This is what I did not post on Instagram

Black Girl On Vacation

“Do not compare your behind the scenes with someone else’s highlight reel because of what you see on social media”

This has, for a long time, been a personal mantra. It is something I have been embracing, and a reminder for myself. You might be very familiar with the sinking feeling that you experience when, after scrolling endlessly on social media, starts to creep at the back of your mind. For a while, I opted to deal with it by keeping offline for extended periods of time. Of course that would work for some time, and then I would get back online and experience that sinking feeling.

Scouring the web the other day, I came across this article. The author of the post admits to signing up for a yoga retreat to cope with anxiety. One of the author’s friends made a comment about ‘how she was always on vacation’. For someone struggling with anxiety, that could not be further from the truth. It did, however, cause the author to reflect on how often it is that things look so glamorous from the outside looking in.

#WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram

What I Did Not Post On Instagram

This is so profoundly true for many of us. I know fully well that it is stressful to compare my day-to-day life with everyone’s highlights (because few of us will rarely post the hard days, and that is okay), but sometimes there is that lingering feeling that I could be the only one who hasn’t found their footing. Reading through her post made me realize that those feelings are normal for the most part, and we do get through them (Unless it is a mental illness for which you would need professional treatment).

Looking back, I could not help but realize how it is possible to unintentionally create a façade. In this post, I will be sharing the backstory for some of my Instagram photos. Follow me on Instagram here.

A Mother’s Day Tribute while I was struggling with PPD

Backstory: I was smiling here, grateful to have my mom, but struggling in my own motherhood. I was probably at my heaviest here too, because one of my (negative) coping techniques was eating comfort food. It made me add lots of weight, I was criticizing myself harshly and living with Postpartum Depression. On many days around when this photo was taken, I would cry myself to sleep as he was nursing by my side.

Some parenting days are hard.

Backstory: He was 4 then, I cannot even remember how this meltdown began, but it ended up with him taking my mom’s plates and smashing them to ground. In a moment of utter frustration, I beat him so badly that he slumped and slept on the floor. The all-consuming guilt after he slept meant I cried myself to sleep, because of the frustrations and mostly, because I felt I was never a good mom to start with. PS: This is not something I am proud of, certainly. Therapy has helped me manage my anger better now.

Grief is hard – it is not a destination, it is a journey that changes you forever

I am laughing here, we are. But these are my cousins and we were hanging out the day after grandpa was buried. I am wearing a pink cap to hide my swollen eyes.

Vacationing – but still feeling lost

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A post shared by Sassy'Samoina Rembo Qui (@samoina.k) on

This photo was taken in Nyali, during our annual family vacation. It was an amazing getaway, and full of memories. What it doesn’t capture is the fact that I was feeling lost – jobless and with bills to pay. I contemplated shutting down PPDKenya altogether and going to a far far place where no one knows me.

Glamorous dinner wear and a dose of anxiety

I am smiling in this picture, with my fierce ladies. But what I did not post on IG is that I had a panic attack on that evening. My anxiety was spiralling out of control and I was struggling with intrusive thoughts (what if the car crashes? what if I get kidnapped? What if I never see my family again?) Forever grateful for Christine who came to pick me up from the house that day. <3

 

Birthday cupcakes and a meltdown

My aunt delivered these cupcakes for my son’s 7th birthday. What I did not post is that he had the mother of all meltdowns on this day, and we only got to blow his candles two days after. He was frustrated and angry (he is transitioning to a new school), and I was because I felt like the meltdown was an attack on my capacity as ‘good mom’.

The #WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram means a lot to me, because it is always a reminder that the camera does not capture everything. That we all love to show the strong kickass side, but this does not take away from the fact that we all have hard days.

Do you relate to this post? Check out #WhatIDidn’tPostOnInstagram on Social Media too.

Featured Image: Photo by Ogo from Pexels

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 lessons I learned in 7 years of Motherhood

Mother and son

On this day, 7 years ago, at this time, I was celebrating the birth of my son. He came in at 7:34, head full of hair and with the sweetest eyes I have ever seen. I will never forget the emotions that I felt when he was placed on my chest for skin-to-skin care. I was grateful that the delivery process went well, albeit with a couple of stitches. Hello episiotomy! His birth made me feel a sense of relief because it was finally over – where it is the experience of labour and delivery.

But I will also admit I felt somewhat unprepared for my new role as a mom. Here’s this tiny babe who would be looking up to me for literally EVERYTHING. The uncertainty of life and parenting alone cast a dark shadow on what was a beautiful series of moments with his arrival. As I was wheeled to the maternity wing to get him to nurse, I did not imagine the journey as it would unfold, and my experience with Postpartum Depression.

7 lessons in 7 years of motherhood

7 lessons in 7 years

Today as I journaled and reflected on this past 7 years, my heart is filled with awe and pride, mostly awe. Here are 7 lessons learned in 7 years of my motherhood journey. They are by no means exhaustive, but they represent some of my most defining moments.

  1. There is no shame ought not be shame with the process of child birth

I will be honest and say that childbirth is downright raw, and messy, and beautiful. Before becoming a mom, I was mostly acquainted with the beautiful  – photos of the newborn snuggled in a cozy blanket and mommy tired but smiling, sometimes with makeup. Not that there is a problem with this, but the truth is that it doesn’t represent all that there is to the birth process. There is fluids and blood, lots of it. And poop, and sore tissues, and stitches and salt baths just to name a few.

It is raw, it is messy and it is beautiful.

Read More: 8 things no one tells you about pregnancy

  1. I learned that I did not have control over everything

One of my earliest motherhood lessons was that I did not have control over everything. Right from how my birth experience would look like to adjusting to breastfeeding and taking care of myself. I quickly learnt that whilst I could not control these aspects of my life’s new chapter, my response to them mattered a great deal. And the most important part of my response was directly related to how I was doing mentally. Which brings me to my third lesson.

  1. Postpartum Depression (PPD) is real and can affect anyone.

I remember vividly the expectations I had of motherhood. The thought that it would be a magical and blissful experience, buoyed by the beautiful pictures I had seen from some of my friends. But as it turns out, I was the 1 out of 7 new moms who got Postpartum Depression.

A number of risk factors accelerated my depression. Looking back however, what stood out the most was that I had pregnancy depression. Pregnancy depression, also known as antenatal depression, is a maternal mental illness that affects expectant women. If it is not diagnosed early, it typically leads to PPD, as was the case for me.

Mental illness does not care, and can affect any mom regardless of their social status, religion, education level or marital status. You could be married or in a stable relationship and still get PPD. You could be Christian, Muslim , Hindu or atheist and still get PPD. We have also had celebrities sharing openly about their experiences. So if you are a new mom with PPD, please remember you are not alone.

Read More: 5 Celebrities who have opened up about their struggles with Postpartum Depression

  1. Motherhood is a lifetime journey.

A friend recently asked me if, looking back, there was anything I would tell the 21-year old I was before becoming a mom. I thought about it, and what stood out was the need to go into motherhood whilst prepared. And that’s because it is a lifetime journey. Unless you would love to give up the baby for adoption, motherhood is a life journey. There is no trial period, there is no opting out – you are simply in it. And while you cannot be 100% prepared, it helps a great deal when one is in a good place mentally, emotionally and financially.

  1. Every child is unique

Right from the onset, it was clear that my son would be a loud, lively and energetic kid. It was evident, at least to me and those around me, where he got these traits from. It was easy to notice his unique personality. He was, and still is growing to be his own person. He easily articulates his thoughts, he is firm with what he wants (or doesn’t want) and has his own opinion. As a mom, it is easy to want to change certain aspects of his personality to meet my unspoken expectations, but I am learning to let him be his own person. This video explains it best in ways I never could.

  1. Selfcare is important

I cannot overemphasize the importance of selfcare. I got around to learn this, albeit the hard way as a Stay-At-Home Mom (SAHM). In his early days, I poured all of me into taking care of his needs round the clock – making sure he was fed, changed, vaccinated, bathed and getting him to sleep. Over the days, doing that without taking care of myself only led to burnout and I started to resent the whole idea of motherhood. It made bonding with him difficult, and my Postpartum Depression did not help. Going for therapy, however, helped me find selfcare tools that I could use to ensure my mental wellness, and ultimately improve my ability to care for him.

Selfcare is NOT selfish. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Read More: Here’s what is in my selfcare toolbox

  1. Motherhood is an evolving journey

As he grows up, I am also realizing I am changing. As I enter my thirties this year, I realize I have grown in tremendous ways in the past 7 years. I am not the mom I was in 2012. It has been an amazing journey, one that has had its own challenges. But today, I sit here, grateful. For these seven years, for my son and for the opportunity to help other moms with PPD through PPDKenya.

What would you say are the most defining lessons of your motherhood journey? Share in the comment box below and let us encourage each other. 

Featured Photo by nappy from Pexels

 

30 Day Mental Wellness Challenge

Mental Wellness matters

January is Mental Wellness Month. Mental wellness refers to a state in which one’s psychological well-being allows them to function well using their cognitive and emotional capabilities. Contrary to popular belief, mental wellness is more that the absence of a mental illness.

By marking January as the mental wellness month globally, more people are encouraged to be proactive in taking care of their mental health. To help with you with this, I created a 30-day mental wellness challenge for this month. There are many options to get through with. The most important thing to remember is that these options are not a replacement for medication and therapy.

The challenge helps build your mental strength. Just like any other muscle in the body, the mind benefits from daily workouts to help improve your wellness. You can start the Mental Wellness challenge at any time of the year. Most people prefer to start the challenge at the beginning of the month. Whatever you prefer, just ensure that you take note of where you started and track your progress.

Please Note: This challenge is largely rooted in selfcare and social structure to improve your mental health.

The 30-day Mental Wellness Challenge

30-day Mental Wellness Challenge

Day 1 – Journal about how you feel.

Take time to get in touch with your inner self, as well as to find out how you would like to feel after the challenge. Below are some wonderful prompts you can use to help with your jourmalling.

  • Today I learned…
  • My ideal day would look like…
  • I am grateful for…
  • I would like to accomplish the following three things…
  • This is how I am feeling right now…
Day one of the Mental Wellness Challenge includes journalling as a tool. Write about how you feel and how you would like this challenge to improve you.
Mental Wellness Challenge

Read More: My Selfcare Routine

Day 2 – Spend at least 20 minutes in the outdoors

Whether that means taking a nature walk, going for a light jog or walking around the block, take time outside.

Day 3 – De-Clutter

Clearing out your space has a tremendous effect on your mental health. It is particularly helpful for those who experience anxiety. Getting rid of clutter helps your mind.

Day 4 – Unplug for 24 hours

Technology has become an indispensable part of our lives. For many people, however, this has led to an over-reliance on our gadgets. On Day 4 of the 30-day mental wellness challenge, go off the internet for 24 hours. Do whatever works for you. Some people prefer to log out of all apps while others opt to delete all their apps.

Day 5 – Call someone that you love

It is easy to get caught up in life’s daily routines. This is why it is important to pause and get in touch with our loved ones. Pick up the phone and call someone that you love.

Day 6 – Slow down, be present

Our fast-paced lives mean we hardly get time to truly be present in the moment. Today, take time to slow down. Be present. I have found that taking time to note my surroundings helps anchor me in the present. Take note of five things that you can do with each of the following senses: see, hear, feel, smell and touch.

Day 7 – Make a list of next week’s goals

What would you like to achieve? What are your short term and long term goals?

Day 8 – Do one thing that you have been putting off for a long time.

What’s the one thing you have been postponing for a while but would love to do? Today provides that chance.

Day 9 – Read something that will assist your mental wellness

Read your favorite book, fun facts, listicles, or even an informative blogpost. Here is a good place to start on this blog.

Day 10 – Extend kindness to a stranger

Read More: What I am learning about grief

Day 11 – Practise positive selftalk

Choose an affirmation that resonates with you. Repeat it throughout the day.

Day 12 – Find ways to improve your morning routine.

What does your morning routine look like? How can you improve it?

Day 13 – Create a sacred space for yourself

This creates a safe space for you to retreat to after a hard day. Fill it with all your favourite things – sweet photographs, special letters, scented candles or even your favourite rug.

Day 14 – Do not be afraid to ask for help

Day 15 – Make a list of 10 things that you are grateful for today

Gratitude List

Day 16 – Go through today without complaining.

Day 17 – Go to bed half an hour earlier today

Getting adequate rest is an important part of mental wellness. This not only allows the body to recuperate, it is also a wonderful opportunity to recharge.

Day 18 – Make time to enjoy the sunrise/sunset today.

Sit and soak in the splendid beauty of that moment.

Day 19 – Write a letter to the 10-year old that you were

If you could go back in time, what would you tell the 10-year old that you were?

Day 20 – Make time to watch something that encourages you or makes you laugh.

Day 21 – Be intentional about how you speak today.

Try as much as you can to make sure that it is stuff that builds and not destroys.

Day 22 – Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone

Say hi to that neighbour you have never talked to. Write an audacious plan for your year. Take yourself on a date. Venture out to a new part of town. Learn how to crochet.

Choose something that takes you out of your comfort zone, but one that benefits you.

Day 23 – Practice deep breathing for five minutes today.

Deep breathing has been shown to ease anxiety. Read more about that here.

Day 24 – Say NO to the things that you do not want to do.

One of the greatest pillars for mental wellness is learning to say No and to set boundaries. This gives you space to chase after only the things that set your heart on fire.

Day 25 – List 10 things that you love about yourself.

Day 26 – Spend time alone today. If possible, plan a date night for yourself.

Day 27 – Make time for a healthy hearty breakfast today

Read More: Taking a minute can save a life

Day 28 – Clear out your email inbox.

This is the time to get rid of all those emails that keep piling in your inbox. Hit unsubscribe for emails that you no longer read/ find useful.

Day 29 – Take photos of 3 things that make you happy today.

Day 30 – Evaluate the progress you have made during this mental wellness challenge.

What would you like to keep doing? Is there anything that worked for you? What was your best day? Do you have a list of things you can commit to do in the coming months to improve your mental health?

 

Day one of the Mental Wellness Challenge includes journalling as a tool. Write about how you feel and how you would like this challenge to improve you.
Mental Wellness Challenge

Featured Image credits

STILL A MUM 2018 CONFERENCE & AWARDS GALA

PPDKenya at the StillAMum 2018 Conference

Every year, October 15th marks the World Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) day. The goal of this day is to, first and foremost, recognize the loss that so many parents have experienced, as well as to create awareness on pregnancy and infant loss.

This year, Still A Mum organized a two-day conference that included two events and an awards gala. PPDKenya partnered with Still A Mum for the conference, and we were able to share some of the information that PPDKenya does at our stand.

It was amazing to speak to the expecting couples and new parents on Postpartum depression and what places moms at risk in the period after birth. A number of the dads-to-be and dads asked about PPD. One of the common questions from them was, “If PPD mainly affects moms, how does it affect dads yet they have not physically given birth?”

This was a great point for discussion because not only are these dads the first point of contact for a new mom (usually), their been aware may help a mom who’s developing the symptoms of PPD and who may not be aware of the changes they are going through. To answer the question on why dads sometimes get PPD:

Paternal Postpartum Depression (or its abbreviation PPPD) affects at least 5% of new dads globally. Why then does it happen if, in women, it is thought to be triggered by hormonal fluctuations after pregnancy, and yet men cannot possibly have it as a result of this? Studies show that, for reasons that are still been researched, a man’s hormonal levels also change, albeit not as significantly as in moms.

Read More: Postpartum Depression affects dads too!

Add to this the psychological, social and financial changes that come with a new baby and it is easy to see why new dads are at risk of PPPD too. Unfortunately, men (generally speaking) will not often readily share what they are experiencing, which poses a challenge even in PPDKenya’s efforts to reach out to the dads. For this reason, the opportunity to speak to the men at our stand was very significant.

The first day of the conference targeted medical professionals, particularly those working in the maternity and pediatric departments. It incorporated training on different aspects during pregnancy, child birth and after as well as Respectful Bereavement Care. Day Two of the conference was dubbed ‘Healthy Baby, Healthy Mum’, and targeted expecting women and their partners as well as new parents. Some of the topics that were covered included healthy habits during pregnancy, labor, delivery, breastfeeding, immunization and Postpartum Depression. I was honored to host the talk on Postpartum depression (with most of it in Swahili! – did you know Postpartum Depression is known as ‘mfadhaiko baada ya kujifungua? You are welcome!), share a bit of my story, what symptoms to look out for, the work that PPDKenya does, and most importantly, that there is hope for the mom and dad with PPD. After the talk, a number of moms did visit our stand, and of them, a few had a free counseling session. PPDKenya was honored to have Brenda Sharp volunteer her services as a psychologist to help the moms at the event.

 

The awards gala had to be postponed from the 13th to the 20th because Wanjiru Kihusa, founder of StillAMum, was out for her Facebook Community Fellowship (Glad to know such fierce kick-ass women!). The gala was organized to celebrate the wonderful work that StillAMum has done in the past three years of operation and to honor persons and companies improving the lives of Kenyan parents. All photos courtesy of Tek Photography.

Dresscode was black-tie, and boy oh boy, people caught the memo. The ambience, the setup, the dinner, the live band and the MC (one and only DJ Soxxy) put together a stellar awards ceremony! It was a beautiful event and I was honored to have joined efforts with the StillAMum team. Let’s do this again in 2019!

 

Stay-at-Home Motherhood affected my self-esteem

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, and disclosed how, I was a little anxious about setting up my LinkedIn account. Yes, I am the one in a zillion who had never bothered to create a Linkedin account until the point I decided to get PPDKenya registered legally. And partly because I subconsciously didn’t think there was anything worth writing about myself in the professional circles. Walk with me, I am going somewhere with this.

See, I have been a stay (and work) at home mom since my son was born – in January 2012. Even typing this makes me pause for a few seconds. It’s going to seven years since I last set foot in a regular 8-to-5 job, which amazes and shocks me in equal measure. It hasn’t been easy – it cannot be easy to make the switch from a travel junkie whose work involved lots of travel, to staying and raising a child round the clock.

Becoming a SAHM was not something I sought out to be. In the second trimester of my pregnancy, I realized I was going to be raising my son alone. Shortly after, I lost my job. So jobless and with no partner support, I ended up going back home to my parents and figure out life from that point. My son was born with no health complications, thankfully. My parents were very supportive, and I am thankful for that to-date. I knew however, I needed to find something to do to help me raise my child and get the basics (diapers, clinic money, clothes etc) because at the time, I wasn’t paying any rent or utility bills.

Read More: This is Why I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

That’s how I stumbled onto online writing. A friend suggested the possibility of working from home and I embraced the idea because it would keep us afloat. Years later, it has provided a lifeline for my son and I, but it was not without its own challenges.

At the onset, it gave me a profound sense of self to be able to stay home and cherish whatever memories I could of raising him before Postpartum Depression stole the precious moments. But as the years went by, I realized I was starting to feel overwhelmed by it all. SAHMoms find themselves alone, quite literally, for long hours every day. I found this aspect of SAHMotherhood particularly challenging. I am an extrovert by nature, and love to be around people. Here I was, spending up to 10 hours indoors, alone, with nothing but baby talk, bibs and nappies to fill my days.

The lack of adult interaction for most days made it difficult to articulate the emptiness I felt. Caring for my son almost 100% of the time made it very easy to forget about myself. Add to this the monotonous routine of daily life and it started to feel like my sense of self was slowly but surely slipping away.

My PPD didn’t make it any easier. I remember asking myself, ‘What’s the point of dressing up anyway, if I wouldn’t be going anywhere? Why make my nails if I will spend half the day cleaning up mustard-coloured nappies?” Let’s not talk about the matted nest that was my hair. I let go of myself. I just did not see the point of making it… and over time, how I looked on the outside began to seep into how I viewed myself.

Read More: Changes

It started to feel like I had lost my sense of identity, I had lost the person I was before motherhood, so much so that on several days when I got someone to watch over him, I’d spend the whole day trying to remember what it was I loved doing – what it was I enjoyed most. I couldn’t find myself in the haze of motherhood. I didn’t feel attractive anymore, and struggled to look at myself in the mirror. Under the layers of baggy tees with several milk patches and saggy track pants, I felt completely lost.

The intrusive thoughts I had with PPD worsened how I viewed myself. My mind kept telling me I was frumpy and ugly (frugly if you like), and it didn’t matter because everyone seemed so put together on IG but I was struggling with my sense of identity and self-esteem.

I did go for therapy, and that helped quite a bit. I recovered from PPD, but the scars on my sense of identity linger on many days, particularly on those days when there’s an impending change or I am embarking on a new project as is the case with the organization. I second guess myself so many times, I doubt my abilities, I hear the subtle voices in my mind telling me I am not good enough.

But,

But I am learning to look into the mirror and tell myself I am doing an amazing job raising my son. To say out loud positive affirmations, and to remind myself of the wonderful work PPDKenya does to help moms with PPD. I am learning to create boundaries to practise self-care. I am learning to say NO. I am learning that this is part of my journey. And it is helping me find myself, and teaching me to let go.

 

 

 

 

 

I am talking to my 6 year old son about Postpartum Depression. Here’s why

I have been talking to my son about Postpartum Depression (and mental health generally) lately, and there is a reason why. As a Postpartum Depression Survivor, I keep wondering, what if I had learnt about mental health way before I became a mom? What if this was part of our conversations? Wouldn’t it go a long way in reducing the stigma associated with mental health? Wouldn’t help my son learn about self care and help him comprehend some of the changes in mood he has seen in me? in himself? in the family?

Having gone public with my Postpartum Depression story (see this link), I realized that withholding accurate information on mental health from my son does no good. He might not understand it now, but in this day and age of the internet, he will learn about it sooner than later. And instead of leaving him to his own devices to figure it out, I am beginning the lessons early enough. If anything, I am hopeful this information helps him feel more secure and less fearful about mental illness.

Here’s how the conversation began: He asked what I have been doing ‘talking on TV’ and why ‘those TV people have not come back this year yet he has been waiting’. And so I figured this would be a wonderful note to start the topic. So, I told him when he was born, I was not able to handle a small baby well and my mind got a little sick. That made me sad and I used to cry sometimes. But I saw a doctor who helps treat the mind, and I got better. So, after that I started a ‘company’ (organization really) that helps moms whose minds are sick. He asked what company that was, and I said PPDKenya, even showing him some of the official documents.

Read More: PPDKenya provides psychosocial support for moms with Postpartum Depression (PPD)

He was quite inquisitive. He asked how and why the mind gets sick, what the doctor does and whether I would get sick again. To which I answered, the mind is a part of the body, like the leg, hand or head. And just like these other parts get sick, so can the mind. The doctor may give medicine to a mom to help her get better. Would my mind get sick again? (This had me undone to be honest, because it is a fear that lingers at the back of my mind.) I answered honestly, and at a level a 6 year old would understand: I could get sick again, anyone’s mind can get sick, but I am taking care of myself and doing what the doctor told me (during therapy). I assured him that talking about what worries our minds is one of the ways to take care of ourselves, and if he ever had any issues he could share them with me. He agreed (and has since admitted he doesn’t like it when I do XYZ, his heart feels sad when someone dies like my cucu did this past week, and that he feels like crying when the phone games hang..) It is encouraging to see him learn how to describe his emotions an put words to his feelings – it reminds me we are making progress.

Hopefully we can keep up this momentum as the days go by.

Sidenote: Ever since he saw the PPDKenya documents, he has been so enthusiastic to ‘help’ me run the organization, complete with writing posts on his ‘PPDKenya Notebook’. This warms my heart, that this tiny human believes in me to help other mommies, in his words ‘for their minds not to get sick’ 🙂

Letting go

I haven’t been here in a while, and it feels like dusting that sultry dress you were itching to buy, got it on offer… and never wore it for months on end. Before finally deciding to dress up, show up and strut in that dress.

I have been away from this space, and I will be honest and admit – it has been a mix of neglect, despair and questioning, lots of questioning. The past few months have been a rollercoaster of emotions. I am not quite sure exactly when the rain started beating, but when the year started out, I was hopeful, optimistic and enthusiastic. I’d just confirmed that at PPDKenya, we would be running our first support group therapy sessions in January. In the months leading up to the end of 2017, a few moms had gotten in touch and registered for the support group meetings. It was encouraging really, because this is something I had been wanting to do all of 2017 (but was holding back because of fear). And so the year began, with hope, enthusiasm and lots of gusto.

We had our first meeting on Saturday 13th January 2018, and it marked the beginning of a whole new chapter for PPDKenya. It was encouraging to hear the moms’ stories, see the passion and hope to get better and make a full recovery. Our meetings were bimonthly, so we met every other Saturday for a total of five sessions up until the second weekend of March 2018. Never before have I been so certain of what my purpose is, what I am meant to be doing and my small thing as far as touching lives is concerned.

Away from PPDKenya however, I was struggling to get work done. I have worked online as a freelance writer since late 2012, a few months after the birth of my son. This wasn’t part of the plan to be honest. I have a BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and had just began my career’s trajectory when I found out I was pregnant. Unprepared for this new role, wondering how I’d raise this child alone and having to move back to my family’s home meant my career took a backseat.

Part of the reason for this was I lost my job at about 7/8 months pregnant, and that threw me off balance. It was one of the factors that contributed to my Postpartum Depression (PPD). It is well known that financial constraints, unplanned pregnancies and raising a child single-handedly (whether due to the death of a spouse or a partner taking off when responsibility knocks) are all risk factors for PPD, as was the case for me.

Read more: Celebrating with PPDKenya support group 01

Without any source of income, I found it pretty hard to get a nanny so I could go job hunting. That is how I found myself looking online after a dear friend mentioned online jobs in passing. Initially, it was hard because having to meet deadlines when still learning how to wean, sleep train and just take care of my son is not a walk in the park. At the time too, I was struggling with PPD, found it incredibly hard to bond with my son, and would, from time to time, imagine a world without us both. I did experience suicide ideation too, and every other day it would feel too overwhelming… I have shared that in this post.

I eventually got help after attending therapy sessions with a counselling psychologist (who has since walked the journey with me) and made a full recovery. I continued to work from home, while managing this website. It certainly wasn’t what I studied for, but it paid the bills and so I kept going. As at the time of writing this post, it has been six years of working from home – pretty much all of my son’s life.

And it was great, until it wasn’t. My social life is well, non-existent. I was struggling to accept that my life as it is/was, revolves around my son – prepare him for school, drop him off at school, work until 3PM, pick him from school, prepare his snacks and dinner, spend time with him, put him to sleep, lay out his uniform… rinse, repeat, rewind. Add to this the mundaneness of daily house chores and I started to feel like I was losing myself in motherhood. Now, please get me right: I love my son, so much, I am grateful he came into my life and I appreciate these moments for they are fleeting. But at the back of my mind I asked myself, why do I feel like I lost myself in motherhood? Like I became a mom and everything I loved to do faded into the background? What happens when my son is out of the nest and I am left alone? Will I be struggling to pick up the pieces? To relearn who I am, not as a mom or daughter – but as an individual? Will I be struggling to fill my days because I know not who I am anymore and have no idea what I love to do?

Read More: Change

After six years of working from home I started to feel closed in, lost, flustered. The demands of the online job meant often, I couldn’t work on PPDKenya, which is where my heart truly is. I am passionate about raising awareness about PPD and walking with moms who are struggling. It fires me up, it makes me come alive, and it is so fulfilling. But I continually found myself typing the days away, letting go of my dreams. I can’t explain how frustrating it is, and slowly, I started to inch closer to the edge.

I’d wake up on some days and feel there was nothing to live for. I felt lost, overwhelmed and frustrated. I knew everything wasn’t okay when, for more than two weeks in recent months, I’d drop my son off to school and come back home to cry it out – till 3PM when I’d do a facial to try hide my swollen eyes from him. I’d write for hours on end, filling up my journal pages and emptying my thoughts. My mind was constantly racing and I couldn’t seem to catch a breath, ever. It was exhausting, physically, mentally and emotionally. I remember how, in despair, I admitted to a friend how I was tired of living, yet not wanting to die because I had so much to do with PPDKenya. I will add too, that I was not suicidal/ wasn’t having thoughts of harming myself or my child, and that’s hard to articulate. I felt like all I wanted to do was exist in a vacuum. Not live, not die – just exist. I am not sure that makes sense, but that’s the best way to explain it..

During this time, many thoughts crossed my mind. The racing thoughts:

  • Does PPDKenya even matter? Is anyone even reading what we do/ follow what we do online? We could simply close shop because it feels like it doesn’t matter, isn’t helping anyone.
  • My family supports me the best way they can, but I am letting them down.
  • I am not caring for my son like good moms ought to (regardless of the fact that it felt like my life revolved around him)
  • So many contacts on phone, so few people I feel I could talk to. (Also, some of my closest friends at the time were also fighting their own battles, and I was cognizant of the fact that they may not be available, and that is okay. But it didn’t take away from the loneliness.)
  • I feel suffocated; i feel like I am drowning and there is no way out.
  • I feel grossly inadequate, insignificant and unworthy – a failure really.

And the list goes on and on. I know that these thoughts are not the truth, but in a moment of utter overwhelm, there is no mental fortitude to fight back. And so, for a couple of months now I have been in that place, that dark place. A few days ago, I hit rock bottom and knew I had to get help. I had to ask for help, and I did. It brought hard truths to the surface. It made radical change a necessity if I was to get out of this mental space. It made me realize that nothing is worth it if it affects my mental health negatively – not a job, not a relationship, not manipulative relatives, not a toxic work environment. The mental fog is beginning to clear. Starting to feel a lot more like myself – it is hard, it is scary, it is beautiful.

 

 

OUT OF THIS LIFE – A photo exhibition on suicide in Kenya

“OUT OF THIS LIFE – Let’s talk suicide. This is an invitation to a necessary dialogue in any society that condemns suicide because of cultural, religious, or social reasons.”

My friend Patricia Esteve is holding an exhibition aptly titled ‘Out of This Life’ to shed light and have conversation on a taboo subject in our community – suicide. According to Patricia, “This is a documentary project, which gathers the experiences of people in Kenya who have tried to commit suicide or who have lost a loved one to suicide. Using photography I collect their testimonies throughout the country, on the stigma surrounding suicide as well as the social and legal injustice they face.”

Did you know that according to the Kenyan Law, anyone who attempts to commit suicide is guilty of a crime? What’s more, the sentence for such a crime is two years in prison, a fine, or both. This appalling, and need I add archaic, decriminalization of an act that results from mental health disorders only does more to stigmatize and shame the people struggling. Often times, a suicide attempt is a cry for help, which is precisely why this exhibition is well timed if the increase in suicide cases lately is anything to go. (See this link). As someone who struggled with suicide ideation when I had Postpartum Depression, this project is dear to my heart.

Read More: On suicide ideation – The hardest post I ever had to write

The exhibition, which opened on 19th April 2018, tells the story of suicide, from the eyes of those who have flirted with the idea, attempted and survived, and the caregivers of those who have died by suicide (Please note, I wrote died by suicide – not committed suicide. It is part of the language of mental health. When we say committed suicide, there is the implication of doing so willingly, yet we are all aware suicide is one of the symptoms of a wide range of mental health conditions. Saying died by suicide therefore, is the very same way we would say someone died from any other health condition. Whew, I feel like I need to do a blogpost on this).

I walked in late (thanks Nairobi traffic), to find the credits rolling to the video Patricia had put together, after which she gave a small speech and thanked everyone for showing up. I took a moment to breathe in and out before going round the exhibition. The very first photo I saw was of this lady, face covered with a black shawl, a red dress and black stockings. I know this lady inside and outside, because that was me, deep in the throes of PPD, back in 2015.

Suicide. Open Spaces. depresión post parto .
Samaine´s story.

Patricia reached out and asked whether I would get on board with her project, which I did and share my story on living with PPD. Seeing those photos (they were two, one where I was with my then 3-year old son) tugged at my heart in a way I cannot quite explain. There was a sense of amazement – at how far we have come with J, and there was a lingering sense of relief. Relief because PPD had pushed me to the very edge of suicide ideation – but we survived because we got help, and can now offer psychosocial support for moms through PPDKenya support groups. The silent tears came and I requested a friend to let me have a moment to myself.

There are a few other photos that really stood out, which I will share below.

Photo Credits: Patricia Esteve

Go check out the exhibition guys! Patricia has done an amazing job with this exhibition. Check out her website here.

It runs up to the 27th of April 2018, between 10am and 6pm at the Kenya Cultural Centre (Kenya National Theatre) on Harry Thuku Road. entry is free!

YAY! We finally got PPDKenya support group therapy underway!

This past weekend is probably the highlight of the year (so far) because it ushered in a new chapter for PPDKenya. See, I have, for the longest time, been so scared of stepping out and just starting! So guarded up, and so fearful of failure, that at one point I considered shutting down this website and deleting its social media pages. Frustration and fear will have you throwing in the towel reaaalll fast (not that this is something I have dealt with in entirety, I am still learning and unlearning). So, anyway, this past Saturday we had our very first support group therapy  meeting! I cannot put in words how exciting – and nervous- this was. It was a dream come true.

Read More: Why is a PPD support group important?

Of the seven who had confirmed, four showed up. The rest, for a number of reasons, could not make it. Which is okay really. For a start, this exceeded my expectations. PPD Kenya intends to create a safe space for moms and dads struggling with postpartum depression to express themselves and begin their recovery journey. By creating a small intimate circle, we are able to reach out to the moms and help them make a full recovery. By we, I mean PPDKenya and Royal Fountain Counselling Services (RFCS). RFCS is headed by a qualified psychologist who brings on the professional angle to the therapy groups, while as a survivor, I offer peer support for the moms and dads. Note: For a number of the participants, there is need to see a psychiatrist as there are some severe cases on board.

This was just a post to give a headsup and say thank you to each and everyone who came, and to RFCS for making this possible. I also created a Twitter thread for the same. Please check it out on our Twitter Page.

PS: We decided to hold the support group therapy meetings on alternate Saturdays as the moms felt every Saturday for the next 5 Saturdays would be too restrictive. So, our next meeting will be on Saturday 27th January 2018. Here is a rundown of the details in summary:

When: Saturday 27th January 2018
Time: 11AM to 1PM
Where: Princess Park Apartments, Kabarnet Road, off Ngong Rd
Cost: Kshs 2500 for ALL 5 sessions held on alternate Saturdays (Payable through MPESA to 0717 040090)
RSVP Required.

Email ppdisland@gmail.com or call 0733 424 361 for more details

 

 

Registration for PPDKenya support group therapy meetings is now open!

Happy New Year 2018!!

It is my sincere hope the new year has began well for you, and that you are looking forward with enthusiasm to accomplish your set goals. At PPDKenya, we are excited to embark on a new chapter that seeks to provide psychotherapy help to moms and dads affected by Postpartum Depression (PPD) and other perinatal mood disorders. This was birthed by the need to reach out to more parents following numerous inquiries last year on the formation of a support group. Check out this post here for the basic on the support group structure.

In light of this, PPDKenya has partnered with Royal Fountain Counselling Services to lead the group therapy sessions. These sessions will be facilitated by a professional counselling psychologist and moderated by a PPD survivor (aka yours truly :). We look forward to hearing from you. Below are the details for the meetings. Please feel free to get in touch for any inquiries or clarifications. Note too, that it would be amazing if you RSVP’d using the form included at the end of this post.

Summary Details

When: Saturday 13th January 2018
Time: 11AM to 1PM
Where: Princess Park Apartments, Kabarnet Road, off Ngong Rd
Cost: Kshs 2500 for ALL 5 sessions held on alternate Saturdays (Payable through MPESA to 0717 040090)
RSVP Required.

Email ppdisland@gmail.com or call 0733 424 361 for more details

Please click on this link to fill in the registration form and we will get back to you.

 

 

 

 

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