards I genuinely believed it would be the only way this nightmare would end and that it would be best for everyone – I did tell anyone that I met that this was the case but even mental health professionals told me not to be silly. None of my other attempts to get away from the baby (including my request to be admitted to the local psychiatric ward) would even be considered which is when the MBU became the only option – I felt like my heart was breaking for about the millionth time when I agreed to us being admitted – how could my life have gone so terribly wrong and why couldn’t anyone understand that I believed being with him was literally killing me.

That first night locked away was awful but there were so many similar nights to follow that thankfully the memories are not singularly too painful (although the tears are flowing a little as I type). I begged my Mum & Dad to come and get me and take me home (to their house, where I had grown up – not to our flat) – I was their little girl – surely they couldn’t believe that having me locked in this place was what I deserved? I want to make the point now that I honestly don’t believe that my parents or husband could have or should have done anything differently – they didn’t have many choices. The intelligent, kind hearted person they knew and loved was no longer visible – apparently there were glimpses but these were sporadic and I felt like I hated all three of them and know my behaviour reflected this – I have never hated anyone before and the guilt I felt for feeling this way further destroyed me…

I don’t feel comfortable going in to too much detail about my time in the MBU for a number of reasons 1) all the mothers I met deserve to have their privacy respected 2) despite the fact that I did not get better there at all, I know of and have read many recovery stories that have involved time spent in one of the very few MBUs this country has and 3) I am living my life looking forward now – the experiences are in me and that is enough this early on in my recovery.

Our longed for family life was now Sebastian and I at the MBU / my husband alone at our flat Monday to Friday with weekend leave spent together at either our flat or my parent’s house. The toll on my husband was unbelievable both physically and mentally – he maintained a full time job and would visit us almost every night.

I did take an overdose in the May (when at home) and was admitted to A&E, even then the only option was the MBU and I was clearly told I would be sectioned if I did not agree to return. Despite being a complete shadow of myself, I did not want to be sectioned – I feel ashamed that I had attached such stigma to this, as if used properly it can be an integral part of a person’s recovery.

Finally something shifted in me in August. I had spent the majority of the previous 6 weeks without Sebastian but was still no better. I had point blankly refused to have him back in the MBU with me, yet because I was such a risk to myself and basically there was nowhere else for me to go, I was still there. On the 19 August I had my care moved to a private psychiatric hospital – this would not have been possible without private medical insurance. Up until this point I was desperate for someone to help me but in the end it was me that helped me. I saved my own life but I did have a lot of help along the way. My psychiatrist and therapist have helped me to process all of my experiences both around my son but also my life in general.

I finally left hospital as an inpatient on the 23 October. For me therapy was/is the key but I really believe that the right medication made me stable enough to even begin to engage. I have no side effects and could possibly be on them for the rest of my life, which is not a problem. I was diagnosed with anxiety in addition to depression when I moved hospitals – I had spent 6 months with sweaty palms and feet and a racing heart – I was in “flight” mode all the time – even when asleep (not that sleep came easily).

I wasn’t emotionally equipped to have a baby – the responsibility of him overwhelmed me. How could I possibly help to nurture and care for my son when I had no idea who I was? I realise now that it was because I had no inner self belief due to my total lack of genuine confidence in myself. I come from a loving family, have a wonderful husband and great friends – if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.

It has been the longest, hardest journey that required me to look at myself so deeply, see things I did and didn’t like but accept who I am – what the depression means and doesn’t mean about me. I thank humanity for giving me a second chance and I’m not going to waste it! My life is worth living and I can be a mother to my son and together we will learn about the world.

Sebastian turned 1 on the 7 January 2012 and it was a very emotional but enjoyable day. It was also the 7th anniversary of the day my husband and I moved into our flat – now our family home – I do believe that these things are significant.
Sebastian will be an only child – my husband and I had never planned to have more than one baby but our experience has now confirmed it – I would be sterilised if the NHS would agree but they say I’m too young.

So having spent a large part of 2011 wanting to die I now want to LIVE and experience everything life has to offer.

I am now back at work and have a life – I no longer just exist which I think I did for many years without even realising. My son is amazing – watching him toddle around and shout randomly fills my heart with joy, in a way that I never thought possible.
My husband and I are struggling to come to terms with what the past year has done to our relationship but we will get there – after all life is about choice.
I have learnt so many things from my experience but for me the most important is that “fixing” a person’s depression cannot be standardised – the answer needs to be as unique as the individual.

Thank you for reading this far. I only have three final points

To those of you who are depressed, please get help – it is out there – scream and shout if you have to – I know you might not want to cause a fuss (depression does that) or that you don’t feel like it (depression does that too) but you have to – life is worth living.

To those of you that have experienced depression please talk about it – you can go in to as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable but unless we talk, it will always continue to be something that happens to other people.

To those of you that haven’t experienced depression – we aren’t asking you to empathise as we know that isn’t possible – but spare some understanding for those of us that do.