Parenting

Unrealistic new year’s resolutions and how to avoid them…

Hello fellow anxious people, 

A huge happy new year to you all! (Even though we are 13 days into 2019 already!) I hope all of you had the best Christmas with loved ones and were able to take a bit of time off work to relax and recuperate over the Christmas period. It’s so important to take some time out from the every day stresses of your life once in a while to allow yourself to chill out, physically and mentally. I know it’s a lot easier said than done, especially if you have a very demanding job – or in my case – very demanding children. But I really do recommend putting more effort into your mental health, and by that I mean taking a day off once in a while to simply do nothing! You’ll be surprised what a day off every now and then can do for you and the people around you. Try it! 🙂 

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(Ben and I this Christmas, 2018. By this point I was already writing my new year’s resolution list and putting a lot of thought into what goals I wanted to achieve this year, if I could realistically achieve them and how I could achieve them. I really recommend writing down a long list of goals you want to achieve, small or big, and then going over them, putting them in priority order and an order from most realistic/likely to achieve to least, and then thinking about how you would achieve them.)

“NEW YEAR, NEW ME”

That dreaded phrase we hear so often on the 1st January of every year!

This blog post is mainly going to revolve around those dreaded new year’s resolutions and how to avoid setting yourself unrealistic resolutions that end up doing you much more harm than good, causing you more stress. I get it, I totally get the excitement and desire of setting yourself new goals for the brand new year ahead of you – a fresh start and all that. I get excited about it every year too! I understand how you want to say goodbye to the stress and bad memories of the previous year and become this new, wiser, healthier and more organised version of yourself, learning from your mistakes and applying them to the new and improved you. However, you can still 100% be a new, wiser, healthier and more organised version of yourself without completely losing who you truly are and without setting yourself huge, unrealistic resolutions. You can still totally be this “new person” simply by setting a few little goals – goals that are easily achievable based on your lifestyle at the time. In fact, by setting yourself small goals that you are much more likely to achieve because they are small, you actually end up feeling a whole lot better than you would do if you had set yourself big goals that are quite unreachable and unachievable when you really think about it. You feel great about yourself and quite proud that you are actually getting through your new year’s resolutions a lot quicker than you thought – because they are realistic goals! So, even though it’s only a few small goals you’re achieving, you still feel so much better about yourself for achieving them nonetheless, and as a result it completely lifts your spirits, gives you more confidence and makes you feel good about yourself. I know a lot about this purely from personal experience — I made the same mistake once of setting myself big new year’s resolutions that were completely unrealistic based on my lifestyle at the time. So, I’m truly and genuinely speaking from the heart here! I’ve also witnessed first hand how much setting unrealistic goals can cause others more harm than good – friends of mine have also made this same mistake and it was really upsetting to watch. 

The KEY to setting achievable goals:

The first tip to follow when setting yourself a goal is to take a look at your current lifestyle. Ask yourself some questions about your day-to-day life and routine: how busy are you on a daily basis? What time of day are you busiest and least busiest? When are your days off? How demanding is your job or your family? What time in the evenings do you start getting too tired and need to head to bed? Do you have any disabilities or conditions that could make your resolutions quite dangerous or tricky for you? There’s no point setting yourself a goal such as running 5-10km every day if you work 10-12 hour shifts 5 days a week and don’t get home until late each evening. You’ll quickly realise you just simply do not have the time to run that much every day if you want to live a normal, healthy and sociable life. You’ll become very tired and drained afterwards, meaning you probably won’t ever want to do anything else after your run every day (e.g. seeing friends and family, making dinner, completing chores, doing coursework etc) so now you’ve completely lost your social life too. “Sorry I can’t make it to dinner this evening, I’ve just been for a run (again) and I am totally exhausted/running late/need to get the housework done/coursework done before I go to bed” – You get my point by now. On weeks where you may only manage to run 5-10km 2-3 days a week, you’ll feel crap about yourself and you’ll genuinely feel as if you have failed, when actually running 5-10km that much each week is amazing!! You’ll feel like a failure because you’ve set the bar too high – to run 5-10km every single day. Where as if you had set the bar a little lower, you would have felt ecstatic about yourself for running 5-10km twice a week and it would’ve boosted your confidence and made you feel great. It’s all based on your lifestyle, that’s what it all comes down to at the end of the day. So, before you ever set yourself any kind of goal, ask yourself those questions above and really think about what you will definitely be able to achieve – set the bar low to start with and if over time you realise you have more time in your days to achieve more than what you’ve set yourself – then and only then – set the bar higher.

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(Seeing the lights at Kew Gardens was one of my goals for 2018. I knew it would be achievable because not only do I live close to London so it would be easy to get there but also because I knew I would have the time to set aside an evening sometime near Christmas to go. Being able to achieve this goal made me feel great and I enjoyed the lights as much as I knew I would.)

My new year’s resolutions and why I made them:

After making the mistake of setting myself goals that were too difficult to achieve, causing me stress and feeling like a failure when I didn’t accomplish them to the standards I expected, I decided I needed to make my goals much smaller and more realistic. Small goals, but important ones, like making sure I drink 8 glasses of water a day and getting at least 7 hours of sleep every week night. Such important goals, but very realistic and achievable, therefore making you feel great 🙂 

I once read a book called 100 SMALL WAYS TO QUIT WORRYING   which gave me the inspiration for setting my new year’s resolutions for last year and again this year. This book lists 100 small every-day ways that will help someone stop worrying so much all the time – small ways that you probably wouldn’t ordinarily think of doing before reading that book, so I highly recommend giving it a read. You can find it on Amazon by clicking the link on the title of the book at the start of this paragraph above.

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I’m going to list my new year’s resolutions for this year below with the hope of it helping others who are in the position I found myself in a few years ago when I set myself unrealistic goals. I hope these give you some good ideas and inspiration for your own goals you can try and achieve this year. 🙂 

 1.) Drink 8 glasses of water every day. 

2) Do 100 squats every day – at home, at work, wherever! It only takes 5 minutes. 

3.) Put in more effort with friends & family – phoning them more often and seeing them more often.

4.) Start a degree in something I am passionate about, through Open University. (I have already achieved this and have just started my degree in Health & Social Care)

5.) Start going to a pilates/yoga class again as often as I can afford at the time and try my best to stick with it for the year. (I am in the process of finding a class close enough to me that I can afford)

6.) Put in more effort to actively meet new people and make new friends (This can achieved in many ways, such as: become a member of an online group and meet people that way, go to the Open University student get-togethers each month, strike up conversation with strangers when I am out and about etc.)

7.) Complete my first year of my degree – don’t give up no matter how hard it may get!

8.) Put myself first a bit more, give myself 1 evening a week of doing something purely just for me – my mental health and happiness matters just as much as everyone else’s. (I have a habit of putting my happiness on hold a lot so that my son, partner, friends or relatives are happier. I hate not being able to please everyone and I hate saying no) 

9.) Don’t be afraid of saying no and realise that I simply cannot please everyone. (If anything, this will also make people respect you a little more too. Saying yes to people all the time will give off the false impression that you are a pushover and will do anything that is asked of you no matter how difficult or stressful.) 

10.) Walk more! Now that I am unable to drive for the next 5 months due to a one-off seizure at the end of 2018, I will have to walk a lot more. As annoying as this can be, it’ll be great for my physical health and also my mental health – fresh air can do a person wonders! 

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(Walks along the beach are my favourite – whatever the weather! Some fresh sea air does wonders to your physical and mental health.)

I really hope this blog post has helped some of you in some way or another and given you a bit of inspiration to make your own realistic new year’s resolution list in the quest to start making you feel better about yourself and your abilities. 🙂 I will be posting a lot about my goals for 2019 on my Instagram throughout the year, so feel free to follow my journey with me along the way by following me on @secretlifeofananxiousmum .

Wishing you all the best of luck for 2019!

Lots of love,

Lauren! Xxxx

 

Parenting

Everything You Need To Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Hello!

Firstly, how is it November already?!?! I don’t get it? I was just in Spain a few weeks ago in August and now it’s November! I walked into my local supermarket yesterday and there were Christmas decorations everywhere! I mean, I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t get really excited seeing all the Christmas decorations up everywhere, in fact I think my exact words were “Oh my god, yay!!!!” However, apart from the joy of Christmas day and the Christmas build up, I tend to dread this time of year hence why it probably comes around so quickly every year!

Secondly, I hope everyone had the best summer.  But sadly (for those who suffer with S.A.D) winter time has rolled around yet again and it’s that dreaded time of year again. That time of year we really struggle with but have no idea why or what to do to cope a little better.

This blog post is going to be a bit of a long one, but bare with me, because I promise it’ll help you in some way or another. I’m going to talk in detail about Seasonal Affective Disorder – the science behind, the statistics, symptoms and ways to help yourself.

If, like myself and 25-30% of the world’s population, you start to feel down in the dumps, depressed, stressed, sluggish and much more tired than usual in the Autumn and Winter months, you could potentially be suffering with S.A.D and just haven’t realised it yet. A lot of people who have S.A.D can go years without realising they have it and just assume that everyone feels this way during the winter – wrong! Both children and adults can suffer with this disorder and although the word “disorder” makes it sound daunting and concerning, it’s nothing to stress yourself over at all. (Oh, the irony!)

As explained above, in this blog post I will go into detail about exactly what Seasonal Affective Disorder is, the symptoms, my personal experiences with it and ways you can really help yourself. If you haven’t personally been experiencing any symptoms related to S.A.D but you know people who do, continue reading further because it’ll help you to understand how to help and support!


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I started suffering with SAD from quite a young age – I must have been around 7 or 8. For a long time I thought it was normal to feel that way every winter – struggling to get up in the mornings, laying in til midday on the weekends (as young as 8 years old!) feeling miserable and negative about everything and not wanting to hang out with friends very much, but then feeling as happy as Larry whenever Spring and Summer came back around. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that my GP told me that what I’m actually experiencing are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder and he gave me some tips on how to help myself during the winter. Over the years I’ve learnt a lot about how I cope with my SAD – what works and what doesn’t work, a lot of it through trial and error. I really wanted to write a blog post about this because it’s something that is so common but hardly ever spoken about. It’s important to raise more awareness so that others can recognise their own symptoms and link two and two together and seek help. It’s also important for people to read this and realise they’re not alone in feeling this way during the winter. So, go grab a cup of something warm and tasty, sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of this post!


Seasonal Affective Disorder and the facts:

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. It’s also known as a “winter depression”. It is a type of depression that is related to the changes in season and starts and ends at around the same time every year (October – February) It can be particularly severe during December, January and February. For some people, SAD is so disabling that they cannot function in winter without continuous treatment. Others may experience a milder version called sub-syndromal SAD or ‘winter blues’. It is recognised as a mental health disorder, but it does not mean that you have depression. SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes that people can get during the winter months, but not necessarily every year. If you already suffer with depression, having SAD can worsen your symptoms. Also, although much less often, SAD can be experienced in Spring and Summer instead of Autumn and Winter.

Most of us, if not all of us, are affected by the change in seasons. It’s normal to feel happy and energetic in the Summer and to feel more tired during the Winter. But for people who have SAD, they will feel a lot worse than is seen as the norm and genuinely struggle with day-to-day life during the winter months.

SAD is most common in countries like the UK where there are big weather changes and a difference in daylight hours in Winter compared to Summer.

A staggering 1 in 3 people around the world suffer with SAD, half of those people not even realising they have it and haven’t put two and two together. Approximately 1 in 15 people in the UK alone suffer with this disorder and 4 out of 5 people who have SAD are women. The main onset for SAD is between 20-30 years of age, however, anyone of any age can experience it. It is extremely rare for people to suffer with SAD in countries that are often 28 degrees or more, where daylight hours are long, constant and bright. Typically, the further away from the equator you are, the more at risk you are of suffering with SAD.


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Why do people get Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is caused by the reduced level of sunlight in the Autumn and Winter months which can affect people’s serotonin levels. Lower levels of serotonin have been shown to be linked to depression. It’s also caused by a lack of vitamin D – which we naturally get from sunlight. With little sunlight during this time of year, our bodies start to lack that important vitamin D. Melatonin is also believed to play a role in the cause of SAD. Melatonin is a natural sleep-related hormone in our bodies which is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. This hormone, which can affect sleep patterns and mood, is produced at increased levels of darkness. So when the days are shorter and darker more often through the winter, the production of this hormone increases.


Symptoms of SAD: 

  • Depression; feeling miserable and “down in the dumps” feeling hopeless.
  • Loss of interest in things that would normally interest you.
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep problems; over sleeping and struggling to stay awake or sometimes disturbed sleep and early morning waking.
  • Feeling lethargic and sluggish
  • General fatigue – feeling much more tired than usual and having less energy.
  • Overeating; particularly craving starchy and sweet foods that result in weight gain.
  • Social problems; irritability and desire to avoid social contact.
  • Sexual problems; decreased libido

How to help yourself if you have SAD:

Although there isn’t really anything to completely cure SAD, there are things you can do to help to make things easier for yourself and to lift your mood.

Photo-therapy or bright light therapy is the most common and effective treatment. Photo-therapy or bright light therapy has been shown to suppress the brain’s secretion of melatonin. Although, there have been no research findings to definitely link this therapy with an antidepressant effect, light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 percent of diagnosed cases. You can go online and with a little google search you can find some SAD lightbulbs to help you and give you further info about photo-therapy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been proven to be effective in helping SAD too.

Doing little things you usually enjoy doing can help A LOT. Giving yourself time to not only have lazy days to rest and relax but also days where you complete a small list of things that will cheer you up and make you feel a bit better. This is important. It’s difficult to have the energy or motivation to do anything if you suffer with SAD but if you make yourself a little list of a few of your favourite things to do or activities you wish to complete which you know will make you feel less stressed. For example, a small list of small chores you want to get done by the end of the day (emphasis on the word SMALL) and a list of little things that will make you smile. For example, baking a cake, cooking or ordering your favourite meal, making yourself a cup of hot chocolate, taking a bubble bath, going for a walk, painting your nails, changing the bed sheets (we all know how lovely it is to get into bed with fresh bed sheets!!) watch your favourite tv show/movie. Small but important things.


3 things people with SAD want you to know:

1.) This is real! No, we are not just dealing with “winter blues” and no I cannot just “snap out of it” for the day. I can completely empathise and understand why something called winter blues would sound a bit suspicious and questionable to some people. Is it actually a thing? Is it just an excuse to get out of plans or to stay in bed all day? Are people just over exaggerating the winter blues? These are just a few of the questions that can go through the mind of someone who doesn’t suffer with SAD. I can understand how it might seem like we are simply just going through a “rough patch” because this bout of depression only comes around for a few months at the end of the year. But we can all assure you, SAD really is a very real condition, we are not just going through a rough patch, we are not just simply being lazy, and no, we are not just dealing with a bit of “winter blues” and able to easily snap out of it and put it behind us. Please be patient with us and please at least be respectful if you can’t be understanding or empathetic.

2.) I will likely decline or cancel plans more often than usual, and I’m genuinely sorry. Once Autumn and Winter comes along, when the air gets colder and the sky gets darker, literally all I want to do is curl up on the sofa or in bed where I feel warm and safe. I have zero energy 80% of the time. I just want to be around my family and not have to put in too much energy and effort into anything during this difficult time. I’m not at my best during this time, which is why I often decline invitations to hang out or cancel plans. I don’t like to meet up with my friends and go out when I’m not at my best. It makes me somebody I am not. When I’m feeling crap, tired and under the weather the last thing I want to do is go out with friends because it sucks all enjoyment out of it. When I see my friends I like to make sure I’m in high spirits and that I am fun to be around so that my friends enjoy my company. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my friends or don’t miss them, because I really do.

3.) Yep, we are fully aware how much of a Debbie Downer we are right now and we feel awful about it! We do, as a matter of fact, feel incredibly guilty for the way we come across and behave during our SAD periods. Because it turns us into somebody we are not. Please don’t judge us on how we act at this time of year, because it’s not who we truly are. It’s a condition and a disorder that we can’t control.

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I hope I’ve been able to spread a bit more light on Seasonal Affective Disorder and how you can help yourself a little during this tough time of year for some people. 🙂

All my love,

Lauren xx

(All photos are not my own and found through Google images)
Sources: http://www.nhs.co.uk, http://www.mind.org.uk, http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk
Parenting

Interviewing people with mental health issues…(Emily’s Story)

A big hello to you all!

It’s been a while since I last posted as I am now back at work as of last month and my son is back at school too. So everything is manic and go, go, go from 7am – 8pm!! So I apologise for not posting anything for a while – the blog has still been on my mind a lot though because there are still so many people’s amazing stories I want to share with everyone on here.

When I first started this blog, I got a lot of people confiding in me and telling me their stories about their mental health or a loved ones mental health and every single person who has contacted me and shared their story with me is incredible, brave and inspirational.

I share other people’s stories for the sole reason of trying to spread awareness about mental health, show people that they’re not alone in their struggling and suffering and to bring comfort and reassurance to people. This is the whole reason I started my blog, to try and help people as much as I can who suffer and struggle with parenting, their own mental health or supporting a loved one with mental health issues.

I have another story to share with you from a lovely young lady who lives in my hometown. She explains in detail her traumatic labour with her first child, the painful and complicated aftermath of her labour, life as a young parent and suffering with crippling health anxiety.


Emily’s Story

I have two children Evie Anne-Rose who is 23 months old. And Daisy Mae who is coming up 6 months old. 


My labour with Evie was pretty traumatic as labours go I would say. I was induced so I didn’t go into labour naturally. The reason being a part of my waters had broken and because I had had b strep water infection detected in my pregnancy they couldn’t risk it spreading to my baby incase I did have it at the time of labour. I had a third degree tear as she was delivered by ventouse delivery (suction cup) and so I also had to have an episiotomy. And then on top of that I had to have 300ml of blood drained from a labial haematoma that was underneath the stitches in surgery a few days later. It was agonising I couldn’t get up to walk and I could not close my legs at all due to how swollen I was down there. So it was hard to get comfortable as I couldn’t lie straight. I was stuck in a hospital bed for just over a week in total. The worst bit was I kept having to be put of going into surgery as emergency c sections kept being put first so I was waiting a few days in the pain and also nil by mouth for all that time. But that didn’t stop me wanting baby number 2! I was so lucky with Daisy I had a first degree tear no stitches and she was born so quickly I only had time for gas and air. She was born in just over an hour with the third part of labour only lasting 15 minutes. The difference betweens the two just proves every labour is so so different and you can’t predict what will happen. Just because the first was awful doesn’t mean the second will be too! 


I suffer mainly with health anxiety. I always think there is something wrong with me. I’m a headache sufferer and had as many as up to 4 migraines with auras a week with both pregnancies. Getting migraines with auras is terrifying as you think you are having a stroke because you can’t see properly but what you can see is just wobbly lines and things which aren’t there. 


A few years ago I kept thinking something was wrong with my heart and kept feeling my pulse I was so obsessed with it I couldn’t think of anything else but whether or not my heart was ok. It started to take over my life just holding my chest and worrying whether my heart will skip a beat, it really is awful having health anxiety because you can’t help but think about your health all the time and being constantly convinced something is wrong with you.  I even had an ECG due to being so worried about my heart and the palpitations I was getting etc I now realise that is anxiety in itself. I have also had an MRI scan for the cause of my headaches because I was also getting tinnitus and again I believe that was down to anxiety. 

When I had given birth to my first baby I was so so worried about getting a blood clot I made my sister and boyfriend move my legs up and down as I couldn’t feel them due to the epidural. So pretty much straight after giving birth one of the things I was most worried about were blood clots!


One good thing about having health anxiety I have to say is I am so knowledgeable about medical conditions due to googling everything I have actually educated myself about so much to do with health!


I have been suffering with health anxiety since I was about 13 I would say.


The symptoms are as I said above headaches, migraines, tinnitus, pins and needles, palpitations, sharp pains in head and neck and just a feeling of impending doom is how I wouldn’t describe it.


To cope I just listen to music as I find that relaxing to sing to myself especially in the car and try to get out to get fresh air which isn’t always easy with two young children though. And most importantly to see friends and family as that takes my mind of things. And I do like to meditate with crystal healing and angel cards etc I find this incredibly relaxing. I am quite a spiritual person too so really unwinding at night with some candles and time to reflect on things is my most best way to cope.


I have had a few sessions of counselling over the years and I would like to do it again although it’s finding the time due to having two young children.

It is incredibly helpful to talk to someone who doesn’t know you and would never judge your situation and who is just there to listen and provide guidance not advice I think we have to all remember that counselling is for ways to help guide you not advise you. I have made that mistake before asking them for their advice. But that’s more for what friends and family are for. 


My advice for someone who is suffering with mental  health and anxiety would be once you realise you need help that is such amazing progress already and to not be afraid to go to your doctors and ask for counselling. Counselling can benefit absolutely everyone at some point in their lives. To go to family, friends or even a neighbour or someone from a parenting group just to talk, everyone loves a good chat every now and then and if they don’t feel they can help I can guarantee they would try to help you another way by finding someone that can help or a different way to just talking and listening. If people are uncomfortable in these situations there are other things they can offer and probably will as most people do want to help in one way or another. 


I also think being out in nature is relaxing where you can unwind and just breathe in the fresh air. Take a walk in the woods and sit by water, I find that relaxing or even just lighting a candle and taking time to talk to your inner self. And maybe take up a hoobie can help take your mind of things and also reading is another that helps me.


My advice to someone who supports someone with mental health and anxiety is never say you know how they feel because I don’t think anyone knows really how anyone feels. My best advice is to listen intently, provide support and to help ease their mind. Do something fun, offer to take them out and just to simply say I’m here for you. Sometimes asking too many questions doesn’t always help I have found. Just listening is the best tool as it’s so comforting to have someone to just listen to how you are feeling and trying to get someone to see how you feel so you don’t feel as alone.


I would say suffering with health anxiety has affected my parenting because I am now constantly worried not only about my health but the health of my two daughters too. So it has probably got worse but I don’t have as much time to sit and think about it like I used to be able to so being busy I have to say does help take your mind of all those worries you have. Try and keep busy is my advice best of all but most importantly to not blame yourself because so many people out there suffer with anxiety and if we all reached out there would be so much more help and advice out there if people see it’s more common than they think.


A huge thank you to Emily 💕
Parenting

4 mental health warning signs you must pay attention to…

Did you know that 1 in 4 people will suffer with a mental health problem at some point in their life?

1 in 4 isn’t just a statistic. It’s me, it’s you, it’s your colleagues. It’s your family and friends. Please help me to break the silence, raise more awareness and support those suffering by reading and sharing my blog posts and my regular posts on Instagram. (@secretlifeofananxiousmum)


4 mental health warning signs you must pay attention to:

Have you ever suffered with depression and want to see if my “warning signs” are the same, or similar, to yours? Do you think you might be experiencing symptoms of depression for the first time but you’re not entirely sure? Do you not suffer with depression yourself but someone close to you does and you want to better understand it? If the answer is yes to any of the above questions then I really believe this post (and my entire blog, to be honest!) can help you. Below I am going to talk in detail about 4 main ways/signs/symptoms I experience at the beginning of a depressive period.

I don’t know about anyone else, but because I’ve suffered with depression on and off since I was a teenager (so, for over a decade) I know a lot about it and how it works. Well, I know a lot about MY depression and how my depression works. No one person’s depression is the same. But I know so much about my own depression that I can even spot the signs of it looming, ready to come and visit me for a while. If I’ve had a few months of feeling happier than usual, more “normal” than usual, like my true self, sadly I know it may not last forever. I know that I need to accept that my depression will come back after a few months or years because I think it’s just a part of me now and something I physically and mentally suffer with. A dysfunction in my brain that medication and counselling can sometimes help, but not cure permanently. So below I am going to let you all know the 4 main ways I know that my depression is on it’s way back. Paying attention to these warnings signs helps me prepare myself for the depressive period I’m about to endure for a while. Little things you probably wouldn’t really think twice about but are so important to look out for. I wanted to share this because I think it could help other people out there recognise their own symptoms and seek help if they want to.

I lose interest in reading:

I am a huge book worm. Usually, I always have a book to read, one straight after the other. Normally, I’m never not reading a book. I can get lost in a book for hours. I was once known in my local town as the “bus book girl” because I always used to read my book on the bus to work and back every single day for 2 years. The local people who also got the same bus as me every day began to recognise me and notice I always had my head buried inside a book so they started to call me the Bus Book Girl. Now that I’ve described just how much I love reading, you’ll also find it very uncharacteristic of me to not be reading a book for several weeks at a time, just the way myself and my friends and family find it uncharacteristic of me. This is the first warning sign that I’m not feeling my usual self and my depression is creeping up on me. This is the sign that, a lot of the time, other people notice first. Family and friends will comment on how they haven’t seen me reading a book for a little while and ask if I’m ok. That’s when I’ll realise “wait a minute, they’re right, I haven’t picked up my book for 2 weeks”. This is the subconscious sign that I’m not feeling right and just haven’t paid enough attention to myself to realise sooner. I haven’t picked up a book for 3 weeks and I’ve had zero interest in reading. I also know that if I force myself to try and get back into the rhythm of reading (because it’s something I usually love doing) I can’t focus properly for longer than 5 minutes. I find myself reading the words but not actually taking them in. I end up re-reading the same page about 10 times because I really struggle to pay attention or just simply understand what the words are saying.

I get headaches and stomach cramps:

I get stress headaches a lot during my depressive periods. Tension headaches, they might be called. Painkillers don’t work at all, nothing eases the headache because it’s caused by ongoing stress. I’ll have a splitting headache for about 10 days straight by the time I give in and go to the doctors. This happens once every few months. The doctor tells me every time that it’s caused by stress and that I need to relax more but that’s so much easier said than done!! My doctor usually gives me a very small dose of an anti-depressant that works very well, in small doses, to cure stress-related headaches. I take one a day for about a week and then they disappear for a few months, until next time!

I also get awful stomach cramps. I suffer with stress-induced irritable bowel syndrome. So, when I’m going through a very depressive or stressful period, I experience the same symptoms (and the same intensity) as someone who has IBS. My bowels start to painfully contract and cause horrible contraction-like pains as if I’m in labour again. I find myself on the toilet more often than usual too. This is usually the 2nd warning sign for me, when I start to get physical health problems due to mental health problems. It’s very unpleasant and painful. To help with my IBS symptoms I regularly take Buscopan during this period and this helps ease the pain and other symptoms of IBS. These can be bought at any pharmacy.

I am constantly exhausted:

During my depressive periods I feel exhausted 24/7. No amount of sleep helps me. I can sleep for 7,8,9 or 10 hours and it doesn’t help. Hell, sometimes even 12 hours and that still doesn’t help. I could easily sleep all day every day if given the opportunity (although that still probably wouldn’t help!) I wake up in the mornings and struggle a lot to get out of bed, it takes a lot of willpower to get myself out of bed on those mornings. Sometimes I’ll even have a little cry in the shower in the mornings because I am just so tired. My eyes sting, my vision goes blurry where I’m zoning in and out because I’m so tired. I wake up in the morning and 2 hours later I’m completely ready for a nap! I struggle to focus at work, I struggle to drive, I struggle to communicate with people and pay proper attention to what they’re saying and I struggle to simply function. It’s really not a very nice thing to go through but sadly something I experience a lot of during my depressive periods. To help with my extreme fatigue, I get an early night every night, I drink a lot of caffeine throughout the day (which I know isn’t the healthiest option but, unfortunately, sometimes it’s all that works for me and I’m willing to do anything to keep me awake by this point) I also take a strong iron supplement and drink a liquid iron formula called Floradix. This can help in the long run if I take it every day and stick to it. These can be bought at pharmacies and Holland & Barrett.

I lose interest in going out and seeing friends:

I love seeing my friends and family. I love to get together for coffee or dinner. I love going to the cinema with friends or going for a few drinks and having a good catch up and gossip. It’s my favourite thing to do and it’s one of the main things I look forward to doing. But sadly, during a depressive period, I can’t think of anything worse. This breaks my heart for 2 reasons:

1.) because it comes across like I don’t like my friends anymore, like I don’t care about them or love them anymore when actually that is the complete opposite to how I feel about them. As a result, this then upsets my friends.

2.) because it makes me lonelier than ever. It’s a horrible situation to be in – declining friends invitations and refusing to see them but then getting extremely lonely as a result. But then you have nobody to blame but yourself. It’s not your friend’s fault. And this then makes you feel even worse.

The thought of leaving my house during these periods makes me want to cry. The thought of going out and socialising and putting on a fake smile and fake happy attitude makes me feel queasy and uncomfortable. So I just avoid going out altogether! Things I once loved doing, people I once loved seeing, I don’t want to do or see anymore. This is usually always the final sign that warns me my depression is definitely back now. This can last anywhere up to a few weeks to a few months and during those periods I’m not myself at all. I am always apologising to friends and family about rarely seeing them. I like to reassure them that I love them and want to see them but I just can’t face going out right now, I need to be at home in my comfort zone until my depression subsides. It’s nothing to do with my friends personally, not at all. It’s because of me and my problems. And if you also experience this, it’s so important to tell your friends this. Reassure them that it’s nothing to do with them, it’s because you are suffering with depression or a mental health problem. Once this subsides and I start to feel like my normal self again, I see my friends and family a lot and try and organise as many meet-ups and get-togethers as I can.

I hope this post has helped even just 1 of you out there. If anyone can relate to this post on any level, I hope this has helped to reassure you or support you. I hope this has helped others recognise their own symptoms and made them realise that maybe they’re also suffering with depression and should seek help. Please always seek help if you want to. That is what doctors and specialists are there for.

All my love,

Lauren!

Parenting

Living with chronic conditions (Katie’s Story)

Hello!

I’m really glad to be able to share another story about suffering and living with a chronic condition and illness. It really puts the message out there to everyone that not all conditions are visible and so many of us go through this. It shows everyone that we are not alone and there are others out there who are suffering, and usually in silence. It helps to support and reassure people experiencing similar problems and helps to educate people who aren’t living with chronic conditions. The person’s story I’m sharing today is Katie Ayer (Instagram: _raisingwildthings) a woman who suffered with her mental health, chronic migraines that no treatment seemed to help or cure and then discovered she had cancer. This lady is an inspiration and so strong and her story is completely eye-opening and definitely worth a read. It puts a lot into perspective and I have faith it’ll help people out there, if only a little bit at least. I hope that by sharing her story that others can recognise their own symptoms and experiences and realise they’re not alone and to seek help if needed. This is her story:

“I was diagnosed with anxiety, panic disorder and OCD at the age of 12. Symptoms started when I was 8 but I held it in until I couldn’t anymore. Then around 15 I started getting debilitating migraines, muscle tension headaches. 3 times a week. Then as time went on it became almost daily. I saw physical therapists, specialists, regular docs, massage therapists. Nothing helped. Then I just gave up and decided it was my new normal. I ended up having times where it wouldn’t be as frequent but that never lasted long. Then 4 Year’s ago after I had my daughter I started having ocular migraines. My vision was gone then it would come back with a horrible headache. I started thinking if I had a brain tumor or something was seriously wrong. That totally impacted my anxiety and then made my migraines worse. Then in may of 2017 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to have my thyroid removed and radiation which thankfully took care of it. However a month after my radiation my migraines were daily, my vision looked like objects were vibrating and my ears were ringing and I was incredibly dizzy all day and night. I then went to the emergency and then regular doctors. They told me I’d need a brain MRI to check for a brain tumor or cancer. And in all of my panic attacking life, I’d never been so terrified. Nothing showed on the MRI thankfully. So insane a neurologist who said I have a migraine disorder but just put me on so many awful medications. Eventually I got a second opinion in Boston at Tufts University and was diagnosed with vestibular dysfunction which can cause worsening anxiety and means my inner ear had severe damage which is linked to your eye sight and balance and can cause ocular migraines and daily migraines. Back to physical therapy I went and that is starting to improve. The doc put me on vitamins. VITAMINS!! and my migraines are nearly gone. I cut out gluten dairy and soy from my diet and that has helped with my anxiety. I am finally off my nasty migraine meds which Increased my anxiety with the withdrawal symptoms. But I’m in the mend but dealing with chronic migraines had and has a huge impact on my overall anxiety and panic attacks.”


A huge thank you to Katie for sharing her inspirational story. ❤️

Parenting

Our trip to Spain 🇪🇸

Hey everyone 👋🏼

I hope that anyone reading this is having a great summer so far. This post is a little different to my usual blog posts. If you follow my blog and/or Instagram you’ll know that most of my posts are about mental health and the occasional parenting tips 😊 but today I just simply wanted to share some photos and details of our family trip to Spain that we’ve thoroughly enjoyed.(I took a fair few selfies on this holiday – oops 😕)

Last Tuesday we came to Albir Garden Resort for a week of sun & fun. We hadn’t been abroad as a family since the summer of 2016 to Lanzarote (which was another lovely trip) so we were genuinely super excited. My son had already been in Spain for a week and a half with my dad’s side of the family and then Joe and myself eagerly met him out here. Albir Garden Resort also has a brilliant water park within the resort which we’ve spent most days playing in at some point during the day 😂 it is a 3.5/4 star family resort that has 2 large swimming pools, evening entertainment, kids club, a big lounge/game room, large restaurant serving breakfast, lunch & dinner (depending what board you book – half board, full board etc) and we’ve really enjoyed it. Below are some photos from the hotel 😊

It’s a great location as it’s right in the town centre of Albir and only a 15 minute walk from the beach (although, not a sandy beach. Pebbles! Still beautiful nonetheless) along the beach front there’s a ton of restaurants, shops and arcades etc. And if you want to walk a little further on from the beach (about another 20-30 minutes, or a short 5 minute taxi ride) you can also go into the Altea town centre which is even more beautiful, especially if you walk to the old town. Below are some photos from Altea town! 😊

So, all in all, a great holiday and great location. If you ever go to the south or east of Spain, Altea or Albir are the places to go. Albeit, very hot this time of year (late 30’s) I still highly recommend 😊 there are tons of local activities such as swimming with dolphins, a zoo, a huge theme park, rent a boat, snorkelling/swimming trips, theatre, shops & more. The locals are friendly and accommodating and speak good English.

I’m currently sat in the “lounge” area of the hotel where there’s lots of sofas and different arcade games to play, along with a bar. Ben loves it in here. There’s computers, an Xbox with a big screen playing multiple games, snooker/pool, air hockey, grab machines etc. Lots to keep you entertained.

We still have the rest of the day here as our flight home to England isn’t until 02:15am (Spanish time) which is great because it means we still get all day and evening here, but it also means we have no room to go back to now to take a little nap or get out of the sun and into the cool room when it gets way too hot around midday 😂 Please tell me I’m not the only one who likes to have a little daytime nap on holiday?! Am I getting too old before my time?

(Ben enjoying the Xbox in the lounge/game room)


Let’s talk kids on flights!

Luckily, a trip to Spain only take 2.5 hours from London so it’s much easier to keep the kids entertained and occupied on a flight this short. However, we have been on longer flights before. We make sure to pack crayons, colouring books, activity books, card games and the games consoles (we have a Nintendo Switch and a Nintendo 2DS) all of these things keep Ben entertained enough for the duration of his flights. We also play I Spy and games like that too. What does everyone else do to keep their kids entertained on flights? Do you have any tips? If so, please comment below! 😊


Finally – Ben’s ears 😢

Ben has struggled with problem after problem, infection are infection, glue ear that has lasted years on end. So taking him abroad is always a worry for me. The flights can hurt his ears and keep them that way for a few days afterwards and the water can also make them very sore for him. Ben’s ears were fine with the water up until about 4 days ago and they have since been very sore for him so I’ve had to keep him topped up on calpol to help ease the pain and I try to encourage him to either wear a swimming hat that will cover his ears or swimming ear plugs so that water doesn’t get into his ears anymore. I also ask him not to do any tricks under the water either as that can cause water to get right in his ears (e.g rolly polly under water, spinning under water, handstands etc)

What I usually do before I take Ben abroad is take him to our doctor and ask her to prescribe him some ear drops to prevent infection just in case he gets an infection from all the water (which is 95% certain to happen, and his doctor knows he is exceptionally prone to ear infections if water gets in his ears) and we make sure to take plenty of calpol to help with any pain he may feel. It’s difficult because I’m constantly in two minds when we go away on holiday – I don’t want to stop Ben from enjoying the water on holiday because he absolutely loves going under water and doing under water tricks, but at the same time I’m a concerned parent who doesn’t want his ears to get sore for him. So I have to come to some kind of middle. Hence the swimming hat, ear plugs and ear drops just incase! Better to be safe than sorry 😊

I hope everyone has enjoyed reading this post about our trip to Spain, I tried not to blabber on too much and in too much detail, just covering the main points as quickly as I could. I love reading blog posts about family trips away because it gives me good ideas and recommendations on where to take my family next ❤️ I definitely recommend Altea / Albir in Spain!

Lots of love,

Lauren x

Parenting

Living with chronic conditions (Dustin’s Story)

Hello everyone.

Following on from my blog post yesterday, I am happy to share another story with you all about people living with chronic conditions/pain.

If you haven’t had a chance to read my first story by the wonderful Hannah Gerken suffering with chronic conditions and how she lives with it day-to-day then please feel free to scroll down and give it a read. It’s an eye-opening read and shows how brave these people are out there in the world who suffer every day with a painful and debilitating condition every single day – an invisible condition. I feel so passionately about this because not only do I currently suffer with an invisible condition – severe chronic back pain that has so far lasted over 8 years and I have had very few people around me truly understand and support me, but also because for years I couldn’t find any support or reassurance online either. I didn’t know anyone else who suffered with chronic pain or a chronic condition so I felt completely and utterly alone and this made everything so much worse for me. I couldn’t find any support groups or blogs online either talking about chronic pain and/or conditions and that, too, made everything seem worse for me. So, I want to be able to share as many people’s stories on my blog as possible so that people can read them and feel less alone in their suffering and people who don’t suffer with a chronic condition can read these stories to become more aware and educated on the subject to help others.

As I have said in my previous blog post, I want to completely dedicate these posts to the heroes who wrote them and shared their stories with me. None of this is my doing, none of this is me, it’s all completely them and if it wasn’t for these amazing people I wouldn’t have a blog post in the first place. This is all down to the bravery of these people who want to share their stories purely to raise awareness hoping to help, reassure, support and educate others.

My second story is written by the incredible Dustin Steeves. He suffered with severe, debilitating, chronic back pain for a few years. Here is his story:


My story started in 2014.

My back had started bothering me at work, but since I work in construction I had just assumed it would pass. I was already no stranger to bumps bruises and aches in the workplace.

A few weeks later, the pain had t subsided, so I went to my Dr, who immediately referred me to a spinal specialist.

From there, I went to the Spinal Pathways Clinic in Saskatoon, Canada and was slated in for a CT scan.

They had found severe herniation between my L4 and L5 vertebrae and the two vertebrae themselves had begun to degenerate and rub against each other, cutting into my sciatic nerve.

A short while after this, I was declared unfit to work due to waking up and not being able to feel my legs, and I couldn’t walk. That day was one of the scariest of my life.

I was sent to a chiropractor, sent for spinal injections, and after a year of trials and experiments, was finally advised to start thinking about surgery.

Because my condition was so advanced, surgery was not initially recommended due to the amount of trauma in my back.

I was made aware that there was a chance I may not be able to walk again if anything went wrong while I was under.

In spite of this I opted for surgery, as I hadn’t experienced a day without excruciating pain in nearly two years.

Waking up the day of surgery was absolutely terrifying. I thought that may be the last day I’d have control of my legs.

Luckily, everything went fine. I was in the extremely capable hands of my surgeon and woke up from my surgery without pain in my back and legs for the first time in ages.

I immediately went into tears of joy.

The road ahead was long, and I had to basically learn how to walk again.

I had my L4 and L5 vertebrae shaved down, and had an artificial disc injected in between them.

Eight weeks later I was cleared for work and sports, and jumped right back into everything I loved.

It was the most satisfying feeling in the world being able to play hockey again. Being able to work again. Being able to take care of myself again.

My back will never be as strong as it once was, and it may cause me problems in the future, but I would highly recommend surgery to anybody experiencing even an eighth of the pain I was in.


A big thank you to Dustin for sharing his story. 🙂