Depression and Me

Friday, 12 December 2014

Okay so here it is. Finally. The words I haven't been able to find. The truth about it all.

I am writing this all down for three reasons.

One. I hope that somebody might read this and recognise what I have written and know they are not alone.

Two. I hope they will get support like I have.

Three. Sometimes it really helps to just see it in black and white.

I know that my blog has become a place that is often rather negative, or sad. I don't just talk about the good stuff. Maybe I take it too seriously. Maybe I lean too much on this as an outlet. Maybe I've lost the direction I want to take this blog. But I've always just been honest.

I have battled with depression for most of my adult life. I've never thought of it like that before, but its the truth. Very few people know about it. Not a single one of my colleagues. A handful of friends, but few in any detail. It is not something I feel or want to define me. I don't think you would ever guess on meeting me, or even after getting to know me. I hope you wouldn't know. Yes I am an emotional person, but I'd like to think in a caring and warm way. I give a lot. I cry easily, but happy tears as well as sad. I have always been popular, had people around me who care for me. I have always had love in my life.

But I am a haunted soul. That is the only way I can describe it.

Two weeks after I turned 20, I woke up and felt like a light switch had been turned off in my head. It was the weirdest and most frightening moment of my life and one I will never forget. I felt completely disconnected from myself. I felt blank and empty and lost and dark. I couldn't find a thread of happiness in my head. Any love, any hope, any positivity. I remember thinking it was like a film. I remember actually pinching myself as though to wake up from the dream. I was confused, cold and shaking. Something very wrong had happened inside my head. 

Already now, reading that paragraph back, I'm not explaining it sufficiently. I can't begin to describe the total loss I felt. It was as though my soul had died. As though I was a stranger in this bleak and horrible world. I had absolutely no idea what the hell had happened. I Was sure I must have a brain tumour. Something so specific and physical had happened to me, it couldn't just be a case of low mood. Id been very stressed and had an unhappy summer for various reasons, but this was a completely different world of emotion.

For the following two weeks my life was lived on hold. The strongest emotion I had was a neverending crushing feeling of desperate sadness and despair. I felt like I was grieving a terrible tragedy but had no idea for whom. Maybe for me? I had constant tension headaches, was unable to eat without vomitting, couldn't sleep at all, and starting having 'racing thoughts' which are not dissimilar to verbal hallucinations. I basically kept hearing white noise, music, and my own voice, at triple speed, racing through my head. The noise all blurred into one horrible sound that I couldn't escape from. 'Racing thoughts' are a symptom of psychosis and mania. They stop you being able to think normally, hold a conversation, or sleep. If you look at the Wikipedia explanation for them, it explains it a lot better than I can.

Physically, my body started deteriorating. My skin became dry and flaking overnight, I developed patches of eczema all over my arms and legs and my scalp started to crack and bleed. I occasionally get coldsores when I've been run down with a bad cold, and the morning of the 'light-switch' turning point, I woke up with nine coldsores all over my mouth, internally my gums were covered in ulcers, I had red chapped skin up to my nose.

I literally fell apart. Overnight.

I was terrified. I was a normal girl. I had great friends and a boyfriend I loved and wanted to marry one day (I did). I liked makeup and reading and music and going to the cinema. And I knew that if i couldn't stop this nightmare, I would have to kill myself. It would all have to end. Because in death there would be silence. And no more crying. I was trapped.

After a fortnight of largely staying in my university halls bedroom and avoiding phone calls home, I dramatically threw together a bag and raced to the train station. I bought a ticket home and wept all the way, curled up in the corner of the carriage with my coat over my face. I couldn't stop. The despair I felt was completely obliterating. But I was crushingly embarrassed and mortified at what on earth was wrong with me.

When I got home, I told my mum, when she collected me from the station, that I wanted to die, and she took me to the doctor. I remember when she first looked at me as I walked into the consulting room, and I started crying, she had this judgemental look on her face. I'm sure she thought I was going to say that i was pregnant and didn't want it.

But then I said that i couldn't stop crying, and I felt in the depths of such despair I didn't know how to carry on living, and there was something very wrong. And she told me I had depression.

Depression is a word flung around so freely. I had a severe clinical version of depression. My brain had a chemical/hormonal dysfunction. I was very mentally ill. It is possible to have 'depression' and not be struck down quite so badly but it is possible to be very low, or anxious, or stressed, or run down, and not be clinically depressed.

People need to know and understand what a destructive and all encompassing nightmare an episode of severe clinical depression can be.

I was immediately signed off from university for a year and put on antidepressants. Within days, they had calmed the racing thoughts and the panic. I was able to sleep. I was also able to get through a few hours at a time without crying. It took me about two months to become functional again, so I could go and get a job. By functional I mean being able to make rational thought processes, being able to concentrate long enough to hold a conversation, being able to laugh and smile when it was appropriate to do so. Two months.

Eight months later I returned to manchester, with boyfriend in tow, to finish my degree and restart the year at University. It was very difficult returning and no one knowing why I had left. Again, mortified with embarrassment and also disbelief, I tried to shut it all out.

Three years later I finally weaned myself off the antidepressants. I realised that I had found myself again. That when I closed my eyes the only thing I could sense and feel in my head was my own mind, my own rational thoughts, my own hopes and dreams and a balance of emotions.

But it has never totally left me. In the interim period since I stopped taking medication I have had spells that I recognise- of meaningless despair, of acute anxiety, of stress that took it's toll physically, of racing thoughts attacking me from no where. Maybe those symptoms on their own are considered within the realms of a 'normal' brain. Maybe it's only when they are prolonged and happening together that there is something truly wrong.

During my pregnancies I wobbled significantly, and now I am ill again. Besides the racing thoughts and the nine coldsores, I have all the symptoms again. It is a huge relief not to have any symptoms of mania but I think that is because I am so consistently and constantly low. I am finding it very difficult to not cry constantly. Of course being a new mum is an emotionally charged time and life is hard with two boys and sleep depravation, on top of it all. 

But I recognise the darkness, the meaningless, the loss. The thoughts that drift to suicide because it feels just so unbearable, in the true sense of the word.

I know that I have depression. I know that I am lost again.

There was a lot about my life growing up that was shit, and all I ever wanted was to have a family. Now I have that family and I am so destroyed by this illness that I can't enjoy it. There are days when I can't live. I can't breathe. I feel suffocated with despair and sadness and tears that I am holding back. And I so desperately desperately want to feel okay. And to be able to smile and love and laugh normally without it all just being one big pretence and monumental effort. 

The hardest thing about depression for me, is the disconnection. When something sad happens, and you feel sadness, however horrible it is to experience, there is a normality and predictability and a process to it. When my brother in law, who had become my father figure and was my favourite person in the whole world, dropped dead of a heart attack literally at my feet, I felt pure grief and horror. When I said goodbye to my father on the leukaemia ward and watched my mother say goodbye too, I felt pure despair and anger. 

But would you believe me when I tell you that the grief and horror and despair and anger that this illness brings me is just as real and as strong and as overwhelming? If not more so? And there is no reason to it. I have just had a beautiful baby and I feel in the depths of despair. It doesn't make any sense, just that this is what mental illness is. And it is terrifying, because it is so irrational. There is no process or understanding behind it. I wake up every day and I feel horribly sad, low, anxious, bleak. I feel worthless and useless. I feel exhausted at the thought of doing anything. I feel my throat sting from wanting to cry for no reason. I feel my head is heavy, my neck is tight, my
Stomach churning.

I hope I haven't scared you too much. The hardest thing about talking about depression is dealing with people's reactions when they just think you must be bonkers. Or that in some way you are creating this yourself. Because it's in my head, how can anyone know what it really is? I could just make it all up.

But I'm telling you the truth. That is how depression has affected me, and does so today. I don't think that this current episode is as bad as it was when I was twenty. Approaching a decade ago. But then last time, I had less to keep me strong. I had fewer responsibilities. In fact I had none really. Perhaps that's why it affected me physically so much. I was able to just totally succumb. I had the time and the space to weep for a day at a time. 

Now I have my boys. I have a life. I have friends who I love more than they realise who have made my life so much better. I have a husband who truly looks after me. And I just have to get up in the morning. Because there is a two year old wanting to eat cereal and go to the park to look for dinosaurs and rabbits and a newborn who wants to be fed and cuddled.

I have to get up.

This might sound paradoxical but I would describe myself as a positive person. I embrace life, I try and make myself and those around me happy. I really do wake up every day and try very hard to remember what I am grateful for. And that is what I do now more than ever. However unbearable this illness is, I could never leave my boys without a mummy. 

So I have to find help.

And keep getting up.

Thank you for reading xxx

The Fifteen Festive Favourites Tag

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

I've been tagged by my lovely blogging friend Alex from Bump to Baby and think it's high time I wrote something jolly and positive. Let me just say quickly first- thank you for your support, all of you who comment and message me. I have been quite poorly over the weekend but have also been hit with a big realisation that I am utterly overwhelmed with post-natal depression. Everything suddenly makes sense and I am no longer in denial about it. I will write about it soon but in the mean time here's a little festive cheer...

1. Favourite Festive Food?

I adore Festive Food, which is probably why I always get so fat at Christmas. I love anything with mincemeat/raisins/sultanas etc. so the whole mince pie, stollen, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding parade. However my husband HATES raisins, which fills me with despair, so even though he supports my love of mince pies it's not quite such fun eating them alone. Instead we tend to gorge on devils on horseback (prunes wrapped in bacon) which, if you haven't tried, are amazing. The prunes are really big raisins so I don't get it but he loves them as much as me. 
Mulled wine is also very welcome...

2. Favourite Reindeer?

Definitely Rudolph.

3. Favourite Day of Christmas?

Christmas Day is always the most special for me. I have so many wonderful memories of waking up in the morning at my sister's house, with my nieces, and just beside ourselves with excitement.

4. Favourite Christmas Song?

As a classical music geek I really love all of John Rutter's Christmas Choral music, especially Carol of the Children. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland) always makes me cry!

5. Favourite Present?

I don't think I've ever been given the same thing twice and it's hard to pick a stand alone favourite! It's always lovely to receive something you were hoping for that you can really get use out of and enjoy. I love anything I can pamper myself with as it's such a treat nowadays!

6. Favourite Festive Film?

I do think Elf is the funniest Christmas film. I love all the usual films that are shown at Christmas like a Home Alone and Uncle Buck and Harry Potter. I like Christmas romantic comedies like Love Actually and The Family Stone (very underrated) too.

7. Favourite Festive Cracker Toy?

I am ALWAYS the person whose cracker toy mysteriously disappears under the table. ALWAYS. 

8. Favourite Cracker Joke?

I'll have to get back to you on that one...

9. Favourite Christmas Decoration?

I have these beautiful white snowflakes which were my grandmothers and my favourites as a child, which I love to hang every year, despite the fact that they are yellowing a lot now. I also love some of the personalised decorations Ollie has been given the last two Christmases, and a little felt Christmas elf he was given for his first Christmas. 

10. Favourite Christmas Candle Scent?

I always stock up on supermarket Christmas candles in typical apple and cinnamon scents as I love the smell. I recently smelt some of the new Yankee Candle offerings and my favourites were Christmas Memories and Christmas Candy Cane Lane, which isn't Christmassy as such but such a comforting sweet smell of biscuits with minty icing. Have hinted heavily that I would like one this year! 

11. Favourite Christmas TV Advert?

The Sainsbury's 2014 Christmas Advert makes me weep. It's the one with the soldiers playing football across no man's land during WW1. I think it's such a beautiful message and so poignant. 

12. Favourite Festive Tradition?

My mum was never very big on festive traditions but I always loved putting up the tree whilst listening to Christmas Carols, which I still do now. I'm really excited about having traditions with our boys as they grow up.

13. Favourite Place to Spend Christmas?

Wherever my family are :) it's pretty awesome being in Poland though because there's always lots of snow!

14. Favourite Christmas Fact?

I don't know any general facts so thought Id throw this in... We celebrate Christmas twice as the Poles celebrate on the 24th, which they call Wigilia. They wait to see the first star in the sky then eat a 12 course feast (no meat, no raisins). I enjoy this tradition with my husband even though it feels quite strange for me, but what is lovely is that we get to do all the things that are traditional for him, and all for me the following day!

15. Favourite Snowman Accessory?

It's all about the carrot nose!

Thank you Alex for the tag! I tag anyone at all who has read and enjoyed this so please put your link in the comments.

thanks for reading xxx

Being Crap.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

It used to somewhat irritate me when I would read mummy bloggers moaning about how they felt they had been "a bad mum" that day. What actually defined being "a bad mum" obviously varied. Sometimes it was just turning on the tv too much, or serving up beans on toast for the third day in a row.

It used to irritate me because I felt that if you thought you were being bad at something, and felt guilty enough to admit that, you should do something about it. Turn the tv off and cook some vegetables. Put your phone down and get off twitter whinging and build a fort. Take them outside. Do something.

What a pretentious twat I was.

My own mother told me when I was pregnant that it was perfectly acceptable to be "a good enough parent". That it was okay to not always be the best you could. And I so vehemently disagreed with this that it changed my whole perception of my relationship with her and the way in which she brought me up. A lot made sense, to be honest.

And so with Ollie, I always put 110% in. I always made him a nice meal, I always made sure he was warm and comfortable. I always considered what toys he enjoyed and played with him.
I constantly thought about what I could do to help him enjoy life that little bit more. I always managed to find the energy to be the best that I could. That was a promise I made to myself when I became a mother.

But the reality is, that Ollie was very easy, and lovely and sweet and clever. Being "a good mum" was not difficult for me. It was not a challenge to fulfil that promise. Yes occasionally we had bad days, but Ollie is a child who never cried as a baby, who never fussed or whined, who slept pretty well from 2 months old, who weaned brilliantly and loved to eat anything at all I fed him, who walked early and ably, who found joy in lots of little things, who talked early and communicated his needs. I had my darling group of friends going through it all with me and I felt blessed and happy and able to be the mum I wanted to be.

Well now, I don't feel so able.

I feel quite broken in fact. Harry is not such an easy baby, although a close second. The windiness I described in an earlier post developed into a month of full blown 5-hours-every-evening screaming colic. We are now, slowly, getting over this. And he is a delight the rest of the time and sleeping for 7 hours at night.

But Ollie is really really testing me. He suddenly has this naughty streak that is so aggressive and unkind and defiant it really shocks me. And I am strict and follow all these behavioural things like the naughty step and he just keeps doing it over and over. And he doesn't care if he hurts me or frightens Harry, and he races around the house destroying things and not caring about that either. Abd then five minutes later he tells me that Harry is his best friend and he loves us, and he won't be naughty anymore, so I know he knows he is being bad. And I know he is bored and trying to get attention but I don't have the means to entertain him when I have Harry. And I'm trying to balance it all and show him he is still so loved, but I am also so unbelievably tired.

 I feel physically very ill at the moment, my whole body aches all the time, I have a splitting headache from about 3pm onwards. I think I am letting it all get too much. In my head I still want to be that perfect mum who does her very best, but I know I'm not, so then I just think "well I don't bloody care anymore" and I turn on the tv and shove him in the living room and go and sit in the kitchen and sob into a cup of cold tea I made earlier, surrounded by piles of laundry I need to take upstairs- but have no time to move.

Maybe this is just what happens when you have two, and your toddler turns into a nightmare. Maybe I am wobbling on the edge of postnatal depression. Maybe I have a virus and just need to get a bit better. Maybe I need to get Christmas out of the way because we are hosting EIGHT people and doing a Polish Christmas on the 24th as well and I'm not sure anyone is going to help. Maybe I just need my own mother to bloody offer a tiny bit of help rather than swanning around enjoying the festive season and never replying to my texts. Maybe I need to get a grip. 

All I want to do is sleep and wake up to a clean house and a toddler who wants to sit quietly and not pull the Christmas tree over.  

Is that too much to ask?

To all the mums who slightly irritated me with your honesty that motherhood wasn't easy and that you were being crap, well, I'm sorry, it isn't easy, it's the hardest thing in the whole world, and I'm crap too.


I am the mum who...

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

We are all united, and yet we are all so different. At Ollies singing toddler group today it dawned on me just how many types of mums there are. 

What type of mum are you?

I am the mum who hates her stretchmarks, who doesn't wear them with pride, and call them bloody tiger stripes, but wonders why the hell I got so unlucky when others got away with it.

I am the mum who refused to touch a drop of alcohol, consume a single prawn, or take a paracetamol during pregnancy, yet screamed for drugs during labour and really didn't give a shit unless THEY MADE IT STOP HURTING NOWWWW.

I am the mum who couldnt cry when her baby was placed on her chest because sometimes when you are that happy, the tears won't fall.

I am the mum who wanted to talk to all the other mums on the labour ward. Who offered advice. Who gave hugs. Who feels like we are now all part of a special club. 

I am the mum who puts my baby down in a bouncy chair and isn't permanently attached to him, and thinks that's ok.

I am the mum who talks to my baby non stop even though he clearly thinks I'm bonkers.

I am the mum who feels proud to wear makeup and put on decent clothes and wants to feel normal again sometimes.

I am the mum who will put myself through anything and everything to breastfeed her babies.

I am the mum who sometimes stops and looks up to the sky and asks God for strength when I've got to get two of them  to an appointment in 10 minutes and both have just done a poo.

I am the mum who doesn't put my children in matching, let alone particularly nice outfits, and most of the time just madly grabs whatever is clean.

I am the mum who doesn't iron.

I am the mum who forgets which side she last fed from so has to "juggle" my breasts in public to determine which is fuller.

I am the mum who will spend about an hour preparing a special sensory activity box and then laugh when my child just wants to play with a saucepan.

I am the mum who sings loudly in the baby classes because someone bloody has to.

I am the mum who calls her sons the two most popular names in the country because I like them, and am definitely not cool enough to pull off something like Finn.

I am the mum who stares at other mums with skinny legs and flat tummies and vows never to eat again...for the next ten minutes. 

I am the mum who always records every milestone in the special book and doesn't make any less effort second time round.

I am the mum who wipes snot or sick on my sleeve because I always forget to pack tissues and muslins, but who conversely always remembers toys and snacks and appropriate clothing. 

I am the mum who allows her toddler to pet and cuddle and hold her baby at all costs, because I don't want to discourage any affection between them.

I am the mum who constantly wants to do the right thing.

I am the mum who remembers from nursery all the friends' names, and their mums' names, and the favourite toys, and what has been eaten every day.

I am the mum who thinks that maternity leave is a million miles better than being at work and being a mummy is the most important job of all.

I am the mum, like so many of us, who is overwhelmed by just how much love she can feel for two little creatures, and feels lucky everyday.

Harry (L) and Oliver (R) at 6 weeks old 

Thanks for reading xxx

Top Beauty Bits

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Its a funny thing, that after the birth of both my children I have suddenly become obsessed with make-up. I have always loved make-up and beauty products, but over the last few years what with pregnancies and exhaustion and house projects and no money, frittering away cash on yet another M.A.C lipstick has seemed silly on many levels. I also, now, would much rather see my little boy's face light up with a new toy, or get something useful for our grown-up house.

But in the immediate aftermath of popping the babies out, both times it appears, I have suddenly turned into a greedy little magpie, wanting all things pretty and sparkly.

Happily, this surge of interest coincided with a birthday, and many gift vouchers from generous family members. The result has been the recent purchase of some new bits and also the rediscovery of a few golden oldies.

Here are the products I am loving:

ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm and Marine Cream.
I had an Elemis Pro-Collagen facial a few years ago and it was totally transformative. I walked around for weeks afterwards feeling glowing. The lovely therapist snuck me out a bag full of samples from the range, including half a dozen sachets of their famous marine cream. I used them up tentatively over the next month and couldn't believe the difference this fantastic moisturiser made to my skin. It is plumping, smoothing, nourishing, basically all the good stuff. It smells expensive, it looks expensive, it feels expensive (most important - very luxurious) and it is bloody expensive. My mum bought it for me for my birthday. An off hand joke of "well you could always buy me the Elemis marine cream, ho ho" - genuinely said in jest, resulted in a surprise gift that blew me away.
I decided to use one of my vouchers to purchase the cleansing balm to go with as I am a sucker for 'matching' skincare products. And I love cleansing balms. It turns out that this one hands down beats the others I've tried - Emma Hardie, Clinique and the Bodyshop. All of which I did love using, but this one has something extra special. It feels amazing on the skin, smells lovely and effortlessly melts off my makeup.

Laura Mercier Sik Creme Foundation.
I bought this a few months ago but virtually stopped wearing makeup in the late stages of my pregnancy as I spent so much time crying there was very little point. This foundation is the best foundation I have ever used, and I have used many. Like the Elemis products, it feels luxurious on your skin. It is literally like smearing rich thick clotted cream all over your face, that gives you a perfect finish - medium plus coverage, but a soft glow. I am going to repurchase in a lighter shade as I bought this when I still had a bit of summer tan to me. Alas I am now back to my palest self and can't wait to use a shade that doesn't require excessive blending out to look natural. A point to note: I also bought the Laura Mercier secret camoflage concealer which was disappointing on two levels - 1. They gave me SC-4 which is too dark for me but I'd already started slapping it on before I realised that I should have got SC-2 instead, 2. It just isn't creamy enough to be workable.

NARS Laguna Bronzer.
I feel a little ashamed that I call myself a bit of a make-up geek yet I hadn't tried this. For years I just loved my M.A.C. and Dior bronzers too much. Laguna always looked very average in the pan. Neutral, maybe a tad too pale, shimmery (don't generally go for shimmery bronzers.)
I was so totally wrong.
I decided to take the plunge with yet another Selfridges voucher and this is the best bronzer I have ever tried times by a million. It is the softest and most finely milled product I have come across and the shimmer is invisible, it just leaves you glowing. This is the only bronzer I have ever used that truly makes me look tanned as opposed to 'bronzed'. Its a beautiful natural and wearable shade. I am never going to try another bronzer again, this is it, NARS, you got me. Now let me try your face powders as if they are milled as finely as this I will love them.

M.A.C. Modesty lipstick.
I did a 'back to M.A.C.' which is such a brilliant idea. I wanted a new nude to replace blankety which, for years my favourite, I have now conceded is a tad too brown and therefore a bit nineties. It is also running out. I sampled a few and went for Modesty which is quite simply 'my lips but better'. It is also very definitely a member of the deeper nudes which I so love. When I say nude, I mean a nude lip colour, not a nude skin colour. Creme d'Nude and Shy girl just look ridiculous on me. I can somehow get away with Hue because of the pink content but I need a deeper tone generally not to look washed out. And I'm a bit over pinky pink lipsticks. Especially for winter.
When I got Modesty home I decided to do a few swatches and realised that I had totally forgotten about Faux which was my favourite last winter and is just a smidge more 'berry', and Honeylove which is just a smidge more brown, but is also matte which I find hard to wear.
I really really love M.A.C. Lipsticks. And I think Modesty is lovely, but I still haven't found the perfect nude (but not too nude) for me. High Tea (too frosty?), Jubilee (too orange?) and Brave (too pink?) are on the list to be tried, but I'm not allowing myself any new purchases until I have used up what I already own. 

M.A.C. Well dressed blusher.
I bought this in 2007 because Laura Farrant (lollipop26) told me to. Simple as that. You will either know exactly what I mean here or have no idea...lollipop26 broke a lot of hearts when she stopped making beauty vlogs on YouTube...
I never got this blusher. A cool toned frosty pink that barely showed up on my skin. Soon afterwards I purchased Dainty which is more yellow and a stronger pigment and it became a favourite for years. But Dainty is long gone (think I got through two, actually) and I retried Well Dressed the other day. And I really like it. How bizarre. I still wish it was stronger, but it gives a flattering pink glow. I sense a new blush obsession (along with lipsticks) brewing as I feel like I should explore some more pinks... especially NARS.

Do you think I'm ridiculous for falling in love with makeup again? Any nude-but-not-too-nude lipstick recommendations welcome please!

Thanks for reading xx

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