Friday, 15 December 2017

Today's post in my mental health guest post series is by Kim from Raising a Ragamuffin

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder isn't easy. Just when you think you've worked out how to manage it, life throws you a curve ball and you have to start all over again.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder and what Causes it?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a severe form of what some people call the 'Winter Blues' caused by shortened daylight hours and a lack of sunlight. In the 6 months between the clocks going back in October and forward in March my mood gets low. I feel tired most of the time, even after a good night's sleep. I lose motivation to do almost anything and there are some days where I can't even face leaving the house. My focus becomes almost non-existent which can make my day job quite difficult.

Methods for Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • Exercise - it's well documented that exercise can help ease the symptoms of depression and other mental health problems.
  • Get outside during the day - get outside during daylight hours and soak up those rays. Make the most of your lunch break and go for a walk to get some exercise too.
  • Light box/ dawn simulator alarm clock - light boxes are very bright lights designed specifically to help those suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder. A dawn simulator alarm clock gradually gets lighter in the half hour before the time you set it to be at it's brightest. I have both a light box and a dawn simulator alarm clock.
  • Medication - sometimes all of the above doesn't help or circumstances mean that you can't do any or all of them. Sometimes you just need a little something to get you out of that hole. There is no shame in taking medication to help with SAD. In the same way that there is no shame in taking medication for a physical illness.
  • Me-time - this is important all year round but especially during the winter months for SAD sufferers.
  • Ask for help - if you're struggling ask for help. Even if it's just someone to have the kids for a couple of hours or taking a couple of days off work.

My Experiences of Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

As far back as I can remember I've felt low around Christmas time. Not for any specific reason, I think Christmas just stands out because it's the big event of the winter months.
Over the years I developed several strategies for coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder, the ones mentioned above. I got to a point where I was managing it and it had very little impact on my day to day life. But the last couple of years, my first two as a working mum, have been really difficult. If I'm truly honest, I didn't cope last year. But I couldn't admit it at the time.
In recent years, since the birth of Ragamuffin, I moved towards the alarm clock instead of a light box for two reasons. Firstly time, with the light box I need to sit in front of it for 20 minutes each morning - time that I just don't have anymore. Secondly, it makes getting out of bed easier because the room is already light.

Not Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder in 2016

Last year Ragamuffin broke the bulb in my alarm clock and for a few weeks I thought we had to replace the whole thing. That was £50 that we just didn't have at the time. So I went back to the light box but wasn't getting enough time to sit in front of it. Eventually I realised that, we only needed a replacement bulb. I ordered two (so I had a spare) and was away, so I thought.
We then went through a tough period with ragamuffin where she had a couple of chest infections. For anyone to get any sleep I ended up bed-sharing with her in the spare room, away from my alarm clock. Even between illnesses she didn't sleep well and there were even more nights spent in the spare room without my alarm clock. We moved the alarm clock to the spare room and then she'd sleep through for a couple of nights so I'd still end up away from the clock and it's light.
I'm not sure how I made it through that winter. I honestly can't remember much about it other than the run up to Christmas and Christmas Day.

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder this Year

I've had similar issues this year. Ragamuffin is going through another period of multiple wakings in the night. Some nights she settles back to sleep quickly and others we end up bed-sharing. There have also been a couple of other contributing factors which I think have made my condition worse this time. My beloved nan died earlier this summer and I'm not sure I'm over it yet. Its also been a tough year at work with morale low on my team. A couple of more senior colleagues noticed that I wasn't quite myself, which has never happened before, and made me realise that I was struggling.
So I took a couple of days off work for some me-time (and to catch up on much needed sleep!). During that time off I saw my GP and was prescribed anti-depressants which have made a huge difference to my day-to-day life. When I sit and think about it I wonder if ragamuffin's poor sleep is linked to my depression. Her worst sleep spells have happened in the winter months when I've been feeling low. It could be coincidental. Waking at night is normal behaviour for a child of her age. I'll probably never know for sure.
So far this year I'm feeling much more like myself. I don't feel anywhere near as tired as I did a few short weeks ago, and I have much more patience with those typical 2 year old moments. I'm not 100% but I'm the best I've felt for a while and that's pretty good right now.

Advice for Anyone not Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Ask for help and support if you need it. There is no shame in admitting you are struggling. I wish I'd had the courage to do it last year when I was feeling very low. Most of all, look after yourself. Make sure you put time aside to look after yourself to have a soak in the bath or even half an hour to read a book. You can't be the best version of yourself if you're running on empty.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Mental Health Guest Post Series #6


Today's post is by Sarah from Family Home Project

Dealing with Mental Health as a New Mum

Dealing with mental health is difficult for everyone and it affects people in many different ways. For example, I found things particularly hard after I had first baby, Oscar.

I had a pretty awful labour. I was already a week late and after starting my labour at one hospital I had to be rushed to another 40mins away, as Oscar had gotten himself stuck bad and his blood pressure was dropping. In total I was in labour for 18 hours and Oscar was finally delivered by emergency C-section.

As awful as it was though, it hasn’t put me off!




My healthcare worker would visit and ask how I was doing and if I felt down, and I would always say fine (which wasn't a complete lie) but I also used to say it for fear of being judged or an unfit mother!

In reality, some days I just couldn’t even face leaving the house!

I remember once finally getting out the door and going for a walk to the shops. After seeing a friend of mine while out on the walk, we was chatting away when all of a sudden a wave of anxiety just came over me and I just knew I had to get home. I managed to excuse myself without sounding rude, got home and cried. I couldn’t explain it and sadly as amazing as Jason is, he just didn’t understand.

Oscar dropped 14% of his birth weight in his first week, going from 7 pounds 6 ounces to 6 pounds 10 ounces and had a little Jaundice. I think this all mounted up and started to put doubt in my head.



To be a new mother, it’s scary your being left with this tiny little person who is completely dependent on you and you're never ready for it.

I was 100% sure I wanted to do breastfeeding but sadly it didn’t go as well as I had hoped. Again I wasn't sure what to expect but with Oscar's weight loss and added visits from the
midwives and healthcare workers I would stress about how much food he was getting and if he would lose more weight. That's when the doubt of being an unfit mother would sweep over me again.

After a couple of weeks I switched to bottle feeding which I felt helped me a lot (even if I did feel guilty about it). However, it was lovely to see my parents and Jason helping to feed him. They also got to form their own bond with him, and for my parents Oscar is the first grandchild, so my mum loved it.



Thankfully I had my cousin Jessica I felt I could really talk to about things. We have very similar personalities and she had had a little girl about a year before I had Oscar. So when I was explaining how I was feeling it was nice to know I wasn't alone. She knew how I was
feeling and had experienced many of the same feelings I had been having, so it gave me hope that they were only temporary and they would soon pass, which they quickly did.

Oscar has now just turned 2, which is such a fun age and I’m definitely in a much better place. There are days when Oscar is having a tantrum and I might not have had much sleep that I question having another one! But as down and alone you can feel, it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done.


Anxiety isn’t anything to be ashamed off and I’d definitely recommend talking to someone, maybe even another mum, because they are probably going through the same thing.

Keep going mummies, you are doing an amazing job!

Sarah x Family Home Project x

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

One year of blogging & turning thirty!



I can't believe it, one year of blogging! Some how, apart from a few occasions, I have managed to write a minimum of one post a week for a year. This blog has helped me to get my feeling out into the world at some pretty difficult times. I have been able to vent about how hard being a Mother is sometimes, I have shared my mental health battle and I am so proud of myself for staying committed to this.

Today I also turn thirty. The big 30, I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Up until the weekend I had been so OK with it and then as I write this (the day before my birthday) I feel so anxious. Am I where I want to be, have I done everything I wanted to by the the time I reached this age? The answer honestly, is no but I'm OK with that. You cannot plan the way life is going to pan out and even though there are some regrets you just can't live like that.

The past ten years have brought so many up's and down but life would be very boring if it had been completely straight forward. I got married, had two beautiful children, bought my first home and finally learnt that it's more important to surround yourself with positive, uplifting people than trying to please everyone. If people want to be in your life they will, you just can't force it. This has meant saying goodbye to a few people that I never thought I would ever have too but I feel so much better for it. I have learnt to appreciate the simple things and my family will always come before anything.

What would I like the next ten years to bring is what I have been finding myself thinking, more so than thinking of the past. Now that both children will soon be in school, I would like to focus on me. Not in a selfish way but to find out what I want to do with the rest of my life as right now I have no idea.

I want to carry on with this blog, especially spreading awareness about mental health and sharing the highs and lows of being a Mummy. I can confidently say that right now I feel content with my life and tonight and also this weekend I'm going to celebrate me and the fact that I have made it this far.

Thank you so much if you have followed my journey over the past year and for your ongoing support, it means a great deal to me. So here's to turning the dirty thirty!


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

A festive trip to Noah's Ark Zoo




Last weekend we were very kindly invited to Noah's Ark Zoo for a look around their history & mystery of Christmas tour. The tour takes you around the zoo with the objective being to find the numbered signs where on each one you can find out a different fact about the history of Christmas and enables you to complete the Christmas quiz. At the end a magical visit with St Nicholas awaits you with a friendly welcome and maybe even a chocolate coin. Following hundreds of fairy lights along the way, all while being met with different beautiful animals. 






This was our first trip to Noah's Ark Zoo which is surprising as it's only an hour away from where we live. For us it's just up the motorway to Bristol and it was very easy to find. I had heard brilliant things about the zoo so we were very excited to attend the family bloggers event. A warm welcome was waiting for us on a very chilly day and the kids were very keen to get going around the zoo.




 We were very lucky and were allowed to feed the Meerkats and it was amazing for the kids to be able to get so hands on from the start. The keepers were very knowledgeable with any questions that we had and you could just tell how much they care for the animals. The tour took us around a huge array of animals. My personal favourite part was going up to the Elephant house and seeing the Christmas tree enrichment that they had hanging up. A very interesting way of keeping them stimulated and once the tour was over at 12.30pm we later went back and listened to the Elephant keeper talk. 






The trail is very well set out and easy to follow using the map that was provided. Apart from a few sets of stairs it was easy to manage with a pushchair too but I would recommend wellies if the weather is wet.  As I mentioned at the start of this post the trail is finished with a visit to St Nicholas and the kids loved listening to him talk about the story of Christmas.



 Once the tour of the trail was finished the zoo very kindly laid on some delicious pizza which are freshly made on site. They were honestly some of the yummiest pizza's I have ever had and it was nice to have to some hot food in us after being outside in the cold. The Zoo also gave us all a hot chocolate so we then decided to go off and explore more of the zoo on our own. We made our way up to the big cats, saw the Lions and listened to the big cats keeper talking all about the Tigers. I appreciate the keeper's taking the time to speak to the public about the animals as it was very interesting learn more about them.



We then walked up to the giraffe house, passing the Spectacled Bears which were just incredible. A lot of the animals were inside on the day we went (I don't blame them) so we were able to see the majority of them up close. The last animals we went up to see were the Rhino eating their lunch, the kids were a little anxious being so close but they soon came around. Of course we had to end the day with a visit to the indoor play area and for a zoo I was really impressed.




As well as the Christmas trail there will be other activities on every Saturday up until Christmas, you can find more information here. Taking part in the Christmas trail is included in the cost of a day ticket. 

Over all we had a brilliant time and it really got us into the festive spirit. Noah's Ark Zoo is a very underrated place and we will definitely be visiting again in the future. 



Monday, 4 December 2017

Mental Health Guest Post Series #5




Today's post is by Jess from Mrs Hible

How becoming a mum again has affected my mental health.


Becoming a mum is one of the hardest yet most rewarding things I’ve ever done. There are so many highs and lows. As well as the most rewarding and joyful moments. I am now a mummy of three we have two amazing sons and our gorgeous girlie sandwiched in the middle of them.
When we had our first 11 years ago I found it hard like many first time parents but nothing like what Ive experienced this third time around. It’s been a slow road to feeling like me again physically but more especially mentally.
My mental health has taken such a battering over the last year since I went on maternity leave when all my problems began and my mind started spiralling down a really dark path. I had never experienced anything like it before I was terrified of labour incase the worst happened to the baby but worse yet myself. Leaving my husband alone with our three most precious jewels. Labour was super horrific with our first little guy leading to theatre, me in the high dependency unit and blood transfusions. This was playing on my mind heavily. Added with the loneliness I started to feel after a month of maternity leave had started and the bustle of the festive period over. Also mix in the hormones whizzing around and a few pregnancy problems I was on a downward spiral.
That when our little guy finally arrived 13 days late I was utterly exhausted. Shocked that labour had happened so fast and I’d done it all by myself without any instruments compared to baby one and two. After birth I had a few issues with stitches that got infected, a funny skin infection on my breast but the saddest thing of all Edward wouldn’t breastfeed at all. I felt like a complete failure and that Edward really didn’t like me. When in fact that is totally irrational and he just found it hard to breastfeed for whatever reason. Looking back on this time it was most probably for the best that Edward didn’t take to breastfeeding as I wasn’t in the right headspace for him to totally rely on me every feed. Day and night. It really helped that my husband or his grandparents could help by giving him a bottle even his older siblings as it’s a nice way for us all to bond with him. If we were ever to have another baby in the future they would be bottle feed straight away without a second thought to try and stop the darkness of postnatal depression creeping in again.
I look back on Edwards newborn days with great sadness. As I feel robbed of feeling excited, happy, proud all the newborn feels. Instead they were days filled with stress, anxiousness, tears and counting down the hours till my hubby would walk through the door.
It took me a long time to ask for help or even admit my feelings out loud. Mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed about. It’s ok for you not to be ok. The most important thing is to get the help you need. Now our little guy is nearly nine months old which totally blows my mind. This last year has gone so fast. I’m in a lot better head space now. I have many more brighter days than dark days. Ive been back at work for a month now and although it’s hard putting on my work hat and leaving my little dude. I’m starting to feel like me again. Getting more of the old jess back each day. I’m looking forward to my littlest guys first Christmas and enjoying this special time with him.
Which I never thought I would be able to do the thought that I actually enjoy his company, and he fills my heart with so much love. Fills my eyes with happy tears as I never imagined our bond would come during those dark dark days
Thank you so much to Laura for letting me write this guest post about becoming a mum has affected my mental health. Please do go seek help if your are going through the same.
Until next time
Jess
XXX

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Andy and the odd socks


Andy, the chap on the TV that has come to my rescue more than a few times when Cbeebies has babysat my children in order for me to save my sanity. Did you know though that he has just released an album of children's songs called 'Who invited this lot?'

When we were lucky enough to receive a copy in the post, it took Charlie two seconds to see who was on the front cover and shout ANDY! Although a short time later there was some confusion over why Andy was on the TV and also in his hands on the front cover of a CD.

We were due to go out in the car shortly after this so it was decided that we would bring the CD along and have our first listen of it. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a story I shared of Charlie's reaction to the songs. He was dancing around in his car seat loving every second. Be warned though the words will get stuck in your head and you will find yourself singing along!

Here's a list of the songs on the album:
1.) Aliens 
2.) Unique
3.) Groovy Hoover
4.) Battle Robot Rapper
5.) Odd Sock
6.) Dinosaur Football Legend Mega Match
7.) Ghostbusters 
8.) Welly Beat
9.) Cheeky Friends
10.) Ninja Pig
11.) All Together (At Christmas Time)

As a parent my favourite song is definitely Unique. It sends the important message that it's OK to just be yourself. Charlie is just happy to listen to the whole album over and over again if I'm being honest! 



*

The album is available now and would make a great stocking filler for younger children, especially those who love Cbeebies!




* We were kindly sent a copy of the album in return for an honest review. The Amazon link is affiliate meaning that if you click the link and make a purchase I will receive a fee.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Mental Health Guest Post Series #4




This week's post is by Geraldine from It's Me & Ethan


When I look back over my childhood, teen years and young adulthood, I can see it. It was always there.

The deep breathing before I had to address the class, or the scanning of a room to ensure I knew where the exit  was to the not walking into a public place, like a pub ,by myself.
I used to think everyone was like this. Everyone found these things daunting. A new job, a first day or time doing anything new, surely everyone would have to repeat calming thoughts to themselves before taking a step into the unknown.

There were times when I simply wouldn’t show up. I’d agree to go somewhere but I’d know that there was no way I’d be able to handle it , I would have my excuse made up in my head by the time I had finished saying “See you there”.

Yes, looking back now I can see it.

My hands would shake itchy with pins and needles,while my heart would pound so loudly that I was sure everyone could hear it. I would struggle to breath, while feeling dizzy. All this would come and go in a matter of minutes and I thought it was normal for me, as it happened quite often. I thought I was just having a reaction to being nervous, I thought it was ‘normal’ to be this nervous over everyday things, like meeting new people. During my twenties , I began to realise that I probably had some form of anxiety.

Yes, looking back now, it's so very obvious .

When I first had my children , it seemed to give me more freedom in my head, at least. I didn’t want them to have anxiety over ‘silly’ things ,as I felt I had. I used to describe myself as quirky or a bit odd, but the truth was I knew I wasn’t odd, I just didn’t use the word ‘anxiety’ instead; I thought it was nervousness and something that happened to people who were like me; self conscious, awkward, even shy at times. I didn’t want my boys to have those insecurities , as I would think of them as.

But as any parent will tell you,sometimes having children can make you worry or have anxiety over a lot of what’s wrong in our world, a lot of things that we have no control over. Not only will you worry about your own child but you’ll worry about school, clothes, food ...it goes on and on.

If like me ,you have a child with complex medical needs and a life limiting condition, apparently anxiety and depression go hand in hand.




No one told me. Nobody warned me that not only had I some mild form of anxiety already, but that I was now in the higher percentage to have severe anxiety, PTSD and depression. It was simply never mentioned when doctors told us that there was nothing they could do for our son.( I have to say, it should have been mentioned)

After Ethan was diagnosed and due to a house fire we had , had, I decided it was time for me to talk to someone about my ‘quirkiness’. I was diagnosed as having anxiety . It was a relief. It made sense and I had that ‘AH-HA’ moment.

It helped hugely. For many years it helped me understand my ‘triggers’ and how best to cope when a panic attack would occur, it also trained me to think differently.
After a few years, I figured I had a good handle on my anxiety. I hadn’t had an attack in years and didn’t feel as self conscious or awkward when out in public.
That is the sneaky thing about anxiety , it never really goes away.

Three weeks ago I had a bad panic attack. It came and went as quickly as it started. It scared me but not enough to bring myself down to the GP. Self care is hard for me. I know how important it is but I find it difficult to have time just for me or to have the energy to do something just for me.

It was my husband that pointed it out to me.
“You’ve not left the house in nearly five days” he observed one evening as I sat typing. I didn’t even realise I hadn’t left the house. “You made an excuse too when I suggested we go for a walk” he gently added. (I’ve been known to snap)
I nodded.
“Are you ok?” He asked.
“I am . I think I am” I genuinely wasn't sure if I was ‘ok’.

The following night while watching TV with my husband , I had the scariest panic attack I have ever had. I vomited. I had tingling in my arms. I fought to breath. I really , really fought to breath. My skin was wet with sweat but I was freezing. I begged my husband to call an ambulance as I was sure I was dying.

After twenty minutes the attack subsided. The on call GP stayed on the phone with my husband trying to gauge whether or not I was actually dying . I had to promise her that I would make an appointment with my local GP the next morning.
I didn’t keep that promise because I was a little embarrassed that I thought I was dying. I was embarrassed too because I knew the GP would more than likely put me on medication; I knew once I told her how I had been feeling over the last few months that she would tell me it is now time to add medication to my care plan and to get back to therapy.  

The following day I went to the GP as I could once again see the anxiety and how it was creeping into my every day thoughts and beginning to prevent me from doing everyday activities. And yes, she prescribed medication which I am now taking for a week, so I cannot honestly tell you if it's helping or not, just yet.

Anxiety isn’t a dirty word or something that anyone, including myself, should be embarrassed about. It has taken me years to understand that I have anxiety and it is taking me years to try to understand my anxiety.

Anxiety is different for everyone ; I know that right now, I need medication and therapy together to help me , but that doesn’t mean I will always need both.

Me and my anxiety are going to have to learn to live together (all over again) because I’m pretty sure my anxiety isn’t going to just disappear no matter how much I wish it would and no matter how well I feel, I've learned my anxiety likes to hang on in there in the background.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Our first year doing elf on the shelf!




Yes you read the title right, we have never done elf on the shelf. This year that's all going to change and I am so excited! I am well aware though if I am not prepared it can become a nightmare and I will be waking up at 3am in the morning thinking 'I haven't moved the elf!'.

So far Pinterest has been my friend and I have a board dedicated to ideas. My plan is to write a list out with every day planned up until Christmas Day so when it comes to each day I don't really have to think about it. Our elf is arriving on December 1st inside a huge balloon that a brilliant local company has been selling with the words 'let me out' written on it. 

We recently took a visit to Poundland as I had heard that they were doing items that you could use for elf on the shelf. As you can see below we picked up some great bits and it was all so in-expensive.





I asked my fellow bloggers for their elf on the shelf ideas and as usual they did not disappoint.

Claire from Big Family Big Fun Blog documented every day on her blog last year and you will find some brilliant ideas if your stuck. My personal favourites are when the elf photocopied himself, sliding down the banister and the zipline. 

Emma from Me and B make tea has a brilliant post with 24 zero effort elf on the shelf idea. Now I definitely want to put some effort into doing this but I'm sure there will be days were it's last minute and I need to think of something quickly. Emma's idea's are so simple but will still have a brilliant effect.

I just love all the pictures on The Mum Diaries blog. Drawing devil horns on the pictures is hilarious, as is covering the Christmas tree in toilet paper!

It's always a good idea to have a back up plan just in case you forget to move the elf and Cass from Frugal Family has you covered. Give it a read, you'll never need to think of an excuse again!

A few other blog worth visiting for great elf on the shelf ideas!

Jenny at the gingerbread house - 24 Elf on the shelf ideas
Winnettes - 20 good elf and 20 naughty elf ideas
School Run Shop - A beginner's guide

I am so excited to get started and keep your eyes peeled on this blog as I will be documenting each day! I think the kids are going to love it and for me it just adds to the magic and build up to Christmas.


Winnettes