An admission- I am a fan of Kate!

I know it is silly.  But I can’t help it.  I am a huge fan of Kate Middleton.

I loved how she wasn’t afraid to show her tummy to the media directly after the birth of Prince George.

I think she does an excellent job in creating an elegant, royal image, although I think sometimes she errs slightly too much to the conservative side.  But that is definitely preferable to being too influenced by transitory trends.

But, most importantly, I love the work she and Prince William are doing in the promotion and de-stigmatising of mental health issues.

Here is an article relating to her recent speech.  And below is a quote from her speech.  Well said, Kate!



Update on medication (again!)

I have not been happy with my “doubling the dose” of my antidepressant.  Aside from that initial boost to serotonin levels, all I have noticed subsequently are the side effects.  Namely, dizziness, tiredness, headaches and, worst of all, a “drugged out”, unfeeling sense of distance from reality.  I have given the trial a reasonable length of time to come right and it just hasn’t.  Certainly not how I choose to live.

So, this morning I went down to my previous dose and I will have to see what impact that has on me.  I did a bit of googling- as one does-  on reducing the dose, and it is recommended to drop by 25% per week.  I have just halved it straight away, so I will probably feel a bit weird, but I am sure I will be able to push on through.  Of course, I should have consulted with my doctor before doing this.  But I think my logic is sound.  I have definitely not had a boost in my mood- the bigger bath-plug that my antidepressant is supposed to be for my serotonin levels has not worked at plugging that hole.

At the same time I have been reading about all the benefits that intermittent fasting can have on the brain.  The specific talk I watched (from a Toastmasters perspective, I must apologise for the far-from-riveting way this work is presented) is on this link and the talk is specifically referring to the preventative effect fasting has on the development of alzheimers and dementia.  In my own life, I have definitely noticed that I feel sharper, more mentally alert and yes, even happier, when I get into what I suspect is ketosis, or a fat-burning state.

Now, of course, I am toying with coming off the medication completely.  Given that my life is relatively simple and stress-free right now, this may be a good time to try this.  And, of course, I would love to be free of medication.  I have this constantly suppressed wish to be able to function free of medication.  It is suppressed because I know each time I have tried this in the past, I have turned into a sobbing, irrational loony who thinks the world is evil and everyone and everything is out to get me.  My doctor always tells me that there is no shame in being on medication for life if one has chronic depression.  I get the logic.  But the wish is there.

Should I try it once more?  Dare I?!

The power of the To-do List

(As it applies to parenting)

I am pretty sure that all productive people rely on lists to keep track of what needs to be done.  I know I do, and even now, with my life being relatively quiet and simple, I am still using my beautiful Macaroon weekly planner to keep track of my to-do list.  To get the same one I have, here is a link to it on the Macaroon site!  Be warned- there are many irresistable stationery items on this site!

While there, be sure to check out their family weekly planner, which I also absolutely love.  What I do with the family planner, is make up a new one each term (with that term’s extramural programme indicated), and then I laminate it.  Any additional appointments, etc, I then stick on with either washi-tape or post-it notes, which makes the “funnies” stand out rather nicely, so the children notice these additions to the standard programme.

I tend to sit down on a Sunday and consolidate my diary, the calendar and the weekly planner onto the family weekly planner.  This does mean, admittedly, that sometimes I only realise we have a clash on that Sunday, but this usually still gives me enough time to communicate the issue and re-jig the diary a bit.  I also do my shopping list at this time, after having planned the meals for the week ahead.

So, planning and to-do lists are a very important to me and help me feel in control of things.  I can glance at my to-do list at any moment, and quickly slot something into the many little gaps I have on any one day which makes me feel nicely productive!

But, I think I have been missing a trick.  This amazing post,  has made me realise I should take the power of the to-do list even further and start issuing Matthew and Sophie with a weekly to-do list.  Why haven’t I thought of this before?!  We have half-heartedly done star charts when they were littler, but I have never been comfortable with the rewards aspect of a star chart for chores and responsibilities.  A to-do list feels much more like real life.

Here is a great resource for selecting a template you like and then printing off to-do lists in excel weekly. (so you can input your items before printing and copy from one day to another and from one child’s list to the other).  I selected the “daily to-do with lists” and will use the light version (to save ink!).

Now feels like as good a time as any, so I have just done one for each of my children, relating to what needs to be done for the rest of the week.  I used the notes section to add a family challenge, which is to not call other family members by nasty names until Sunday (don’t ask!).  I will keep you updated as to how the children take to this and see if this could be an effective way of stopping the nagging AND engendering a sense of accomplishment in the children, all at the same time!  Here’s hoping!

Another update on medication

I am now really not sure that doubling my dose of antidepressants has helped.

I have certainly noticed some undesirable side effects (which I am sure will subside), like a funny head-ache, a  tendency to feel like  a completely unemotional zombie, rather than a person, and a habit of staring into space blankly (!), but I can’t really say I am feeling more positive than I did before.

It was almost like I had an initial euphoric feeling to which I have now adjusted.  So disappointing!    I will carry on taking the higher dosage, but I am not nearly as hopeful about the outcome as I was before.

It wasn’t ever going to be as easy as just popping a pill, right?!

Postnatal Depression and Me

Matthew, my eldest, was born in London.  Part of the many pamphlets and flyers and discussions that happened in the NCT group I belonged to during my pregnancy, was a fairly comprehensive warning about the prevalence of Postnatal Depression.

At that stage, I was not on any medication for depression.  In fact, I was rather proud of how well I was coping mentally while living in the UK.

So many aspects could have triggered depression- what with the dark, cold, long winters (in comparison to a South African winter, at least!), being so far from family (aside from Pete!), a tough work environment and a lengthy commute.  Admittedly, I can’t say I was completely relaxed and loving my time there- I was in survival mode and pleased to be coping, but life was hard.

I found comfort in being one of the “worker ants”, who travelled along with all the other “ants” to our places of work and then home again each day.  Lining up to swipe our Oyster cards one by one, ride the escalators choosing to either keep left and stay on a step, or step down the escalator on the right side.  The social conformity was comforting.  I enjoyed the fact that the vast majority of the population were middle class, like me.  Being middle class in South Africa comes with guilt I felt free of while in the UK.  I found it reassuring to be living in a country with first-world problems- which seemed so much more interesting than the more fundamental problems  we were facing (and still face) in South  Africa.

I felt very aware that having my baby, might well trigger postnatal depression in me. I had already been treated for depression previously, which made my chances of getting PND very high.

Certainly, the nightmare birth, complications afterwards with severe mastitis, a very hungry baby boy who was almost colicky could have pushed me over that precipice into depression, but- oddly enough- they didn’t.

I was on the lookout for the signs, but they simply didn’t come.

What I suspect may have been the main reason depression was kept at bay during this time, was that amazing hormone released while breastfeeding called oxytocin.  Oxytocin-also known as the love hormone- is responsible for that incredibly strong feeling of connection and love a mom feels for her baby, but most importantly for this article, is that it is a powerful antidepressant.

I was also lucky enough to be one of those people whose body “bounces” back into shape right after the birth.  My body just became a milk-producing machine, at the cost of all the fat I had accumulated during pregnancy.  ALL my baby-weight was simply sucked out of me.  It is as simple as that and very quick.  I know that is not the case for everyone, but that was my experience.  And I am sure snapping back into shape also helped with my mood!

The years when I had one- and then quite quickly two- babies to look after, were very happy ones for me.  I felt fulfilled; I had such an obvious and important purpose to look after and nurture these vulnerable and innocent babies; I felt lucky to be able to be at home with them and I was able to see just getting through each day as an achievement.

My experience does not take away from the fact that PND is very common (up to 30% of mothers suffer with it) and simply terrifying to deal with in what is already an incredibly challenging time.  If you suspect you have PND, know you are not alone and please get help.  Here is a link to find out more about the condition and navigating from there will get you in touch with people who can assist.  Here is another link to a very powerful article about one woman’s experience of this condition.