Self-care

empty cupSELF-CARE – the things you do to replenish your mental, physical and emotional health or “filling up your cup”.

When I first became a mum, all I could think of was my baby and his wellbeing. I also felt guilty if I was not 100% focussed on him. Ultimately, I forgot to take care of myself. Part of my recovery from postnatal depression was to think of self-care strategies that I could use, particularly when my “cup” was starting to empty. Here are a few that I turn to:

Sleep – I love it. Who doesn’t? Babies and toddlers – that’s who! My son, Leo seems to wake often and early. When I don’t get enough sleep I start to feel really anxious. When I am anxious, I struggle to fall sleep. Some strategies I use to help me relax and unwind before bed are to make myself a cup of camomile tea with a teaspoon of honey, or, a mug of hot chocolate. I use hot milk instead of boiling water and a stick of cinnamon. The smell of cinnamon and something about hot milk makes me sleepy. Other times, I will pull out my mindfulness colouring in book and do some colouring.

Hot chocolate    colouring in

Eat – When I was really unwell with postnatal depression, I was spag bolhardly eating. I was lucky though, that family and friends noticed and helped with cooking meals or brought lunch over and made sure I was eating. Since recovering, I have now found a new love for cooking and eating. At the moment, I love to cook up a big batch of soup, which lasts a few days in the fridge. My favourite at the moment is Karen Martini’s chicken and corn soup. I also cook a whole pot of bolognaise sauce which I freeze in batches. Sometimes, pretty rarely actually, we will organise a babysitter for Leo and hubby and I will enjoy a meal at one of our favourite restaurants – I wish we did this more often!

Exercise – I am not a fan of exercise; however, I do enjoy taking our dog for a walk to the local park. We usually meet other dog walkers there and it makes me happy seeing him play and run around with the other doggies. Another thing I do which I never thought I would enjoy is yoga. I find the breathing exercises and different poses help me to stay focussed and quiet my mind. My favourite classes at the moment are power flow and yin.

doggies

Other strategies I use for self-care:

Shower time – In the past, I would never leave Leo out of my sight – this meant putting him in a bouncer and bringing him into the bathroom with me while I showered. As I started to recover I really started to enjoy showering alone. Having that space to myself allows me to switch off.

Music – Those who know me well, know that I love my RnB – hello Fox FM’s RnB Fridays! I make any excuse to get in the car with Leo and we (mainly me) bop along to the music. I am also a closet Taylor Swift fan and will put her music on when I am doing mundane tasks like folding the washing. In fact, Taylor Swift’s Shake it off was one of the first songs I really enjoyed when I started to feel better.

Asking for help – I still find this difficult, but I am definitely so much better at it than I was in the past. I get help with the cooking, whereby, family will cook us lunch or dinner. I also get help with babysitting so that I can go to my appointments or go out for dinner. I also find calling my family and friends and having a good chat over the phone, particularly when I am having bad day, really helps. I do believe in the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” and I only wish I had asked for help sooner!

Speaking to a professional – For me, this means once a month, or, sometimes once a fortnight; I will meet with my psychologist for an hour. Having that hour to talk to my psychologist helps me make meaning of all my thoughts and feelings. I am usually reluctant to go prior to the session, but afterwards I am grateful I went.

So there you have it, these are just a few self-care strategies I use to look after myself and they work for me. What are some of yours?

Love and smiles Josie xx

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

Links:

http://cookingwithawallflower.com/2015/12/16/cinnamon-hot-chocolate/

 https://www.bookdepository.com/Mindfulness-Colouring-Book-Emma-Farrarons/9780752265629

 http://www.karenmartini.com/cook/recipes/chicken-corn-noodle-soup-polpette

http://karenmartini.com/cook/recipes/sneaky-spaghetti-bolognese

http://www.yogatogrow.com.au/

 http://www.fox.com.au/scoopla/music/blog/2015/6/foxs-ultimate-rnb-playlist/

 

 

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Guest Post – Zelma Broadfoot, The Postnatal Project

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I would like to thank Zelma Broadfoot from The Postnatal Project for the following piece written for Smiling After PND.  Zelma Broadfoot is the Founder of The Postnatal Project, a supportive and informative website and blog – incorporating a social work background with personal experience to create a safe place for parents and their families to explore treatment options and self-help solutions for a self-directed, sustainable and soulful recovery from postnatal depression. The Postnatal Project is dedicated to increasing awareness and reducing stigma of postnatal depression.

This is Zelma’s experience through postnatal depression….

My daughter, Cadence Grace, has just turned one. There were times where I didn’t think I’d make it – I didn’t think I’d survive what motherhood had presented me with. But I’m here – telling my story.

I entered the birthing arena clutching a hypnobirthing guidebook and a sense of ease. I left with scars. A large scar on my lower abdomen – and an even bigger scar in my heart and on my soul – memories, trauma, disappointment. But I didn’t see the second scar until we left the hospital. I remember sitting in the hospital bed – in excruciating pain, sleep deprived and still making sense of everything I had experienced – and saying to my fiancé, Brad: “isn’t it great that I avoided the day 3 blues? Everyone said I’d be crying my eyes out over nothing today.” Now that I look back, I didn’t avoid it. I just didn’t feel it – I was numb, empty, broken.

Everything suddenly felt like it was falling in around me. I imagined that I had dug a deep hole in the sand to protect myself. The sand was made up of grains of expectations, hopes, dreams and plans. Suddenly, I was no longer safe in my hole. The wind was stripping away the sand – grain by grain – living me bare, cold, scared and ashamed. Cadence cried. A lot. Breastfeeding hurt. A lot. I have never felt so helpless. This was not how I expected motherhood would be – but I couldn’t think that. Motherhood is beautiful, sacred, a blessing – it’s not meant to be this hard. There must be something wrong with me.

I started to feel panicked as soon as the sun would go down. My fiancé, Brad, would say: “Zel, are you alright?” I would say that I was. But the tears would flow – and they wouldn’t stop. We both agreed that it was the hormones and that I just needed some sleep.

Nights were the hardest. I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. I remember trying to use my hypnobirthing relaxation techniques – counting backwards from 40, pressing my tongue up against my teeth to relax my jaw and repeating positive affirmations. But a voice inside said “hypnobirthing didn’t help you then and it won’t help you now”. Cadence would feed every two hours and some nights, I would be awake until the next feeding – lying in bed, thinking about whether it would be better to die now while Cadence wouldn’t remember me. I recall thinking that she’d be better off, anyway.

These thoughts were overwhelming – I couldn’t keep them to myself any longer. I booked an appointment with my doctor the next day. I asked to complete an Edinburgh Scale. The midwife said “if you score 8 or higher, we might start thinking you’re experiencing postnatal depression”. She stopped adding up the scores half-way through. I felt relief. I felt like I was in safe hands.

I saw a psychologist for a while and maintained regular contact with my GP and clinic midwife. I also trialed some medication. I was very proactive in seeking support – even requesting a referral to a mother and baby unit in the city. But my blog and online resource has been paramount in moving forward, healing and choosing a path of recovery. Expressing my authentic self to the world – and helping others to know that they aren’t alone on this journey – has changed me. I feel free.

For more information about The Postnatal Project, please visit http://www.thepostnatalproject.com

You can also find The Postnatal Project on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Love and Smiles

Josie xx

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

Guest Post – Lex Gully on her experience through PND & PTSD

A huge thanks to our Guest Blogger –  Lex Gully, a London mum of one who bravely shares her experience of PND and PTSD below.  

Hey there, I’m Lex, I have a 16 month old boy, myself, my baby and partner are on a journey of my mental health recovery. Here is how it started…

My birth was traumatic in a nutshell no pain relief worked at all, it meant that when I had my emergency c section I felt every single thing. As soon as my son was taken out of my belly I was put to sleep. In that split second all I saw was his little bum and then nothing for nearly 48 hours. The traumatic birth resulted in my milk not coming through (this is what I was told, not what I believed at the time), despite spending nearly a week glued to a double electric breast pump in neonatal. Already just a few days after my son was born the nightmares started so I feared sleeping, I felt too exhausted and nauseous to eat, and I cried all the time, every time my baby cried I took it as a personal rejection from my son. I thought he hated me because I couldn’t breast feed. I told the midwives on the ward how I felt but I was continuously told this was normal after the birth I went through and I just needed rest. I’m not being funny, but rest with a new-born? Even if my partner took over I still worried about my baby and was up all night.

That is how it started for me, my symptoms got progressively worse, I had psychology throughout my pregnancy and at my follow up appointment after birth she told me I had post-traumatic stress disorder and postnatal depression and that I needed to see a psychiatrist asap. I had a mental health assessment done at my home where it was agreed I would get daily visits from a mental health nurse and started on medication and intense psychological therapy. I got worse and worse and worse. Nothing was helping, no drugs, no therapy, the nightmares, the flashbacks the colicky baby, my partner working such long shifts, I have no family and was scared to speak to friends. It was horrendous. No one wanted to admit me to an acute psychiatric unit because I would severely kick off when apart from my son, I battled with the feelings that he hated me and put intense pressure on myself for him to accept me as his Mum so never ever let myself be apart from him. I was so unwell and confused, didn’t know whether to die or force myself to be the perfect mother. The guilt was crippling.

Enough was enough, I was admitted to an acute psychiatric unit, put on new medication, forced to sleep with a load of sleeping tablets, encouraged to eat and in a week there was a huge dramatic change. Then my saving grace happened where my whole world changed forever. I was referred to a mother and baby unit (MBU), a psychiatric hospital catered for Mums and their babies. My son was six months old by this point, I had attempted to kill myself three times, was covered in scars and underweight. This place saved my life, there were other Mums there like me, and I wasn’t alone! I finally learnt that it wasn’t my fault! My baby didn’t hate me! I was supported in looking after my son, they built my confidence up so much, I am forever grateful to the nurses and doctors that worked there.

Now I am six months out of the mother and baby unit, it has been very rocky, it was a hard transition leaving the MBU (I was there for 5 months), but I am getting there. I am taking one day at a time. Mental illness affects different people differently, in so many ways. There are different contributing factors, different symptoms. For me I have a mental health history, traumatic childhood, traumatic birth which all contributing to me becoming unwell. I was lucky, I didn’t have to speak up too much for healthcare professionals to notice at the beginning, however I have always been honest about my feelings, no matter how dark because I learnt quickly that no one can read your mind. If you speak up, you will get help, things can be changed, adjusted, support can be put in place. There is always scope for things to improve. To anyone reading this who feels they are suffering with increased anxiety or depression after having their child, speak to someone and let it out, that is the first biggest step. Don’t be scared, it’s hard I know, the fear of being judged is so intense but I never have been. You are not alone.

Lex has her own blog – https://borderlineandbaby.wordpress.com/

Vlogg – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8tQKpnXYH72jxLYacXHcew

Twitter – https://twitter.com/recoveryandbaby

Love and Smiles

Josie xx

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

My journey through perinatal anxiety and depression.

TRIGGER WARNING: this story contains information about self harm. 

I am normally quite a private person and, therefore, I never thought I would be talking so openly about my journey through Anxiety and Post Natal Depression. I also never thought that the birth of my beautiful baby boy, would lead to one of my greatest challenges. But I’m a better, healthier and happier person, having faced that adversity. I hope that by sharing my story it will give hope to parents facing the same challenges that, even in the darkest days, recovery is possible.

I clearly remember the home visit by my Maternal and Child Health Nurse, three days after coming home from hospital. I was instantly drawn to her warm smile and knowing eyes. She sat next to me on the couch as I attempted to breastfeed. She helped me relax, which helped me attach my son, and she gave me some great tips. Before long, we began chatting about how my husband and I had set up our baby’s room, and about my labour and the birth.

Although being quite a private person, the MCH nurse made me feel comfortable enough to also share that my eldest sister has bipolar disorder, and that my elder brother suicided at the age of 25, after a long battle with schizophrenia.

She gave me a big cuddle and said she would stick a PANDA sticker next to my name in my son’s little green Health and Development Record book.Health book This would remind her to take extra care of me at my MCH visits, as given my family history; I was predisposed to postnatal depression. I shrugged it off, little knowing how right she would be.

Not long after, my mental state started to go downhill. I was exhausted, yet had trouble sleeping. “Sleep when baby sleeps” was just not happening. I was kept awake by night sweats and terrible racing thoughts. “Could something fall into my baby’s bassinet and suffocate him?”, “Maybe his nappy is on too tight and could cut off his circulation”, “Maybe someone could break in to the house and kidnap him”, “Maybe he’s too hot, maybe he’s too cold”. These thoughts would play over and over in my mind.

I had a constant sick feeling, which put me off eating, and I lost a lot of weight. I was irritable and angry, snapping at the smallest things. I felt hopeless and dead inside. I began to isolate myself from family and friends. I would often close all the blinds, after my husband left for work.blinds

As my mental state deteriorated, I had trouble bonding with baby. Some days I couldn’t even bear to look at him. I felt like he was not my son. Other days I would just wish that someone would take my son away from me, and that I’d be rid of all my internal pain. Yet I constantly worried about him. I wouldn’t let anyone outside my immediate family touch or hold him, and I’d check his temperature almost every hour. I became so overwhelmed and exhausted that I started to plan my escape. I just wanted it to all end.

My husband and the rest of my family noticed things didn’t seem right, and urged me to speak to my Maternal Child Health Nurse or my GP. Yet I was too afraid that I would lose my son. That my horrid thoughts would send me to a mental ward – or worse yet, prison – and that I’d never see my son again.

I’d have panic attacks, or go silent as my thoughts took over. My sister would call me daily and calm me down. I felt comforted knowing she was on the line. My mum lived next door, and most days would come and just sit with me. I was afraid to be alone with my thoughts. My husband would secretly call my friends and ask them to visit. They’d bring me lunch, make me tea, and even helped me start my son on solids. They knew something wasn’t right, but I think they were too afraid to say something that might “tip me over the edge”.

Then one day, I explicitly told mum that I was contemplating suicide. She knew I was serious, and she was determined not to lose another child that way. She immediately phoned my GP, and luckily I got in to see her that day. Yet, I was still afraid that the GP would have me locked up, and my son taken from me. So, I went under the guise of him being unwell.

Luckily, my GP saw through this. She asked my mum to leave the room and began asking me questions. I finally broke down and told her everything. She wrote me out a Mental Health Care Plan, a script for antidepressants and a referral to a psychiatrist.

When the psychiatrist diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Postnatal Depression, things started to get better. I got medication to help with my anxiety. For the first two weeks it exacerbated my suicidal thoughts, which is a common side effect. Mum monitored me while my husband was at work, and then it started to really help.

I also saw a psychologist at Tweddle Child and Family Health, with support under the Mental Health Care Plan. At first, I resisted this treatment. I was still too afraid to speak up about my horrid thoughts. But as I began to trust the psychologist, I realised the therapy was helping me work through my issues, including my brother’s death. I was very lucky that my husband came with me to my initial visits, and still loved me in spite of the person I had become.

I now know that this treatment played an important role in my recovery – not to mention the love and support of my GP, my family and close friends. I only wish that I had spoken up sooner. I really want to get the message across to anyone who is struggling: please get help as quickly as possible, so that recovery is not delayed.

I can’t tell you the exact day that things started to shift for me. But I can tell you what I started to notice. For one, I began opening the blinds, one by one. blinds openI felt the fog lift, and I began socialising and making friends with new mums in my area. Most importantly, I saw my beautiful baby boy wanting his mummy so much. I realised how precious he is to me, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness that I longed for, and had so missed.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 website: http://www.lifeline.org.au, beyond blue on 1300 224 636 website: http://www.beyondblue.org.au or PANDA on 1300 726 306 website http://www.panda.org.au