On returning back to blogging

Hi everyone,

Hope all is well with you.  It’s great to be back, writing again.  I just had at a look at the last post I had written, in August 2016, which was on self care, and, thought I would bring you up to speed about what has been happening since that last post.  I remember I had sat at my computer many times over the past three years, but, I just couldn’t bring myself to write.  So, I closed my laptop and put it to the side while I worked on myself.

I have to say, my mental health over those last three years was not great.  I was functioning in the world and being a good mum to Leo, but, there were times when I felt pangs of pain and sadness.  I had been in therapy after being diagnosed with post natal depression, for about a year, but I couldn’t go anywhere near talking about Tony in those sessions.  After much deliberation, I decided to stop therapy as I knew we were nearing uncovering that pain and I was not prepared to talk.

Jo and Leo

In hindsight, that was an error of judgement on my behalf.  As time went on, the pain and sadness grew bigger than me and after chatting to Hugh, I decided it was time to go back to therapy.  This time I knew I needed to talk.  As luck would have it, I found an incredible psychologist and quite quickly, I’d say after about 2 or 3 sessions, Tony came up in discussion and I just howled.  I cried all the tears I didn’t shed at his funeral, I cried for my mum who was missing her son, I cried for my sisters missing their brother, and, I cried for myself for coming to the realisation that Tony was never coming back.Tony

During this time, it also became evident that I longed for another baby.  So, throughout the therapy sessions we spoke about what that would like, the fears that I had of experiencing PND again and the challenges of being a mum to two children whilst living with anxiety.  It took another 12 months before I felt robust enough to begin the process of trying for another baby.

 

My next post will be all about Lily (another baby after PND).  Yes, Lily deserves a whole post about herself and you will see why in a little while.

Love and hugs to you all.

Josie Smyth xx

If you or someone you know is struggling from perinatal anxiety or depression please contact PANDA’s national helpline on 1300 726 306 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Josie Smyth is a Melbourne mum of two.  Three months after giving birth in 2014, Josie suffered severe anxiety and depression and was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Post Natal Depression.  Then in 2018, four months after the birth of her second child, Lily, PND reared its ugly head again.  Since those experience, a healthier, happier and a better person emerged.  Through recovery, Josie wanted to give back.  Josie is currently volunteering with Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) as a community educator.  Josie is a mental health advocate and, is inspired to give hope to parents facing the same challenges that, even in the darkest days, recovery from PND can be possible.

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On The Circle of Security….

When I became unwell with postnatal depression, I would often have reoccurring thoughts that something bad would happen to my baby.  These scary and intrusive thoughts stopped me from leaving the house, stopped my son exploring his new world, which I came to realise is a need, and, had a negative impact on our early bonding. Looking back, I now realise these thoughts and my behaviour was very limiting for both my son and I. 

Part of my journey through counselling sessions with my psychologist, was to talk about the scary and intrusive thoughts I was having, and, how I could overcome them.  We also talked about how I could improve the bond between my son and I.  My psychologist suggested to me that I would greatly benefit from attending an eight-week program called The Circle of Security.  I had never heard of The Circle of Security and was keen to do anything that would help me become well again, and, also, reconnect with my son.  I went home after that appointment and did some research on the topic.

I found out that the Circle of Security was based on more than 50 years of research and was founded by friends, Glen Cooper, Kent Hoffman and Bert Powell, who worked together in clinical practice for many years.  They essentially, designed a program to enhance the attachment security between parents and children, by looking at the child’s needs.  In essence, when a child’s needs are met, they become secure children who tend to be happier, solve problems on their own, have higher self-esteem and have healthy relationships with others, including their parents.   Upon reading the benefits of The Circle of Security, I immediately signed up to the program. 

I am not going to lie, I was anxious about attending the first day of the program.  I was to attend these classes on my own.  However, those feelings faded as the warm and lovely faces of the program coordinators greeted me at the door. The person running the program was a clinical psychologist so I knew I was in good hands.  I was offered a cup of tea before settling into my seat. The course was run in a group situation and I was glad I was not alone on this journey.  After settling in and going through our introductions, the program coordinators explained the methodology of the program.

In basic terms, The Circle of Security program looks at the relationship between a parent and a child in a circle, with the hands of the parents/caregivers being at one end.  These hands are open with one hand allowing the child the freedom to explore their world and the other hand providing a safe haven for the child to come back to when they need comfort and protection.  Over the course of the 8 weeks, I learnt exactly what the circle meant, in terms of the hands and I learnt a lot about my son’s emotional needs which were not being met due to my illness and about myself.  I also learnt the importance of being wiser, kinder, bigger and stronger.

I know that children don’t come with an instruction manual and knowing how to meet our children’s needs is not always easy. I have a profound amount of guilt knowing that I was not meeting my son’s needs when I was unwell, and, I found that the Circle of Security Program provided me with comfort knowing that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and, that good enough is just that, “good enough”.

There were aspects of The Circle of Security program that I struggled with, in particular, as a parent/caregiver we must be bigger, stronger, wiser, kind and whenever necessary take charge. However, there are times, when I am busy, tired and emotional and I may not be wholly present for my son.  It is then, that I need to remind myself about being “good enough”. I also found that at times during the program, I became emotional.  Thankfully, I was able to debrief with my psychologist at my therapy sessions.  I therefore, encourage those who wish to enrol in the program, that they have a self-care plan, which may include talking to a therapist.

In saying that, the benefits I received from attending the program were not obvious at first but later became huge improvements.  For example,

  • The recurring thoughts of harm coming to my son faded and we began to leave the house more and more.  For example, we started off with the short walks around the block and getting a coffee together at the local coffee shop. As time went on, we joined gymbaroo, the local library story time, swimming lessons and going to the park to play on the equipment.  My son’s need to explore his new world were being met.
  • I also learnt to read his cues to better understand my son and his emotional needs.
  • I learnt to sit with my son’s negative emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness etc.  To be honest, I am still not comfortable with this and I know this is something I need to work on.
  • I learnt the benefits of time in with my son rather than time out.
  • Most importantly, I was able to reconnect with my son, and for that, I am forever grateful.

COS certificate

Overall, I would highly recommend the program, particularly for those parents who have gone through challenges, like I have, such as postnatal depression. I do believe that The Circle of Security program, together with debriefing sessions with my psychologist were another factor on journey to recovery.

If you would like more information on the Circle of Security, please see the link below:

http://circleofsecurity.net/

I have also attached information about Circle of Security Parenting programs around Australia.

http://www.nsw.relationships.com.au/courses/reled/groups_library/circleofsecurity.aspx

http://www.centreforparenteducation.com.au/

https://www.mackillop.org.au/circle-of-security-western-melbourne

http://www.openground.com.au/mindful-parenting-program.html

If you or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety and depression please call PANDA’s support helpline on 1300 726 306.

Love and Smiles

Josie xx