Why I don’t make resolutions.

I know I’m a bit late to the game here, we’re already into the second week of January (how did that happen???), but bear with me here.

I used to make resolutions. Big long lists of them. Usually ones about diets, or ‘how to be less fat’, more exercise, drinking more water, eating better, doing more meaningful things. Generally ways I could, and should be a better version of me.

Inevitably I would break those resolutions, one by one, and feel guilty and generally terrible about the fact that I had, again, failed.

As the family got together on the eve of 2015, as we do every year, I didn’t make any resolutions. Not because I’d had any great epiphany about them but because I’d forgotten. My mum loved grandmother had been rushed into hospital on Christmas Eve after aspirating a piece of Salmon, she’d been discharged on Christmas Day but she was still critical. I didn’t have the head space to think about how I was going to better myself through the following year. She passed away in early January and I grafted through the year dealing with the loss, graduating from University and getting married.

The family got together again, and together we welcomed in 2016. I didn’t think about making resolutions, we’d gone on holiday over Christmas – an attempt to distance ourselves from the events of the year before – and I’d developed a urine infection. I felt sick, achy and generally crap and all I wanted to do was eat lots and drink bubbly. As it turns out these were the first symptoms of my very surprise pregnancy, as I found out on the 2nd January. So any ideas that might have been lingering in the back of my head about weight loss went out the window. I started my new job, I worked hard, I finished and then I had my daughter.

Again we met to celebrate the change of the years, and saw in 2017 in the way we usually do. My daughter was four months old; honestly I think I’d forgotten that resolutions existed. We’d also travelled up to see Liam’s Nana, as she rapidly lost her battle with cancer. Last year was one of the most emotional and special I can remember, so many moments that I really do cherish and will remember for a long time. My daughter learned to sit up, to crawl, to talk and to walk. She turned a whole year old. I got a new job and have colleagues that I really like and I’m enjoying it. My husband also got a new job that I hope will bring him happiness. I made some fantastic friends, and hopefully these friendships will continue to flourish. We had loss too, my Nana-in-Law passed away early in the year, but I am thankful forever that she met and loved Pippin.

So, true to form we met again to celebrate the coming of 2018. My husband stepped outside to welcome in the New Year, as he does every year.

And I made the conscious decision to make no resolutions. I’d not lost anything by not making resolutions apart from a sense of guilt. A year is a long time and things can change a lot in a year, your priorities can change a lot in a year. This way I might decide to do something, and then actually give it up – no pressure, no guilt, no remorse. I just changed my mind. Life is too short to try and pin yourself to some ideal vision you have of yourself, just go ahead and enjoy it.

And have a fantastic 2018.

My OCD and Pregnancy

This post is written for PNDAW17. This year PANDAS Foundation are concentrating on pre-natal mental health, highlighting how illnesses such as depression, anxiety and OCD can affect mental wellbeing during pregnancy.   

I’m crouched outside of our bedroom listening intently for the sound of my daughter breathing.

It took ages to get her to sleep, and I’ve checked on her four or five times since then. Logic tells me she’s ok, but my brain won’t rest until I’ve been in and gently put my hand on her chest.

After each time I’ll be able to relax for a few minutes but, inevitably, the thoughts will start again. I’ll keep checking the monitor. Then I’ll stare, watching her chest move up and down. Then I’ll feel the need to check on her again.

Sounds like normal behaviour for someone with a newborn doesn’t it?

What if I told you my daughter was twelve months old?

What if I told you that everytime I get the urge to check on her that I also have to touch the wooden table I’m sat at as a way to keep the bad thoughts away?

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Simply put OCD is a series of obsessive thoughts that are dealt with by the use of a compulsive behaviour. In this case the thought is that my daughter has stopped breathing in her cot, and the compulsion is both touching wood and then going and checking on her.

I’d tried lots of medication and therapy prior to my diagnosis at age twenty, but it took having private therapy for things to really click, and on a day to day basis I was coping pretty well.

Then I became pregnant.

Unexpectedly. My world was turned upside down.

We hadn’t planned to get pregnant, and since I had been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and didn’t appear to be ovulating the chance of me becoming pregnancy seemed slim. To say I was shocked is an understatement. My normal reaction in situations of stress is to run. Unfortunately there’s no way to run from cells that are rapidly dividing in your uterus. You kind of have to deal with the situation.

It is really difficult when you know you should be happy, and everyone is congratulating you and the reality is that you’re terrified and hurtling towards an unknown that you have no way of coping with.

Pregnancy was scary. I had “complications” and there wasn’t a day I didn’t think I would lose my baby. I developed coping rituals to try and deal with the anxiety: I started colouring books in the hope that it might allow me some respite from my own brain. Every scan we had I would turn my face to the wall, expecting to hear the baby didn’t have a heartbeat.

I made good friends with Dr. Google, analysing every little twinge and ache, checking ingredients in all products to try and reduce risk. I even struggling to have blood taken during my pregnancy, the fear of contamination actually caused my blood flow to slow down when the needle was in.

I opted for a home birth, in an effort to help myself remain as calm as possible. My reasoning was that being in a familiar environment might help reduce my stress levels and therefore bring about an easier birth. That didn’t work out. I ended up with Gestational Diabetes and was scheduled to be induced at thirty-seven weeks.

I’m not sure how people without OCD face impending labour. I worried that I wouldn’t want to hold my baby because of the blood, I was concerned about going into hospital and the risk of Pippin or I contracting something, I was scared of sharing a bathroom with other women on the ward after the birth in case of contamination, and I was really scared that my OCD would come back with a vengeance.

As it turns out I coped better than I expected.

My birth was not idea or as planned. I was never given the choice to have her birthed onto my chest, as she was born via emergency caesarean and immediately taken away whilst they dealt with my bleeding uterus. I breast fed, the decision was almost made for me as I had expressed colostrum to be taken over to the SBCU for my poorly daughter. I also managed to share the bathroom with the other women, because the only way I was getting out of that ward was to pee and nothing would stop me seeing my little girl.

It wasn’t easy, and in the first few weeks after her birth I was plagued with intrusive thoughts. I look back and I can feel a little of what I went through in those early weeks. I remember feeling sick every time I tried to feed my daughter, and the dread that appeared towards the end of the day when I knew I had to have my daily injection. It’s still not easy some days: I’m having therapy again to help me deal with the trauma of the birth and the separation from my daughter, but I’m here and my daughter is doing well.

Pippin’s Adventures: Rufford Old Hall Barefoot Walk

I am pretty open about the fact that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I was diagnosed when I was twenty, but it something I’ve been dealing with a lot longer than that. I think probably from around aged ten or eleven. It affects my life daily, and influences a lot of things I do.

OCD-Uk describe OCD as:

“a serious anxiety-related condition where a person experiences frequent intrusive and unwelcome obsessional thoughts, often followed by repetitive compulsions, impulses or urges.”

In other words, I get a thought (and it’s usually a grim one) and then I have a behaviour to deal with that thought. Usually the thought will go on, and on, and on and I’ll analyse and perform the behaviour. Then the thought comes back, and I’ll do it again. Then I’ll beat myself up and obsess about why I thought that in the first place.

It can be exhausting, and I am lucky that my OCD is pretty mild, and most of the time I can manage it these days.

So, naturally, when my friend invited Pippin and I on a Bare Foot Walk at Rufford Old Hall, I immediately began thinking about everything her little feet could come into contact with on the grass. I also just as quickly said yes. Bare Foot Walking is a form of sensory play which basically does what it says on the tin: you walk outside with no socks on and feel the floor.

I don’t like Pippin to miss out on any experiences because I don’t see things in the same way as other people, but the idea of letting her walk outside with no shoes felt a little bit sickening. But I packed up her bag and off we went to Rufford.

Rufford Old Hall is a five hundred year old property run by the National Trust, set in small(er) grounds that include and Orchard, Vegetable Garden and canal.

Part of the ’50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4′ the Bare Foot Walk was a series of trays with different materials in, so one had logs and pine cones, one had grass clippings, one had sand, one had cut up kitchen sponges (Pippin hated that one) and the last had water.

So far so good really. I could absolutely cope with bare feet in a contained environment of plastic trays.

Then we sat on the floor to picnic. The girls were bouncing off each other, crawling and walking off. Pippin was pulling up tufts of grass and putting them in her mouth, they tipped the pasta I had made for lunch on the floor, then tried to eat that.

 

Argh!

Floor pasta.

But I didn’t completely lose it, just removed the pasta from reach and we carried on.

As we left the Orchard I put Pippin’s little shoes back on to let her walk, my friend let her daughter go bare foot. Poor Pippin was desperately trying to pull her shoes off and let her feet go free.

So, against my OCD’s judgement, I let her.

Her little face when she put her bare foot into a muddy puddle was a picture. She whipped her foot out so quickly and stood on one leg. Then she watched my friend’s daughter splashing happily and she jumped in. She loved it, and I loved seeing her so happy.

Of course I gave her a lovely soapy bath when I got her home, but I did it. Allowing her to put her feet in that puddle was as big an achievement for me as it was for her to put her feet in it! And I couldn’t be happier that I let her have that experience.