8 Things I Am Learning From Being Unemployed

Workstation

One of the things I decided this year, was to blog a lot more often and to share from a place of authenticity and empathy. The Goal is to do 52 posts this year – quick math, that is a post a week for the rest of 2019. I am still on track so far, with these posts for the month of January.

  1. The 30-day Mental Wellness Challenge 
  2.  7 Lessons I Learned in 7 years of Motherhood
  3. This is What I Did Not Post on Instagram
  4. 7 Important Things I do During My Morning Routine

In today’s post, I am sharing lessons I have learned on been unemployed since late December last year. Admittedly, I cannot compare my experience with anyone who’s been unemployed for years, because I cannot imagine how much harder it is. On the flip side, I cannot downplay the fact that the past few weeks have not been the easiest of days for me.

Stay At Home Motherhood

So, I have shared before on the blog, that I have been a stay/work at home mom. After my son was born, I couldn’t go back to work and, for the first nine months of his life I stayed at home – literally. During this time, I was also battling severe Postpartum Depression (but didn’t know it for a while) and staying at home made the symptoms more intense.

Read More: My Postpartum Depression Experience

Towards the end of the year, a friend introduced me to online writing. By then, my son had settled into a pattern of sorts, and I could juggle motherhood and getting some work done. I kept at it, and would later grow into it through the different seasons and years. This past December holidays, however, two of my contracts came to an end, perhaps a little unexpectedly. It threw me off balance quite a bit, as it would anyone. Towards the end of the year, and for most of January, I have been applying for jobs as a freelance writer, sending cold pitches and generally keeping hope alive.

Today though, I broke down. There is something about seeing the calendar page flip to mark a new month when you don’t have a job. It is a subtle-not-so-subtle reminder that bills are due – rent, groceries, electricity, school fees, transport, insurance… name it. Today that reality just kinda smacked me in the face. It took all of the energy in me not to have a total breakdown. Part of what it took was to journal – my all-time go-to coping mechanism. I write and write and write and write, and as I did, I thought to share some of the lessons I am learning from been unemployed.

Lessons I Am Learning From Been Unemployed

Lessons From Unemployment

  1. There is no shame in being unemployed

Of course this is easier said than done. It is easy to feel embarrassed about a conversation that ends up with, “So, how’s work?” or “So, what do you do?” But I am realizing that this is nothing to be ashamed of. That many people will, at one point or another, go through unemployment for a period of time. If anything, you are encouraged to speak out and network because you never know what opportunities abound with the persons you interact with.

  1. Work does not define me, but it is intricately tied to a sense of self-worth

Knowing and reminding myself that I am worthy is one of my key affirmations. But even that, in the face of unemployment, gets shaken to the core. Having a job to go to or to do, every day is closely related to one’s self-worth and self-esteem. Part of the reason for this is that, subconsciously, going to work makes you feel as though you are making a contribution to the society. In the absence of this contribution, there is a sense in which one lacks purpose.

Add to this the existence of mental illness and it is easy to see how unemployment, lack of self-worth and depression create a vicious cycle. This study done by Gallup-Healthways in 2014 showed that depression rates are significantly higher for those who have been unemployed for six months or more. It underpins the link between work and self-worth and makes it easier for me to understand why, these past few days have caught me questioning my worth and contribution, even with PPDKenya.

Read More: Stay-at-Home Motherhood affected my self-esteem

  1. Having a support system makes a big difference!

The truth of how I have survived this past month, and especially with kiddo going to a new school, is the anchor that my family is. I have a super supportive family, and my sister has been incredibly gracious to me. My close circle of friends has also been incredibly resourceful in checking in and offering encouragement. This is something I cannot be blind to. I recognize it somewhat cushions me from the very jagged edges. I am also cognizant of the fact that not everyone has such a support system. For this, I am very grateful.

  1. Do not quit everything

Granted, life does slow down to a certain extent when you are unemployed. After the frenetic pace of school hunting, my days slowed down noticeably. The mundaneness set in after my sis went to work, and my son was off to school. I would find myself asking, “Then what?”

With this, it is easy to quit everything – quit eating right, quit exercising, quit sleeping well… and plunge into job hunting. But the truth is, this will easily cause burnout. What I have learned to do these past few weeks, is to keep a basic routine of sorts. Part of this has been in form of my morning routine that includes a daily 30-minute intense workout (for those who have been wondering where the zeal comes from!). The morning workouts give me something to look forward to, space to process my thoughts and a toned body at the end of it all.

  1. It is okay to have good and bad days

Someone recently Whatsapped me and said that they envy my lifestyle (having followed my daily workout selfies) – and I wanted to cringe. Because what she didn’t know, was that for the most part, those workouts keep me sane and grounded. On some days though, I will drag myself out of bed, workout and then watch the hours go by with barely any strength to look for a job or make connections. I realized that those bad days are okay too – I just don’t want to linger there too long.

Read More: 17 things in 2017

  1. Having an emergency fund is KEY

Yes, I did have some cash somewhere that helped changed schools for my son, but in retrospect, it should have been bigger. I am reminding myself why it is important in this season. Closely related to this, is that it is wise not to put all of one’s eggs in one basket. Ever since I started freelance writing, I would work with at most, two clients at a go. But I am now realizing how detrimental that is to my financial well-being – and I am taking it for a lesson.

  1. Do the things you have always wished you had more time for

It is easy for the days to waste away when there is no work to go to, but time is valuable, even in such a hard season. This past month, I have tried to make good of this time by

  • Working out a lot more consistently
  • Reading more books (onto my third read for the year)
  • Blogging a lot more
  • Sharing content consistently on the PPDKEnya platforms
  • Brainstorming and writing down ideas
  • Networking, making cold pitches and generally putting myself out there.
  1. Do not give up

I could as well be telling myself this every day. Do not give up. Continue to put in the work. I keep reminding myself that the worst anyone can say no when job hunting/ looking for opportunities, is a NO. The best that can happen, well, there is no limit to that. I will keep putting myself out there. Something will work out, and when it does, I will add an update to this post.

For the record: I am a freelance writer and have been published before on Standard Digital’s Ureport Platform, and you can read the articles here and here. My main niches are Parenting, Wellness, Productivity, and Maternal Mental Health, but I can cover just about any topic on request. Additionally, I have built and continue to run this, and the PPDKenya website which you can visit here. Please get in touch with me if you need services to be provided by a freelance writer. Here’s my LinkedIn profile too. 

 

 

7 Important Things I Do in My Morning Routine

Creating a Morning Routine

For most of my life, I never really thought myself to be an early riser, or what we commonly refer to as the morning person. I felt better suited to sleep late into the night and sleep in some more in the morning. It certainly did not go well during high school, and most of the times I would sleep in my uniform so that I am ready to go when the morning bell rang. That, or I would drag my sleepy self to class in my nightdress and a Maasai shawl to ward off the morning chill in Thika.

In my adulthood, I would only wake up early for work, and even then, it was a mad dash out of the house. I would typically wake up late, prepare in a huff, skip breakfast and get to work. This often left me feeling exhausted. The worst feeling, perhaps, was playing catch up with the rest of my day. My transition to motherhood wasn’t any easier. Sleep deprivation, coupled with my Postpartum depression (PPD) made it harder for me to settle into a routine.

Why creating a morning routine could change your life

My Morning Routine

Fast forward, and a few years later I can gladly say I wake up before 6AM on most days, even on weekends. So, what changed?

Part of it could be attributed to the fact that my son is older now, of course. But a big chunk of it revolves around the fact that I discovered the power of a morning routine in recent years. A morning routine is important because it sets the stage for the rest of the day. If you can get your morning routine right, you can get most aspects of your life right.

Your first ritual that you do during the day is the highest leveraged ritual, by far, because it has the effect of setting your mind, and setting the context, for the rest of your day. – Eben Pagan

One of my New Year Resolutions two years ago was to create a good morning routine. I came across Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning and Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. These two tools revolutionized my life, and changed my mornings for the best!

There are a number of reasons why morning routines are encouraged for anyone who wants to improve their productivity. First, a morning routine sets the pace for the rest of the day. You will avoid feeling like you are catching up with the one hour you lost in the morning. Secondly, getting this routine in place avoids mental fatigue.

Mental fatigue affects ALL of us. Why does this happen? It happens because we all have a finite amount of willpower at the beginning of each day. When we use it to make ‘small’ and inconsequential decisions in the morning, it means there is less energy to make sound decisions later in the day. If you would love to know, it is for this reason that Obama and Zuckerberg wear/wore the same thing from day to day (Link).

Read More: 7 Lessons I have Learned in 7 years of Motherhood

Knowing what to expect every morning reduces mental fatigue. To do this, try and make sure that your morning routine does not very much. Here are 7 things I do in my morning routine after I wake up at around 5:30 AM.

  1. Light stretching

I typically wake up and lie in bed for a few minutes. I breathe in deeply, tell myself it is a new day and it will be ah-mazing! Let me also confess that because I used to get sleep paralysis, I don’t sleep face downwards – ever. So after a night of sleeping on the side, I like to do a few stretches to get my body to wake up well.

  1. Get a glass of warm water

After more than 6 hours of sleep, I wake up feeling dehydrated. Warm water feels like just about the right thing to do, so I will take a glass of warm water to get my metabolism going before taking anything else.

  1. Morning pages (20-30 minutes)

My morning pages were inspired after reading about Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. This practice involves writing about 3 pages of whatever comes to mind. This is not content that you will ever publish or share with anyone. Think of it like a place to dump your thoughts and get your creativity flowing. Since journaling has always been my go-to selfcare tool, it was only natural that I fell in love with morning pages.

Read More: Self-care: Here’s what I like to do for my mental wellness

  1. Prepare my son for school (40 – 50 minutes)

He is usually up by 6 AM, and is picked about 45 minutes later. After he wakes up, we chat and bond for a few minutes then say our prayers. He will then make his bed, fold his pajamas and dress up ready for school. By then, I have prepared his breakfast and he is good to go. I see him off downstairs with a hug because you can never give your child enough hugs.

  1. Workout (30 minutes)

Once I am back home, I will then change into my workout clothes and do half a minute of HIIT. I am currently following the Focus T25 workouts by Shaun T. This is one of the best parts of my days! I break a good sweat with these workouts and add a morning jog on the weekends. Plus, the workouts are only 25 minutes, so there is literally no excuse for not putting in the work.

  1. Cold Shower (20 minutes)

After cooling down, I jump in to take a cold shower. There are many health benefits of taking a cold shower which you can read here. I feel so rejuvenated and energized after that, and as often as I can, I want to take a cold shower.

  1. Breakfast (20 minutes)

On most weekdays I will have breakfast alone and prefer to enjoy it unrushed. Since I started my workouts, I have found myself gravitating towards healthier choices. It doesn’t make sense to get all sweaty then eat all the wrong foods. My breakfast typically includes sweet potatoes/ arrow roots and tea, oats, cereal and eggs. As I am having breakfast, I like to speak positive affirmations.

“It is going to be an amazing day”

“I am a phenomenal woman”

“I am doing the best I can for my son, and that matters”

“Things will work out, eventually”

After breakfast, I then brush my teeth ready to start my day. I work from home and have a dedicated space to do that from. This routine has been incredibly helpful for me! I must also add that I prefer not to log onto my social media pages before getting the most important task of the day done. To do this, I schedule posts going out on Postpartum Depression Kenya (PPDKenya) pages using Hootsuite, and this allows me to get so much more done.

How does your morning routine look like? What is your favorite part of the routine?

 

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Ramblings on motherhood, toys and straws

These holidays have been an emotional rollercoaster for me and mine. The school holidays began with a bang. My heart was bursting with gratitude and just the sheer amazement that we made it this far. Here, my not-so little boy, all grown, graduating from kindergarten to Primary school (wrote about it here). It was a big moment, I still look back and I’m like whoa, see God. (You may never understand the magnitude of this milestone if you never had to struggle with depression that made you question your ability and worth as a mom. I have blogged about this here and here and here as well).

So, anyhow, graduation came to an end and the very next week he was admitted to hospital, and discharged after almost a week. Mom and baby were ecstatic to have him in great health. Then mom got the infection and off I was to hospital. Took a couple of days off, and was better. Right after that, kid had a stomach bug and it was back to hospital. To say this was a rough ride is to put it mildly. I was really scared, and my thoughts were going crazy. (PS: Has any of you moms ever made the silent prayer that says, I’d rather be sick than my child gets unwell… then you actually get sick and are unable to cater for the child’s needs? I’m like – this is twisted irony 🙂 )

Read More: 7 Gross things moms do (admit it, you have done one of these!)

Fast forward to now, we are both in great health and are thankful for that. And we are back to bouncing off walls and off each other. Don’t go just yet, I am going somewhere with this post… So, J has an affinity for drinking straws, the disposable ones. A weird affinity that sometimes irks me because, I just don’t understand why anyone ought to take their yoghurt in a cup using a straw – but maybe therein lies the wonder and amazement of a child’s life.

Now, drinking with the straws is no big deal per se. It’s what follows once that happens which gets on my nerves. The not-so-empty cup is left on the table, and the straw leaning over. It’s easy to drop the cup by simply having the swish of my cardigan touch the end of the straw. For whatever reason, this is one of those pet peeves I have always had.

How does it relate to the hospital visits? The few days we were at hospital got me thinking how we as parents take so much for granted. We have this misguided illusion of immortality. There is all the time in the world, we think to ourselves. Until sickness jolts us back to reality. The other day I looked at him playing on the floor, strewn with all his toys, LEGO blocks, and my pens and pencils. On the table, the yoghurt cup and straw he had just used. For a split second I wanted to scold him and ask him to clean up.

Read More: Lessons from my son’s bag of toys

Then it struck me, when he was sick, I prayed and hoped that he would get back his health because at the time, I certainly preferred a messy house to a sick child. And here he was, playing, all energetic – yet I was inwardly grumbling at the sight of the messy floor. It struck me that one day, when this rambunctious little boy is all grown, there may never be a messy floor again.

I realized that a time will come, when there will be the last straw – quite literally. When he is taller than mommy, and has a deep voice to go with it, I may never need to tell him to discard the straw and drop the cup in the sink, because he will not be so little anymore. A time will come when there will not be the pattering of little feet up the staircase, a time when the warmth of morning cuddles and wet cheek kisses will be few and in-between.

This struck me because the inquisitive and wondrous stage we are in will not last forever. The genuine sparkle of his brown eyes when he makes a discovery may not be so obvious in a few years to come. I am making an intentional decision to enjoy this stage, to enjoy the endless stories even when I’d rather be scrolling down the gram, to enjoy the balloon games and blowing bubbles while they last – not forgetting the cartoons on JimJam. As I write this, my work desk is filled with toys, and you guessed right – a cup of yoghurt.

 

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

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.

*****

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

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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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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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.

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