my dysfunctional relationship

Photo by Maia Flore

Photo by Maia Flore

Yes, I have a seriously dysfunctional relationship…. with sleep.  Me and sleep don’t get along.  We often hate each other.  My circadian rhythm is out of whack (out of whack with family life, anyway).  It suited me fine when I was a student, staying up late to study (or watch SATC re-runs) and sleeping in until midday lectures was totally my style.

Now that my day reluctantly begins anytime from 5-6.30am, plus night wakings, bed wettings, scared-of-the-darknesses and night feeds, sleeping when I feel like it is no longer an option.

Part of the problem is anxiety related, but some of it is habit.

The anxiety component is a hard one to fix, but I think with a shift in habits and thinking it can be done.  If I head to bed, lay down and then have to think about falling asleep it’s game over.  I’ll be awake for hours, getting more and more anxious about the insomnia.  I lay awake feeling my chest tighten, get up to do some writing, tidy the kitchen, whatever I end up doing, it will be a few hours before I eventually fall asleep.  So the anxiety feeds on itself (as is usually the case with anxiety).  I won’t head to bed early (or at a reasonable time), because I’m anxious about falling asleep.  So I’m already thinking about not falling asleep before I’ve even got my pjs on.

I much prefer to potter around in the evening, enjoying some quiet time without the kids, maybe starting a new craft project, reading blogs, writing, watching crap,  until I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open, and then head to bed, knowing there’s little chance my mind will wander once I get there.

The problem with this scenario is that then I get to bed around midnight, get up at least once (usually 2 or 3 times) to kids, and then up again before 6.  Then feeling like a giant midday nap to make up for the night’s happenings.

Hmmmm, writing this, I know what I need to do.  I just need to break the cycle.  NOT have a midday nap, and just get one early night in to get things on their way to a family kind of “normal”.  This, of course, is easier said than done!

But, I know for a fact getting a more decent night sleep will do wonders for my mood, my energy levels, and my relationships with my kids.  So, I’m going to tackle this one.  I have occasionally witnessed first hand the amazing euphoria associated with a full night’s sleep.  The clarity of mind, super-Mum energy levels and general happiness.  I posted this infographic previously about the benefits of sleep.

Photo by Maia Flore

Photo by Maia Flore

So far, I know that exercise helps.  Feeling worn out at night is a great feeling.  Like camping, when you’ve spent the day exploring, swimming or hiking, you’re always able to crash out as soon as the sun goes down.  So I might have to find some time to up the activity levels, which could be a bit hard now that the rain has set in, but I’ll give it a go.

Next on my list is kicking the caffeine.  I’m not a huge coffee nut.  I don’t go out of my way to get my daily fix from my favourite cafe, but I have been indulging lately in perhaps one or two more instant coffees and cups of teas than I should be.  It’s become habit, a boredom buster.  Having suffered from withdrawal headaches in the past I’m going to take this one slowly, so for now will just keep an eye on how many cups of tea I’m really having, and replace a few with herbals or decaf coffee.

I’m going to keep up with my morning mediation (when I get the chance), as that seems to calm me for the rest of the day.  I’m also on the hunt for a relaxation CD for bedtime, as meditating at bedtime would wake me up too much. Any suggestions?

This is a big one for me.  My sleep has always been whacked.  My brain perks up around 10pm and starts racing around, which is why I can write/do assignments/get excited about anything in the middle of the night.  If I can hit the hay before this time, I can usually get to sleep much easier.

Darya Rose at summertomato.com has some very practical tips that I can incorporate into my quit-insomnia plan.  A big one I hadn’t mentioned, no screen time before bed.  Her tips are much more useful than the “get a massage” I keep coming across.  Have asked hubby, and his answer is “no”.  Really?  He seriously can’t get up at 4.45am, work all day, then come home to help out with the kids at bath/dinner/bedtime AND give me a massage before he crashes out at 9pm?  selfish.

So first off, up the activity and a few less cuppas.  Let’s see how this goes!

And how cool are these photos?!

three little things on a thursday

3 things cuppa

Oooh, I’m using my own image!

So, I’m grateful for my discovery of photobucket and how much fun I’m having with it!

Also, now I’m kinda grateful for school to have gone back, happy to have a little bit of time to myself (who would have ever thought I’d call having a 1 year old at home and 4 year old home 5 days a week “time to myself”?!!)

And I’m very grateful to have family nearby.  Trying to remember how lucky I am to have a quick cuppa with siblings who live so close.

Beyond Blue launch Anxiety Campaign

I feel as though the blog this week has been pretty heavy with the anxiety topic, but I guess since that’s what’s going on for me at the moment it’s just had to roll that way.

This week, beyondblue.org.au launched a campaign highlighting the prevalence and seriousness of anxiety.  For me, anxiety has usually been tangled up with depression, but at times the anxiety and panic attacks are definitely the leaders in the head-fuck race.

Beyond Blue are aiming to bring a new awareness to anxiety, helping the general population to see it as a mental health issue, and not just a person’s highly strung personality type.  By advertising the signs and symptoms and detrimental effects of this debilitating illness, the hope is that those who have suffered silently, or not even been able to put a name to their suffering will be able to get some much needed help.  And there is help out there, and it works.  So if you or someone you know might need it, direct them to beyondblue.org.au.

add some magic

Image via nourishedkitchen.com

Image via nourishedkitchen.com

Here’s some beautiful things you can do to make your cherub/s smile today:

- make these delicious carrot cakes for morning tea

- push them on the swing until they tell you to stop

- cut their sandwiches into love hearts

heart sandwich

- leave hand drawn pictures in their lunch box

- do some craft

Image via sometimessweet.blogspot.com.au

Image via sometimessweet.blogspot.com.au

- watch a movie with them

- scream when they scare you

- laugh when they tickle you

- drink the pretend coffee they make you

- let them ice the cake (who cares what it looks like, anyway?!)

Image

Antidepressants and breastfeeding. What’s the deal?

Print via Etsy

Print via Etsy

This is my story about breastfeeding through depression.  I’m not a doctor.  Neither am I a newborn baby’s little developing brain.  So I can’t say anything for certain, except share my thoughts and feelings on the topic.

If you are reading this because you’re umm-ing and ahhh-ing about it,  (should you/shouldn’t you, will I harm the baby/will I harm myself?) please know that I feel for you.  It is the toughest time.  Admitting you’re depressed at any time is tough work, but then to have to make decisions which involve the health of another human being (whom you love so very much) makes it all the more complicated and distressing.

I have 3 children and I have had 3 experiences with post natal depression.

My first was very acute, and I should have known long before I did.  I cried constantly for about 8 weeks after she was born, trying to lay the blame on an extended version of the third-day-blues.  After that things seemed to spiral out of control.  I became withdrawn, weepy, tired, lacking motivation and enthusiasm for simple things, like getting dressed, leaving the house etc.  This was not my first experience with depression, so in the back of my mind, I knew the drill.  I began to fear I was going crazy, like I couldn’t trust my thoughts anymore.  I had to check my thoughts with people I trusted, until I didn’t trust them anymore either.  I had to ask the doctor if it was really cold in his office or was that a weird thing to say, “Is that something normal people would ask?”  The second guessing drove me even crazier.

Print via Etsy

Print via Etsy

If you’ve experienced anything like this before, you might understand how decision making can totally escape you.  Like you can’t finish a thought process, it just goes nowhere, over and over again.  So, dumping a huge decision like whether or not to take an antidepressant drug while nursing my beautiful 6 month old was not something I could handle.  I felt that the breastfeeding was the last strand attaching us, the only part of myself I was able to give her.

In the end I decided not to take the drugs.  I sought out childcare so that I could attend therapy, and start exercising.  This was like trying to push a bus up a hill.  I didn’t have the energy to put into helping myself, so it was a losing battle.  During this time, I think I severely affected my relationship with my daughter.  I truly believe she is not a cuddly and affectionate child because I was so withdrawn.  I believe she is anxious because I didn’t attend to her needs as a baby, and I seriously regret that.

When she was one, we had decided to start trying for another baby (uh-huh), and the distraction was working.  I got pregnant instantly and felt fantastic for most of the pregnancy.  I was worried about developing PND again, but figured I’d come up with a strategy for when the time came.

For the first 6 months of my son’s life I felt fantastic and I was so relieved to have “escaped” this time.  Then it hit me like a punch in the face.  I didn’t feel weepy or sad, I just felt suddenly crazy.  My mind was playing tricks on me and I turned into a nervous, paranoid wreck.  I could physically feel my brain slow down and become jumbled.  I went straight to the doctor and said I needed help or I would have to admit myself somewhere.  This time, I decided that my kids needed me to be sane and stable rather than bobbing up and down trying to stay afloat.

I called the women’s and children’s hospital and talked it through with the pharmacist.  They assured me Zoloft was the safest choice for my case.  I googled it over and over and looked up peak serum times, half-lives, child exposure amounts etc until I drove myself crazy again.  I took the antidepressants offered to me and felt euphoric for about a month until I came crashing down again.  I was on such a low dose, so the doctor doubled my dose to avoid the anxiety attacks.  And this worked a treat.   During this time I had rationalised that if I gave him a bottle of formula a day during peak exposure times, and breastfed the rest of the time he would get even less exposure than the “safe” amount everyone was telling me was ok.  So that is what I did until he was almost 2 when I finally weaned him… because I was pregnant again.  This time with a “surprise” baby!

I was pretty horrified I was pregnant while taking antidepressants, somehow in my mind this seemed so much worse than possible exposure through breastmilk.

So I began reducing my dose almost immediately.  I reduced it gradually over about 2 months until I wasn’t taking anything, and suffering for it.  I wasn’t as bad as I had been, but I knew I wasn’t well.  Once bub was born we had 2 months of feeding problems, her not wanting to latch on, me expressing every feed while caring for a newborn and a 2 and a 4 year old.  Somehow I managed it, and felt ok.  I felt on top of it all.  Until she turned 6 months.  Again, it hit me.  I felt crazy and I was shit-scared of what was to come, so I went straight back on the Zoloft.  This time I didn’t google peak serum times or infant exposure.  I just did it, knowing that for us, this was the best option.  Not being able to breastfeed does something to my heart, to me it is a natural extension of that bond that connected us during pregnancy.

In hindsight, I wish I’d taken the drugs with my first baby.  I think we both would have had a much happier experience, we would have bonded and she may even be a happier and less frustrated child.  But, all I can do now is work on what we have and shower her with love and kisses.

I totally understand that for some people formula is a better choice, if I had felt bottle feeding wouldn’t have sent me over the edge it would have been the easier option.  I wouldn’t have had to worry about any of the above, but it just wasn’t for me.

I did as much research as possible before coming to the above conclusions.  I spoke to my GP, pharmacists, read research articles and did a bucket load of googling for a definitive answer.  But there isn’t one.

If I had to do it a fourth time (are you kidding?), I would take the drugs as soon as I felt I needed them, and then think it through.  Wait until I was somewhat sane and capable of making a decision and then decide if I needed to slowly wean the baby, or time the feeds to coincide with the lowest concentrations in the breastmilk.  A month or 2 of breastfeeding while on a relatively “safe” antidepressant is going to do minimal harm while you sort it out.

For me, it’s hard to tease out the anxiety from the depression, but I know that given the right conditions, they both coexist comfortably within my brain.

Obviously, if I’d been suicidal or felt like harming my baby, I might have had to make different decisions, or hopefully someone would have taken the decision out of my hands.

For now, I’m combining Zoloft with regular exercise (kind of), meditation and counselling.  And I think I’m getting somewhere!

Here’s some helpful info if you want to look into things for yourself:

  • Blackdog Instiute provides some useful facts to think about while making the decision.  The article says that less than 5% of the antidepressant (SSRI’s) passes into the breast milk.  They also state that there seems to be no increase in birth defects or malformations if taken during pregnancy.
  • This review explains that the highest concentrations of Sertraline (Zoloft) are in the hind milk around 8-9 hours after ingestion if you’re thinking about timing feeds or introducing one or two bottle feeds.
  • This is a great summary of the facts by Thomas Hale (the breastfeeding and drugs expert).  He encourages women to seek help and sees a depressed mother as much more of a risk than traces of antidepressant in the milk.

IMG_1310 2

Hip hip hooray

Print from Graphicsandlove on Etsy

Print from Graphicsandlove on Etsy

It’s someone’s birthday here today.  A little someone, turning 4, who had a dinosaur party last year and is having a dinosaur party this year, because that’s what he wants.

dino cake

In the spirit of mindfulness, we had a very low key party with family allowing me to spend time cuddling, playing and reading to him on this very special day.  Fish and chips in the park with family and a few special friends, and, of course, cake (yes his new dinosaur did a poo on the cake)!

Three little things on a Thursday

Printable via Netties Expressions

Printable via Netties Expressions

 

Ok, so today I’m pretty grateful that the way I was feeling last night (and a bit today) was/is out of the norm these days, that I’ve found things that help and work for me (most of the time).

I’m also grateful that my husband actually has a job to go back to after our holiday, that we’re lucky enough to have a steady source of income at the moment.

Lastly, I’m grateful that we have such a beautiful local library to hang out in on rainy days like today!

What are you grateful for?