Guest Post – Why I Think I Died In 2016

In this post, I made a call out for guest posts by moms who wanted to share their stories on Postpartum Depression (PPD). Today’s post is by Vicki K, a phenomenal lady who I met during the Mommy Conversations, a forum held by Amira Africa (and wrote about it here). Vicki is a mom to a handsome champ, and has struggled with PPD. She is on the road to recovery, and in this candid post, she shares her journey and the isolation that comes with been depressed as a new mom.

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In recent times, I have come to appreciate how amazing life is. Why, you ask?  Because as I look back at my past years I know, my lowest moment in life was in 2016. If there is a year I would have fit perfectly well as an actress on the series walking dead. 2016 is the year I ask myself severally:

“Why was I so uptight for most of the year? Why couldn’t I relate with anyone during this period? Why couldn’t anyone understand me? Why did I feel so utterly alone despite been surrounded by so much love?”

All this was because I had Postpartum depression (PPD). I knew all along I was suffering from PPD, and even did a Twitter thread on the same at some point. Knowing I was depressed, however, did not solve the problem. It could not. I shut it down most of the time all by myself, waiting for it to pass.

I was waiting, waiting for anyone to notice, waiting for a sign that my life is worth it.

I was waiting to be told I matter. I thought all this would solve my PPD.

 

Unfortunately, it is not as easy as these. I guess I was looking at it the wrong way for a whole year. I need not explain what PPD is as there is a lot of information on this website (Read a basic intro in plain and simple English here, the symptoms, stages and treatment options available for moms with PPD).Depression is depressing. Your mind is at play here and whatever you do, it’s is still right there with you. It keeps lying to you, “You do not matter, and you are not worth it. You are the only mom suffering. You are a bad mom, and your child does not deserve you.” And it goes on and on, the unrelenting negative thoughts.

My walking dead experience was filled with tormenting words my brain lied to me on a daily basis. Sometimes, I would just stare at nothingness, waiting for the days to pass. When I smiled, it was rarely genuine. I don’t remember being truly happy, unless I was far from my son which was not often. I always felt like I was on lock down. It was as if society had told me “No, you are not supposed to follow your dreams, you have to take care of your child or no one else well.” It started to become a reality. My mind was playing tricks on me all the time and winning.

Read More: My Postpartum Depression Made Me Wear a Mask

The worst part of all this, was that my son always faced the wrath that came with my PPD. He did not deserve it. All he was being was an infant – messy, loud, and demanding like all other infants are. He just wanted my attention. When my triggers surfaced, he never had it easy. Shouting and abandonment were part of it. In many situations where he needed love most, I just was never there enough. Do not get me wrong, I had a supportive family and close friends and I’m eternally grateful for their presence. Whatever I wanted I could have. I did not even have to stress on food, baby clothes, feeding utensils, and even diapers. I even had a 24-hour support system. (This is for the people who tell depressed individuals, ‘ooh, you should be grateful you have a child, so many couples want a child but cannot have them’. ‘You have everything, stop being ungrateful.’, ‘You are very selfish.’-the list goes on and on. This is a reminder, it isn’t that we are not grateful, or do not know all things. We do, we are struggling).

So, why then was I depressed most of the time? I always felt like I did not deserve it all, as if it was not fair for women to bear the entire burden all by themselves. (This, in itself declared that I’m a feminist) It didn’t’ make any sense to me, why couldn’t babies just take care of themselves and be quiet? Does my life even matter? On my hardest days with PPD, I would sleep hoping to die, hoping not to wake up. I did have suicidal thoughts, but I did not have the guts. I did not care whether I was going to heaven, hell or transition into something else in my next life, even a stone. Then morning would come repeatedly.

What was my turning point in all this?

I had many turning points that have made me who I am now. At one point, I had a huge fight with my cousin all because of cockroaches. Yes, cockroaches. The memory is still vivid. This was my first ever word fight and hopefully my last. I realized later maybe I was placing too much pressure on her and I’m the one on the wrong or maybe she is just having a hard time too. Secondly, after an event I had attended in September 2016, I decided to reach out on a blog where the writer was among the panelists, when my PPD got out of control. Getting help and having someone who related to what I was going through was amazing. I followed a platform on PPD and realizing I was not alone, again, gave me comfort.

Read More: I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

At one point, I decided to reread the Harry Potter book Series. For two months, this was my go to book. I would itch to finish one book at a time. Fascinatingly, this time round, I read it with a different viewpoint to the extent I always noticed when the characters were depressed – how ironical. When you are going through something, you tend to notice others experiencing the same situation. This is for my friends who came before 2016 and wondered why I became excessively quiet in that year.  No, I am not yet fully recovered after PPD yet but life is a journey. So, as I continue to put my trust in the One who is not done with me yet, I begin to understand, I begin to find peace even when my now son who is approaching terrific two wants to ‘eat me alive’. I now speak more positivity into my life than I did in 2016. I believe now that nothing lasts forever and God’s timing is ideal.

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Thank you Vicki for sharing your story. It does take courage to open about one’s struggle, but I am realizing just how much one mom’s story is a voice for the many moms who may not be able to speak out. Vicki is passionate about wildlife conservation, and you can catch up with her on her blog here

Call Out.

Hi good people 🙂

Trust the new week and second half of 2017 is coming along well and that you are making progress, no matter how small the steps are – because sometimes you actually need to celebrate the small wins!

Dropping in real quick tonight. Lately, I have felt the need to add a series of guest posts from moms who have struggled with Postpartum Depression, and would love to share their story on the blog. Not only will this add diversity, it will also help speak up for moms who are struggling. It is okay for moms who do not want to reveal their identities as the posts will be uploaded anonymously. The idea is to speak out about #PPD in all its different struggles and to let moms know they are never alone.

Interested, or got questions? Please drop an email over at ppdisland@gmail.com

The Mom I Want To Be – Part I

We have had a couple of rough sleepless nights in this past week, thanks to an extremely high fever that saw mommy and son wake up at odd hours. At some point, I had to reduce the layers of cloths the champ had in order to keep the fever in check, plus of course, medication to reduce it – I always keep some medicine for the fever because it has a tendency to strike at the weirdest hours. We later attributed the fever to a stomach upset, from which the champ has since recovered.

The erratic nights made me a walking zombie in the days that followed. I kept dozing off at my work desk, and with this cold, it is not hard to see how I’d just take a few minutes and snooze away. Listening to his soft breathing last night had me thinking about a lot. It brought to memory how I really struggled with sleep deprivation in my son’s first months of life. It was crazy – I have mentioned before in this post, that first week after we were discharged, he slept for an average of 15 minutes. 15-freaking-minutes! It drove me nuts, literally.

Read More: I had uncontrollable anger with my Postpartum Depression

I knew we wouldn’t get much sleep with a newborn, but I just didn’t imagine it to that extent. I had not known just how much lack of sleep could turn me into a moron. I started to become extremely irritable. I would snap at the slightest provocation, which in this case could be something as significant as a sink full of dishes. Thinking about doing laundry was enough to turn me into a teary mess. I had many anger outbursts, angry because this is not what motherhood was meant to be like. I mean, where was all the bliss? I wasn’t enjoying it. I was a sleep-deprived mom at the brink of losing my sanity – and I felt so helpless.

Needless to say, after this recent bout of fever, we have resumed a normal sleeping pattern, which for my son, is 12 straight hours. Mulling over this had me thinking, whether I could manage another round of crazy sleep deprivation with Number Two. It is not something I am actively planning presently, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread come upon me. I have a rambunctious five year old-going-fifteen, and it occurred to me just how much I have forgotten about the infancy stages.

Read More: Changes – Change is beautiful

My Postpartum Depression means I have a hazy recollection of my son’s first years. Sometimes I look at photos saved in my phone from 2011, and save for the familiarity of faces and places, I cannot quite tell what I felt. I was going through the motions, like a robot. I have what I like to call missed memories – I remember posting on Facebook about his first two teeth, but that’s just about it. These milestones were covered in a haze of depressive days. I have no idea what I felt when he first called me mom, what his first steps were like, what his weaning experience was all about. It is all very hazy.

I keep thinking to myself, I would want a different experience for my second when the time comes. I want to be the mother I always envisioned prepartum. I want to be the mother I envisioned myself as in my early 20’s – doting, caring and certainly not struggling with depression. I want to be a better mother than I am. I am well aware that postpartum depression (PPD) affects moms well into their second and third pregnancies as much as it affects first time moms. As a matter of fact, moms who have had PPD in their first pregnancy are at a higher risk of the same in subsequent pregnancies. It is a glaring fact, and I am only too aware of it.

Read More: #postpartumdepression – The conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

“Are you scared of having another child?”

It is a question I have been asked in a couple of media interviews, and my honest answer is, yes I am scared about a second one, scared at the thought of PPD all over again. But even in the face of this scare, I am well aware of the need to put up solid support systems before and after. I know that my family is present, that they are aware I struggled with PPD and are very supportive. I know I have contacts who I can call at 2am if need be. I am more conscious of what my triggers are, and cognizant of what red flags to be on the lookout for. There is the constant reminder that I was never a bad mom for suffering a mental health condition that affected my ability to love on, and bond with my son. From where I stand now, I am better placed, not because I am immune to PPD, but because I am informed and empowered.

Reminder: Postpartum Depression does not discriminate; it affects moms regardless of religion, social class, age, level of education and order of pregnancy. This is why it is important to raise awareness, get the society to know that there is such a thing as PPD, but most importantly, the fact that help is available. Please feel free to get in touch with me using the Contact page on the top menu if you need someone to talk to or are wondering where to start. I have a Facebook page where I share on PPD, and you can follow on Twitter too.

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Here is what inspired the name ‘PPDIsland’

Recently, I was thinking about the growth and progress of this blog, how it started. I started on a random domain name that I cannot even remember, after lots of persuasion to tell my story in the hopes that it would help another mom – thanks Ian for believing in me 🙂 – then I moved to my old website hosted on wordpress.com before finally getting on here.

It has been an amazing journey – there are many days I wanted to give up really, like that time I had a depressive episode in April, and I was struggling with parenting. At some point, I asked myself, what was the point of sharing and baring it all if I couldn’t hold myself together? And then I realized, there is subtle beauty in vulnerability that allows me to say, you know what, I am imperfect, I am struggling and I am not OK. It is OK not to be OK, and to reach out for help. I did reach out for help, and I am glad part of my inner circle came through.  I am in a beautiful phase of my life, gratefully.

Read More: The Place of Vulnerability

So, back to today’s post, I realized I have never shared why I settled on ‘PPD Island’ as the name of the blog. PPD, as you may have figured by now, stands for Postpartum Depression. For new readers on the blog, Postpartum Depression is a form of depression that affects moms up to one year after childbirth. You can read more about the symptoms and treatment options available.

I settled on Island because it is exactly how motherhood felt in those first few years. My son is now 5 going on 15 (what with the independence and assertion that he can make his own decisions? – welp!), and those first two years were incredibly lonely. I felt isolated from my circle of friends. I felt like I was the only one struggling with motherhood. Why did all those moms out there seem so happy and content with life while here I was clutching onto the hope that I could make it through the next hour? What was this dark phase that made it easy to have such intrusive and horrible thoughts of harming me and my son?

Read More: The hardest post I ever wrote

I sank into depression, slowly but surely. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t bond with my son. I would sit to nurse him and feel… nothing. Feel numb. I was only feeding because my boobs would ache, and well, I had to. But that special bond, was not there. He’d cry, I’d cry in frustration. I knew something was wrong the day I slapped him, and I wrote about that here.

Over the years, I eventually got help, so when I started this blog, there was no better name to give it than PPDIsland. The tag line for this blog is ‘…and why moms need not feel alone’. Islands are lonely, set out at sea, and that’s how PPD feels. I started this blog to speak up for struggling moms, to give a voice to moms who may not be in a position to talk about their dark days, and most of all, to reduce the stigma associated with PPD.

 

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#postpartumdepression: The conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

“I believe we need to get to a place where maternal mental health will not be stigmatized, and struggling moms can know that they are not alone, that help is available for them”

In my darkest days when I struggled with postpartum depression, this is the one thing I really wanted to hear, the one thing I really needed to hear: that I was not alone, that I could get help, that I was not a bad mother for my inability to bond with my son. Sometimes I wonder, what if I had heard about #postpartumdepression before? What if, by chance I saw someone tweet about it, or vent about their struggles on Facebook? Would that have made me better placed to handle it? I will never know. What I do know is that I would never want any other mom to go through PPD, yet the sad glaring truth is that 1 in 9 moms will experience PPD [source]

This is the reason I am glad to have been part of a panel on Victoria’s Lounge hosted by the ever graceful Victoria Rubadiri. Alongside these phenomenal ladies, the conversation centered on PPD. What are the risk factors associated with this form of depression? What are the symptoms you need to look out for? What treatment options are available? What does it feel like to be depressed when you just had a new baby?

The show airs on Thursday (22nd June 2017) on NTV at 8:00pm. Tune in and tell a friend to tell a friend.

 

Update: The wonderful team at Victoria’s Lounge put up the link on YouTube, so you might want to check that here

 

Changes

The only permanent thing in life is, change.

The first time I read this statement, I found it ironical, because changes are transient, yet the element of things changing is one of life’s permanent fixtures. The thing about change is that it upsets our norm, it gets us out of our comfort zones and projects us into the unknown. This is scary, but my friend Carol always tells me scary is good.

We are creatures of habit, who fall in love with routine and familiar places, familiar people and familiar territory. Anything that threatens to upset this balance is frowned upon, and certainly rubs us the wrong way. But, as I am realizing, there in the scare of change lies the opportunity to grow afresh. It is a chance to grow as an individual as well.

The past few weeks have been an incredible number of days, for many reasons, which I will not divulge on here, at least not now. It is a phase of transition that will upset our normal routine, for the better, thankfully. I am scared, I am uncertain, I am unsure – but what I know is that this is an answered prayer.

Read More: I remember

Looking back and realizing, depression, Postpartum depression included, takes away the ability to see life in all its fullness. It makes us doubt who we really are, how dare you dream that big? How dare you believe you deserve *that*? Who are you to ask as much of life? So what do we do, we stay masked, hidden behind a façade of IG posts and flowery FB updates while struggling to come to terms. It is dawning on me that, actually, who am I not to ask so much of life? Who am I not to dream big? Who am I not to be all that?

And so, in this, I am swimming with the waves of change, not against them, taking every ebb and flow in stride, because change is scary, but change is also good. I am incredibly grateful for the support system I have had in the past couple of days, the amazing friends who kept in touch and checked up on how we are holding up after that depressive episode, and to W for been an amazing pillar in our lives lately.

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World Maternal Mental Health Day (WMMHD)

Today, May 3rd 2017, is World Maternal Mental Health Day. In fact, all of this week is World Maternal Mental Health (WMMH) Week. It is observed in the first week of May (from 1st), and just as the name suggests, this week serves to raise awareness on, not just Postpartum depression (PPD), but other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs).

In many parts across the globe, as many as 1 in 5 women will experience some form of PMADs. The fact that many of these conditions go unchecked, coupled with their devastating effects is more than enough reason for WMMH week. Women, regardless of their age, social status, religion, education and social influence, can be affected.

Read More: Postpartum Depression, What is that again?

The symptoms of these PMADs show up between pregnancy and 12 months after child delivery. These symptoms are varied, and affect women differently. The good news is that there is help available. Moms need not suffer in silence, but the question remains, is there enough awareness on maternal mental health issues? And how else would we raise awareness other than talk about maternal mental health, sensitize the community, reduce stigma and remind women they are not alone?

Part of the reason why WMMH week is observed globally is to change attitudes because, there is no health without mental health. Raising awareness will steer social change and encourage affected women to speak up and ask for help.

Remember: you do not have to suffer alone in silence. Get in touch through the contact page (confidential) if you need to speak to a professional.

My self-care toolbox

These past few weeks have been, hard. Not as hard as the days when I had postpartum depression, but they were a challenge, which I blogged about here and here. I have been processing the events of those days, admitting I am struggling with parenting, and just slowly getting out of that fog. This week, we have been good, and we have been coping. We have been squeezing in the laughter and letting go of the doubts (as to whether I am doing parenting right). We have danced, and we have delighted in these moments. We have colored and we have cooked.

And all these made me take a step back to process everything and actually define the tools in my self-care toolbox. Practical pointers, a toolbox contains different tools that will help keep your house stable. And so it is with a self-care toolbox – its essence is to keep you together, keep you grounded when everything feels like a whirlwind and ultimately to help focus on the issues at hand. I realized that these tools helped prevent me from  very ‘high highs’ and from ‘soul-crushing, mind-numbing lows’.

  1. Physical tools

Physical tools, just like the name suggests, are tools that involve some physical activity of sorts. In my toolbox, morning runs rank first. There is something about a 5:45am run that does good for my soul, long before the whole world is awake, blaring horns, loud noises and all, there is a tranquillity that envelopes a runner’s mind, and that absolutely helps me put things in perspective.

If, for whatever reason I cannot hack a morning run, evening walks are my next favorite tool. Sometimes, sitting and watching the sun set does morethan make for a scenic view from my balcony. In addition to all these ‘natural’ elements, I also love to journal. Journaling means pouring out all my thoughts on paper, whether they are coherent or not – especially those that are not coherent. It is a wonderful way to decompress and for posterity’s sake, an amazing way to look back.

Read More: This is what Postpartum Depression Feels Like

  1. Relational tools

When the mental fog strikes, one of the things that I have found to be really helpful is getting on phone and sharing with a close friend on the issues at hand and my zigzagged thoughts. Granted, they may not help me in that particular situation, but listening does more than enough to make lighter my soul’s burdens. Sometimes, calls just don’t cut it because it is a tear-fest, and texts become my go-to tool. Other times, when parenting is not at the crux of my struggles, I love to bond with my son, watch his favourite animation movies together, make some art or just sit and listen to his boundless imagination in his stories.

  1. Foodie tools

This is a little tricky to include here, because food can be a destructive coping mechanism (read unhealthy eating habits, adding weight and of course the health conditions that come as a result thereof). But I realized, what works for me in my toolbox is whipping up a meal that will actually take some effort (like that pineapple marinated Teriyaki chicken from Kaluhi’s Kitchen) and  time. There is something about putting ingredients together to make a not-so everyday meal that helps re-channel my thoughts to a better place.

Read More: We are now 5!!

Lately, I have been working on reducing my daily carbohydrate intake, spurred by the realization that I have carbohydrates at just about every meal of the day – think, sandwiches for breakfast, rice for lunch, chapatti for dinner, not forgetting those mandazis at tea time and biscuits bought just before heading home from errands… you get the picture. Then add the fact that these carbs are mostly refined carbs and it is easy to see why there’s need to eat consciously. I am going with oats *milk *cinnamon * peanut butter for a protein fix at breakfast to see how that goes. Thinking I will work through this bit by bit. I have a feeling if I just say no more refined carbs all at once, it will only intensify the mad cravings for the same. Let’s see how this goes.

That’s what is in my self-care toolbox. What’s in yours?

 

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Save

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Today

Today, today is a good day.

I am taking it one day at a time,

Finding the love and the laughs,

Letting the hurt and the disappointment fly away,

It is ok not to be OK,

It is ok to go through the motions,

But it is not okay to remain there.

And that is why I am grateful.

Today is a good day.

 

PS: Sunrise and sunset are some of my favorite moments. If you have been on the blog long enough, you may have realized…

Still…

I have typed and deleted, typed and deleted the first portion of this post severally, even courted the thought of ignoring it altogether. Why, because it feels like a continuous from last week’s post on parenting struggles here. Struggling, still.

Do the struggles ever end? Is it okay to admit that this is hard and that, I am struggling now? To admit that single parenting is not a walk in the park? To admit that I have these crazy thoughts which I cannot type here? To admit that I fear motherhood is not blissful for me? That on days like this, teh struggles feel like waves crushing on the rocks, again and again? To admit that just when I think the cloud is lifting I am hit by another one that reminds me of…still, struggling?

Then, I am asking myself, what is the point of helping other moms if I myself cannot help me? What is the point of reaching out on the PPD-Kenya pages  if I am a broken mess right now? Doesn’t that take away from the very message I am trying to pass across, to let moms know that they are not alone while I feel incredibly lonely in this phase of parenting? How do I reassure the woman within that it actually gets better with raising a child? How much more do I repeat the words I share with other moms and make them a reality right now? Until I get to a place where I believe it?

I cringe when I think of dealing with tantrums (because whoever said tantrums are for terrible twos did not think of it, but issa lie!). We are going from “it is a fine day to enjoy motherhood’ to pulling my hair and wondering why this child just won’t listen. Complete with the high-pitched screams, throwing things down and dramatic cries. It is intense, and it is frustrating. It is hard, and it is vulnerable to admit it is hard. Sometimes it is fraught with fears and regrets of a past, because nothing screams louder of ‘incapable mom’ than a child who pushes the limit to your breaking point.

It is the fear of doing something that you will regret. It is the fear of going overboard and coming to a place where motherhood will never feel the same way. It is the same fear I had, of walking away and never coming back. Single moms who have raised boys on your own, does this phase ever come to an end? I am struggling, still.