mental health

I’m Not Sad…

Recently I’ve had some battles with the postnatal depression – this shouldn’t be a surprise to those who read this blog. It’s not been all consuming but functioning has been a challenge. One thing I’ve heard a lot is ‘I’m sorry you’re feeling sad’.

 

I’m not sad. I’m depressed.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment and that people don’t want me to suffer. It can be tough and awkward to talk about mental health so I applaud people that do. This isn’t me calling people out for not expressing themselves perfectly – this is me discussing a common misconception.

 

Depression is often thought of as being ‘sad’: this is a normal emotion and it’s not helped by people who claim they are depressed when, in reality, they’re just a bit sad. How often do you hear people claim they’re ‘depressed’ when really they are just a bit sad, disappointed or annoyed? Depression is a diagnosed mental health condition (like asthma is a lung condition, and eczema is a skin condition). It’s so much more than sadness and, for some, it barely manifests as sadness.

 

A word that comes up time and time again when discussing depression is ‘numb’. A blank, engulfing hopelessness. Everything is grey, lifeless, uninteresting, pointless and flat. Happiness barely scratches the surface while negative emotions blossom.

 

Sometimes depression comes alongside anxiety. For some it comes with intense anger. The list of symptoms is massive and, often, surprising. Sometimes it goes beyond the mental and becomes exceptionally physical. An absolute inability to move, eat, sleep, talk, and concentrate. It’s frustrating!

 

When you hear about a person who can’t get out of bed in the morning, I know there’s a portion of the world that thinks they’re exaggerating. If they have depression, they are not exaggerating. It’s like an anchor tying you to bed. There’s literally no energy there to use and if there was, the fear of moving would be enough to keep a person there. Do they really want to just stay in bed? No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

 

Mostly I force myself out of bed in the morning because my son needs me. At the peak of my depression,this process took hours and my baby would be changed, dressed, fed, and played with while on my bed. His needs were met but mine were neglected. The worst part is the desperate desire to go out, socialise, do things that involve movement, and then being utterly unable to achieve that (which then makes you feel worse, and it’s an ugly cycle).

 

But the point is: I don’t often feel sad. There were moments when I was suicidal that I didn’t feel sad. A lot of the time it’s a mix of so many emotions it’s an overwhelming whirlpool of hopelessness. Stop telling depressed people to cheer up, to put on a smile, to do some exercise, and think positive. None of that is going to change their hormone imbalance.

 

 

 

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creative writing, Evolved Energy Short Stories

#3 Unwanted Changes

The third short story in the Evolved Energy Series.

Previous

 

“I came as soon as I heard.” Hiccup was quick to discard of his soggy scarf but the buttons of his drenched coat refused to cooperate.

 

Eacal sat alone at his desk, shuffling papers and decidedly refusing to acknowledge his best friend’s presence. A chilled, red hand placed on the pine table was enough to force his eyes upwards. “It’s no big deal.”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

“I had to.”

 

Nostrils flaring, Hiccup dropped into the chair opposite. “You didn’t have to.”

 

Eacal shrugged and went back to playing with the paper in front of him. “I’ve got a kid.”

 

“You had a kid when you took this job,” Hiccup scoffed. “It didn’t stop you. It’s her isn’t it.”

 

“I haven’t lost my job, Hiccup.” Eacal looked pointedly at his oldest friend.

 

“Might as well have.”

 

“Hardly.”

 

Hiccup began drumming his fingers against the arm of his chair. “You’ll hate this job.”

 

“How long could I have kept it up?” Eacal sighed. “I’m not in my twenties anymore. I’m getting older-”

 

“You’re 30!”

 

“And I’m not as fit as I was at 21. Chasing bad guys isn’t meant for middle-aged men-”

 

“Middle-aged?” Hiccup growled. “Speak for your bloody self.”

 

Eacal waved away the comment. “I am speaking for myself. Slowing down had to happen at some stage.”

 

Silence filled the room slowly like a noxious gas. Hiccup scanned the brunette closely, taking stock of his features. It had been a little over a month since they’d last had a chance to meet – his friend looked visibly worse for wear. He chose his words carefully. “It’s about that guy, isn’t it? What was his name again? Murdoch… or Marley… or-”

 

“Marden. It’s nothing to do with that.” Eacal snapped.  

 

“Sure it is,” Hiccup’s eye hardened. “He threatened your family and you lost it.”

 

“I didn’t lose it.” The tone verged on petulant.

 

With an exasperated sigh, Hiccup leaned forward in his chair. “Look, you don’t have to do this-”

 

“I do.”

 

“You don’t. They can’t push you out of your job. It’s their legal obligation to offer counselling after that sort of encounter. You suffered a trauma at work.”

 

Eacal rolled his eyes. “Don’t go all lawyer on me.”

 

“I am a lawyer. I’m your lawyer. I’m telling you that you don’t need to do this.” Hiccup insisted.

 

“This is my decision, Henry.”

 

Use of his given name was enough to shock Hiccup into a deep silence. Henry was never a word that slipped through Eacal’s lips. Not even after years of insisting that Hiccup was childish and overly familiar. With extreme concentration, he managed to avoid the jerking of his body that gave him his nickname. “Eacal…”

 

“You’re worried and I love you for it but stop.” Eacal shook his head. “I’m not an Investigator any more. A desk job is what I wanted, it was the right decision.”

 

With one last glare, Hiccup shrugged and abruptly stood. “Fine. Do you want to get a drink or is that forbidden now that you’re a middle-aged has-been?”

 

Eacal smirked.

 

(All characters, setting, plot etc. belongs to me – Erin Robinson)
Life, Parenting, Uncategorized

Routines

If I’m going to be real about this, we’ve been doing a bit of coasting in the parenting department so far. Our baby is a great sleeper, a great eater, he’s a happy baby. We decided to let him lead and go with the flow. I’d also done a bundle of reading during pregnancy and firmly believe that establishing routine too early isn’t necessary.

 

There’s also so much pressure. People started asking if we had a routine when our baby was only two and three weeks old. When you’re still recovering from giving birth, learning basic parenting skills, getting to know this new person in your life, and confronting lack of sleep? Well, routines are not a priority. Anyone that tells you differently needs to be told to hush.

 

We’re nine months down the line now and it was finally time to put in those big parenting hours by establishing a routine. Recently we went away for a couples’ holiday. It hit home that we’ve not had a lot of time to just be a couple: partly because we hadn’t prioritised any time for ourselves in our day.

 

The other big reason for taking the leap is that, ultimately, I want to get back into the working world. Being at home with my baby has been great. I’ve been so lucky to get that time. However, my brain needs some adult interaction and different forms of challenge. Making sure baby is in a routine is going to be crucial.

 

Luckily, I am happy to report: OUR BABY IS AWESOME. Within a few days, we’d switched his meal and sleep schedules around so he goes to bed at a reasonable time. A whole new world of adult opportunities opened up to us. Except now we don’t know what to do with this free time and get excited about going to sleep early….

 

Do we get parenting points now or…???

Life, mental health

Emotional Independence

Here’s a question I’ve asked myself recently: how often do I look to others for emotional growth in myself? How often am I looking for support, encouragement, reassurance, affirmation or just plain happiness? Next question: why do I give others the power over my self growth?

 

Recently I’ve been hit with the realisation that I’m quite often emotionally codependent. I lack self belief. I lack confidence. Through a series of circumstances, I’ve ended up in a situation where I allow others to have a say in my value.

 

It all begins with fear as far as I can tell. My life at times has been plagued with anxiety, instability and health difficulties that have left me seeking security from outside of myself. Do you know what’s wrong with that statement? I’ve just cuddled up with victimhood: I’ve just given my circumstances power over who I am as a person.

 

Now, that’s not saying I should diminish my life experiences or hurdles I may have faced. Those are very real moments that have ricocheted over my life. What it means is that somewhere along the way I’ve allowed those experiences to become more powerful than myself as a whole.

 

People talk about ‘finding’ themselves. Not many people are willing to discuss the process of losing themselves. Right now I’m unravelling a piece of string that hasn’t seen the light in a while. I’m trying to reconnect with a person inside myself that I’ve never known.

 

It all sounds a bit cheesy. I’ve decided I want to be the best version of me but that means learning who ‘me’ is. It means digging deep into my mental health, my systems of belief, and my life in general. Some of it isn’t what I want to see and confronting that reality can be tough. 

creative writing, Evolved Energy Short Stories

#2 Christmas Traditions

The second short story in the Evolved Energy Series.

Previous

Hiccup straightened his tie, took a firm grip of his Godson’s shoulder and marched him away from the swarms of people. He refused to look back: not even to check if his best friend was following. He needn’t have worried as within seconds the other man was at his side. “Eacal, I’m putting in a formal complaint about that pantomime.”

 

His friend groaned loudly. “Every year we go through this.”

 

“No we don’t.”

 

“Oh yes we do!” The brunette scoffed.

 

Hiccup fixed him with a withering glare. “I’d have thought you’d have been more concerned about what your son is witnessing.”

 

“Every year…” Eacal mumbled to himself.

 

“It’s entirely inappropriate,” Hiccup ploughed on completely unabashed. “Especially for children. They shouldn’t be watching some cannibalistic old woman-”

 

“A witch-”

 

“Luring young children in with treats. Then attempting to murder them in her kitchen!”

 

Eacal sighed at his friend’s outrage. “It’s Hansel and bloody Gretel, Hiccup.”

 

“Emphasis on the bloody!” Hiccup snarled.

 

“It’s a fairy tale, not a Death Row documentary.”

 

“What’s death row?” The child asked from his place between the two of them.

 

Both men ignored the interruption. “Fairy tale or not, I don’t think it’s very festive.”

 

“What’s death row?” The child persisted.

 

Hiccup glanced briefly at his Godson. “Where they used to kill people.”

 

“Hiccup!” Eacal hissed.

 

“Are you being serious?” Hiccup rolled his eyes. “Hansel and Gretel was fine but History is where you draw the line?”

 

The young boy smiled. “Sounds cool.”

 

Eacal glowered at his smirking companion. “See what you’ve done!”

 

“I’ve done nothing!” Hiccup scoffed.

 

“Now he thinks death is… cool.”

 

“He’s allowed his own opinion.”

 

Eacal stared. “What is his Mother going to think?”

 

“You could tell her you took him to that terrifying stage show.” The smile that slid across Hiccup’s face bordered on unpleasant.

 

“I’m never bringing you to one of these again.”

 

“Until next year.”

 

Eacal began to trudge through the slush that spread over the pavements. “I hate you.”

 

“I love you too.” Hiccup beamed.

 

“Don’t say that too loud.” Eacal grumbled.

 

Next 

(All characters, setting, plot etc. belongs to me – Erin Robinson)
Life, Parenting

20 Unadvertised Parenting Moments

People have plenty to say when you’re pregnant including, but not limited to: how amazing it will be, how horrific the labour will be, how much sleep you will lose, how much laundry there will be, how your life will change so much and you’ll be overcome with magical feelings of love. None of this covers the day-to-day parenting scenarios that make up your life. Therefore, in a bid to be real about it all, I’ve made a list of my top 20 scenarios (so far) that people don’t tell you much about.

 

  1. Bodily Fluids:
    Before you have a kid, you don’t really have to worry much about bodily fluids unless you’re very unwell, or very drunk. Then BANG, you’re a walking mess. You suddenly find yourself in Tesco wondering ‘what is that suspicious mark on my t-shirt?!” before doing the sniff test to ascertain whether your child has puked, spat, peed, or worse, all over your outfit. Also: you won’t care, it’ll be so normal you’ll continue with your shopping.

  2. Kid Music:
    Remember when ‘Let It Go’ was played on the radio loads and you moaned like Hell (or, if you’re me, loved it)? Well, this is life with a child. We can now boast knowing the entire rap of ‘You’re Welcome’ from Moana as well as the theme tune to Vampirina and Paprika.

  3. Extra Accessories:
    My handbag used to contain my purse, my phone, my keys, my inhalers, and possibly my ipod. Now we’re usually sporting at least one dummy, probably a teething ring, and at least one toy. I’m wandering around like Mary Poppins without the co-ordination or the fancy outfit.

  4. Suspicious Smells:
    Once upon a time, the only time I worried about bad smells was when we drove past a farm or Mr Robinson let off gas. Those are still tedious situations but now every new smell in our house is a potentially lethal situation. I literally sniff another human being’s butt multiple times a day like a Labrador at the park. This is then followed by ‘has he poo’d? No? Maybe it’s just strong pee? Wait, no, probably poo…’.

  5. Bottle Testing:
    If you’re using a bottle [for formula or expressed milk] there is a very high you chance you’ll use your wrist to test the temperature of the milk – nobody wants to scald their baby or listen to a screaming fit should the temperature not be PERFECT. In your rush to calm your hangry child, your wrist begins smelling of milk. This is then added to the list of potentially suspicious smells.

  6. Re-Educating Yourself:
    There should be classes in which parents are given out a guidebook of nursery rhymes. I had the basics: Twinkle Twinkle was great, Incy Wincy Spider was a smash-hit, but anything else? NOPE. It’s a sad reality that I can safely say there are three and four year olds in the world right now that have more knowledge than I do. What’s worse is the amount of times we’ve had to make up the words at random because we’re so utterly clueless.

  7. Hostage Scenarios:
    Sitting on the sofa, watching ten minutes of tv while your child amuses themselves with the vast amount of toys at their disposal. Then you make the fatal mistake of standing up to go to the toilet. Your child begins screaming as though are about to ABANDON THEM and NEVER return! There are REAL TEARS. Slowly, you slide back onto the sofa and sit for twenty minutes holding in your pee before being able to sneak out like Action Man.

  8. Additional Expenses:
    I’m the kind of person that likes to stock up on supplies. Dutifully, I wandered off to the shop and bought in a selection of dummies for our son (and baby spoons, come to think of it). Then we were invaded by elves who have stolen the dummies. They only ever allow us to have two dummies available at any given time. Seriously, how am I losing these and where did they go?!

  9. Nappy Changes:
    People talk a lot about nappies and their unpleasantness. What they don’t tell you is that nappies come in MULTIPLE sizes and you have to guess which one will fit your child at any given time. It all began so well with straightforward ‘newborn’. Now there’s size 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, tape-ons, pull-ups, swim-pants. The leakage is real. There must be a science to this that I have yet to master.

  10. Money Down The Drain:
    People told us not to do it but we still did it. We bought the toys. We bought ALL THE TOYS. Our child now has a collection of expensive toys but to be honest, the empty tissue box and the lid to his bottle are his FAVOURITE THINGS EVER. Bonus points if you put his dummy inside the box…

    Gabe8months

  11. Buying In Advance:
    We’ve been very lucky and had the luxury of people buying a lot of clothes for our baby. This has meant we’ve had money spare and so we thought we were doing the wise thing by buying clothes for the future, in bigger sizes that he’ll grow into. This is all fine and well until you lose track. Then you go to change over the sizes and discover that you have 40 vests and 5 sleepsuits, with 15 t-shirts and one pair of trousers. Off to Asda you trot.

  12. Scratching:
    We bought scratch mits and in the early days these were built into the sleepsuits. What we hadn’t planned for was a child with eczema. Also, he’s auditioning for the next Nightmare on Elm Street and likes to try and scratch my face off. Then teething happened and we had to change the mits so often that we ran out of fresh pairs. Queue improvisation in the form of random pairs of baby-socks being put over his hands so strangers think we must be in dire straights (maybe just me, I’ve had some interesting Mum moments so far).

  13. Explosive Ickiness:
    I’ve told people this a few times because the horror is real. Sometimes there will be poo… and it will be EVERYWHERE. You will be thinking ‘I’ll just bin the whole baby at this point and start again’: luckily, you will remember how disturbing the whole child birth process was and decide that it’s not worth repeating for the sake of poo. If you’re like me, you’ll just decide to bin all of the afflicted clothing and possibly bath the baby.

  14. Bodily Harm:
    My child has a big, heavy head. In case I ever forget this, he likes to remind me by sitting on my knee and throwing his head back. I’m trying not to take it personally but he’s nearly broke my nose twice, and he keeps splitting my mouth open. Send Help.

  15. Drool:
    Once you see the first of those big, beaming smiles, you begin to seek them out. Our baby loves it when you hold him above your head in the air: he seems to think he’s Superman and gives us the giggle smile. Sometimes this comes with dripping drool. Right into our open mouths.

  16. Grabbing:
    We were so excited for our baby to develop and were super pleased when he started being able to pick things up. Until he realised he liked hair and hair could be pulled. On one memorable occasion he ripped out a handful of my hair and attempted to eat it. Like Hannibal. We’re working on the whole ‘it’s attached’ thing.

  17. Teething:
    If you wondered how we reached Drool stage for number 15, then look no further. Our baby has been teething for months. This means constant drool like a slobbery dog, running down his face, pooling in the folds of his neck, and soaking through his clothing. Who knew one human could produce so much saliva? Why were we not warned that we’d go through twenty thousand bibs a week?!

  18. Vocabulary Changes:
    For the most part we don’t use baby speak. We speak to our son like a person but we still have to be age appropriate. Unfortunately this sometimes carries over to adult conversations and you start referencing your hands as ‘handies’. I’m sure this is a baby brain thing.

  19. The Great Escape:
    This month the baby discovered that climbing out of the baby walker is a real possibility. We’re going to need one of those kid-jail play-pens to hold him so we can go to the toilet. He’s also got daredevil tendencies and finds great pleasure in trying to launch himself out of the arms of unsuspecting family members and friends. 
  20. Bad Influences:
    We’re lucky to have friends that actively engage in our baby’s life. It’s lovely to watch – until the F-bombs start dropping into casual conversation and I have to start wondering when my child will begin absorbing hideous language and repeating it. I’ve already started trying to switch to ‘flipping’ and ‘oh deary me’.

 

 

mental health, Parenting

Parenting With Mental Health

Every person has mental health just the same as they have physical health. This doesn’t always mean a person has a condition – some people are healthy but have unhealthy thoughts; some people have a condition but a radiant personality. As I’ve scrolled through the social media world recently, one topic that comes up time and time again is how those with mental health conditions manage parenting.

 

This week the Scottish government announced more funding for mental health services for pregnant women and new mothers. Obviously this struck a chord with me because it will likely be that sort of support I’ll need if we have future children. Still, the stigma continues. You don’t even have to look far to find it.

 

I’m not a big reality TV viewer but let’s look at Catelynn Baltierra (nee Lowell) from Teen Mom OG: as a teenager she gave her baby away for adoption and has suffered horrendous postnatal depression ever since. She’s taken herself to treatment facilities multiple times and gets absolutely slated for it. Comments range from people calling her lazy, an attention seeker, and a woman who doesn’t try hard enough, to darker comments such as “she should have been sterilised if she couldn’t look after her kids” and “she has no right to have more children”. As a woman that is currently trying to recover from postnatal depression and anxiety, it’s all a little disturbing.

 

There’s this idea floating around that people with a mental health condition are automatically unfit parents. In some extreme cases this may be true but no more so than anyone else with a health problem. I’ve spoken before about some of the misconceptions people have regarding postnatal depression. I thought I’d now share some of the real life scenarios where my mental health most likely impacts on my parenting.

 

  1. Baby Robinson was having his first attempt at eating (more like sucking and chewing) on some toast a few weeks ago. He continually tried to shove everything he could see into his mouth. My anxiety was SKY HIGH trying to ensure he wouldn’t choke to death. Some people will read this and think ‘helicopter parent’ but this isn’t the case: he’s tried again multiple times. Was I feeling mentally happy during that moment? Nope! But did my baby choke to death? No chance in hell.
  2. Safe sleep is something I’ve researched very thoroughly (because, you know, anxiety…) and the safest way is for baby to be on his back in a clear cot. Easy! Now, there’s very little guidelines on what to do once your baby can roll over. Some say “turn them over”, others say “they’re fine, go to sleep you paranoid woman”. There’s even less information if your child likes to sleep on his face… No, not on his belly, on his face! With his butt in the air! Naturally my anxiety kept me up half the night checking he hadn’t suffocated himself while he snored away, oblivious to his paranoid mother hovering over him like a weirdo.
  3. One instance where my mental health works positively is that I remain very, very aware of trying to keep my child emotionally healthy. I deliberately force myself into using a poker face and saying ‘uh oh’ when he falls over instead of yelping and rushing to his aid: I refuse for my child to think anxious overreaction is necessary. There are moments where I’ve let him test his own boundaries even though I’d like to avoid any possibly scenario where he could be upset i.e letting him stand on his own (he’s perfectly able to do this), or making attempts to crawl (he’s mostly just too lazy to want to do it).

 

Mostly my mental health conditions torment ME but I try to make sure they don’t torment my child. We’re surrounded by a support network that are on hand to help when needed. Looking at my child you probably wouldn’t know that he has a Mother with anxiety and depression: he’ll be too busy flirting with you, headbutting you, or blowing raspberries in your face.