What is life after depression like?

Life after depression

I am becoming increasingly aware and joyful at how differently I find things now the black clouds of depression have disappeared.

1. I don’t mind the house not being clinically perfect. I don’t have the housework skills to make this happen or perhaps I do but not when a husband, children and animals are around. It does not matter. However, it did and it hurt me so much that I could not meet the standards either of myself or others. I always did housework every day but could only see what was not right. Now I focus on what I have done well.

2. I don’t feel pressured to find a 9-5 job to justify my existence in the world. I have found a role that suits me and am proactively building on that at a rate that is comfortable for me. For so long, I spent hours trawling job sites trying to find something that would fit in practically with the particular needs of my family and then beating myself up emotionally when I did not find it or ranting at the unfairness of society. Neither of these made me happy.

3. I am standing up for myself in all my relationships. Instead of sulking or being aggressive, I am stating quite clearly what I will and won’t accept and also looking for areas of negotiation which has to be a healthy thing. My husband said the other day that he no longer comes in worrying what mood I will be in and how to handle me. We are talking more openly and honestly and laughing a lot again.

4. Instead of hating the school run, I now home educate and am learning to play with that experience rather than stressing it. I can do it for goodness sake. I can’t really remember why I thought I would mess it up. I am highly educated, have had lots of life experiences, have a real love of learning – if I pass on just some of that to my children and encourage their passions, how lucky they are!

5. I have worked out that I don’t need a totally in my life best friend. I just need to feel that there are people I could go to in a crisis and also people who are good either in the real or virtual world for good times even if that is just a cheery hello from someone in a shop or cafe.

6. It is OK to be me and to celebrate that. I have nothing to apologise for and am a rich woman. It took me a very long time to realise that. Looking back, it is clear that I was carrying trauma from the circumstances of my first year in the world and rejections thereafter. All this has contributed to making me the sensitive and caring person that I am so it was all fabulous in the end. I had such dark days and years but I value the good ones so much now.

7. I am strong enough to keep toxic people at a distance whilst managing not to be cruel too. Toxic people tend to have their own very real issues. I am also courageous enough to allow people from my past back in knowing I have nothing to be ashaemed of.

8. I feel young again and enjoy playing with my lifestyle and fashions just like I did back in my late teens and early twenties. I am walking taller and sometimes in the kinky boots! My new jumper has “Ooh la la!” emblazoned on it which says a lot about my new sense of self-worth.

9. Christmas and birthdays are not giving me any cause for concern. We will have a good time. We don’t need to spend a fortune and we don’t need to run round in some vain attempt to make everybody else happy. We will do it our way because we have a right to and prefer it that way.

10. Overall there is a sense of balance that I love. I do housework, I paddle canoes that matter to me, I work, I reach out, I go shopping and bargain-hunting, I am part of the local community, I inspire my children and we laugh a lot, I make time to read and to walk in the fresh air often several times a day.

Roll back 10 years …

1. Living in darkness metaphorically and literally with curtains firmly closed.

2. Not coping with parenting or housework. Making big mistakes and hating myself for them.

3. Worrying when people judged me.

4. Working in jobs that were not practical as a young mum and then wondering why I was not managing to do it all successfully.

5. Not telling anyone what I needed or that I was struggling.
Not seeking help from a GP.

6. Being obsessive. Being angry. Sometimes a degree of self-harm.

7. Convinced that only one bloke could ever want or fancy me and therefore holding on too tight and being desperately insecure. I still have work to do in this area but I know think I am as good as any woman which helps immensely.

8. Sleeping on the school run rather than home-educating which is what I actually wanted to do and with a lack of strong support system in place and a husband commuting 100s of miles per day would have been the sensible option.

9. Feeling utterly isolated and abandoned.

10. Not celebrating my very real and unique qualities and skills.

11. Listening too much to the toxic ones. Not listening enough to those kind voices out there. If they knew me really, they would hate me. If they saw me, they would be repulsed by me. All in my own mind!

12. Hiding in baggy and dark clothes often in sizes too big for me. Trying to be invisible. Getting in the way.

13. Trying to deliver the perfect Christmas for everyone not just my immediate loved ones. Never managing to gain approval and then being miserable at not being the perfect person. Spending too much to make up for all my other sins.

14. Striving and failing to be the person that I now see relishing life.

It can be done and I hope this reaches someone who is giving up hope and that they seek help.

Help for me included counting my blessings however tiny they seemed helped loads by taking part in Reasons to be Cheerful set up by Mich and now hosted by Becky and Jo.

Someone finally realising something was wrong with me.

Building up online friendships and feeling valued again

Then going to the GP and saying “Excuse me, but I think I have had depression for about a decade”. For me, Prozac rocks!

If you’re dealing with depression and you don’t know where to begin start here

If you have overcome depression, I would love to know how life is for you now and what you think can help others most.

What Is Life Like After Depression?

Cuddle Fairy

Today it is my son’s 10th birthday.

He is having a happy day and is very excited at entering double figures.

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I have pinned a smile on my face, bought him the presents he wanted and a big surprise too. I have made a cake to his specifications. His brother and sister gave him treats too and he had money from my brother which he says he will save.

I feel strangely sad, a little bereft as my youngest child becomes that much older and more independent.

So I am going to cheer myself up by giving you 10 awesome facts about my boy.

1. He weighed in at a mighty 11 pounds and 8 ounces at birth. We have learned over the years that this bothers him so we don’t talk about it but what a bouncing baby!

2. Always adventurous, he climbed before he walked. No household mountain was too high and I think he will conquer many peak as he lives his life.

3. I have never met anyone who did not like my son. He is socially confident (unlike the rest of us) which makes him very easy to be around. I nicknamed him Charimsa ages ago and it suits him.

4. At the age of 3, he tried to make my terminally ill Mum better with a mini egg. Poignant moment and a sign of the sweet soul that exists beneath his full-on personality.

5. He had the best relationship with my late Dad. He is all boy and my Dad enjoyed that very much. “Stick them up!” my Dad would say and they would have a mock boxing match. Dad was also the one Ramsey liked to read to most.

6. My husband has 7 children in total. I think that Ramsey is the one who loves him most. He won’t have a wrong word said against his Dad and since my Dad died, Him Indoors has become his best male adult friend.

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7. Ramsey has a scar which has ended up being an attractive part of him although he could so easily have lost his eye when he had a fall whilst I was juggling two under two and turned my back when I should not have done so. It is a reminder of challenging days and post-natal depression.

8. Ramsey appeared in advertisments for Tesco and NatWest and saw absolutely no reason to be nervous. He has the most amazing self-confidence.

9. When my son hugs me, it is like the sweetest medicine. I think he has healing powers.

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10. Ramsey is gifted, has a kind heart and excels at everything he attempts. What is lovely about this is that he has not a hint of arrogance.

Did I mention that I loved him very much?

Happy Birthday Ramsey!

Pink Pear Bear

Last week, I blogged about how I was walking back to happiness. I am struck by the irony that on Monday I fell on a slippery slope (Kate on very thin ice) and twisted my ankle badly. We were a mile away from the car so there was no real choice except to hobble back crying, screaming and moaning all the way. It reminded me a little of childbirth as despite being the quiet time in moments of crisis and excitement, I am known for being vocal.

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I had such plans for this week but they do say God laughs when we make such things and it seems she may have a point.

Anyway, as we know there is always some light at the end of the tubular bandage so here goes …

1. I will get better. Recent news stories remind us to be very grateful for our health and wellbeing. It can be taken away in an instant and in far worse ways that a sprained ankle.

2. My enforced rest has shown just what the children are quite capable of doing for themselves. Valuable lesson learned right there.

3. My husband and children clearly hated seeing me suffering and offered help in various ways. My teenager brought me a chocolate orange to cheer me up. I just had 4 slices and let him have the rest which may well have being his plan from the start but it was still a lovely gesture.

4. I have finally managed to try some outfits on for BritMums Live today. I am not decided yet but am narrowing things down a bit.

5. I got a book on home education. Sometimes I feel I need my hand holding a bit in this adventure of ours.

6. I have eaten really well this week. The weighing scales are jumping around insanely so I am just going to carry on eating for health and taking my measurements until they fix themselves or wake up to the new me.

7. I have had my spotty nurse to give me amazing cuddles.

8. I am going camping this weekend. I must be mad in my current state but I want the family to have some fun so I cam camping our way back to happiness. Let’s see how that turns out.

Reasons to smile this week are wonderful.

reasons to smile

1. You find me in bed under my butterfly duvet and I am blogging.

2. Him Indoors is on late shift which means I get his company and help in the mornings. It also means I am in charge of the remote and other matters in the evening. By the time he gets in, I am very pleased to see him.

3. I made some quality time with my teenage son last night and also managed to contend with some sibling rivalry with aplomb.

4. We had a really interesting discussion about politics yesterday. It is good to find out what the children think and also what messages they are taking on board from the mainstream media.

5. I have come up with a really inventive idea for Him Indoors’ forthcoming birthday.

6. I have treated myself to some bargains via Ebay. Bits of jewellery and other non-essentials.

7. I feel on top of the housework and less daunted by it these days.

8. I also find I am feeling ready to let go of some of the items I kept following the death of my parents. I guess we move on in our own time.

9. The sunshine cheers the soul.

10. I published revealing picture of me on Facebook and it did not crash.

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11. I feel more relaxed generally. There is no doubt I have given myself a very hard time over the years but that makes the good times now all the more joyous.

What are your reasons to smile?

Will you create a stir and make mums and the tasks they juggle visible to the wider world? I was delighted when artist Steph contacted me to tell me about her range of textiles. As regular readers know, I am keen to raise the visibility of mums and the work they do. Check out Steph’s interview and let’s resolve to always create a stir perhaps sporting this fun apron.

apron

Mums juggle so much!

What is the striking story you have to share?

It started with a list. As a mother, there is always a list. Notes scribbled on bits of paper, whiteboards or chalkboards in the kitchen, activities listed on family calendars. It got me thinking about the connection between work, status and visibility. Those who are less visible tend to enjoy less status, don’t they? What would happen if I made my largely invisible list of daily family tasks more visible, public even, in simple black and white? I did an experiment. I compiled my list, which included things like ‘shave legs, make love, buy birthday presents’ and had the whole list printed on a range of textiles. I call them my ‘Create A Stir’ range because they often do. The response to these has been amazing– they seem to connect women’s experiences across the globe in a way that’s fun but, crucially perhaps, they also provide a relevant talking point.

What challenges did this situation bring your way?

My first challenge was fear! Talking about motherhood is emotive stuff and even as I write this, I am aware there will be a mixed responses. So the only way forward was to make my list grounded in factual autobiographical experience. This meant including a few of life’s less glamorous tasks such as ‘treat nits’ and ‘clean the bathroom’ as well as the all-important relationship stuff such as ‘listen to each other’ and ‘console and encourage’. I think this has made it honest, slightly daring, but witty at the same time. I began with 100 T-towels which were first exhibited in a gallery near Old Street, East London. It was quite nerve-wracking as I had no idea what the reaction would be, but they sold out almost straight away. My second challenge was practical. I trained as a fine artist making one-off pieces, not as a product designer, so I needed to learn about working with UK manufacturing partners to organise fabric printing, embroidered labels etc and intellectual property issues. However, it has been well worth the effort.

What were the joys that this experience brought your way?

I was overjoyed when people began to buy them! I love the fact that other women recognise their own lives in the list and laugh, somewhat wryly! The range has expanded into cotton aprons, oven gloves and a canvas bag. It’s satisfying to have produced a range of well-made UK products that women buy for themselves and their friends or families all over the world. I’m glad I listened to and acted on my inner impulse because the response shows that many women feel the same way.

Have you ever rediscovered or reinvented yourself? How?

Yes. At different life stages I have been a full-time student, secretary and stay-at-home mum volunteering in the community. Twenty years ago I decided to try a weekly art class while living as an expat wife with small children in Jakarta, Indonesia. I used to enjoy art as a child but never pursued it for school timetabling reasons and this opportunity to rediscover it began a key change in my life. I so enjoyed the classes that on our return to England, I enrolled to do Art A-Level and eventually took a Fine Art degree at Wimbledon School of Art – twelve years of part-time study which fitted very well around raising my family. Ten years further on, I am enjoying my career as an artist and I hope to continue into my old age!

How do you ensure you get time to yourself and what do you do with that time?

Now that my older two children are grown and the third is at secondary school, I have plenty of time to enjoy my art practice. I often work from home but also have a separate studio about a mile away where all the painting takes place. I love having my studio where I can work all day and leave things messy! I also appreciate having a private space to test new ideas before showing anyone else. For inspiration I visit London’s fantastic array of museums and galleries. If I visit with a friend, it’s fun to discuss the pieces and get different perspectives on what we’re looking at. If I go alone, I concentrate on the pieces that particularly interest me and always come away feeling refreshed and eager to get on with my own paintings and designs.

Describe at least one physical feature you have that you consider to be beautiful

That’s an awkward question! I think smiling makes everyone beautiful!

What makes you stand out?

People say my colour sense. I have my childhood in Brazil to thank for that, growing up with mangoes, sunshine and blue skies!

Is it important to you to support other mums?

Yes. Motherhood is a challenging so it’s great when mums help each other. I was very involved with other mums when my children were small, helping at playgroups, scouts and inviting mums over. I now have a wonderful toddler grandson and love to help out. Looking after little ones requires lots of energy, patience and ingenuity to get from one end of the day to the other and very hard to do alone. So getting out, sharing with others and having time off is really important.

Which mum inspires you?

Lots of different people do, but in particular those who will tell you every now and then that you’re doing a great job – that can keep you going for a few weeks or more! If you don’t always feel appreciated by others, remember to give yourself a pat on the back!

What would you like the next Government to do to improve the lives of mums?

Alarm bells start ringing when successive governments keep talking about getting women ‘back to work’. That’s fine if mothers want to return to a job outside the home, but it sends a clear message that this is society’s current norm and expectation. Sadly this must put many young mothers under undue pressure and signals a lack of government recognition for the essential mother role in the lives of small children. These are the mothers who often also invest time and energy volunteering in playgroups and schools and who help foster supportive and friendly communities. It’s very valuable work, just not so straightforward to put on your CV.

Huge thanks to Steph for sharing her striking story. Do check out her website.