Thursday, November 22, 2012

PND awareness week - beyond the first scene

It's like the first few minutes of the movie Twister, when the little girls Daddy is swept away in a tornado trying to protect his family.  I fast forward through this scene because I can't bear it. The screams, the grief on their faces, the silence that follows. I know what happens. I don't want to see it again. "Twister" is one of my all time favourite movies, but the first 7 minutes I NEVER want to watch ever again

This week is PND Awareness Week.

You know I am no stranger to this storyline. I have laid my heart bare here and here and here.
BUT...  I really have to be in the mood to write about my sad days. If I'm having a good day/week/month, I loathe taking my heart and mind back to those days. They feel like they belong to someone else, like a movie I once watched and can only remember sketchy details, but I know it all worked out okay in the end.

Mostly I choose to fast forward through the early scenes. I allow myself to not re-watch the unwatchable. I allow myself some grace.

My time with Post Natal Depression ( aka Post Partum Depression, PPD or PND ) started probably well before our first little blessing arrived. I was so young, inexperienced, overwhelmed and totally without the support systems that a young mother needed. My parents lived over 2 hours away at first, and then 13 hours away. My sister and brother were a full days drive away. We moved interstate when J-man was just 2 weeks old. Crazy.

Another 3 years and 2 more babies and there I was mothering 3 under 4, still with PND sitting on my shoulders like a dead weight. I was hyper-parenting. trying to anticipate and roadblock every for-seeable danger to my children. I was wrecked but could not rest. I had trouble allowing anyone else to take over my vigil and I was so, so, so tired.
And yet, no-one around me seemed to think it was depression.
I wasn't crying all the time.
I hadn't let the house or myself go.
On the contrary.. the house was scrubbed to with an inch of its life and I exercised with determination and purpose. The children were spotless  To others I was simply controlling, fussy, angry, a princess. I KNOW close family members rolled their eyes and were less than kind in their discussions of how controlling and anxious I was in my parenting.

If only I could have shown them the real me.

The 4 am me. The one who paced in the kitchen chanting the CPR drill for infants and toddlers so many times it is forever etched on my heart.
If only I could have let them see the 2am me who sat in a ball crying in the shower so that no-one could hear.
If only I could have told them that the 3 am me was so sure that something awful was going to happen to one of these babies, that she already knew the music that would play, the clothing they'd wear, the special toys that would be included in that childs' coffin.
The 5 am me was very good at telling Lisa what a completely crappy mother she was, that they would be so much better if she just walked away. Everybody, EVERYBODY seemed to be able to do this so much better than her.

The fact is, I was an expert in faking it during daylight hours. In acting like I had my crap together. In evading tricky questions and making excuses for crazy stuff.

It took 6 years for me to finally be myself in front of my new doctor. She was the mother of 5 kids and didn't try to tell me that I was just tired. She believed me. She listened.

And with her help, some medication and many sessions of tear-heavy therapy I finally saw a trickle of light. And that light has just kept getting brighter and stronger and warmer and more lovely.

I have rambled on here but I have two important points to share. 

The first point is that depression does not always look like the Hollywood stereotype. Just because I looked like I was okay on the surface didn't mean I was okay inside. Just because someone is cheerful and capable at mothers group, doesn't mean she isn't literally rocking in the corner behind her front door. Or intensely angry, or sad inside.

We need to step away from the stereotype of what Post Natal Depression looks like and start to open our eyes. We need to learn as a society to recognise and act on emotional crisis. We need to open our ears to subtle but very distinct requests for help. Not all depressed parents are suicidal, or are harming their babies. Not all depressed parents have unwashed hair, messy houses or dazed glazed-over eyes. In fact I believe that many of us, still got on with the business of parenting even while feeling like absolute crap. Many of us would have denied that anything was wrong because it was just another admission of failure. 

The second point - There really can be light at the end of the tunnel. We went on (under medical guidance) to have a fourth baby, depression free and spent her baby years gazing in wonder and saying "wow this is what other people had with their kids. This is how it was supposed to be". 
I am soooooooo lucky to have experienced a baby depression-free and the freedom and lifting of my heart is beyond words. I am blessed beyond measure and I can't really express the healing she has brought into my heart and home.

If you feel like you are not coping ( in whatever way that is... you know in your heart if you are really not coping) please seek help.

Post-natal depression takes many forms. This week is PND Awareness Week.
If you, or someone you know think they are suffering in silence, please be reassured that you are not alone and that help is available.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Not all Lucky Jars are lucky

It is school fete season here and that means that every week if not more often we are barraged with requests for cakes and cookies, handmade craft items, white elephants stall stuff, plants, second hand books and uniforms and requests that we all man the stalls for face painting, hair decorating and popcorn/fairyfloss/ice slushies. Volunteers are required to police the jumping castle and the slippery pole competition. Kids are also urged to enter the "Make your own scarecrow competion" and the "Kids Craft and Baking competitions". And in your spare time, we'd love you to visit all the other stalls and spend basquillions on the other crap that other parents begrudgingly provided.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ 

Today we had to take in goods for the Tombola Hampers (our grade was supposed to provide nibbles and jarred olives etc for antipasto/entertaining hampers .. our teacher said we could bring wine, I said "Over My Dead Body!")

Last week they had to take in Lucky Jars.
I don't know when this started but basically you get an empty jar, fill it with something and take it to school. These are then randomly bought at $2 a pop - over the years we have sent jars filled with

-crafty bits and pieces like pompoms, chennille bendy sticks, beads etc,
-hair ties and ribbons and a couple of pretty clips,
-little notepad, pen, pencil and eraser,
-matchbox style cars
-a teddy bear squished in so his little face peaked out,
-pretzels or chocolate peanuts... you get the idea?

 So I'm driving Miss 8 to school and she starts talking about Lucky jars ..
I ask what she took last week bacause I was at work and The Man I Married organized it.
She said daddy gave her the jar of musk sherbet boiled Lollies in the top if the cupboard

 .. The half eaten jar of Lollies that none of us like and have been sitting there for about 9 months.

 I asked if he put them in a smaller jar so it wasn't quite so obviously used  - nope just in the same opened half empty jar -

.... Omg words fail me !!!! Can never go back into the school again.

If you attend a fete and you get a lucky jar half full of pink lollies that taste like medicine I'm sorry. Truly sorry.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ladies Long Lunch

I went to our schools "Ladies Long Lunch" last weekend.. it was a Saturday lunch with plenty of wine, good food and socialising.. it made me realise how VERY out of the social loop I am.

There are the usual movers and shakers in our parenting community,

Those who excel at all things Committee. 
I am not one of them.

There is the "Fab" set, with more money than they know how to spend and an extraordinary interest in toenail extensions and the correct height of wedge heels for summer dresses.
I am not one of them.

There are the parents of the 'Accelerated Learners" who are here to wave their 'Don't hate us because our kids are so talented we can't even converse with them, but you should hear them play piano' flag. 
I am sooooooo not one of them.

Across the hall is the Social Good set, smelling faintly of patchouli and sweaty unshaved armpits. They carefully avert their eyes when the hors d'Oeuvres ( pronounced 'horses doovers' in our house cos we're classy like that!) come around to express their profound horror at the extravagant food provisions... although they were the first ones scoring a few bottles of wine for their table and calling the dessert waiter back for seconds at the end of the meal. 
I am not one of them.

At the back of the hall is the Sporty Spice Girls, in heart-stoppingly short dresses that only a Mum who does serious hours at the gym can wear. They brought their own low-carb drinks and enjoyed their side salad lettuce leaves immensely. 
I am not one of them. 

There is the Popular group.. so much like high school, the women with the cute cashed-up husbands, who have known each other since kindergarten. They know each other in a way that makes me jealous and cringe at the same time. They own the room like it is theirs.. well actually it is.. their old kindergarten room. 
Sigh , I am not one of them.

The rest of the room was taken up with Mum's like me, awkwardly glancing around the room, wondering how we can blend in with the Grade One art exhibition until it is time to go home. 

We filled in the spaces between sporty and Social , between popular and committee. I nodded and finger waved at many, politely smiled as I ducked past groups of comfortable women. 
I wondered where my pack was.. where the F*ck is the "Awkward, Didn't grow up in this town and I'll get to the gym sometime next year" group" My peeps.. WHERE ARE YOU???

 My friend and I wandered home (no invitation to after function canapes at the movin' and groovin's house). We breathed. It was okay, I don't need to be a spice girl. My hubby doesn't have to define my worth. 

The social structure of the school yard has not changed much since I left school, except I no longer desire to be part of the group. I'm actually really ok with being out here on my own (except in social situations as described above).

Although I do like the sound of toenail extensions.

** To those who have checked on me over the past couple of weeks thankyou!!! I am okay, trying to burn the candle at both ends and learning to balance my enthusiasm for my work with my desire to be a present and focused mother and wife..I am getting better at saying "no" and setting boundaries xx**