Helpful Steps: Endometriosis, heavy bleeding, chronic pain, laparoscopy, and ablation… FUN!

period1

Okay… So I guess I don’t HATE my vagina, as opposed to just hating the reproductive organs that come along with it.  Okay…  I guess I don’t officially hate them either, considering they have assisted in the creation and birth of my two gorgeous children.  So really, I don’t HATE my “girly parts” at all… but I DO have serious issue with them!  I DO have issue with the chronic pain I have lived with since my period started at 13 years of age.  More particularly, with the severe pain I have experienced probably 50% of the time (for the past 15 years) with thanks to both the menstrual and ovulation cycles.  Similarly, I DO have issue with my fear of leaving the house, knowing the inevitable flood my heavy menstrual bleeding will create.  With the moodiness, the highs and lows of emotion, hormonal fluctuations, not to mention the self-doubt my periods have caused… and, of course, the age-old question, “Why is this happening to me?”  Damn you, Dysmenorrhea, EndometriosisMittelschmerz, and Menorrhagia!  😉  But, through all of this, what I am thankful for is I’ve FINALLY been able to do something proactive about it.  It’s been a long, long, road but it seems the light at the end of my tunnel has been reached.  

My menstrual journey began normally enough, however after the first year it was obvious something was not quite right with regard to the amount of period pain I was experiencing.  So off to the doctor we went (my mum and I), to be told – as all good doctors do – that my easiest solution would be to go on the contraceptive pill.  So at age 14 that’s what I did.  And then by age 16, I was told to skip the “sugar” pills and take the pill constantly so as to avoid having a period all together (as this apparently would ease my endometriosis symptoms/damage).  I learnt very quickly how to manage my period pain during those teenage years, but what  I didn’t manage very well were my hormonal moods swings and episodes of intense anger.  Interestingly, I thought this was simply who I was and resigned myself to living a life feeling and behaving this way.  So for 15 long years I rode an emotionally-charged, hormonal roller coaster until eventually (at age 29) I went off the pill and almost immediately felt like a different person.  Suddenly I was clamer, more emotionally grounded, able to walk away from emotionally heightened situations, and simply “be me” again.  Not that I even knew who “me” was because the pill had clouded this “peaceful” part of my personality for so long.  It pains me now to think about how my life may have been different through those teenage years if only I hadn’t taken the pill.  It’s not anyone’s fault of course.  Decisions were simply made based on the information we knew at that time.  All the girls were taking the pill for period pain and contraception – why would I react any differently to them?  Because I was one of the small percentage of girls who experienced adverse effects to the hormonal changes the pill creates in our system.  And as we already know… hormones and me, well… we just don’t seem to get along.

At age 29, after years of suspected endometriosis and trips to the specialist, I went in for a routine pap smear only to be called a week later to say I had to have emergency surgery the next day.  My pap smear results had shown a CIN3 level abnormal cervical cell change in the 12 months since my previous pap smear (which I was having regularly due to my ongoing issues).  I had put off having a laporoscopy for years to treat the endometriosis because of my fear of hospitals and needles.  Needless to say, now I simply did not have a choice in the matter.  So the day after said phone call, I was in hospital having a LLETZ Loop procedure performed for the abnormal cervical cells, a laporoscopy for the suspected endometriosis, and a hysteroscopy to determine any uterine damage or effects on my fertility.  Fortunately my results were good with successful removal of the CIN3 cells, with limited structural damage or impact on my cervix.  I had numerous endometrial scarring deposits (which were expected), with the worst being external to my uterus taking up residency and causing adhesion’s between my uterus and right ovary.  All endometriosis was removed and the hysteroscopy showed positive results with regard to my future fertility prognosis.  All in all, I guess you could say it was a very productive day at the office for my specialist (and for me too).  Whilst these procedures didn’t stop the pain and heavy bleeding I’d always had with my period, it was a relief to know exactly what was happening “down there” and the added emotional benefit of no longer being on the pill was the icing on the cake. 

A common myth surrounding endometriosis is that it can be improved by having children… “It’ll get better once you have kids”, people would always say.  Um, unfortunately not.  After the birth of our LM, and then again after MH, my periods only worsened.  The ovulation pain (“Mittelschmerz”) was equally as intense as it was debilitating, lasting for nearly 4 days of every month.  My period pain would last over 24 hours (again, debilitating), and the heaviness of those first two menstrual days was hideous.  When I realised things were again getting worse after MH’s birth, I decided to go and see Dr B about putting a stop to this nonsense once and for all.  His question to me was very simple:  “Do you want to have any more children?”  Having always known MH would be our last, it was an easy reply:  “No.”   And with that, we discussed my options.  I knew I didn’t want a hysterectomy at this stage in life, so we talked through other procedures that may help ease the intensity of my symptoms.  After only half an hour of discussion, my mind was made up and we had scheduled my surgery date for the 1st of July.  I just needed this pain to be over and my quality of life back.  I was booked in for a diagnostic laparoscopy to remove any new deposits of endometriosis, an endometrial ablation (utilising the Novosure ablation method) to alleviate the heaviness of my bleeding, the insertion of a Mirena device to help ease the ovulation pain, and a pap smear (why not do everything!).  It was a full system overhaul!  Dr B stated if he could improve my symptoms even 50% that would return my life back to some degree of “normalcy”.  I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Not surprisingly, my endometriosis had returned with a vengeance over the years and many more deposits were removed.  Dr B made note of two particular external deposits of scar tissue adhesion’s which were “quite unique”.  One deposit had adhered itself through my cesarean section scar, and the other behind my uterus (between my uterus and bladder).  He even provided photographs (see below)… The first image shows the scar tissue deposits as he found them (cesarean on the left, between uterus and bladder on the right), while the second shows the same sections now clear of the adhesion’s.   Sorry if this is a little too much information, but I actually find it all quite fascinating!

Endo-scar

Endo-clean

After the laparoscopy, Dr B proceeded with the endometrial ablation which involved burning the lining of my uterus away to prevent the blood from depositing as it normally would.  He predicted the procedure to be successful with “95%, a good coverage” of the uterine lining being treated.  Great news.  Next the Mirena was inserted, the pap smear completed, and the rest (as they say) is history.  Whilst my recovery was nothing to write home about, with considerable pain and discomfort for the next two weeks, the overall success of my surgery has been a godsend.

I’ve been through two menstrual cycles now since my surgery and have experienced only slight twinges of discomfort around ovulation time and then again when my period is due.  The good news is rather than lasting days on end as the pain normally would in both cases, the discomfort only lasts an hour or so.  My actual period is also considerably improved and virtually non-existent (save for perhaps a slighly brown-ish discharge lasting 3-4 days).  There is no bleeding at all!  My disbelief about this has me constantly waiting for something to give, something to happen, for the bleeding to start.  But it doesn’t.  On the success scale, Dr B assures me this result is right up there with regard to the best possible outcomes and is extremely pleased given it’s better than even he expected.  And whilst in 5 years time my Mirena will need to be removed, and a new one inserted, and there’s a chance my ablation will need repeating, I can comfortably say I would recommend this path of treatment to anyone experiencing severe endometriosis symptoms.  The downfall, however, is you have to be certain you no longer want to have children.  The endometrial ablation doesn’t prevent you from falling pregnant, but it does prevent you from carrying a baby full-term and this is something many people misunderstand.  Hence, the insertion of the Mirena.  Not only is it helpful in providing relief from ovulation pain, but also important as a form of contraception.
 
Thanks very much for taking the time to read this post, particularly if you are also struggling with endometriosis.  To be 95% pain-free after so many years of chronic pain is an incredibly liberating experience and one for which I’ll be forever grateful.  I feel very lucky to have had such a positive result when I am well aware many women are not as fortunate.  Endometriosis is a nasty and debilitating condition, and it’s something we as women should be speaking about more often.  As they say, awareness is key… March Into Yellow!
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Helpful Steps: “Moving from second best, to THE best… in your own mind!”

You! Yes you!

I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling second best – be it with regard to family, friends, relationships.  Always second best.  The irony of feeling this way (of course) is the more you feel second best, the more others perceive you in that light – the age old “self fulfilling prophecy” in action!   It’s amazing how this happens… And more amazingly still, how often it happens and for how long people can be consumed by this vicious cycle of self-doubt.

So over time, starting during my late-20’s, I began to realise I deserved a heck of a lot more respect and appreciation for simply “being me” – a HECK of a LOT more!    And so began the process of changing how I felt about myself.   Not an easy task by any stretch because (as we all know) how other’s feel about us is something not exactly within our control, nor anything we can change.  And I focused on other’s and what they thought WAY too much.   When the people who are treating you like a second-class citizen are those you deem closest to you, your partner, family, and/or friends, it becomes almost impossible to face the reality of distancing yourself from them.  But you have to.  It really is the only way to determine who you really are – your values, morals, likes, dislikes, etc.   At that time in my life I simply didn’t know which way was up, or which way was down.   What I had come to realise though, with the help of a toxic relationship and negative family and friend relationships, was that I had NO idea who I was as a person, nor did I respect myself at all.   What were my beliefs?  What did I want out of life?  What did I value about myself and what were my weaknesses?  What were my true strengths?  When had compromising my own values and self-respect become okay?  Why did I allow myself to be the “door mat” for others and their dirty feet?  Answers to these types of questions are a tough, tough thing to achieve and whilst I don’t believe for a second I have every answer to every question, I do know I see life very differently to the person I was back then.  And that, I can assure you, is a VERY good thing.

The starting point for me was a particular moment when I was getting ready for work… probably about 10 years ago.  I was fighting with my very toxic boyfriend as usual, and I looked up to the mirror to apply my make-up and simply burst into tears.  I honestly could NOT look at myself in the mirror.  I had become so disgusted and ashamed of myself and of what I had allowed my life to become, that in that moment I was completely stripped bare… helpless.   Feeling shattered, I remember sinking to the floor and just holding myself.   Alone in my unit, I was willing myself to get up, be strong, and face the day like I normally would.  But I just couldn’t.   It was an incredibly difficult realisation, and to this day I am still brought to tears when I think about my broken self in that mirror.  It was terrifying, but obviously the right time for me to start thinking about making some very serious life changes.

Needless to say, within a couple of weeks my 4 year, extremely volatile, emotionally-draining relationship had ended.  Of course I was an absolute mess on the outside, having never been alone and without a boyfriend my entire adult life, but something deeper was driving me to persevere this time – just get through this short term pain for the long term gain.  Corny, but true.  I just knew I deserved better than the life I was choosing to live.   Whilst it was a hard road to navigate, and many mistakes were still made along the way, it became my sole purpose – an absolute necessity –  to become comfortable in my own skin.  Because I wasn’t, and probably never had been.   Some other things also helped me at that time to find the strength I needed to re-define my life boundaries… one was an article by Dr Brenda Shoshanna, “Building Bridges” (which I’ve shared previously), and another was a blog created by Marc and Angel Chernoff called “Marc and Angel Hack Life“.  M & A’s very simple blog philosophy and overall goal is to ” help YOU think better, feel better, and live better”.  And for the way I was feeling back then (and still to this day), that seemed like a great philosophy to have in life.

It’s an everyday undertaking, being the “you” you genuinely want to be… but one I’m definitely committed to achieving.  I am more comfortable in my skin now than I’ve ever been in my life, and that’s saying something given the experiences I’ve had over the past couple of years.  What I find the most difficult though, is the insistence of some people around me to live in the past and not move with me into the “now” and beyond.  It’s almost as though they are more comfortable with the “old me” and my faults, than accepting the work I’ve done to better myself and my relationships.  Why is this the case?   Why would those closest to you want to detract from your personal progress rather than support you on your journey to a better self?  What I do know is that this issue is not mine to solve.  The way people choose to perceive you, their reluctance to grow with you and let you explore and better yourself, is not your problem to take on.  When other’s don’t share in your progress in a positive way, continually trying to drag you back to a place they feel more comfortable with (whatever their personal reasons may be), it brings a negative energy into your life you can honestly live without.  Hence, distancing yourself from the negative energy and replacing it with positive is a very good decision – albeit a very difficult one – to make.  A post by Marc and Angel entitled “10 things you must give up to move forward” resonates with me completely with regard to how I wish to move forward with my life (and another, “11 ways to become the person you love“).  Such posts have also helped me maintain my focus on what’s truly important during difficult times… Because, let’s face it, those difficult times are going to keep coming around!

Another great article to read is one discussing “Your Everybody Committee” and the damaging effect having the wrong “committee members” can have on your life.  It’s in these little pearls of written wisdom I often find the support and encouragement to keep on keeping on with my desire to live my life for me, and not for others.  Silencing your inner critic may never be completely possible, but acknowledging they are there is absolutely 80% of the battle won!  It’s finding the tools to silence your critic, or to listen with empathy, that make all the difference.  For example, one of the many little sayings I often like to use when my inner critic starts getting vocal is simply:   “This is NOT my problem”.  Because more often than not, the negativity coming your way from those around you (particularly in reaction to positive steps you’ve taken in your life) is motivated from their own internal struggles and agendas… It really has nothing to do with you at all.

So thank-you, as always, for sharing this little self-reflective post with me today, it is such a relief to put some of these thoughts into words and occasionally clear my mind!  Things are going well for myself and my little family right now, and sharing my steps to achieving a happier life is something I’m hoping will prove helpful to you too.  I look forward to posting again soon.

Take care,

TSM… xx

Just Because: “Our challenge… Putting down the phone!”

putdownphone

Have you ever looked around the room and realised EVERY SINGLE PERSON is looking down… at their phone!  I know this topic of conversation has been making the rounds in the media lately, with many arguing both the positives and negatives for the change in our communication styles due to technological advances (for example:  Gary Turk’s “Look Up” video, or it’s corresponding negative rebuttal).  Believe me, I am just as guilty as many others when it comes to focusing way too much attention on my smart phone!   I have often found myself sitting on the couch looking at my phone, with MH sitting and gurgling away to herself on the rug at my feet, and the LM engaged in imaginative play in his “kitchen”.  I know it’s wonderful to have times when our children can play independently, but shouldn’t I also be basking in this peacefulness and admiring it from the outside in?  Or better still, putting my time to productive use by doing something creative myself (eg. baking – which I love!).   I know, I know… herein lies the problem.  Smart devices can also be creative and productive and a very resourceful use of one’s time.  Connecting with people via our devices can also be of absolute benefit, as can the opportunity to shop online, etc.  I fully appreciate these good points, my personal struggle is more the timing with which I find myself giving my attention to my phone… In situations where I feel it may actually be creating a negative perception for my children about what is “normal” when it comes to communication.  It’s this feeling I am not at all comfortable with.

So all extremist viewpoints aside, my fear is that we as a society are losing sight of the basic skills required in human communication – general courtesy, respect, eye-contact, physical empathy, etc.  I suppose people could argue that communication is simply changing and I need to “get with the program”, but I struggle to see how such physically alienating behaviours can be a good thing?  We’ve all seen the posts on Facebook about “Being an 80’s Kid” or “Living in the 90’s” where outside play was the norm, we rode bikes, made “cubbies”, and helicopter parenting was unheard of.  It’s this physical level of human interaction I’m frightened my children will not have the pleasure of knowing or experiencing as they grow-up.  Kids don’t “hang out” in the street with other kids anymore (I’m hoping you understand my context), some of us barely know our neighbours (and don’t really want to).  I fear we’ve simply lost sight of our innate ability to connect with others on a physical level and as a result we are (as a society) in danger of losing the ability to empathise and genuinely “be” with other people.

phubbing

It’s a tough topic to write about because I am so very aware of how diverse peoples opinions around this issue (or non-issue) are… So, with all of this in mind, the questions I’ve been asking myself lately have been:  How can I make this change in “smart device” communication sit comfortably for me?   What examples am I showing my children in day-to-day life?  What can I change in my own behaviour to ensure my children know what I value in communication?  I realised that whilst I can’t control everyone else, I most certainly can control my own behaviour around what I am physically role-modelling to my children.  A very powerful (and “common sense”) realisation!   Then I thought about how my HF and I could do this and hold each other accountable, without arguing endlessly, for the benefit of both ourselves and our family… And it was this challenge we decided to put to each other:

Are we able to commit to putting our technological devices down (be they smartphones, ipads, ipods – whatever!) for those times of the day spent with our children, and in social interactions with others, when our our quality time and attention is absolutely deserved?  

And our answer was simply… YES!

decide

So how about this for a plan, we are going to:

1.  Place our devices on the kitchen bench (in an allocated spot) and leave them there – ignored and unattended!  If a device needs to be looked at, we must do so standing at the kitchen bench (to make it uncomfortable – no more lazing on the couch, laying in bed, etc).

2.  Devices can only be looked at when all activities with the LM and MH have been completed.   Note:  we have agreed this includes phone calls (people can leave a message and we can phone them back), however this obviously may need to be on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature of the call and what we’re in the middle of doing.

3.  After the children are in bed, devices remain on the kitchen bench and can be checked as required.

4.  Smart devices can be placed on charge, but are not to be used, in the bedroom.

It’s only 4 simple challenges, right?  But I know that as much as I want for this to happen, I also know it’s going to be extremely hard to put into place and maintain.  I guess what we’re hoping is that sooner, rather than later, it will feel more a “chore” to check our devices, rather than the all-day-every-day default behaviour it’s inevitably become for us.  Our goal is to improve and enhance the quality and amount of time we devote to our children, and each other, and extend that experience to those we socialise with (in that our smart devices will no longer make public appearances unless absolutely required).  What do you think?  Is it unrealistic? Can we do it?  I’m not sure, but I’m sure as heck going to give it a try!  I look forward to providing you an update soon.

EDITED (31st July, 2014):   I recently saw this post on Facebook and couldn’t believe what I was reading (but then strangely, I could believe it!).  If we didn’t need proof before as to why we should be putting down our phones and paying attention to  the company, atmosphere, and life happening all around us then we certainly have it now… This is most definitely my biggest DISLIKE of the modern world.   Article link:  http://themetapicture.com/people-kept-complaining-this-restaurant-sucked-look-what-they-found-out/

Take care,

TSM… xx

 

Postnatal Depression: A literal “bump” in the 2013 road… Pregnant? WHAT!

Image

The above quote very much sums up my PND experience over the past 2 years… I’ve always felt capable in my life, not matter what was thrown into my path.  I always felt I could overcome any obstacle, any hiccup, any “bump” in the road (excuse the pun).  But alas, since my PND diagnosis I’ve come to discover (and slowly over time, accept… well, sort of) that I can no longer be the same person I was.  This experience has redefined me in ways I’ve struggled with, by changing some of the things I felt were my true strengths and turning them into (perhaps perceived?) weaknesses.  But if I’m honest, the reverse has also been true… Parts of myself of which I was not always proud have now been redefined and become strengths in their own right.  The difficulty for me however, remains in my acceptance of these changes and in moving forward with my redefined “tool kit for life”, in feeling comfortable in my ability to positively contribute to the world.  It’s been a long, yet inspiring journey and just when things were finally seeming to make sense and falling into place again, something came at me from left field to disrupt my new equilibrium… Hence, my new journey begins here:

I’ve been a bad mummy blogger over the past couple of months… Very bad.  In fact, I’ve not posted anything since the beginning of February!  Shocking, I know.  But I do feel justified in having this small blogging break, at least somewhat anyway.  I’ve been dealing with something I wasn’t quite prepared for and certainly didn’t think would be happening again in my life… I’m pregnant with our second child.

You may recall my blogging about whether or not to have another child, reasons for and against, back in September last year (Postnatal Depression:  To have?  Or not to have? That is the question…).  Fast forward to the present moment, and my HF and I are already 6 months down the road in our journey to becoming new parents again.  Was this expected?  NO.  Were we shocked?  YES.  Am I scared out of my mind?  ABSOLUTELY.  And with that being said, it has taken me all of this time (up until the past month or so really) to come to terms with what is happening in our lives.  And I’ll be honest, some of how I’ve felt is not what you’d expect a soon-to-be-mother-for-the-second-time should be feeling… My ability to cope has been very much pushed to it’s limits and, at times, I’ve failed miserably in my handling of all the residual feelings I still have regarding pregnancy, birth, and the “new baby” phase.  This part of my life was something I thought I had “dealt with” and would not be re-visited.  The stark realisation for me has been that regardless of whether such feelings were “dealt with” or not, those feelings will most definitely be dealt with now – whether I like it or not!

And so, here we are… again.  The two things I’ve felt most strongly about reconciling within this journey so far have been:  1)  How will I birth (vaginally or CS)?;  and 2)  We are having a girl (please refer back to my blog post, “Helpful Steps: Things I’m afraid to tell you…“, point Number 5).  Both points probably at one time or another deserved a blog post in their own right, but for now I’m content just listing them as I’ve had enough time over the past 6 months to work through them at my own pace.  And guess what?  I feel I’ve come to a clear resolution on both points!

After much discussion with my GP, my specialist, and my Obstetrician (Dr B), my HF and I decided we would opt for an elective caesarean section for the birth of our daughter.  My first birth was vaginal and incredibly traumatic (not what I would call “natural” at all!), both for the LM and myself, and both of us were left with “issues” as a result – mine emotional, his medical.  Combined with this experience, is the fact my birth canal is simply too narrow to safely birth a “normal” sized babe (the LM was only 7.3lb and long at 57cm).  Had the LM been even a smidgen larger it is no secret we may have lost him during the birth.  This is a reality I simply can’t deal with this time around.  The idea of going into a vaginal birthing situation with this knowledge and very real “lived” experience of the trauma involved has made the decision a fait accompli in my mind.   I have spoken with those present at my first birth, I have spoken to midwives I know and trust… both have differing opinions on what I should do, whether it would be different this time around, etc.  But one question in my mind remains constant:  Do I knowingly want to put my unborn child at risk by having another vaginal birth?  And the answer, for me, is simply “No, I do not”.   I certainly appreciate there may be mothers out there so much braver than I with regard to such decisions, but rightly or wrongly both my HF and myself feel this is the right decision for us at this time.

Now, about our having a little girl… Funnily enough, my resolution with this fact has been much easier than I ever imagined possible.  And it was all due to something BF1 said to another friend of hers who was struggling with the knowledge she was having a little boy – “This is your baby’s story to live, not yours.”  Pretty powerful words, aren’t they?  Not to mention amazingly true!  The perceived issues I’ve had regarding having a little girl in my life were MY issues, and mine alone.  This tiny, unborn baby inside of me has no knowledge of the life I’ve lived, the relationships I’ve experienced with my own parents, siblings, etc.  Why then did I feel it necessary to burden her with my problems?   Because I was afraid.  But not afraid for her, I was afraid for me.  The idea of having a daughter – a “girl” – brought back so many memories and hurts for me it was seriously confronting!   I can recall so many conversations where all I heard was how “difficult” girls were compared to boys, how much “harder work” I was in comparison with my older brother… the list goes on and on!  So much so that even having Dad stay with us over this past weekend was proof in this recurring pudding.  He kept bringing up the terrible things I would do as an 18 month old child, to the point where I had to say, “Dad!  Enough!  I am not a little child anymore, I am a 38 year old woman!  Don’t you think it’s time to move on?”.  But that’s what my family are like, they can’t seem to let go of what “was” in favour of what now “is”.   Sad, but unfortunately true.  So yes, with these simple words my BF1 was able to relieve the pressure and fear I had placed upon myself and allow an acceptance within me to finally raise to the surface and embrace the little girl who will soon complete our family.  Because that’s exactly what she will do.  Her life will in no way replicate mine because her story is hers alone to write, with a little assistance from us of course.

So, this is where we currently stand with regard to what was initially perceived as a HUGE detour in our 2013 journey… We have come to accept what is happening in our lives as a mere “bump” in the road.  An experience with the potential to impact our lives in a uniquely positive way, whatever that may transpire to be.  My little family will grow by one more come September, and together we will create our own experiences and enjoy everything wonderful we each have to offer – okay, and I’m sure the occasional awful thing too!  I am now looking forward to it in a way I didn’t feel was initially possible.  I still have a little apprehension (that’s only natural – right?), but hopefully my blogging mojo will kick in again and I can share more with you too!

Thank you as always for being here,

TSM… xx

Helpful Steps: Closing the book…

closing the book

Closing the book is difficult… Even more so when the core thread of said book is “family”.  How do you close a book on a topic you’ve read about your entire life?  When you’ve moved from chapter to chapter, no matter how confronting the task, always wanting to read on?  Not easily, that’s for sure.  My history with this book has ebbed and flowed between moments of incredible happiness, joy, and wonder, to those of incredible self growth and development, to those of extreme sadness, disappointment, anger, and frustration.  But then that’s what books are created to do, aren’t they?  They are written to take the reader on an amazing journey of discovery… Both for the characters with whom they share the journey, and for themselves.

But let’s be honest… This book doesn’t involve “characters”.  These “characters” are members of my family.  Therefore, the book isn’t to be closed on all the characters entirely, only on a select few who have consistently maintained a negative, dramatic, exhausting, and somewhat ridiculous influence in the chapters of previous years.  So much so, the most recent chapter ended in a spectacular, explosive, over-reaction on behalf of the heroine bringing up every ounce of negativity she had worked so hard to move forward from for many years.  As readers of this particular book would appreciate, the meddlesome twosome involved had been the instigator of many drama-filled incidences the heroine could simply live without… After all, how many unnecessary grievances should one be expected to encounter before finally having enough?  With the final paragraph describing the dramatic walk-out of the heroine from a family function, this chapter was both an eye-opener and a truly tragic turn of events.  Tragic because her fall from grace had been so complete.  Tragic because she had let herself down so amazingly.  And tragic because now it was necessary to write certain characters out of main roles and delegate them to guest appearances only.   Sad?  Yes.  Disappointing?  Absolutely.  Required?  Most definitely.

Sometimes the drama certain characters bring to life stories can be exciting and thrilling, joyful and humorous, thus allowing the reader to laugh out loud in a positive way and bask in the warm glow of the events being described.  There are other times however, when such drama can impact so negatively on the lives of characters within the story readers cringe with distaste and will the dramatic characters “BE GONE!” because the story would benefit so much more without them.  Now obviously there is always a need for drama within any story, be it good or bad.  The difference herein is the way such drama is encountered by the main characters and its overall effect on the story.  If drama is often repeated, with the same characters constantly creating trouble and strife in the lives of the main characters (resulting always in negativity and emotional unrest), the story would become incredibly tedious and boring for the reader.  Particularly if nothing is being done to ensure a positive change in direction for the main characters involved.  As we all know, there is nothing worse than a plot with no direction, re-hashing the same scenarios over and over again.    It is important the story can move on, unhindered by the hefty weight of such dull, repetitious antagonism.

So that is what’s going to happen in this instance.  Certain characters will be removed from the lives of the main characters, delegated now to “guest appearance” roles thus reducing considerably their potential for dramatic impact.  This will need to be done in a careful manner as there will likely be a transition phase for other characters, an adjustment period required for them to become comfortable with the changes to the story’s current direction.  The lives of the main characters however (the heroine most especially), will be freed to explore their true potential, allowing opportunities for more positive interactions, characters, and experiences to be written into the story’s core framework.  A breath of fresh air for the characters and readers alike!

So the book is not being “closed” in the technical sense of the word, more a storyline within the book is being revised to ensure said book can be the best read it can possibly be… A story of personal trials and tribulations, self growth, love, and ultimate personal discovery to be treasured for many generations to come.  A story with which both the characters and readers themselves can be proud to say they were associated.  Doesn’t that sound nice?  I honestly can’t wait to read the next chapter…

Thank you as always for sharing in my post for today… I hope you and your family are writing a wonderful story together, strengthened by each chapter as they’re written, as it should be.

Take care,

TSM… xx

Postnatal Depression: A letter to my Handsome Fiance…

Dearest Handsome Fiance,

Today is your birthday and I feel more love for you than I’ve ever felt before.  At this moment in time, I’m overwhelmed by your commitment, loyalty, love, and dedication to not only our family, but to me personally. You are a truly amazing and compassionate man, and I will forever be grateful to fate for allowing our paths to cross.

The past 18 months for us, since the birth of our LM, have been so wonderful, yet so devastating for our relationship in so many different ways.  To be honest, few days go by I don’t wonder why on earth you are still here, still putting up with my erratic moods and irrational thoughts.  I am forever asking myself:  “What did I do to deserve this incredible man?”  Yes, things have been getting better for us.  And yes, we’ve both worked extremely hard to ensure our relationship has not become a victim of my postnatal depression diagnosis.  But the nagging thought (yes, that nasty PND-M) in the back of my mind continues to remind me that you didn’t sign up for this… You didn’t ask to be confronted and impacted by such a powerful and destructive illness.  You didn’t fall in love with a broken woman. 

But here I am… broken. 

And here you are… Loving me in all my “brokeness”, reminding me daily I’m the most important thing in your world.

So today, I want to remind you that you are definitely the most important thing in my world and always will be.  I know I have placed our relationship under considerable stress and strain over the past 18 months and even though you haven’t always understood what was going on, you continued to be my greatest supporter.  The look in your eyes during those early days whilst I was having my “meltdowns” showed me your confusion and uncertainty first hand, but you stuck by me.  And from the day we received my diagnosis, I watched you learn to “manage” my moods and emotions in a way I never thought you capable… But there you were, standing tall and always being the better person to ensure things didn’t get out of hand.  You worked with me tirelessly to help me understand which parts of me were real and which were a result of my depression.  I completely underestimated your capabilities – they have proved amazing!   And for that I will be forever in your debt.

We’ve spoken a lot recently about how much things have improved with my depression, how things are feeling less difficult and more “normal” (whatever that means).  So much so, I’ve even found myself daydreaming about life in a way I haven’t done since our LM was born.  I have your love, respect, and support to thank for this.  Without you, I believe whole-heartedly I wouldn’t be here today sharing my feelings with you, thanking you for everything you have brought to my life.  I shudder to think what dealing with postnatal depression without your warmth and understanding would have meant.  Because together, we are stronger today than we ever have been. 

So… Happy Birthday, my amazingly Handsome Fiance.  You are my everything… Every day, in every possible way.  I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.  I love you to the ends of the earth and back again… And much, much more.

Yours forever and always,

TSM xx

Postnatal Depression: To have? Or not to have? That is the question…

The last couple of days have seen me thinking about something I never thought I’d think about… Having another baby.  I always swore I was a “one child mum”.  I always preached whilst pregnant that I was most certainly NOT a “natural earth mother” put on this planet to procreate and have an abundance of children.  However, it seems there are many factors impacting me at the moment forcing me to take the topic that little bit more seriously.  I’ll be honest… I don’t want to think about it.  Not at all.  The horror of being pregnant again is frightening in so many ways.  Those feelings of awfulness following our LM’s birth are in themselves enough to see me running in the opposite direction.  But alas, thinking about it I am.

Let me clarify… When I say “thinking about it”, I mean that in a very literal sense.  I am just thinking a lot of thoughts which happen to be focused around being pregnant again and having another baby.  It is NOT to say there is any type of actual decision making going on in my mind as to whether or not that baby will one day become reality.  Does that makes sense?   At the moment I’m surrounded by friends who are either:

  • trying to fall pregnant (with either first or second bub);
  • reassuring me that if I fell pregnant it would be different this time;
  • asking (with no knowledge of my PND battle), “So, when’s number 2 going to be on its way?”;
  • asking (with knowledge of my PND battle), “So, things seem to be getting better… Will you go for number 2?”;
  • telling me my biological clock is ticking, so best make a decision now.

It appears I’m simply being thrown a curve ball with regard to working through issues I perhaps didn’t want to deal with right now.  I’m being made to face my demons and confront head on those reasons for feeling the way I do about having another child.    Okay, so maybe that’s all fair enough.   From what I can make sense of so far, my main thoughts both for and against the idea are as follows:

FOR:

  • I like the idea of our LM having another sibling close to his age as he grows up, particularly when he’s older;
  • BF2 is trying for another baby and it would be nice to share the experience with her again;
  • Maybe this time it would feel “good” to be pregnant;
  • Maybe the labour would be a more “natural” process;
  • Maybe the birth would be much less traumatic for both myself and the babe;
  • Maybe the postnatal period would be different – full of good and positive feelings, enjoying every moment;
  • Maybe my HF and I could enjoy the experience together.

AGAINST:

  • I only ever wanted to have one child and can’t imagine a life with more than one;
  • What if my experience was exactly the same?  Would I be able to cope?  (I don’t think so)  Would I beat myself up about it?  (most probably, yes);
  • I am petrified of going through postnatal depression again;
  • My HF has been through enough, it would not be fair to put him through anything more;
  • Our life is only just getting back to “normal” after 18 months of roller coaster madness;
  • I am too old to have another baby.
  • What if I had a girl?

I always find it helps to clarify your thoughts when you write things down this way.  As is proven here… Do you see what I see?  Look at all those “maybe’s” in the FOR section.  By compiling this list, I get the sense I’m more concerned about making my past experience “right” by going through it all again.  But as you know, the reality could be that my experience would be exactly the same (as I’m also very afraid of).  My innermost need to somehow justify what both the LM and myself went through over the past 18 months, not to mention the impact it had on our family as a whole, would be the only reason I would consider having another child.

Very clearly, I want to make it right – for all of us.  But I can’t.   I want to experience pregnancy and child birth in the “ideal” way I had always envisioned.  Not have as my only reality this traumatic, dark, clouded experience I don’t like to think about.  I want desperately for my HF to experience me at my glowing, pregnant best, singing and dancing about the joys of motherhood every afternoon when he arrives home from work.  I don’t want him left with the memory of how ugly I’ve become.  How difficult and straining the past 18 months have been, and how much he’s had to pick up the loose ends just to keep things together.  But most of all, I want to know myself as a “happy” mum.  I want to know what being a mum feels like when you’re not held down under this constant weight and pressure of postnatal depression.

If I’m really prepared to slap myself in the face with the truth… I want to prove I’m not a failure as both a partner and mother and that I can do it properly!

Maybe… Maybe… Maybe…

I want… I want… I want…

But honestly, what about making the most of what I have right now?   It seems I’m letting that little question slip right through the cracks by focusing too much on the past, and thinking I can change it with the future.  I need to take a good, hard look at myself.  Take a step back… take a deep breath… and live THIS life.  Not the “ideal” life I somehow feel I’ve missed out on.  But for anyone who’s suffered from postnatal depression knows, it’s definitely easier said than done.  The positive for me at this time, I guess, is that being aware of what’s happening deep, down beneath all those crazy thoughts is (I hope!) 80% of the battle won.

Thanks so much as always for reading my babbling thoughts and continued efforts to sort them out… I appreciate it more than you know!  This has been a huge off-loading of information, so do hope it all makes sense for you in one way or another.

Until next time, take care.

TSM  xx

Helpful Steps: When the planets align…

Have you ever had those times, regardless of any obstacles, when things just seem to work out?  When you’re talking about someone and they call at that exact moment?  When you walk under a street light and it suddenly goes out?  When you think of something completely random and your partner says EXACTLY what you were thinking?

Is it purely coincidence, or is there more to it?

I used to be a really cynical and sarcastic person.  Cynical because I always felt second best to everyone around me, and sarcastic because it was my defense mechanism – I’d always put a barrier up first, that way (I thought) I couldn’t get hurt.  Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve worked really hard breaking down these chinks in my armour and feel I’ve done a pretty good job.  Books like The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (not to mention my bestfriend’s blunt honesty at times) have had a lot to do with my ability to turn my thoughts around.  Whilst there is a lot of speculation and criticism for both schools of thought, I found their basic principles extremely beneficial with respect to all walks of life.  The idea that our innate energy impacts on our surroundings, and others, makes complete sense to me.  We see examples of this positive and negative energy at play every day, in every way –  in our relationships, friendships, at work, at home – everywhere!  And doesn’t it always seem to be the most obvious when our energy is working in the negative…  When we are so down and out within ourselves, feeling terrible and against the world, the only way we can deal with it is by soaking and zapping the energy from everything and everyone around us.  If I’m completely honest with myself, my cynical self of old was definitely an example of this.  It can ultimately be such a drain on those positive people in our life that they choose to be around others less demanding of their time and energy.  It’s a vicious, revolving door and one I now try to steer as far away from as possible (very hard to do when suffering from PND).

So, the idea that there are no coincidences in life and everything is put in front of you for a reason (we just have to be conscious of it and explore what that reason may be), really resonates with me.  The cynical me of old would tell you it’s all a load of crap, however too many things have happened in my life since opening myself up to this way of thinking I simply can’t explain.  Whether it be with regard to job opportunities, relationships, or just the type of home or lifestyle I wish to have, there have been numerous times a much larger force seems to be at play in order to make things happen.  The act of visualising my wants and desires, the act of positive thinking things into fruition, has actually helped move my life forward.  I know it sounds crazy, but I believe it to be true.

Just recently, such forces of nature seem to have been at play again.  Whilst I was pregnant, and then again whilst on maternity leave, I started thinking about what my “ideal” job would look like.   The project management position I currently hold is definitely my idea of an “ideal” job.  However, being funding dependent my team are often faced with the dreaded question of “what if” our funding is discontinued?  What would we each do then?  For me, the answer has always been simple.  I need to find a job as close to the “perfect fit” and as rewarding for me as what this job has been – it is no doubt an incredibly tough ask.  Then I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and both my confidence and self-worth took a battering to the point of non-existence.  Forget about what my “perfect job” would be, as far as I was concerned I held no value for any workplace, let alone my own family.  Since starting my medication and work again, things have definitely improved.  Although I’ll always be the first to admit I still have quite a ways to go.

Through my postnatal journey, I’ve been fortunate to meet and be connected with many wonderful mothers who are struggling with the same debilitating illness.  We share our thoughts, feelings, incredible guilt, the very worst, and the very best of ourselves.  It is an amazing community and one within which I feel extremely lucky to be a part.  During a particularly dark time for me, by an amazing twist of fate, I happened upon a local news article outlining two mothers on their own unique postnatal depression journey.  Their journey has resulted in their establishing an organisation whose mission is to educate and connect with mothers suffering mental illness in a supportive, non-judgmental, community environment.  So, I “liked” their Facebook page.  From there, they in turn started supporting my blog posts by re-posting them for their Facebook friends.  We each then started commenting on various things, until ultimately it was decided we should meet and share our own experiences – both personal and business.  And wouldn’t you know it… I felt instantly connected with these women and completely at ease from the moment we sat down together over coffee.  It was like I had known them all my life.  The conversation flowed easily, I was in awe of their achievements, and I walked away feeling as though something incredible was about to happen.  The planets aligned…

I’m purposely not naming names, or organisations, as I believe there is still a lot of ground to cover.  But I will say this:  Always stay true to yourself and listen to your intuition.  The doors that open due to your willingness to connect with the things you don’t yet understand may very well pave the way to an unforseeably wonderful and rewarding future.  At this stage, I’m not quite sure where this chapter of my life will take me, but I can honestly say I am extremely excited as to what my future may hold.  I guess only time will tell, and until then I have to keep believing there is a bigger picture and what unfolds is ultimately meant to be.

Who would have thought my postnatal depression diagnosis would lead me to where I am today?  Not me, that’s for sure.

And just in case your “cynical” side is doubting my current outlook on life… Here’s some more proof!  After writing my post this afternoon I put off publishing it as like to leave a little time to read over it again.  Unbeknownst to me, my HF then decided to surprise me with a lovely Thai take-away dinner and a DVD movie.  The movie he chose for us was  “The Lucky One” (with Zac Effron).   The opening quote at the start of the movie was this:

“You know, the smallest thing can change your life.  In the blink of an eye, something happens by chance when you least expect it and puts you onto a course you never planned, into a future you never imagined.  Where will it take you?  That’s the journey of our lives, our search for the light.  But sometimes, finding the light means you have to pass through the deepest darkness.  At least, that’s how it was for me.”  – Logan (Zac Effron)

A coincidence given what I had written this afternoon?  I think not.

I’m curious to know if you’ve ever encountered these types of “twilight zone” moments in your life?  Please be sure to share with me if you have, I would love to hear from you.   Enjoy your weekend, everyone, and I look forward to sharing more with you soon.

Take care,

TSM  xx

Postnatal Depression: Couples therapy feedback… Is this good or bad?

Two weeks ago, my HF and I went to our first couples therapy session.  Both of us thought the experience went well and we are eager to continue as we think it will do our relationship the world of good.  During that first session with Mrs O, both of us were asked to  fill in two questionnaires (in the waiting room whilst the other spoke with Mrs O on their own).  The first questionnaire was about our relationship, basically were we happy in our relationship, was it rewarding, or not.  The second was to assess our current levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.  We filled them in willingly, and I know for myself I didn’t really think about the results again.

When we walked into our next session with Mrs O, she calmly asked us to take a seat and said, “Okay, so I have your scores for the questionnaires you filled in for me last week and…”   What came next was confronting, but not shocking, and I walked out of her office that afternoon feeling raw, extremely vulnerable, and just a little bit sick in my stomach.  I mean, I know the last month has been a struggle, but are things really that bad?  This is what transpired:

“… HF let’s start with you.  You scored within the normal range for stress, normal for anxiety, and normal for depression.  And the good news is, both of you scored around a 7 on the relationship scale, so it means you’re both relatively happy and on the same page in that respect.  Now, TSM, for your results.  You scored within the normal range for stress, within the severe range for anxiety, and the extremely severe range for depression.  This is something we need to tackle head on, straight away.”

Okay, so things are obviously THAT bad!  I initially felt a little numb when Mrs O said what my results indicated.  It’s been 8 months since my diagnosis, surely things were getting better by now?  Then she asked if these results were a surprise to me and I replied that honestly no, they were not.  How could they be a surprise when I’d been feeling so crappy over the past month and at a loss to explain why?  I looked over to where my HF was sitting and he was looking at me with a really sad expression on his face.  It wasn’t that he was feeling sorry for me, I know that.  I just think he feels so incredibly helpless to assist me in getting things back on track.  And I continue to feel incredibly guilty for all the damage I’m causing our family and for not providing him with the life I know (well, I think) he desperately wants.  These such feelings are the reasons why I think Mrs O’s results, at this particular time, have provided both a good and bad outcome for me.

The good outcome is that my moods now make sense (all over again).  I’ve not been feeling so bad because that’s just the person I am, how I’m meant to be.  I’ve been feeling bad because my depression still isn’t in check and I need to find new and different ways to deal with the dark moods when they occur.  I need to work more on what my triggers are and how to recognise them.  Whilst I’d felt things were improving for a good 6 months or more, something has caused a shift over recent months and it’s most definitely in my best interest to get to the bottom of what that may be.  So how do I get to the bottom of it?  The answer is simple… more therapy.  With Mrs O’s help, the goal is to focus on my depression and anxiety over the coming months in individual therapy sessions.  Mrs O firmly believes my HF and my relationship, generally speaking, is not in trouble at all.  In fact, the issues we highlight as “challenging” are what every couple deals with from time to time.  What’s making it more difficult for us to get over, is the influence my depressive moods are having on our ability to communicate with one another on an even playing field.  Until that can happen, until the darkness can be taken out of the equation, our relationship will continue to be “hard work”.  Neither my HF or I want that (obviously), so again the outcome has been good in helping us (namely, me) recognise where the initial issues lay and how best to deal with them.

The bad outcome is, as I mentioned earlier, I had thought I was past all this individual therapy business and to a point I could cope with more on my own.  Whilst in my rational mind it makes perfect sense this is not the case, I still feel like I’ve failed on some level.  I know, I know… this is my irrational mind, the depression talking.  That evil monster getting into my thoughts again making me feel hopeless and worthless, as though I can’t do anything right.  And even though I know individual therapy is going to help me with this monster, there still remains a part of me that desperately wants to be capable again.  Wants to wake of a morning knowing that today is going to be a great day.  Wants to hold my HF’s hand and smile up at him because he is my world and I can’t live without him.  Such thoughts still feel so far away, so I guess the answer for me is to get back to the basics of what my PND has taught me so far.  I need to take each day as it comes and allow myself the freedom of giving myself a break from all of the expectations I pile upon myself (a common thread here?).  I need to break my day down into the smallest, most manageable pieces I can in order to deal with whatever is happening – be that by the hour, the minute, the second, the milli-second.  I need to understand that whatever my thoughts are in this moment can be changed and I have the power to do that within myself.  But mostly, I need to give myself time… After all, time heals all wounds, right?

So, walking out of Mrs O’s office with my HF I felt vulnerable and raw and knew that I couldn’t talk about what was happening within me right then.  I explained this to my HF and he, as usual, didn’t press me further.  We’ve spoken more about things since and our date nights are set to become a regular occurrence (twice monthly) in our schedule.  It’s important we keep talking about how my depression is effecting us, and our date nights allow us to do that as adults and in a way that makes us mean something special to one another again.   I know I will make the effort to learn new strategies in order to overcome this depression because I not only owe it to myself to be the very best person I can possibly be, but I also owe it to my family.  I owe it to them more than anything else in the world.

Thanks as always, and I look forward to sharing more with you soon.

Take care,

TSM  xx

Postnatal Depression: A man’s perspective on couples therapy…

As you know, my HF and I have decided to undertake couples therapy as a means to get our relationship (namely, our communication) back on track.  This is by no means a negative thing for us, we are most certainly NOT on the edge of a separation (which most people seem to think when you mention”therapy”).  What this means for us is a chance to arm ourselves with the best tools possible in an effort to provide the ongoing maintenance required for our postnatal depression journey – and for the life we will share beyond.

We feel really good about our decision, so in a brave move my HF agreed to write down his thoughts on the whole thing.  His initial reaction when I asked if he would consider writing something about our experience was, “But what am I going to say?  You write well, I don’t.  I can’t put it into words.”  I assured him honesty was the key and beyond that it didn’t really matter.  I’m not saying he liked doing it, but he was willing to do it for me… for us.

So, here is his perspective on our first session with the couples therapist… Thank-you so much for doing this, babe.  I love you.

Our life was turned upside down when we added the LM to our life.  All for the better.  But with all the things we were thrown to do with our LM, it made life a very uneasy one for all of us.  But more so for my lovely fiance.  Things were difficult.  I tried to keep things calm and rational but it was not possible a lot of the time.  We didn’t know what was going on.  I had no idea it was postnatal depression.  My listening skills aren’t great at the best of times and this was a constant struggle for us during this time.  But it was my lovely fiancé not being able to cope with, or be rational about, every day things and situations that was the hardest for me to deal with.  It was not like her at all and I couldn’t fix it no matter how much I wanted to.

When my lovely fiancé came home after seeing the doctor and told me about the postnatal depression, I felt relieved we finally had an answer and some understanding for what was going on.  Since then, I have been able to manage more of her meltdowns with a better idea of what she is going through.  I know now all I need to do is give my lovely fiancé the space she needs to deal with things when they happen and reassure her we’ll get through this and that I’m not going anywhere.

When we talked about going to couples therapy I thought this would be a great idea to help us deal with both our issues.  Both for our personal issues and those to do with the postnatal depression.  I knew I wanted this for us, but I was anxious about our first session.  During the first session, I had the chance to talk to the therapist about how I was going and how I was dealing with things.  My physical reaction gave away my anxiousness because my mouth became really dry and I struggled to keep on track with what we were talking about.  In the end though , it felt good to finally be able to get things off my chest.

I’m hoping by seeing this therapist our lives will certainly improve.  The therapist spoke about ways I can help.  One way was by planning nights out for myself and my lovely fiancé.  We need to enjoy time by ourselves and get used to communicating and being together as a couple again.  I probably didn’t really understand that by me planning and organising these sorts of things, that would actually mean more to my lovely fiancé than me helping her around the house.  I want us to eventually get back the love and affection we first had when we met.  Tonight we are going out and it’s the first time I’ve organised it without her help  She was very surprised when I told her!  I’m really looking forward to it.