Category Archives: Mental Health

Back to Work…

I’m going back to work tomorrow. Just for 6 weeks for about 20 hours a week, working around school days as much as I can. DG will be going back to the lovely local Montessori nursery and MG will go to after-school club there one day a week.

I’m so very lucky at the moment. Having taken voluntary redundancy last year, this is my second short stint back at work in the 9 months since leaving. I don’t think I could work permanently at the moment but 4-8 week part time contracts are brilliant to have – keep me with a toe in the working world and give me a break from full time parenting (which I am rubbish at) plus give the girls a change of scene. I even get to work from home most of the week.

I’m know I’m very lucky not having to work. We’re pretty fortunate with our outgoings and don’t go on holidays other than visiting family, or have new furniture, or have wallpaper still on the walls in some places, or smoke, or go out… I hate not working at all, I hate not having my own money so the time back at work gives me a little to myself again which is nice. But I don’t have to work while the children are young, and I never really enjoyed “going out” so I’m not complaining…

But it is so nice to have a change of scene every few months so this six weeks at work is a godsend for me. It’s also going to be a culture shock again, and as I tend to get overly stressed very easily I doubt I’ll be blogging much.

Now, I just need to get my head back into writing VBA and SQL code. And throwing a party for about 25 2-6 year olds. And taking my tenth driving test. Stress, stress… 😉

Biblioholism

My name is Anne-Marie, and I have an addiction…

Indulge me while I give you a little tour of my bookshelves. Let’s start in the living room. Here we have two tall bookcases plus a Tidy Books bookcase. Oh, and then there are the piles of books on the floor too. There are some “grown up” books in here which mainly belong to DH (he also has more books not mentioned in this post), but I’ve boxed up most of my books and put them in the garage to make space for the children’s books.

I’ve had a bit of a reshuffle recently, the Tidy Books bookcase now has most of the non-fiction books in.

The tall bookcases (and piles on the floor) have reading schemes, chapter books, anthology books, more non-fiction books, board books (that sadly will have to find new homes sometime soon… Well most of them, not all, never!), grown-up books, and my most expensive purchase: 75 years of DC comics.


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Now onto the less interesting piles stashed around the house. The kitchen has a teeny selection of travel, nature and cookery books that are rarely looked at. There’s a small pile of Time Life planet earth books in the hallway that I spent months trying to get hold of and then didn’t have anywhere to put them so in the hallway they stayed. The garage has at least three (huge) plastic boxes of books in storage as I’m not reading them at the moment so it makes more sense to have the children’s books taking over the house. Not in the garage because they’re in three open crates are books I kept from my childhood that are mainly too grown up for my girls as yet plus there’s no room for them anywhere either! Oh, and there’s a complete set of Mr Men books out in the garage that I also need to find space for in the house…

The master bedroom has a tall bookcase of my books. I moved a lot of books into the garage when I started collecting books on education (which I still haven’t read most of). Remaining are mainly near-complete collections of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Iain (M) Banks and a shelf of graphic novels. My bedside table is precariously balanced, and also has my Kindle which is filled with another few hundred books! Oh, and there’s a coffee table covered in more children’s books, of course…

The girls’ bedroom has the bulk of the picture books. I used to have the Tidy Books bookcase in here but it wouldn’t fit them all so I changed it to this cube storage instead, but there’s still not enough room. For the curious, we have approximately 325 picture books. I count ‘picture books’ as having a single story per book (not anthologies / collections), not reading schemes, not first readers, not Disney / TV tie-ins (which to be fair, there aren’t that many of), not board books, not mini versions, not non-fiction! Also not counted the complete Mr Men or World of Peter Rabbit, or any not in the room while I was counting 😆

Just before MG was born I freecycled five boxes of books (mostly SF) to make space in the house plus sadly had to send a black sack full of books to the recycle due to water damage from being kept in the garage for so long (which is why everything is now in closed plastic boxes or indoors) and I’ve given at least 100 books to charity per year since then too…

I am a biblioholic. Anyone else want to join me?

THE BOOK HANDLER’S TEN COMMANDMENTS

ALL VISITORS shall show respect for the holy ground of this library by removing their shoes immediately upon entrance.
ALL PENS and other writing utensils shall be checked at the door.
BEFORE HANDLING a book, thou shalt cleanse thy hands in the bowl of rosewater provided at the door.
AFTER CLEANSING thy hands, thou shalt don a pair of the little plastic gloves also provided at the door.
THOU SHALT NOT GRAB a book by the top of the spine when removing it from the shelf. Rather, said book shall be handled as one handles a Ming Dynasty vase – with both hands.
THOU SHALT NOT BREATHE, spit, sneeze, cough, drool, or discharge sputum of any type in the direction of a book.
ALL WHO MARK a page by turning down a corner in any of these books, or even think about doing so, shall immediately be escorted to the guillotine in the garage.
ALL WHO WISH to turn pages in a book must use the specially made paper knives provided at the end of each stack.
ALL WHO WET their fingers to turn a page shall die a quick and immediate death by strangling.
YE WHO CREASE a spine shall immediately report to the owner of this library who shall crease thy skull.
Extract from Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction – Tom Raabe, 1992

Introversion

I am extremely introverted.

I’m also shy and socially anxious, but that’s a separate issue. It’s possible to be extroverted and shy; or introverted and a social hub. Introversion is about drawing energy from yourself, rather than from others.

In population terms 75% of the world’s population are extroverted and 25% are introverted. This means that pretty much everything is designed with extroversion in mind. This is probably one of the reasons I have a non-mainstream view of education: everyone is different, one size does not fit all, personality types are important.

Being extremely introverted, one of the things I need most of all is to be able to recharge after social contact. Any social contact. This makes being a parent of small children very hard. Sometimes I have a deep almost-physical need to be entirely alone. Sleeping doesn’t count. Small children have a deep almost-physical need to climb all over their parents and be hugged and near someone 24/7.

I love my children. I adore my children. I think they are amazing and interesting people. But I need that time. Alone. Away from all people. Just me, myself and I alone (actually that’s a bit crowded too…) Shut up with a book or computer. Just time to recharge, draw my internal energy and be able to get on with life again.

What personality type are you? There are online tests (google for Myers-Briggs), and the result might be surprising. Be kind to yourself, if you need that time to recharge, try to take it.

New Year 2012

This blog was supposed to be my memories of the good things done with my girls, but for the past few months I could just refer you to CBeebies/CBBC listings for what we’ve actually done together, and I don’t want to write about the difficult things – they’re nothing new in the world of parenting and I have nothing to add to the subject 😆

So this blog will be about things that me and my girls do together, but it’s also my headspace to rant and to share and to grow.

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. Any time I’ve ever made a New Year’s Resolution, I’ve failed it miserably. I gave up with them in the late 90’s:
1996: Resolve: to turn my work around and pass degree; to not live with parents. Result: Failed degree; moved back to parent’s home from student house.
1997: Resolve: to move out from parental home. Result: Still living with parent.
1998: Resolve: to move out from parental home. Result: Still living with parent.
1999: No Resolutions. Moved out of parental home by April.

However I need to make some BIG changes to my life, so here are my non-resolutions for 2012:

Health: I have always been overweight. Festively plump? I don’t think so. Apparently there is a category over morbidly obese, and I’ve just entered it 😦 I want to start swimming again, but maybe I should wait until all the New Year’s Resolution people have stopped clogging up the swimming pool and I can swim in peace and quiet. Fortunately the local ‘leisure centre’ has a creche. Not to mention mental health, but that’s a whole other story (as the monkey says in Tinga Tinga Tales :lol:)

Me, aged about one

Driving: My NINTH driving test is on 1st February. One of my sucesses for 2011 was failing the 8th test merely due to not keeping to speed limits. On three ocassions. I have been ‘learning to drive’ since 2002, but after the seventh failure I stopped lessons between October 2004 & July 2010. I will, will, will, WILL pass this year. Preferably before my provisional licence runs out in August…

Writing: I used to write when I was younger. It’s a very long time since I did. From about age 14 to age 22 I wrote so much, and being a hoarder I still have notebooks of snippets and ideas and plans of family trees (I read a lot of fantasy, creating the world was more fun than writing the books :lol:) in a box somewhere. The last thing I wrote was Buffy fanfic 10 or 11 years ago. Oh dear… Blogging is a good start to practising the words again. I also need to read much more, I used to read avidly, now I barely get through 5 books in a year 😦

It's amazing what you can still find online...

Parenting: This belongs at the top of the list, but I’m avoiding it. I’m not the parent I want to be. I don’t think anyone is. I don’t want to be super-parent, doing fun and creative things all day and providing a perfect house, being a wonderful wife and so forth – that’s never going to happen! But I want to be true to my ideals as much as possible: child-led, respectful, uncontrolling, living in an ordered environment.

Clutter: I have always been a hoarder. I married a hoarder. We have stuff. Things, possessions, belongings, objects, STUFF. Everywhere. I am queen of putting things in boxes. Put it in a box, sort it out later. Get 5 boxes down to 3, then get more clutter to sort out making 7 boxes and repeat… Paperwork, artwork (children’s), toys, books… I am too overwhelmed by the mess to know where to start. Did I mention living in an ordered environment?

A teeny selection of the clutter, looking quite tidy comparatively 😆

That’s probably more than enough non-resolution areas for a year. See you on the other side?!

Pull Yourself Together or The Taboo of Mental Health

The fantastic Mammasaurus has been doing a week of blog posts to highlight mental health issues:
Living in Cloud Cuckoo Land
Pulled from beneath the ‘Rug of shame’ for a jolly good beating
And then my father died…
When I left my children…
The End. Final words and a Linky

I probably have always had some kind of mental health issue since I was a small child who didn’t speak at school (at all, not a single word). As an adult I have been told a GP that I have social anxiety, but I didn’t fit with that community. I asked another GP about adult ASD diagnosis when I was feeling brave enough to talk, and he said I probably have a personality disorder and didn’t take it further. I have been referred to psychologists and counsellors ocassionally, but having an “avoident personality” means I’ve always given up on going to them.

My first experience with a counsellor (only six years ago, before that I ‘coped’ alone) didn’t help much: in a 30 minute initial consultation she told me I sucked happiness from the room – yes, well you would get that opinion from someone who hated themselves and talked negatively about themselves to the counsellor, because that was why they were there in the first place… I have been on antidepressants for almost four years, but I have just come off them because I am sick of not knowing what I’m really feeling. So I can’t write well at the moment because it is too raw. Somehow, I always ‘function’. I did keep down jobs (until this year), I got married, I have two children. From the outside I look fine. Inside, it doesn’t matter how I feel, because I ‘function’. “Pull yourself together”, “Get over it” – are they phrases you’ve heard too?

One day I might be brave enough to write more, but for now I am just copying from an earlier post I wrote about health in pregnancy: Depression isn’t just for post birth.

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Warning: Potentially upsetting content, depressed thoughts during pregnancy.

When my eldest daughter was 18 months old, my husband and I were blessed with another pregnancy. Except I felt far from blessed. On seeing the word “pregnant” on the test (it would be a digital, no squinting for a line here) I burst into tears, and they weren’t tears of happiness. I was taking fluoxetine for depression as it was (for the past 11 months) so I went straight to see my GP. “Take one every other day for 2 weeks and then stop taking them” she said…

So I dutifully did. I bought folic acid. I tried to feel happy. I was too tired to feel anything really. Inside my head these little thoughts kept appearing “It will go wrong, I won’t have to have it.” The baby was always “it”. I vomited daily from 6 weeks pregnant, just as in my first pregnancy. This time with added all day nausea.

At my booking in, my BMI was 40 so my midwife put me down as consultant led and gave me Slimming World vouchers. I never used them, I didn’t care. I never went to the consultant appointments, what was the point? At my 12 week scan, there it was: a little jumping bean. “Lots of movement, good strong heartbeat” said the sonographer and gave us scan pictures. On the way home, I burst into tears, I had been hoping that I had a missed miscarriage.

To the outside world, I faked it. I showed the scan pictures, I talked about potential names, I talked about gender guesses. Inside I just hated “it”. At 17 weeks the sickness and all day nausea were more than unbearable. I went to the GP and begged for something to make it go away. She gave me blurb about how it could harm the baby but prescribed something because she knew what it was like. I didn’t care what it could do to “it”. I didn’t want “it”.

Every day I thought about terminating “it”. I talked to my husband about the 20 week scan: If there’s anything wrong with it, we won’t keep it? I got him to agree. I hoped there was a problem. There wasn’t, it was a perfect 20 week scan. There were more scan pictures, an actual baby looking creature in black and white. I still felt nothing but despair.

At 24 weeks all the thoughts and feelings were just too much. I planned to go to my GP and beg for a late termination. I couldn’t have this thing. I couldn’t love it. I couldn’t keep it.

I went to my GP. I asked to go back on the fluoxetine because of how I was feeling. I was referred to see a psychologist because of the risks of anti-depressants in pregnancy. I had to manage another week trying to keep a vague grasp on sanity. I was missing so many work days from sickness I only just scraped missing a disciplinary (I found this out a long time later, the fact I was pregnant was a mitigating factor.)

Almost as soon as I started back on anti-depressants, the thoughts of terminating “it” faded. I still feel so much guilt for those feelings. I can never forgive myself, although I know it was the depression, it was the illness, it wasn’t really me.

And where were the health professionals during all of this? My midwife had an operation so I saw her at 12 weeks and 38+ weeks of pregnancy only, in between was a different cover midwife every time. My GP was on a sabatical so I saw a different GP every time. The psychologist approved my anti-depressants but didn’t think the fact I wanted to kill my unborn child was an issue, I’d get over it…

Although the anti-depressants removed my thoughts of termination, I still didn’t want “it”. I looked up how to put “it” up for adoption (not an option, both parents have to agree). I’d talk to my toddler daughter about how much I loved her, how we’d feed baby and keep it alive and well when it was born but wouldn’t love it. I loved my eldest with an intensity bordering on obsessiveness, focussing all the love I wasn’t feeling for my unborn child onto her.

At 26 weeks, the sickness and nausea finally stopped (the same as with my first pregnancy) and something amazing happened: I met my lovely health visitor.

It was my eldest daughter’s two-year check and the first time I met this health visitor as she was new to my surgery. We talked about eldest’s development (fine) and she asked about the baby, saying she’d probably be my health visitor. And it all came flooding out…

Surprised that I’d been feeling like that for so long she suggested she visited me for “talking therapy”. And she did. Before my second daughter was born, after she was born, months later when she heard my mum had been admitted to hospital for an emergency heart operation… Sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, she would visit and we would chat. About families, about raising children, about what her children were doing or had done, about anything and everything. I can never thank her enough for that time. I didn’t know I needed it but that small amount of time and those uncritical chats were the most valuable health care I’ve ever had.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thank-you, Mammasaurus, for writing so openly about your experiences and inspiring others to do the same.

Depression isn’t just for post birth

I don’t think I was particularly good at keeping healthy during pregnancy and I do feel extremely lucky and blessed to have had two full term pregnancies and to have two healthy daughters. However, depression is something I have experience of and I hope my story might help others to look for help when they need it.

Warning: Potentially upsetting content, depressed thoughts during pregnancy.

When my eldest daughter was 18 months old, my husband and I were blessed with another pregnancy. Except I felt far from blessed. On seeing the word “pregnant” on the test (it would be a digital, no squinting for a line here) I burst into tears, and they weren’t tears of happiness. I was taking fluoxetine for depression as it was (for the past 11 months) so I went straight to see my GP. “Take one every other day for 2 weeks and then stop taking them” she said…

So I dutifully did. I bought folic acid. I tried to feel happy. I was too tired to feel anything really. Inside my head these little thoughts kept appearing “It will go wrong, I won’t have to have it.” The baby was always “it”. I vomited daily from 6 weeks pregnant, just as in my first pregnancy. This time with added all day nausea.

At my booking in, my BMI was 40 so my midwife put me down as consultant led and gave me Slimming World vouchers. I never used them, I didn’t care. I never went to the consultant appointments, what was the point? At my 12 week scan, there it was: a little jumping bean. “Lots of movement, good strong heartbeat” said the sonographer and gave us scan pictures. On the way home, I burst into tears, I had been hoping that I had a missed miscarriage.

To the outside world, I faked it. I showed the scan pictures, I talked about potential names, I talked about gender guesses. Inside I just hated “it”. At 17 weeks the sickness and all day nausea were more than unbearable. I went to the GP and begged for something to make it go away. She gave me blurb about how it could harm the baby but prescribed something because she knew what it was like. I didn’t care what it could do to “it”. I didn’t want “it”.

Every day I thought about terminating “it”. I talked to my husband about the 20 week scan: If there’s anything wrong with it, we won’t keep it? I got him to agree. I hoped there was a problem. There wasn’t, it was a perfect 20 week scan. There were more scan pictures, an actual baby looking creature in black and white. I still felt nothing but despair.

At 24 weeks all the thoughts and feelings were just too much. I planned to go to my GP and beg for a late termination. I couldn’t have this thing. I couldn’t love it. I couldn’t keep it.

I went to my GP. I asked to go back on the fluoxetine because of how I was feeling. I was referred to see a psychologist because of the risks of anti-depressants in pregnancy. I had to manage another week trying to keep a vague grasp on sanity. I was missing so many work days from sickness I only just scraped missing a disciplinary (I found this out a long time later, the fact I was pregnant was a mitigating factor.)

Almost as soon as I started back on anti-depressants, the thoughts of terminating “it” faded. I still feel so much guilt for those feelings. I can never forgive myself, although I know it was the depression, it was the illness, it wasn’t really me.

And where were the health professionals during all of this? My midwife had an operation so I saw her at 12 weeks and 38+ weeks of pregnancy only, in between was a different cover midwife every time. My GP was on a sabatical so I saw a different GP every time. The psychologist approved my anti-depressants but didn’t think the fact I wanted to kill my unborn child was an issue, I’d get over it…

Although the anti-depressants removed my thoughts of termination, I still didn’t want “it”. I looked up how to put “it” up for adoption (not an option, both parents have to agree). I’d talk to my toddler daughter about how much I loved her, how we’d feed baby and keep it alive and well when it was born but wouldn’t love it. I loved my eldest with an intensity bordering on obsessiveness, focussing all the love I wasn’t feeling for my unborn child onto her.

At 26 weeks, the sickness and nausea finally stopped (the same as with my first pregnancy) and something amazing happened: I met my lovely health visitor.

It was my eldest daughter’s two-year check and the first time I met this health visitor as she was new to my surgery. We talked about eldest’s development (fine) and she asked about the baby, saying she’d probably be my health visitor. And it all came flooding out…

Surprised that I’d been feeling like that for so long she suggested she visited me for “talking therapy”. And she did. Before my second daughter was born, after she was born, months later when she heard my mum had been admitted to hospital for an emergency heart operation… Sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, she would visit and we would chat. About families, about raising children, about what her children were doing or had done, about anything and everything. I can never thank her enough for that time. I didn’t know I needed it but that small amount of time and those uncritical chats were the most valuable health care I’ve ever had.

Tommy’s 5 Point Pregnancy Plan – Make a difference
This is part of a blog hop started by Merry from Patch of Puddles. She says: “I joined up with Tommy’s Baby charity and Bounty UK to help them launch their new 5 Point Plan for healthy pregnancy. This is a plan aimed at empowering women to make small changes to improve the health of themselves and their baby. It’s about making thoughtful choices and making a difference. Too often women feel there is nothing they can do once they are pregnant to keep themselves healthy and that all the ‘inevitable damage’ that they do during pregnancy can be fixed afterwards. This campaign is about supporting women to make good health choices, small changes that can make big differences.

The 5 Point Pregnancy Plan
Tommy’s and Bounty UK are encouraging women and health carers to address 5 areas of wellbeing:-
Nutrition
Weight Management
Mental health
Exercise
Smoking

Women have a right to good information and supportive assistance in these areas, whether it is help to know what foods they should eat, or managing stress, which can contribute to pre-term labour, finding a gentle exercise programme to suit them or giving up smoking. 17% of pregnant mothers still smoke. 1 in 5 pregnant mothers are obese. There are common misconceptions surrounding ‘dieting’ as opposed to nutritional and healthy food and how safe exercise is during pregnancy. Tommy’s and Bounty UK aim to help women get easy access to this information by placing an information card in all new pregnancy packs given to expectant mothers.”

How You Can Help
Join in the blog hop hosted at Patch of Puddles. I can’t add a linky, please click for the original post, there’s an incentive for joining in – not that you need one, do you? 🙂 Use the #healthypregnancy hash tag on twitter to spread the word.