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.

 

 

10 things NOT to tell someone who is suicidal (and what you can say instead)

There is nothing as dreadful, as scary, as heart-wrenching as hearing someone say the words,

“I want to kill myself”

These are words you do not want to hear, at all. What do you do from that point? How do you help? What do you say, and more importantly, what shouldn’t you say? As scary as this scenario is, hearing this words is a subtle gift that a friend who is struggling gives. It is their way of crying for help, it is their way of giving you an opportunity to help in their journey, as hard as it is. Your response is critical as it could either be an doorway to healing, or it could be the end as they know it. Granted, it is an emotional moment and you may not be sure how to respond. Below are 10 common (cliché, need I add?) responses that only make it harder for suicidal people to speak up and ask for help.

NOTE: While these responses/questions are generally deemed to cast judgement on the affected, a number of people may respond in the positive. Secondly, in as much as you can help by been present, it is important to get medical attention immediately. Do not hesitate to do so. Check out this page that has suicide crisis helplines in Kenya.

 

  1. “Suicide is for weaklings”

The truth of the matter is, by the time someone is getting to the point of struggling with suicidal thoughts, they have already gone through so much. By the time one is searching on how to die by suicide, all rationality is gone and that statement is a cry for help. Saying suicide is for weaklings invalidates their feelings and only causes one who is struggling to keep to themselves – with dire consequences.

Instead: You can let them know you care instead. Assure them of your love and compassion. Be present. Stay with them. Offer a hug – it creates a safe space for someone who is suicidal

 

  1. “It is all in your head – snap out of it”

This is another common response given from an ignorant point of view. Depression and suicide are conditions that affect the mind. The mind does get sick, just as the physical body does. Do we tell people suffering from diabetes to snap out of it? There you have it. Additionally, people who are not aware of mental health illnesses have the warped view that suicidal people are doing it for ‘attention’ – which is absolutely wrong.

Instead: It is better to admit that you may not understand what they are going through, but that you will offer to be present and seek help for them.

Read More: The hardest post I ever had to write

 

  1. “You should be grateful. There are people who have it worse”

I hate to burst the bubble, but someone who is suicidal has likely thought about that already – and it feels like they can never measure up. This only adds to their brokenness because, while they are well aware they ought to be grateful, their mind just cant reconcile that with the utter hopelessness and emptiness that they feel.

Instead: Show empathy. You may not understand, but that doesn’t give you permission to be insensitive.

 

  1. “Suicide is selfish. Think about your family/kids/loved ones”

Suicide is NOT selfish.

Suicide is NOT selfish.

And there’s a reason why. Suicidal people genuinely feel worthless and absolutely hopeless. They feel like there’s nothing to leave for, and worst of all, feel like a burden to the very people you are asking them to think about. The mind convinces them the world would be a better place without them. Telling them suicide is selfish not only invalidates their struggle, it also makes it less likely to ask for help again.

Instead: Ask how to help, find out what they need and check up on them constantly.

 

  1. “But your life is not that bad, how can you think of suicide?”

Truth is that there are invisible scars that suicidal people carry which you may never ever get to see. The pain is underneath – whether it is getting molested by an uncle, getting raped by a work colleague, losing one’s family or even a still birth. On the outside, it may seem all okay, but the pains and ache remain etched in their minds forever. Asking how someone can think of suicide speaks of disbelief and judgement, not empathy.

Instead: sometimes, all you can do is listen and be present.

Read More: Broken

  1. “You are not praying enough”

I can’t stop saying it, but, this is simply belittling someone’s struggles. It is likely that the depression/ mental health condition that has gotten them to the point of been suicidal has not allowed them to be able to pray in the first place. Telling someone they have not prayed enough/ do not have faith is just judgemental.

Instead: Consider affirming your love and support to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Taking a minute can save a life.

 

  1. “You will go to hell”

Regardless of one’s religion, telling someone they will go to hell when they are suicidal only enhances the feeling of isolation and loneliness (which in many cases, only pushes them over the edge). In any case, the judgemental attitude does not show any compassion or empathy.

Instead: It helps to assure a suicidal person that their thoughts are not permanent (even if the person believes that they are), and then to offer a listening ear without any judgement. This offers hope and communicates empathy.

 

  1. “ Don’t do anything stupid”

This is a very dismissive response for the simple reason that it takes away from the importance and the urgency of someone’s struggles. Often, such a statement only alienates a person even more. You may be worried/ concerned – rightly so, but whatever you do, don’t dismiss it as simply stupidity.

Instead: You may ask, “I have heard you mention suicide, and I am concerned about you. Are you safe? I want to reach out to you, know I am here for you”

 

  1. “How’d you want to hurt me like that?”

First, this is not about you. Secondly, it is likely that someone who is suicidal knows that their absence is going to hurt you and their loved ones. It already makes them feel terrible. Getting them on a guilt trip is counterproductive, and often exacerbates the alienation.

Instead:  You could say, I am sorry that you are struggling and hurting. But I will be here for you. You matter. You mean a lot (to me)

 

  1. Aaaand finally, one of the most cliché statements: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

At face value, this statement ‘sounds’ right, but a closer look reveals it is a fallacy, a popular one at that. First, the statement seems to suggest that suicide is a ‘solution’, and also belittles one’s problem as merely temporary. What of chronic mental health disorders, lifetime diseases and emotional scars?

The bottomline: When someone opens up to you about suicide ideation, it means that they have found a safe space in you. Responding harshly not only makes it harder to speak up, it also alienates them further. Granted, you may feel disappointed, hurt, embarrassed, even betrayed – but how you respond can make a big difference.

PS: This article was inspired by my last post which you can read here. I am, by no means, a health expert, but I struggled with suicide ideation and thoughts of harming my baby when I had Postpartum Depression. Some of the above statements are things I was told when I shared about my thoughts – and I switched off. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel alienated in their struggle with depression, so I put up this list with insight from the following websites:

Speaking of suicide

Purple Persuasions

The Mighty Site

 

PS: Do not struggle alone, reach out for help. Use the contact page or get in touch through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations on #suicide

I really do need to get into the habit of writing down blog ideas on the go. This post was inspired by something that happened whilst my son and I were in hospital last week. He had just got his medication administered when I had some commotion downstairs. For a moment, I let it pass because I thought, the last thing I need is to have my peace disturbed  – and so I tucked Jay in for him to continue napping and get some much-needed rest. But the noise persisted, and it piqued my interest because, what could the people/ patients be talking about so loudly? I hurried to the balcony just in time to see the small crowd that had milled around disperse. Curiously, I asked the nurse what had happened. What she said left me feeling angry, hopeless, defeated, charged and riled up – all in one.

So, the crowd that had gathered had come to pick a patient who had been referred to the national hospital. Naturally, I enquired what had led to that, and she admitted to the patient having overdosed (in a suicide attempt) and requiring specialized attention. So what was the noise all about, I asked. Apparently, a group of his ‘friends’ had come to pick him up and take him home. I say ‘friends’ because of the comments that followed. The nurse went on to share some of the crude and disheartening things they said, things like:

“Tell the medics they should have administered a stronger dose…’ (ostensibly to kill him)

“Be man enough…  relationship woes do not suffice to make a suicide attempt… some of us wish we had those very girls (those girls tormenting your life)…”

“suicide is selfish… you just don’t care about others”

“Suicide is for weaklings!”

I asked her what the administration did about the fiasco and she admitted to having had an intervention before the crowd chose to disperse. I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to imagine what the man must have felt hearing such words from his ‘friends’, the people who had supposedly come to help him on his way to get specialized care.

Read More: Masked

Here’s the thing about depression and suicide. Depression is not just something you can ‘snap out of’! If it were, then so many people would get better at the snap of a finger without going through the motions of hopelessness, rage, disillusionment, intrusive thoughts and self-harm. If it were so easy, we would not have so many people struggling.

Many people think and say out loud that suicide is selfish, that it is for weaklings – but I am of a totally different view. It hasn’t always been like this. I too thought, suicide was selfish – until I suffered Postpartum Depression and experienced suicidal thoughts. Then I realized, people who struggle with suicidal thoughts feel absolutely worthless, hopeless and good for nothing. It is not just an ‘I woke up with a bad hair day and I kinda feeling under the weather’. It is believing that one is actually not worth anything.

It is feeling utterly overwhelmed and trapped with no way out. It is hazy and suffocating  – I often liken it to opening your eyes in over-chlorinated water. Worst of all, when one is suicidal, they feel like a burden to everyone around them – their family, friends and even their children. They genuinely believe that the world would be a better place without them. It is this struggle that sometimes pushes people to their limits and they go right over the cliff. In a moment, powerful negative emotions surge, and when the mind is sick, it is often impossible to stop these thoughts.

It is time we had conversations around suicide and suicide prevention. Look out for the signs of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Be aware of what the symptoms are. Be present enough to know when someone’s putting up a strong face yet crying for help. Go beyond ‘ hi’ and ‘I am fine’. Taking a minute to do this genuinely can save a life.

Read More: Taking a minute can change a life

 

NOTE: 10 things NOT to tell someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts in the next post.

 

Today – Taking a minute can change a life

Today, my heart is heavy. Today my heart goes out to everyone struggling with a mental health condition and suicide (thoughts/ ideation/attempts).

Today my heart aches because a number of my friends are struggling now, struggling with their minds telling them they are not worth anything. Struggling to understand why life throws such curve balls, struggling with anxiety.

Today, I feel the pain and the struggles, because I have been there. I know what it is like to feel hopeless and worthless, to be in a dark foggy phase that never seems to lift, and to flirt with the idea of ending it all.

Today, I am reminded I could have been just another statistic in the number of people who die by suicide, but I am here because someone cared to listen, someone cared enough to make a call and to make daily follow-up.

Today I am reminded of how much power there is in a listening ear, how much power there is in just being present (even with no idea how to do it). Today I am reminded that we need to go beyond ‘I am fine’ and really find out how the people in our circles are doing – particularly those who have had a history of mental illnesses.

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September is World Suicide Prevention Month. September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, and this month’s theme iss ‘Taking a minute can change a life’. This post comes a tad bit late, but I thought to put it up even as September comes to an end. We may not realize it, but behind the emojis and memes online, many people are struggling with depression and a host of other mental health conditions. In many cases, these conditions if unaddressed, lead to suicide. And that is why it is important that we talk about suicide.

I have had personal struggles with suicide ideation when I suffered postpartum depression, and on several days, I wanted out, I wanted to do away with the pain of not loving my child and hating myself for it. In the midst of all these chaos, my friend, the dreadloc’d one in this post, constantly checked in to find out how I was holding up. It was a mix of chats, texts, and calls, sometimes late into the night when I found solace on a wet pillow with a nursing child on a tired boob. This year’s theme on ‘Taking a minute can change a life’ plays out in my life. All I needed to know at the time was, it mattered that despite what I felt, someone cared to listen, cared to talk to me and cared to check on me.

Statistics show that more than 2 million Kenyans are depressed [Link], that’s 2,000,000. Approximately 5% of the country’s population is struggling with depression. 7000 Kenyans will die by suicide each year [Link]. Isn’t it time we talked about mental health and suicide? Time we let others know there is no shame in struggling? Please reach out (on any of the social media platforms, or use the contact page to get in touch), do not suffer in silence. It is not weakness to ask for help, it is immense strength to realize that one cannot make it alone.

 

NOTE: I posted my struggle with suicide ideation in this post.

Secondly, inspired by Sitawa’s post and with her permission, I reposted ‘Crisis helplines in Kenya and Africa if you are feeling suicidal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifting the lid on postpartum depression

It is always an honor to be featured on someone else’s blog because it means one thing: more people are reading (and learning, hopefully) about Postpartum depression (PPD). I will never tire of talking about this form of depression, in part because i know how much mental health sucks. I am grateful for the different platforms I have been featured on (see this page). Today’s post was one featured by Kalekye Kasina, an award-winning journalist with a passion for health matters, which is how I got to share my story with her.

I met Kalekye at a volunteer meet-up organized by Carol Ng’anga, founder of the HELD organization  – an organization that offers help for those affected by cancer as well as creates awareness on the same. I am always amazed at the resilience and sheer determination to forge forward by Carol and her team. So, anyway, the volunteer meet-up yielded friendships, and this post is one of the fruits of the same. Thank you Kalekye for highlighting postpartum depression and the reason moms need to get help.

Read the featured post by clicking on this link.

Happy reading! And remember, you are not alone in this. Do get in touch using the contact page if you need any clarifications or would like to speak to a professional.

Image credits

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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Every June…

Every June, I have a silent anniversary of sorts.

This June was no different.

It doesn’t help much the fact that this blurry anniversary coincides with my birthday.

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I have vivid memories of that day back in June 2011. In the months that had passed, I lived in a bubble of sorts; reality still hadn’t dawned on me. How’d I been drinking Famous Grouse & Malibu all along without knowing it. It never crossed my mind, at least not at 22. I had these lofty dreams, my career was on an upward trajectory, and there were all the signs of a well-heeled lifestyle. The realization that life as I knew it was going to change had me floating in a palpable fog.

I’d had nightmares every so often since I saw those two lines—piercing screams in the dead of the night, a bloodied mess on my hands, an obsessive worry-packed train of thought that seemed to amplify my incapability to transcend life’s hurdles, and the very nagging thought that I probably wouldn’t pull through alive. I was scared. With every new day that drew me closer to one of my life’s most changing turning points, I grieved at the life I had left behind yet couldn’t embrace with gusto what lay ahead.

Read More: Triggers…

It was a yo-yo of sorts. I was going to be a mom—totally unprepared, and completely flustered by life as I knew it. As the days whizzed by, I felt like a puppet in life’s hands; going through the motions, pretending to be unfazed, but really squirming on the inside.

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That Wednesday morning began like any other…

This post first appeared on Postpartum Progress. Read the rest of the post here.

Four.

4 years ago and a few months, he made his appearance into the world. Tiny, wailing, kicking his tiny feet and of course looking very , ermm, yellow. That was before his melanin-producing cells started working overtime and I now have a dark handsome 4-year old. I know how cliché it is to be told, “they grow up so fast.. cherish the moments..” yet when I think about it, this is actually true.

One day I was busy changing diapers, wiping drool during teething and introducing foods (which he took on really well, thank God). The days through the foggy phase that Postpartum depression (PPD) and in retrospect, the grace that kept us safe, through the sobs and smiles that were far and in between; through potty training and piping hot tears when he could not get it right; through wondering how we were gonna make it when he starts school, to hearing him doing his homework with remarkable ease. For great reasons, I am actually looking forward to his 4th year, and beyond. I am savoring and soaking in each precious (energy-packed) moment and absolutely loving it! Here’s why!

  1. Past the dark dreary 1st year when I was deep in depression, past the terrible 2’s and way beyond terrific 3s

His first year was tough, I was yet to get the hang of motherhood, and it took a while for me to realize I was actually depressed. I do not have many memories of this period 🙁 and I can only look through photos and try piece up what looks to me like a jigsaw puzzle. Terrible 2’s can only be described in one word: TANTRUMS!! I don’t miss that stage, quite honestly.

It was characterized by outbursts of anger, losing my identity as Samoina and just… exhaustion. Terrific 3’s was a stage when LO tried pushing every damn limit there was. The best thing about this stage was that the fog of PPD was just starting to lift… I could see hope in the horizon, that kept me going. 4, or as my friend Blythe loves to call this stage, fourlospher is here! That we got past all those stages is reason to be excited.

  1. We can have a coherent conversation!!

Just how amazing is it to actually move from the incoherent syllables and mathogothanio (blurb) to an actual flowing conversation? And while this often morphs to some weird questions (like why that guy hanging on the chopper doesn’t do it daily.. ), I am glad that I can get a glimpse of what his personality is at the core, converse about school, his friends, his dislikes (pumpkin and sweet potatoes) and everything in between..

  1. He expresses himself well.

Of course with the ability to converse coherently comes the fact that he can articulate his thoughts perfectly well and express himself. The other day I told him I needed to shave his head ‘coz it looked shaggy. He gave me that quizzical look kids have and asked whether his hair was as shaggy as mine… (ermm, I am in this phase of natural hair I am trying to figure out what hairstyle to put on). What amazed me was just how honest he was when he asked that. I looked at him wide-eyed. When did this boy grow up?

  1. He is, to some extent, independent of me J

He can feed himself (no more boobie-food), he is fully potty trained (no more butt-wiping!), he can sleep without having to be rocked, he can tell me when he is feeling unwell, he actually returns his toys to his toy-bag every night… It is the simple things that make this 4th year so exciting.

  1. He is learning virtues and vices

The fact that he can follow through stuff, say when we are watching news, and pick up vibes about something is quite… ‘grown up’ for lack of a better word. It reminds me of the need to instill virtues in him. Teach a child in the way he should grow, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. As a parent, I realize the immense responsibility of raising a little human to become a responsible member of society. It will take grace, wisdom, love, patience, and undoubtedly experience on the go.

Bonus point: He still cherishes mama’s hugs and kisses, and often reminds me when I forget to tell him “I love you”. 🙂

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To 4!!

 

 

Guest Blogging over at JoinMQ

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of guest blogging over at JoinMQ. JoinMQ is a UK-based charity organization that continues to highlight the importance of mental health, the need to reduce stigma associated with various mental health conditions as well as spearhead research in the same field. What an honor to be able to share my journey as far as Postpartum Depression is concerned. Feel free to leave any comments or feedback. xx

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As the festive season approaches, I cannot help but marvel at the fact that in my son’s almost four years, this is the first Christmas I will be spending, away from the haziness that is postnatal depression. It is as amazing as it is surreal. It brings tears to my eyes, but not the kind of tears that I shed last Christmas. Instead, it is tears of joy, of gratitude, of hope.

Let’s back track a little to 2011. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew I’d have loved to be a mom, but it never really crossed my mind that this desire would manifest less than one year later. When I realized I was pregnant, a myriad of thoughts crossed my mind. Part of me was ecstatic at the thought of bringing forth new life. But many of my thoughts revolved around fear and worry. Fear of the unknown, fear that this was the wrong time, worry about how I would provide for him and how I would cope with the demands of motherhood.

At about 5 months of pregnancy, it became apparent that I would be a single parent. The financial implications of this new reality sent my world into a spin. I was still on probation at my new place of work then; they were less likely to grant paid maternity leave. To say that my distorted dreams of sailing through motherhood were a grim reality is understating it. All the while, dealing with the changes that came with pregnancy while trying to comprehend how I would cope.

I am a stickler for plans, the kind of person who likes to have details beforehand, so I can plan accordingly. But here I was, my thoughts seemingly spiraling out of control. This fear of the unknown would later morph into Postnatal Depression (PND). At the time, I had no idea why I had a bad feeling about the whole experience. I attended my anti-natal clinics faithfully. In many Kenyan hospitals, these clinic sessions largely revolve around the mom-to-be’s physical health – blood pressure, position of the baby, heart rate, weight and the EDD.

“In retrospect, my mental health was a non-entity.”

My mental health at the time was not of much importance, and even when it came up, it was not a screening process as such. It was merely a by the way, a casual ‘How do you feel?’ To which I’d answer okay and move on swiftly to the next procedure. Deep down, I kept hoping the nurse taking me through my clinic sessions would seek to delve deeper, find out whether I was facing any challenges as my due date approached. I hoped she would ask whether I had any fears pre-partum, and consequently assure me it would be okay. But this did not happen. For the most part, I felt alone.

Things did not change much post natal as the checkups shifted focus to my new bundle of joy (although my new bundle came with more tears and confusion than it did joy). In my case, it has been a struggle, a constant uphill task to come to terms with loving my son because he was never a bad child; mommy suffered from a bad mental condition. He was never a mistake, but I admit I did find it hard to enjoy a healthy loving relationship with him. I lost it on many occasions, the frustration, the sleeplessness, the new loneliness that most moms suffer from, the hopelessness, all these culminated in a relationship that placed both my son and I in jeopardy.

“The intrusive thoughts of killing my son, my own suicidal thoughts, it was too much to handle.”

One of the most persistent traits of living with PND for three years was waking up with absolutely no zeal. It was hazy. Living seemed to have lost meaning, and all I did was exist, mechanically shuffling between soiled diapers, dirty bibs and tear-soaked pillows. The worst aspect, admittedly, was feeling alone. The thought that no other mom could possibly want to harm their child like I did haunted me. In its vice-like grip, this loneliness prevented me from enjoying my son’s milestones, from appreciating the beautiful moments that we had.

I had the internet, and that is where I got help (albeit virtually). I was so overwhelmed and frustrated that all I could think of, that fine day, was Google ‘Why do I hate my son so much?’

“I was more than overjoyed to find out that, at the very least, I was not the only mom who suffered from this condition. Many others did too.”

I read, amid loud sobs, stories of hope, of courage and of conquering PND. This gave me the boldness to ask for help. While I am grateful I got help online, and I am now on the path of healing, I write this with the hope that research will shed more light on the impact of PND on mother-child relationship, as well as how this mental condition affects children later in their lives.

Looking back, I wish that screening for depression during antenatal clinics would be more stringent. Perhaps researchers can delve deeper into this field and help come up with multiple screening tools for expectant women who are at risk of postnatal depression. It would be comforting to know that there are ways in which the likelihood of PPD can be diagnosed before moms find themselves caught up in this hazy stage. Aside from the questionnaires used presently, it is my hope that reliable techniques can also be incorporated into this screening process. More importantly, medical practitioners can be more equipped to handle women diagnosed to be at risk of PND.

Research has steered strides in the mental health department, no doubt, but I am hopeful that improved techniques can make it easier for screening during antenatal clinics. I imagine that new moms would be better placed to deal with PND if it is diagnosed during the pregnancy. This way, moms will be better equipped to handle the challenges of motherhood in case they are predisposed to PND.

I am doing my part to change things, and I will continue to raise my voice, creating awareness for PND in Kenya through my blog; reaching out to new moms who may feel alone in this journey, one post at a time.

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Always amazed when I look at this lil’ man <3 <3 (Image taken at Olooseos)

Day 30 – End of my 30 day writing challenge

This is Day 30 of the 30 writing challenge, which can only mean one thing. It is overrrrr! Wooop. I am so excited to have done this challenge, not so much for the numbers, but for me, for moms who follow this blog! Let’s just say, if you want to imagine what I am like today, this video shows it best 😀 In this post, I am going to give my insights into what the challenge was like, somewhat a recap, show highlights over the 30 days as well as appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read.

This is where the blog started. I had always yearned to start a blog and chronicle my Postpartum Depression Journey, and healing as it progresses. For whatever reason, I kept postponing setting up the blog. I was my worst critic, and chief procrastinator. I always had a reason, till I realized there are never perfect conditions for anything (well, save for a ripe avocado and a hot meal 😀 ). I had to start, however I could. And so, first post went up to welcome my readers, and give them a feel of what it is like to be on ‘the island’, and a little about me.

After a couple of posts, I figured I wanted to do something that would get me out of my comfort zone, something that would push me further and allow me to reach out to more moms. That is how the 30 day writing challenge was birthed. I was a bit skeptical at the onset. Here’s the thing, you really don’t know that readers hold you accountable till you skip a day in the challenge and someone asks you what happened! So yes, I was concerned about whether I’d be able to hack the challenge. As a counter-measure, I decided to donate Ksh 1000 to MyMindMyFunk for every skipped day of the challenge.

Now, here is the thing, I did not want to pledge 100 bob because that would be easy; 1000 would make me rethink before I say I am too tired/hungry/sleepy/experiencing writer’s block to blog. Suffice to say, I skipped only 1/30 days. If you look keenly, you will notice that Day 19 of the 30 day writing challenge is missing. So, I get to keep my word in support of Sitawa Wafula‘s mental health organization in the coming days.

Were there days I felt like this was too much? Yes. Were there days I asked myself what had I gotten myself into? Yes. Were there days I asked myself whether I was living the truth on my blog, looking for grace even when it is scanty? Many days those ones. But the end goal kept me going (plus this has been a rough month for me as a WAHM, so pesa onge, loosely translated to cash on the low). I have learned many lessons which I will share in one of the posts this month, so look out for that too *does the happy dance*.

Recapping the 30 day writing challenge

Looking at analytic information on my WordPress Dashboard, the most widely read post was actually Day 1 – Lost Identity where I shared my experience on losing my identity as a new mom, the core of who I was in my bubbly persona. Depression has a penchant for throwing you off balance, so much so that you can hardly recognize the woman in the mirror. The ominous feeling of a lost identity and a depressed soul. In healing now, I am relearning this identity; first as a child of God, as an individual, as a mom, as a daughter and as a friend.

Day 10 – Angst was, undoubtedly, one of the hardest posts to write ten days into the challenge. This heartfelt post could be a trigger for some, because in it, I share the darkest moments of my PPD journey – been suicidal, and hating motherhood so intensely. I remember Googling exactly this phrase: ‘Why do I hate my son so much?’ This was a very hard place. Looking back, the journey from this angst to now has allowed me to reach out to other moms, both with PPD and without. Beauty for ashes, now I see the beauty of it all.

Day 15 – When Loneliness Creeps in for new moms was, in the last 30 days, the third most read post. And for good reason. Sometimes I think moms-to-be have this illusion thinking that once baby comes, you get to pick up with your girls right where you left off before you hobbled to the labour ward. This loneliness was a complete shocker for me. Reading through the feedback after posting this affirmed the need for moms to connect more closely after delivery.

During the challenge, I also put together resourceful posts for anyone who would like more information on Postpartum Depression which you can read using the links below:

Day 3 – Postpartum Depression Therapy

Day 14 – #Snapshotsforsanity

Day 17 – 3 Lessons Learnt During Healing after Postpartum Depression

Day 23 – Stages of Postpartum Depression

Then there were those posts that gave glimpses of my life as a mom, the challenges of single parenting (albeit with some subtlety) as well as the rigorous stage that is poop, pee and everything potty training!

Day 2 – Masked.

Day 4 – Good Enough, Or Not.

Day 8 – 10 Things I would Tell My Pregnant Self

Day 12 – Shouting at my son, and 4 tips that helped me.

Day 22 – Of Potty Training Routines and Brushing Teeth

If you would like to have a look at all the posts over the course of the writing challenge, feel free to make your way here. So there, the summary of the amazing journey that the 30 day writing challenge has been. I cannot publish this post without expressing my gratitude for each and every person who took their time to read, to make sense of my words and to immerse themselves in the world of a PPD survivor. Thankful for the support, the encouragement and the criticism. Here is to new beginnings, new opportunities and new connections. Eternally grateful for abounding grace in the now.

Mood \0/
#tbt but Current Mood \0/ Photo By Kiarii Kimani

Featured Image Photo Credits: Daymond John

UPDATE: 13. October.2015

The 30 day writing challenge was on condition that for any skipped days, I get to donate Ksh 1000 to Sitawa’s organization, My Mind My Funk. I like to keep myself accountable, it is integrity even in the small stuff that makes all the difference. Here’s a screenshot to the same effect. So glad to be a part of Sitawa’s projects.

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