Appetite

Laying on my sofa surrounded by a mountain of half eaten snacks, I flick aimlessly through the pages of a gossip magazine, feeling slightly disgusted with myself. I’m sure I’ve put on a half a stone in weight within the last week, but I wouldn’t know because I stopped weighing myself a long time ago. You see recently I’ve been reintroduced to an old friend, my appetite. You could say I’ve been enjoying our reunion just a little too much. But when you’ve had a difficult relationship with food & diet, it’s hard not to get carried away.

For over a year I lost my appetite, sometimes not eating for days on end. Then I would binge on rubbish to fill me up. I was actually happy about being thinner though, I thought I looked good. But for that I sacrificed my hair, my skin, my health, I didn’t look good at all.

Now the smell of food no longer makes me gag, I’m wanting food, like really wanting it. I haven’t felt like that for so long. But I would be lying if I said I’ve been enjoying this new found food frenzy completely guilt free. I’m constantly looking in the mirror, observing my rounding tummy as it starts to fill out slightly, noticing my jeans are a little tighter.

I’m scared about changing, I’m scared of going back to the girl who hid in leggings and baggy jumpers. As I continued to flick through the pages of the glossy magazine, I stumbled upon a story about Demi Lovato. It talked about her weight battles. Various pictures of Demi spread across the page, of her at various stages of her life. In each picture, she looked beautiful. Because she is beautiful. Beautiful beyond the bullshit of celebrity culture.

Demi has battled with her weight and she has also battled with Bipolar. For me, she is an absolute inspiration, because she owns it and she isn’t ashamed of the effects of her illness, weight gain/loss is just one example. I know it’s my medication that’s given me this new found appetite, and yes I’m scared of gaining weight but in the words of Miss Lovato, I will not sacrifice my mental health for a perfect body. I may carry a few extra pounds, but it’s better than carrying the burden of bipolar. Sometimes we have to pick our battles, and I chose to battle my brain not my body.

P.s I fucking love Demi Lovato.

Advertisements

Depression and anaemia: A cruel combination.

I’ve talked a lot about my depression in the past, but I’ve never mentioned the fact that I’m anaemic. So what is anaemia?

Iron deficiency anaemia occurs when there is a lack of iron in the body. This lack of iron contributes to a decrease in red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body to your organs. It isn’t life threatening but if left untreated can cause some pretty unpleasant symptoms. The most common is probably fatigue, but symptoms vary in different people. I can only talk about my symptoms which were:

Fatigue

Heart palpitations

Headaches

Itchy skin

Pale dull skin

Yeah, not nice I know.

So, why am I anaemic?

My anaemia is all thanks to my heavy periods, which alone can be horrendous. The first day of my cycle, I’m scared to leave the house. I remember one shift in work where I bled straight through my underwear, trousers and on to the chair – having to explain that to my male manager was probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. To make matters worse, I never knew that it wasn’t normal to bleed so much until I spoke to friends who described a completely different experience. I’ve been suffering for years, and I wasn’t aware there were options to help me.

My anaemia was only picked up on in pregnancy through having regular blood tests, but I just assumed that it wasn’t that serious, as it’s quite common for pregnant women to experience. By the end of my pregnancy, my iron levels were dangerously low.

During my C-section with Max I lost 900mls of blood, and that was just in theatre. I was advised to take my iron and I did, but I was also being sick a lot. I continued to lose a lot of blood, until one day in the bathroom, a few days after being discharged, I collapsed in a heap on the floor.

I can’t remember much during that time, I was groggy and tired anyways just from having a newborn baby and breastfeeding. I had no idea I was so close to having a blood transfusion. Luckily though, I was given an anti sickness injection and fluids in a drip and was able to begin to keep food and drink down.

I was then given an iron transfusion, and I practically skipped and jumped out of that hospital – I felt like a new woman! The difference in me was incredible. At this point though, I was totally unaware that my periods were contributing to my anaemia, and I believed it was the blood loss from the operation. So, I didn’t continue with the supplements.

Apologies for that lengthy introduction, but now I’ve given you a bit of background I can get round to the point at hand. Dealing with depression & anaemia and the links between the twoWhen I think about it now, I was probably suffering for many years. The tricky thing is, the symptoms overlap. Depression also causes fatigue and lack of concentration, and anxiety and panic can cause heart palpitations. So it’s difficult to know, which came first. But the link between the two, explained so much for me personally.

I suffer with depression as a symptom of my bipolar anyway, but being anaemic was making it ten times worse. I have suffered needlessly and all I needed to do was take some tablets, that’s all. I can’t even begin to describe how debilitating it is to suffer with both of these. I was so fatigued it felt as though I had the flu, I could barely lift my arms and walking up the stairs felt daunting. I slept for hours and hours and still woke up feeling tired. My hair begin to thin, my skin was grey and dull, I had no concentration and I was extremely groggy and agitated as a result.

Since taking my meds for my depression, and regularly taking my iron tablets I’ve felt so much better. I still suffer with a few side effects from my meds, like headaches, nausea and sweating but it’s miles better than the alternative. Plus, as the days go by those side effects seem to be easing off.

I wanted to share my experience of this whole ordeal because I had no idea the of the knock on affect it had on me, and I want to highlight how important it is. If you’ve identified with anything I’ve said then I would recommend going to your doctors for a simple blood test, because there is no need to suffer like I did, for so long.

Mental Health: Let’s talk about it.

Today has been a really bad day

I try and stay positive in my posts, and some days are better than others, but I still have dark days, and I think it’s important to talk about the light and the dark. Because on social media we rarely see the negatives of people’s lives, and over time that can give us an unhealthy perception of the world around us, especially if we’re feeling like we’re not good enough.

The truth is we’re all struggling a little bit, and some of us are struggling a lot. If we take the time to talk about it, we would probably discover that we’re not facing life’s troubles alone. Mental illness, or not. Just talk. Tell people how you feel. We want our pain to go away, but we need to give the pain somewhere to go, give your pain an outlet. I can’t promise it will get better but if you reach out you won’t ever have to face it alone.

Today, I spent the majority of my day at the hospital, picking apart polystyrene cups and telling people how I felt. It helped. Writing this, has helped. I woke up this morning scared and not wanting to carry on, and that’s hard to admit. But I’m no longer going to be ashamed of my story, because that story is my life and I want to tell it to the very end.

Maintaining friendships – social anxiety and mental health.

It was freezing. I couldn’t really afford it. I was on my own. I had lost my ID. It would be too busy. The roads were closed. I’ll stay home.

The above thoughts raced through my mind at rapid speed throughout the day and my anxiety was the driver.

Last night I had an invitation to a party. I don’t get invited to many parties any more. The thing is, when you spend so much time declining invites and isolating yourself from the world, eventually the world gives up on you.

Your friends don’t give up on you though and every now and then my friends will invite me out even if they are secretly thinking ‘She won’t come’. So when I walked through the door last night, I think my friends were more shocked than I was that I actually turned up.

These particular friends are former work colleagues and I hadn’t seen them for well over a year. The last time I saw them I was hypomanic, I had quit my job and found a fantastic new opportunity (I now realise, I was suffering with delusion).

I gave up a very secure, and very well paid job, where I had made great friends. I left for a job that had no security. It was a huge mistake but there was no telling me at the time. I was chasing my dreams. Mania had yet again convinced me that this was a great idea.

Fast forward a few months, I fall pregnant, my new job falls apart and I have a breakdown. I crashed into a deep, dark depression that I have struggled to push through.I isolated myself completely. I felt embarrassed, ashamed.

So that’s why last night was a big deal for me. And I’m so proud of myself for pushing through my anxiety and getting out despite everything I’ve been going through. I did have a wobble on my way in, because Wales were playing and it’s always packed on match days. I forgot that the roads were closed and when I realised I would have to walk a while on my own I went into panic. I told Ross to turn the car around and go home.

But he didn’t, and I braved the cold and the crowds and made my way to my friends birthday party. I was nervous to see my friends after everything that had happened but they welcomed me with open arms. It was like I had never left. I believe that’s the beauty of true friendship. Those friends that you don’t have to see all the time but you know they will always be there, those friends are diamonds. Treasure them.

I had so much fun last night. I didn’t drink when I was out and I danced my socks off. I felt good, I let my hair down and I had a laugh. I realised how much I missed the confident, bubbly person I used to be. I’m not all the way there yet, but last night was a start.

That’s why I’m so grateful for friends.

I haven’t been the easiest person to be around lately. I’ve pushed the people I love away. I have tested their patience and I have lost a lot of people I love this year. So for the friends I have left, for the parties I still get invited to, the unspoken words of support disguised by a smile or a hug. For all the kindness I do not deserve.

Thank you. Thank you for still including me and thank you for not giving up on me even when I have given up on myself. For that, I am forever grateful.

Love, Laura xo

Explaining Bipolar Disorder to your children.

I don’t usually do off the cuff posts, but I felt that I had to share something with you today.

So, I’m part of a support group on Facebook for people who suspect they have, or have been diagnosed with Bipolar.

One of the members of the group today asked a really important question.

How do I explain to my children that I have Bipolar?

Ashamedly, I had never actually thought about it before. I always thought that my son was too young to comprehend the complexities of Bipolar. I always worried that the subject was too heavy for him. I didn’t want to put that on him, ya know?

But the reality is, he’s living this with me and our kids are a lot more aware than we realise. I’m not stupid, I know he’s bound to have picked up on things. It’s something I’ve struggled to come to terms with over the years. It’s racked me with guilt.

That’s why I feel I need to share this resource. Because, it’s a great starting point to explain to children exactly why things are the way they are. I found it really useful and I hope other people can too.

So here it is. For anyone struggling with approaching the subject. Try watching this video:

I am a mother and I have a mental illness..

Being a parent is hard, and having a mental illness is hard. But when you are a parent with a mental illness, it almost seems impossible.

It has been a long road for me to be finally be able to admit I have a mental illness, and the one thought that always held me back was, ‘I’ll have my kids taken off me’.

I mean I can’t tell the doctor what I really feel and how I really act when I am depressed and/or manic. They will think I’m a bad mother, they will chuck me in a padded room and my kids will go into care. Those thoughts, though irrational, are extremely real for those parents who suffer.

The guilt that I feel is unfathomable. Guilt is a huge part of depression and it’s also a huge part of being a parent. So imagine how guilty I feel on a daily basis, I’m forever feeling like I don’t do enough for my kids.

Because as parents, were judged anyway. Our choices are picked apart and our decisions are ridiculed at some point or other. Especially if you’re a new parent. Or a young parent. Or a parent with a mental illness. I was all of the above once upon a time.

There have been sunny days I’ve spent curled up in bed, whilst the kids are playing in their rooms and the sun is shining through the windows and I know I should take them out to play, but I just can’t face the day.

They have seen me cry, and wiped my tears and my eldest boy has shown tremendous strength and a maturity beyond his years. Although I have never deliberately put them in danger, there have been times where there emotionally wellbeing hasn’t been met. The days I can’t look after myself, and I have struggled to look after them too. I always meet their basic needs but I just never feel like it’s enough.

That’s why I am working with a few agencies at the moment to help support me. They reassure me that I’m doing great and who knows, maybe I am. I’ve managed to keep myself and three children alive and that to me, is an accomplishment.

But no matter what they say, and how much they try to reassure me I will always feel a tremendous amount of guilt for not being well over the years. For being the fun parent one moment, and depressed the next. For not building those relationships with other parents in the playground because I’m too socially awkward, for not always completing their homework projects, for getting them to class late. I constantly feel like I’m letting them down.

The painful truth is that I was before, when I was in denial, hiding things from doctors and refusing to accept my situation. But I am taking my medication, I am engaging with health professionals, and I am trying my best every god damn day to be here for them.

In an ideal world it would be wonderful to be the perfect parent every day wouldn’t it? Healthy home cooked nutritious meals, perfectly neat uniforms, never snapping or shouting, an immaculate home and the best of the best of everything.

Though the reality is far from the above for a lot of parents, and you know what? it’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to be a parent and lose your shit from time to time, it’s okay to cry in the shower, to moan about the monotony of parenting, to want a break. To be a human being. It’s okay.

And for all those imperfect parents out there who don’t feel you’re doing enough, as long as you love your children – you are doing enough and you are enough. Hiding how we feel, mental illness or not, is when parenting becomes stressful and problematic.

So don’t be afraid to say it. Don’t suffer in silence.

I am a mother, and I have a mental illness. I am a mother and I have struggled. I am a mother and I love my children.

At the end of the day, that’s all the should matter.

Love, Laura xo