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

 

 

 

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What an anxiety attack looks and feels like to me.

Two steps forward, one giant leap backwards, well, that’s what my recent anxiety attack felt like to me. I hadn’t experienced an attack in about a year and then….BAM…I had one…on Easter Sunday. An anxiety attack is intense, awful and, for me, scary. My symptoms were a sense of losing control, emotionally distressing, I was crying, feeling panicky, I had chest pain and shortness of breath.

The day started out perfectly normal but on reflection, I can now understand why the attack happened. I had decided to host 20 people for Easter Sunday lunch at our place. A part of me thinks that the decision to host the lunch at our place was my way of saying I have recovered enough to do this – I got this. Well I did…..in part. I felt very excited about having our family over for lunch. I also knew it wouldn’t be too hard as family members were bringing dishes such as salads, dessert and other bits and pieces to help ease the load. I decided to prepare a lasagne, a roast chicken and lamb and some other side dishes. I thought this was all simple enough.

What I didn’t factor in was perfectionism. It is one of my personality traits and came to play in me having an anxiety attack. I find my perfectionism crippling because I am constantly setting high standards for myself and feel frustrated when I can’t meet those standards. I also find focussing on minute details time consuming and impede me from doing the task at hand. Perfectionism goes hand in hand with my Generalised Anxiety Disorder and most likely triggered my anxiety attack.

So, the perfectionist in me kept thinking that the food had to be perfect and ready on time, drinking glasses and cutlery had to spotless, house had to be clean. I was also thinking about how were we going to seat everyone? The weather was not looking too promising on the Sunday, yet when I decided to host; Melbourne was going through a patch of really good weather. We didn’t have a backup plan for seating and time was running out. I had also forgotten to buy other bits and pieces for when guests arrived. Not to mention my son had been wrapped around my leg seeking attention, and, may have been teething as he was clingier than usual.

So there I was, in the kitchen stirring the sauce for the lasagne, my son clinging to my leg, thoughts going over and over in my head about all the things that had to be perfect, and, I could feel the pressure building up. I started to panic…. I could feel a sharp pain in my chest and had trouble breathing. I became emotional and my husband came in from outside to see what was wrong. I told him that I thought I was starting to have an anxiety attack and then I lost control and could not breathe. He pulled out a chair and told me to put my head between my knees and to take breaths. The concentration on breathing really did help and I was able to overcome my anxiety attack quite quickly. I did notice that it was short lived as opposed to the attacks that I suffered when I had post-natal depression.

My husband was amazing and made me feel safe and supported so that I was able to compose myself quite quickly. On reflection, I pleased to say that lunch was a success and everyone, including myself had a great time. What I learnt from that experience is that I need to stop sweating the small stuff because it is the small things that take away from the bigger picture, such as how happy it makes me being in the company of the people I love, not whether the glasses or cutlery are spotless.

On a final note, I recently came across a pretty easy tip to remember, should I feel that a panic attack might be coming on. The tip was to look around you, find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing that you can taste. Apparently, it is called grounding and can help you when you feel like you are losing control of your surroundings. I am yet to try the method but am interested to hear if it is something you have heard of or, even tried?

Grounding technique taken from: http://www.7cups.com/forum/AnxietySupportCommunity_53/AnxietySupportResources_412/Antianxietypanicattacktechniques_25678/

Love and smiles!

Josie : )