Wednesday, 27 February 2019

It really is ok, not to be ok.

It's OK not to be OK.

After Oliver, I never really had any postnatal issues, so I just expected everything to be hunky-dory following Isabelle's birth, but I honestly feel like I've been sinking further and further into a dark hole which I am struggling to get out of.

Postnatal anxiety... I'd never heard of it before - generally I only ever about postnatal depression, so as my symptoms didn't match - although were close - to postnatal depression I didn't think any more of it and didn't speak up about how I was feeling in fear that I would be seen as some sort of failure. 

Postnatal anxiety can affect new mum's in a variety of different ways, for me personally I was constantly worrying something was going to happen to Isabelle, I had panic attacks walking down the street thinking a car would swerve off the road and hit her pram, I struggle to focus at work worrying that something has happened to her at nursery... I don't sleep so I can make sure she's still breathing and would find myself bursting into tears over nothing. I felt like I was in a black hole that was swallowing me up.  This isn't usual behaviour for me and I was completely exhausted, so I went to see my GP.  My GP was absolutely lovely, when I booked in I made sure I was seeing a female doctor in the hope that she may have more of an understanding of what I was going through (I have always hated the thought of any male looking down on me and thinking of me as weak in anyway shape or form)…. I cried buckets during our discussion and at the end she just sat there, smiled at me and told me how she thought I was an amazing, strong mum and that after everything Oliver had gone through she's amazed at how well I'd held everything together up until then. She suggested that I go to counselling and prescribed me Sertraline.  Sertraline is a type of antidepressant which is also used to treat panic attacks, OCD and PTSD as well as depression. 

Seeing my GP and admitting how I was feeling was such a big step forwards for me. It made me realise it's ok to admit when I am not coping and I began to open up to my family and confided in my mum which again felt like a massive weight of my shoulders.  These thoughts and feelings haven't gone away by any means, however, I am learning to cope with them and my outlook is slowly beginning to brighten... I'm currently on day 2 of not crying or wanting to cry for no reason so that's a big leap 😂

I've always said to other people, it's OK not to be OK and advised others to seek medical help or speak out about their feelings but I genuinely never knew how hard it actually is when it's you in that situation. 

I would just like to say, to any other mum's who have feelings like this, you got this mamma! We are all going to struggle in different ways, but I think that our struggles are what make us unique and stronger than before. Don't fear being seen as a failure, I think that was one of my biggest fears, being strong and getting the right help is the best thing that you can do for you and your babies and it definitely does not make you a failure!!!

"Postnatal anxiety is something that some new mothers experience after having a baby. Having a child not only causes huge changes to a woman’s body in terms of the physical shock and hormonal fluctuations, but can also have a big impact on family life, sleep levels and stress. All of these things can lead a person to become more anxious than usual. There are a number of different types of postnatal anxiety, including postnatal generalised anxiety disorder (which can present as a constant state of high anxiety, with worries about everything from your child’s health, feeding, and your ability to parent); postnatal obsessive compulsive disorder (which often involves experiencing distressing thought and concerns about harm coming to your baby); and postnatal health anxiety (which is a preoccupation that there may be something wrong with a baby’s health)."  

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Oliver's struggles

Oliver and his demons


From being little, Oliver has always been very forwards... He was walking early, talking early and having conversations with adults from early on. I just thought he was a very clever little boy but never in a million years did I think there was something else hiding away in his little head. 

The first time anyone made a comment about Oliver being different from other children was in nursery, one of the teachers took me to the side and spoke about the different autistic children she had worked with and Oliver had some of the traits she saw in these other children.... he didn't like loud noises, didn't like changes to routines and struggled to comprehend when something didn't go the way he wanted to. 'Not my boy' I thought, 'she's overexaggerating on some of little things he does', so I ignored what she had said and we continued as normal, I've always been big on routine and don't like changes so figured that was something he'd just picked up from me.

I had split up form Oliver's dad when Oliver was just a couple of months old so as this continued to play on my mind I decided to speak to him about what the teacher had said and as with anything else, it just got shunned - I don't know why I bothered.. but this was the level of support I had got used to and expected from Oliver's dad... so we plodded on.

As the years went by it was becoming more and more apparent that something was amiss, he focused on certain topics such as architecture for example... his general knowledge skills are outstanding, he can give most adults a run for their money in general knowledge quizzes, but struggles with his emotional development also came through strongly and this is where his demons show their ugly heads. As he got to around 6 years old he started to self harm himself when he emotionally couldn't cope with something. I got reports from school that he would try and suffocate himself or try and cut himself. He would punch himself, nip himself, gouging his eyes and pull his hair when he couldn't process his emotions, in particular if he was feeling angry or upset, he told me regularly he didn't want to live anymore and wanted to die, so this was the point where I decided he needed something that I couldn't provide and took him to the GP where we were referred to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

Now, this was a kick in the balls for me! I felt like a broken woman, my son was self harming, his dad was little to no support so I turned to my friends for some emotional support as I too was struggling with this, I mean my child, my angel, the love of my life had tried to kill himself and was self harming, I felt like I was failing as a mother, so receiving comments like "oh, I've never seen him do anything like that" or "I don't think there's anything wrong with him" were not what I needed... I was made to feel like I was making everything up when all I needed was support!! Luckily, I've always had a great support network with my family, in particular my parents and my husband who I met when Oliver was three, Ste.

After numerous meetings and assessments I got told Oliver has high functioning autism - Asperger's syndrome and it turns out self harm is very common in people on the autism spectrum when they struggle to process something or have been 'told off'. We continued with the counselling sessions and Oliver has been taught some excellent calming methods which he now uses in day to day life.. We still get melt downs but the self harm has dramatically reduced, THANK GOD!!

It was only when Oliver seemed to be able to cope with his emotions that I decided I wanted to try for another child. He's always wanted a brother or sister and he was so happy the day he found out I was pregnant, I remember he jumped up with excitement and did a little jig. From finding out I was pregnant he had it in his mind he wanted a little sister and would describe her as being like snow white, so when he found out we were expecting a little girl he was overjoyed.
I was still worried that when she came he wouldn't be able to process how he felt and resort back to self harm but he's been such an amazing big brother and he uses his love for Isabelle to focus on when he feels like he wants to hurt himself and says it helps him to calm down and feel more peaceful. Isabelle has been such a blessing into all of our lives, and in particular Oliver's... He loves her much more than she will ever know, but he also doesn't realise how much she loves and idolises her big brother.

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