About Me

Kent, United Kingdom
I have the perfect family but still struggle to find the light in the darkness of post-natal depression.

Monday, 30 June 2008


This may end up as several different posts after a day of musing....in between working, of course!
My first thought was about Mark and his role as a parent. After writing yesterday's blog I did consider retracting part of it, but then I thought that would be a bit harsh. Let me explain...
He is indeed a star and very involved with Tasha's life, but so he should be. It's strange that I feel that I have to publicly recognise what he does, when she is his daughter just as much as mine.
No one is going around saying I am a star for changing my job to work part time, and looking after her by myself for the hours and hours he is at work. And in those long months of maternity leave, no one praised me for the hours and hours and days and days of solo childcare.
Equally I get no recognition for taking her to the park, to sing and sign, to play dates (okay, so they are more for me than her!), or for organising fun and stimulating activities at home.
I'm not saying I want "a putty medal on a string" as my granny used to say, but it's odd how different attitudes to parenting are. Maybe that's why so many women have problems, because we are just expected to know what to do and how to do it, and then to get on with it. But if a man even changes a nappy you would think he has found a cure for cancer.
Right - that's that bit out of the way!
Next on the list was an update on the good old happy pills....
I had decided to do 10mg every three days. But to be honest, I'm useless at remembering when I took them and when the next one should be. So now I'm just taking one when I feel like I need it, which I think is about the same...
But that is a bit worrying - I can see this continuing for ever and that's not what I want. I don't know how much of the anxious or tearful feelings are normal and experienced by everyone.
After all, it's not as if it's a popular topic around the water cooler: "Did you see that RSPCA advert? Did it make you cry? No? Oh well - best continue with the tablets then...."
At the moment, the triggers seem to be the usual tear-jerking adverts, some songs, magazine articles, anecdotes and TV programmes. Is this the same for everyone? Or am I existing in a weepy world all by myself?
I've learnt to identify a lot of the other emotions as "normal" - like today when Tash decided she was very tired in the middle of her bath and proceeded to complain all the way through washing her hair, brushing her teeth, drying her off, getting her in her pyjamas and putting her to bed - and even after that - and I got frustrated. I think anyone would...except perhaps superhero dads ; ).
But I'm not used to this other stuff. When other people on happy pills talked about feeling numb I couldn't understand it, because I could, and did, still cry. I realise know that it must have been muted somehow because it was nowhere near as bad as this.
Should I therefore pop a pill when I feel myself welling up? Or go for that stiff upper lip approach and hope it will pass? Who knows....
I'm seeing the lovely therapist on Saturday so will let you know if she has any answers...

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Siege, sunburn and signing...

What a dramatic weekend! And I expected it to be quite dull...there's another life lesson for me!
The original plan was to man the charity car park in Whitstable with my visitor information centre petition, and the RSPCA who are the Kentish Gazette's charity for the year.
And it started very well, and was lots of fun meeting visitors and talking to them about Whitstable and why they came.
But then we started hearing sirens. Then more sirens. Then people started talking about a road block at the harbour.
So I'm afraid my campaigning persona was replaced by reporter Liz, who was off to investigate! There were plenty of rumours but after four hours of hanging around, in the burning sun with nowhere to get shade, the 23-year-old in the flat came out and it was all over. It was actually a bit dull and the police response - dozens of armed officers, a sniper trained on the flat, dog units, more than 15 police cars plus meat wagon, seemed a bit extreme but of course that's not what they say.
You can read all about it here....
and of course there will be a full report in this week's fantastic Whitstable Gazette. And I can assure you the words "hanging around" won't feature at all!
His family turned up at the scene but weren't keen to talk to me. I can understand their feelings, especially at a stressful time, but if I had been given the chance to have a meaningful conversation with them I would have liked to have pointed out that by speaking to me they could have made sure their son/brother/nephew was portrayed as the person they knew, instead of the person the police believe him to be. And besides, we're just doing our job so respect works both ways...
Tash was safely at home with Mark through all this drama, and apparently being a bit of a pickle. Although he's a real star at doing his bit, and his shifts make it a lot easier than for most men, he rarely has to deal with her alone for more than a few hours so part of me was sneakily pleased she was playing him up.
I was less pleased when she continued to play up when I got in and we had another one of 'Those' bedtimes where I had to stay upstairs for half an hour till she was safely in the land of nod.
Today was a busy one but no work, apart from this evening when I was writing up all sorts of bits and pieces - not the siege, as in this multimedia age I had to get something done for the website asap.
We managed to buy another truck-load of toys from the Church Street boot fair and then went to Wildwood this afternoon for an NCT party which included sing and sign with our regular and lovely teacher.
The inlaws were down for the weekend after spending a week in Devon with Mark's younger brother and the famous Jake, who is just a day younger than Tasha.
My feelings towards him (as an entity, not a baby - he's a lovely little chap) are confusing - when Jane and I were pregnant together I thought we would end up bonding and getting very close. It didn't exactly happen like that, partly because although we were both expecting we had different experiences and expectations and are different people. Which should not be a surprise.
I would have liked us to spend more time together after they were both born but again it hasn't really worked out. And instead there are an awful lot of comparisions between the two of them.
Again, it's completely understandable, and sometimes I'm curious as to what Jake does, or how much he weights, or what he eats, but sometimes I would like to be able to say something without the inevitable comment about Jake that follows. I'm sure Jane gets the same, but maybe she is a more confident parent than I am....
I think the thing that bothers me most is that there seems to be a perception that Jake is a difficult child and always has been, while Tash is perceived as easy. I'm not in a position to comment on whether that's true or not, but the message I get through all of this is that if Jane is struggling it's understandable, but there's no reason for me to. It's fine now and I can deal with the assumptions but when I really was struggling it made it that much harder to say so.
Anyway, long-suffering husband is starting to huff and puff so I think blogging time is over. More confused family ranting is bound to follow soon...

Friday, 27 June 2008

Need vs want...

It's an age old debate, I know, but that doesn't stop me from adding my views!
I got thinking about it today after a good friend advised me against trying to help someone because I didn't need the extra hassle....
She's probably right - she usually is, annoyingly, but that won't stop me doing it.
It's something I've been discussing with my therapist in our last few sessions, and disagreeing with her about too.
Unfortunately (or fortunately!) I'm one of those people with a very active self-sacrifice schema (see here if you're baffled already... http://www.schematherapy.com/id30.htm) which means I have a bit of an over-developed need to help people.
I have real trouble seeing that as a bad thing, and when I voiced that to my lovely therapist, she said it wasn't necessarily a negative unless my desire to help others impacted on me.
Which would seem simple enough, but I think that is where the problem lies. I genuinely have difficulties accepting that whatever I want or think I need at any one point in time can be more important than someone who genuinely needs my help (note to colleagues - I am aware of this difficulty so that doesn't mean I'll do all your work for you!).
For example, a few of my friends have or are about to have their second child. And as I can remember so clearly how soul-destroyingly awful life with one newborn was, and can imagine how difficult it must be when you add in a toddler as well, I am ready and willing to help however I can. Even if that means going off on a rescue mission when I'd like a quiet afternoon at home.
Is that wrong? I would say that if I'm doing it cos it makes me feel good or needed, which I'm not, then it would be a bad thing. But I think I'm doing it because I don't want others to have the kind of endless, bleak, excruciating hours and days I had when Tash was tiny.
Maybe there's an implication there that I wanted someone to do the same for me. I think there's some truth in that. And while people were as supportive as they could be, with the knowledge they had at the time, there is probably a lot more they could have done. But just because they didn't, does that mean I shouldn't? Surely if you believe in karma, or any kind of "do as you would be done by" philosophy, you would want to help in the hope that should you need something in the future those same friends would stand ready to help?
There can be a bit of a difficulty there though - if those friends don't have the same self-sacrifice schema going on there's a risk they may genuinely want to help but feel that time with their children, husband or at work is more important.
I'm still not sure how to find a way through all this, but for the moment I'll keep going with my rescue missions and building up those brownie points. If it's not hurting anyone but possibly me then I think it's worth doing.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Fluff returns!

And so do the exclamation marks!
Apologies to all those who have suffered the doom and gloom of the last few days - you will be relieved to hear that the sun has come out again in my world.
Mark and I have not yet had a proper conversation about things but have pencilled in a slot next Friday....
And he did read this blog which hopefully gave him some insight.
I have reluctantly admitted that perhaps I was wrong (yes, you did read that right, and no, I'm not repeating it!) to try to go straight from 20mg of happy pills to nothing, so I'm now trying 10mg every three days.
And it may be that, or just the fact that I had a good rant and a Tash-style paddy, but I am now feeling much more positive about things.
So, today's Bridget Jones-style update: happy pills taken: 10mg, stories written: loads and loads and loads, and some of them were quite good - check out tomorrow's Whitstable Gazette to have a look, or kentishgazette.co.uk, arguments with top-level work people: none (although my editor did make a sarcastic comment about me trying to do his job, but I'm sure that doesn't count!).
And positives for the day - I managed to get everyone up, fed, watered, dressed (not the dogs and cats you'll be relieved to hear!) and to where they were supposed to be, sort of on time, AND i put the washing out!
And finished the paper before deadline, and left at 5pm!
Negatives....am really struggling to think of any, and that's surely a massive step forward.
And I sent an email from my hotmail account to a sort-of-work contact and didn't take off the signature that has this blog address on the bottom, which really does signify that I'm not ashamed.
I'm even coming to terms with the half a tablet every three days situation - it's so much better than the days when my pills were the first things I packed for a weekend away and the first thing I thought about when I woke each morning.
Coming off them has been wierd though and I didn't realise until now how much they numbed things. I'm no longer immune to those awful RSPCA/Dogs Trust/NSPCC - the list goes on - adverts and even found myself welling up at some stupid story in The Sun! But I think learning to deal with the realities of everyday emotions is part of that "journey" thing, and another step back towards life as it was.
In terms of who I am now versus who I was before, it's still hard to think about that clearly. But I think people do change as they go through life anyway, and a good relationship has the capacity to cope with that. After all, Mark and I will have been together for 10 years in November and I'm certainly not the same person I was when we met! Nor is he, for that matter - he has learnt infinite capacities for patience and tolerance as well as how to change nappies!
And I do think the therapy is worth it - for me, if no one else. Besides, I fought so long to get it and tried so many other useless things that I'm not giving up now!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


Does anyone know how to get from Witsend to happy families? Do you think a sat nav would help?
Apparently that's where my lovely long-suffering husband is - witsend, not happy families.
And at the moment I'm wondering how to deal with it now - make light of it, brush it under the carpet or have a self-indulgent moment about how rubbish things are.
It's something I have been struggling with since last night when we had a massive row about things - ironically sparked off because I was writing last night's blog entry! I see this as my headspace and a place to think things through, which is really valuable because the reality of life with a toddler, a demanding, albeit allegedly part-time job and a husband who works shifts is that me-time is something in short supply.
But he sees my time on the computer as neglecting him and a trivial act of selfishness.
Clearly I'm right (!) but the question is how to move on from here.
At the moment, I'm still not ashamed but I'm angry about what this stupid illness/situation has done to my life.
Could it be that the post-therapy, almost drug-free me is not better than the previous one?
I thought things were going really well but according to the long-suffering and generally saintly husband I have been hell to live with and the result is the trip to Witsend....
A colleague said something similar a few weeks ago - not that she was at her wits' end, but that she feared i was slipping and had lost the ability to think rationally and at the time I was convinced she was wrong.
But with this input from someone who knows me so well I'm now questioning that - and myself - which surely is an indication that rational thought is a thing of the past?
How can it be that 18 months on things can still be so rubbish at times? Yes, I've made it out of bed, got showered, dressed, even put contact lenses in (although failed at putting make-up on this morning!), Tash has been fed, played with, dressed and dropped at my mums and I'm doing okay at work, which is all a huge difference to things even a year ago.
But if my marriage is suffering, and ultimately then my family, has it all been worth it?
Answers on a postcard please - and maybe I'll turn them into an installation for the Whitstable Biennale....

Monday, 23 June 2008


It's not as catchy as that Alphabeat (one word? Two words? Someone tell me!) song Fascination, but it's how i'm feeling today.
In fact, I'm tempted to do a Bridget Jones style assessment - amount of happy pills consumed: 10mg, stories written: not enough, arguments with top-level people in company: several.
So, to go back to the beginning, last night was less dramatic after my post but still not fantastic - every time I drifted off to sleep i woke myself up cos I was getting panicked about it happening again.
And then Tash decided 1.30am would be a good time to wake so that all added up to a bad night all round. But Mark went off to work okay, I managed to get Tash and myself ready and got to work a mere five minutes late - hurrah!
But that didn't mean all was straightforward from there. There was doom and gloom at work which took a valuable hour out of my day, which was an hour less I could write about the glory that is Whitstable's Biennale art festival...
That would probably have been enough but then I had to deal with a family row brewing during my lunch hour, managed to volunteer myself to act as mediator if needed (damn that self-sacrifice schema!) and returned to work with low defences and ended up agreeing to cover a council meeting on Thursday night - AND to pick up and drop off a woman whose sanity is more questionable than mine!
It's for a good cause though - my worthwhile Save Whitstable's VIC campaign - so am trying to rise above it all.
That all seems like quite enough for one day, doesn't it? But not one of my days - when I got home Mark decided a family dog walk would be fun. Except a family dog walk with a tired and grumpy toddler who insists on walking, then falls over several times, is definitely not fun.
And when said tired and grumpy toddler decides against sleeping when it's bedtime, that's even less fun.
But for now, she's in bed, Mark has found himself a mission and I've just got to clear up and do the dogs' medication before today's to do list is almost done.
I'm hoping all this keeping busy will distract from the fact that I feel like a hopeless failure for going back on to the pills but I do see it's probably a good idea, for now, at least. But I also see that 18 months of all this feels like quite long enough and I'd like to start a day without popping a pill.
Patience is something I'm desperately trying to teach Tash - so I guess I'd better learn some myself too!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

too ambitious?

so puppies and kittens have teeth and claws.
Or alternatively, you can be as fluffy and positive as you like but sometimes things go wrong anyway.
i had a stark lesson in that today.
We've got a guest dog staying with us for a week who's a lot younger than ours and consequently more active. And Mark's on earlies.
I promise this is all relevant....
Anyway, to avoid waking Tash up at a ridiculous hour to try and walk them before i go to work, we decided it would be easier to do them before mark leaves - ie at 4am, as he leaves at 5. So we'll be taking it in turns on the early shift till thursday when i don't have to go to work so all returns to normal.
So anyway, again, i went to bed early in preparation and then had the most terrifying dream/hallucination/mental experience.
I didn't know where I lived - i thought we were living in a house in london and this one was empty, and then i was worried about the cats, and then i thought it could be a solution to my sister's accommodation issues, then i thought there were people in the house (wherever it was), and i felt like i was underwater and every so often could poke my head up and scream but no one heard or could understand.
Then i thought the men in white coats were already coming and i was desperately trying to communicate with them, and the other people who i was sure were also around, but no one could understand and no sound came out.
In my head I was screaming but nothing was coming out. I could see the room, i could hear things (and things that weren't there) but i couldn't move or talk or anything.
Eventually, after what felt like all night, but couldn't have been more than 20 mins, i made a supreme effort to come downstairs, where i completely fell to pieces on poor mark who was trying to watch some football match....
An hour of hysterics later and the men in white coats are not coming, but I have been ordered back onto a low dose of the dreaded medication.
Especially after finding this on several sites...not least here: http://www.mind.org.uk/Information/Seroxatwithdrawalinformation.htm

"Withdrawal symptoms include: dizziness, sensory disturbance (such as pins and needles), anxiety, sleep disturbances (including intense dreams), agitation, tremor, nausea, headache, sweating and confusion, numbness, tingling and sensations that resemble having electric shocks."

At the moment I'm still actually terrified, and was on the brink of ordering mark to take tomorrow off so i wouldn't be left alone with tash, but will see what the rest of the night brings...

Saturday, 21 June 2008

puppies and kittens

.....well, if MP Tom Harris can blog about puppies and kittens then so can I! (see here http://tomcharris.wordpress.com/ if any of you have been on mars for a week....or, if like Mark, the controversy completely passed you by...)
But Daily Mail headlines aside, I can sort of see what poor Tom was trying to say. It's a sentiment I'm starting to share in my post-therapy, drug-free world.
Sometimes, when everyone is moaning on about things being awful, I do just want to remind them how lucky they are to live in a country where in the main things are generally safe and stable, with a plentiful supply of food in the shops and all kinds of options open to us in terms of education, housing, transport and entertainment.
Then there are the simple things that people often miss - like sunshine, the sea and yes, puppies and kittens!
During one of the many debates about what Tom did or didn't mean the presenter decided to make a reasons to be cheerful list.
So following his example, here's mine - but it's in no particular order, in case I end up criticised for putting sunshine above Tasha!

Good friends
Tasha cuddles
Early morning dog walks
Hot chocolate
Unexpected texts
Early mornings without dog walks filled with snuggles instead
A job I love
A fantastic therapist!

And talking about my fantastic therapist, I don't want to become an LA-style therapy bore, but I can think of so many people who would benefit from something similar. I started off thinking we would just deal with issues around Tasha and me but we've covered everything from different ways of parenting to asserting myself at work. And more importantly I'm accepting people for who they are - me included. Which makes life a whole lot less stressful!
One of my good friends is considering seeing someone to deal with one particular issue and I'm desperate for her to try it because I think she could be surprised at how much other stuff it helps with.
So if anyone wants her details, just let me know.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

childminders and company

No exclamation mark again today - but there should be, after childminders if not all of it.
Because today, dear readers, we achieved something incredible - I left Tash at the childminder's for a whole hour!
The last time we attempted it, about two months ago, it was a bit of a disaster - she cried the whole time and consequently when I picked her up she got the message that if she cried I came back.
But I - we - were determined to perservere (despite opposition from her grandparents - but that's another post!) because we really believe she will benefit from it in the end, and we fear without some alternative caregiver beyond me, mark or her grandparents she will find pre-school a traumatic shock.
So after weeks of "settling in" visits, where we took her and stayed with her, today was the big day.
I was given the responsibility of leaving her, and carefully prepared her by telling her how much fun she was going to have (with Mark in the background muttering about abandonment and traumas....) and then took her round. She was quickly playing with the toy kitchen set so I told her I was going and went! And stood outside for a few minutes listening as the screams got louder and louder and LOUDER and even more angry.
Going home seemed like a better option, so I did, and counted the minutes till we could call and see how things were.
And do you know what? Things were fine! She had stopped crying completely within five minutes of me leaving, was a bit clingy to Julia, one half of the childminding team, for about 20 mins, then toddled off to play. And by the time I picked her up she had even made friends with Malcolm, the other half, and was not keen to come home!
I'm so proud of how she managed it - and of myself for going through with it. It won't be a surprise to some people that even this morning I was thinking maybe we could just abandon the whole idea and spend longer settling her at preschool, but I'm so pleased I made myself do it.
Julia had previously picked up on my reluctance to leave her, and suggested it was in fact me who had more of a problem with it than Tasha, and she may have been right (shock horror - the crudg was wrong about something?!).
We're doing the same next week, then they are away for two weeks, then one more week of short stays then she starts properly. And at the moment i'm feeling quite optimistic about it all!

Now, on to company. I haven't had any today! Which last year would have been a huge trauma - I simply couldn't cope being left on my own with Tash, or with nothing to do all day except hours and hours of baby stuff. Luckily I had some excellent friends who were quite truthfully lifesavers and helped distract me with coffee trips, walks in the park and outings to Canterbury.
But today, for one reason or another, they were all busy, leaving me with no plans at all. I can still vividly remember the feelings of panic I had when it happened before, and my utter desperation to get out and see anyone (even some of the more scary alpha-mum or yummy mummy types would do!). But today Tash and I have snuggled on the sofa, read some books, played peekaboo, had some musical time and eaten lunch. She's asleep now, hence blog-time, but it's been remarkably trauma-free.

But sadly that means I have no excuse for not doing the chores, so I'd best at least make a token effort! More soon...

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


Wow - I managed a title without an exclamation mark - but it was an effort! Maybe it's cos they are so rare at work that I need to overcompensate here.....

Anyway, I continued with the new open and honest me today and "confessed" to a friend how I had been feeling. I'm not sure why I feel like it's a confession, as if I've done something bad...but that's still how it feels, and there is still that fear that people will judge me or leap on the "mental" bandwagon. Although I'm pleased to say there was none of that today, and in fact my friend confessed to something a bit similar - see what happens if you share!

But it got me thinking about how difficult I found it to access the help I needed, despite all you read in magazines and hear about how you just have to ask for help and it will be there. There is perhaps a fine line to be drawn between terrifying people who are already anxious, and being realistic, but some of the information out there is misleading, at least in my experience.

Take this site, for instance: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Postnataldepression/Pages/Questionstoask.aspx?url=Pages/Questionstoasktab.aspx

Luckily I didn't find it when I was ill, but if I had, some of it would have caused me concern. Like the fact that "sometimes it can last for months"... It was well over a year before I even started to feel better - and I was diagnosed when Tash was six weeks old, although I knew before then.

Maybe I'm a particularly rare case (and let's face it, we all know I'm special!) but I think that is totally unrealistic. The official view I was given is that it takes several weeks for the anti-depressants most people end up taking to kick in, and that's without taking into account any waiting lists for counselling or therapy, the period of learning to deal with it, and then several weeks coming off the tablets.

I was told to expect to be on the medication for six months minimum (by one GP at least; my lovely anti-drugs GP thought a month was more realistic and was less than impressed when I asked for my dose to be increased!) and I think that is a more helpful way to look at it. When you are already feeling a failure, extra pressure of expecting a recovery quickly can surely only make things worse.

To be fair to that website, if you navigate through to the real stories section then the content is more reflective of my experiences, but there are other issues that are not mentioned. Like that some GPs think medication alone is the answer. Or that some therapy is less helpful than others - I remember my time within a group therapy setting which ranged between chatting about holiday plans to being told that seeking help outside the group showed a lack of commitment.

In case all of this is overwhelming the pink fluff with grey goo, I can happily report that eventually I found a fantastic therapist, although I had to pay privately to see her. But the £70 a session, although it means Mark has to work extra overtime shifts, is a small price to pay for our family stability and my return to being me.

I guess the point I was trying to make in all of this waffle is that it's worth continuing the fight - the help IS out there somewhere, but it's not as easy as you may be led to believe. And recovery is not always as quick as you would like or expect.

Enough waffle - it's late, the working week is at an end for me and I've done too much typing already! Back to my other life of play, giggles and fun...


I am not ashamed - and nor are a whole lot of other people, apparently, as when I tried to use that as the blog address too it was already taken!
I came up with the title for this blog after one of those life-changing facebook moments, which actually happen more often than you might thing (like when your ex tracks you down!).
A lot of people don't know I had PND, or much about the difficulties I've encounted since having Tasha (oops - I almost used that 'journey' word again!) because it is not something that often comes up in conversation.
And now things are getting back to normal it seemed rather odd to announce it to the world. So instead, I joined a group on facebook, called I'm not ashamed to admit I suffered with post-natal depression.
It was perfect - all my facebook friends, which includes a lot of family members, would see it when they logged on as part of their news streams, and it would avoid any awkward conversations!
And I started thinking from there - if I'm genuinely not ashamed, which I'm not, why not take it one step further and actually talk about it? But there is a limit to how much suffering my friends should have to endure in terms of heartfelt, deep and meaningful conversations, so this blog was born.
But if that puts you off, please stick with it - the plan is to tackle all sorts of subjects, from the need for more pink fluff in the world to saving Whitstable's visitor information centre (did i mention that facebook group? please join!).
And feel free to leave comments - as long as they are fluffy!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

drug free!

As of today, I am officially drug free! Off meds, clean, no more happy pills!
It was sort of under doctor's advice; I have been cutting down for several weeks but this morning I had a bulimic moment when I was reunited with my breakfast as I tried to take one of the stupid diamond shaped tablets and it got stuck in my throat and made me puke. And as I kept forgetting to take them it just seemed like the final straw so I've decided to stop.
And it feels great!
Of course, it's only day one of my new, post PND, drug-free life so it's a bit early to tell, but it really feels like the beginning of the end of this journey back to me.
I know loads of people hate the word journey in situations like this but that's what it feels like it's been - like I've been clawing my way back from the bottom of a cave towards the outside world, and I'm only just starting to rejoin reality.
This blog itself is another big step - my first foray into public blogging, as me instead of a carefully created altar ego. So please be gentle!