A Year On…

Facebook reminded me this morning that I “came out” a year ago today. When I say “came out” I mean that I revealed to the world, via this blog, that I’d been suffering from PND and anxiety since having my little girl.

I don’t know where that year has gone but I know how much has changed. I know that reading that blog post now almost feels like reading somebody else’s words. Yet somehow it still feels like yesterday.

I also don’t think I’d realised just how far I’ve come in a year until I looked back at the blog post. It got me thinking about what had got me to the much healthier place I am in now – not so I can preach a miracle cure or pretend I have all the answers. I don’t. I just know what helped me get to a place where I finally feel some contentment and strength and most importantly a place where I can really enjoy every moment with my little lady. Ok, so I didn’t enjoy kneeling in a suspicious wet patch during potty training or dealing with the mother of all tantrums in a very public place – but you know what I mean!

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My husband has been amazing – I genuinely don’t know where I would have been without his support. I’m seriously lucky. I’m trying to persuade him to write a post for partners who are supporting someone with PND or anxiety.

I’ve also really begun to notice the difference eating the right food makes to me. I’m not on a rabbit food diet, I still stuff my face with chocolate here and there, I don’t deprive myself all the time. But I try and have a decent fruit and veg smoothie everyday if I can. I try and eat less sugar and less junk. I don’t have great willpower, sometimes I have a fat-filled burger and chips…but I try and eat well when I can.

Somebody told me that magnesium is awesome for a lot of things. I think hormones play a massive part in poking the PND bear for me and I think I’ve heard that it helps with imbalances in that field. I think I read it can help with anxiety too. Don’t quote me on that…it doesn’t seem to have helped my memory! I take a magnesium supplement and it may or may not have contributed to me getting better.  I’m not a doctor, this isn’t proper advice but I believe it’s helped me.

If you can find the time, doing something you enjoy, even just for a short while, is brilliant. One of the things that was a big cloud for me was the feeling that the old me had disappeared. I didn’t feel at all attractive, I wasn’t performing anymore, I couldn’t find time to really concentrate on anything I enjoyed for any length of time. I felt like everything that made me feel worthwhile was gone. Crazy when you think about it – what could be more worthwhile than motherhood? But feeling like you’re a shitty mother stops you seeing it that way.

Slowly though, and with support from my hubby giving me an hour or two alone here and there, I slowly began to fill those precious minutes with something I enjoy. Sometimes it was drawing the bridal designs, sometimes searching for miniature inspiration or treating myself to a 12th scale purchase. Sometimes it was half an hour to scan a guitar tab site for something with easy chords I could play to make myself feel a sense of achievement.

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But sometimes, it was just to wallow a bit. To sit and cry, or curl up under a blanket and watch rubbish TV. Wallowing is fine. Letting it happen, acknowledging how pants it is and just stop fighting against it for a while was so good. I was lucky my husband started to see the signs that I was having a tough day. But sometimes I could just tell him “I’m having a grey day today”. He learned not to ask why – he knew I didn’t have an answer. Sometimes he’d ask what he could do to help, mostly he knew just giving me space if he could was the best thing. He knew suggesting taking little one out for a while would fill me with guilt if I agreed to it – what kind of mother am I if I say yes, take her out? He’d just do it, take her on an adventure, or to Tesco.

So what’s the point of all this? Other than a self-indulgent look back on how far I’ve come. I guess so that anyone who needs to hear “it gets better” can see it does too.

A couple of weeks ago, after a being let down by someone kicked me back by miles, I finally found the courage to advertise on Facebook for a new band. I had replies in minutes and we start rehearsing next week. And I’m genuinely excited to be getting a big piece of me back. I never thought I would and I certainly didn’t have the courage to try.

We moved house in the summer – we finally have a garden and I’ve discovered the joy of twitching (well, watching the birds in the garden). I’ve kind of become Crazy Bird Lady, engaging the waiting Jackdaws in daily conversation as I put the seed out in the morning (“now you guys make sure you leave some for the little birds ok?”).

I got guinea pigs. I used to have them and sadly lost my last two girls while I was pregnant. It was another slightly quirky step towards feeling like me again. I should add that of the 2 beautiful boys I was assured I’d purchased from the breeder, one is now very much pregnant, so I may have slightly more piggies than I’d bargained for very shortly!

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Daddy Pig Leonard

I finally have enough room in my heart to utterly absorb myself in motherhood – every change, every new phrase, every giggle, every endless request for the same YouTube video over and over. Of course I lose my shit sometimes, I get tired, frustrated, I worry about so many little (and big) things. That’s because we all do – it’s part of the territory. But I do that without that dark cloud filling the space and sapping my strength. Mostly.

I wouldn’t say I’m 100% out of the woods…maybe I’ve reached 90%…but that feels significantly better than the 80% and the 52%. Yesterday I felt gloomy for no reason and I couldn’t decide whether it was the PND, general depression or just one of those days we all get sometimes. But I went with it and it passed and I feel more positive today.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re reading this and you’re in the throes of that dark place and can’t see a light ahead, well here I am shining a little torch in your direction, hoping that maybe my words will help just a little. I was there once and now I’m here – and you will be too one day. It’s ok to be where you are. It’s ok to feel what you feel. It’s ok to keep on your journey because one day you can be ok again.

 

 

NB. Pics of my feathered friends are by my very talented hubby and thus I have to say they are copyright of Matt Searle.

A Little “Research” Trip

The last time I went to Weald and Downland Open Air Museum was on a school trip more than 20 years ago. I remember loving it but as I think I may have spent half the trip wrestling with a teenage crush I had on one of the boys in my class, I remember little else about it!

It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit as an adult, especially as it has evolved and grown since that school trip. My husband and I were wracking our brains yesterday morning trying to think of something to do and after dismissing the same Isle of Wight attractions we’ve been to a million times, we decided to throw caution to the wind and leap on the next available ferry. The decision was made at 9am and by lunchtime we were in beautiful West Sussex.

Whilst I hadn’t intended this to be a research trip for my Tudor dollshouse, I thought I might gain a little inspiration whilst indulging in my love of medieval and Tudor history. However, I got more than just a little inspired and armed with my husband’s DSLR camera, I was snapping away at every room and every piece of furniture.

For those who haven’t been to Weald and Downland or know what it is, I’ll attempt to describe what it’s all about. In very basic terms, they have saved historic buildings from the bulldozer by carefully pulling them down and then rebuilding them within the most breathtaking rural setting of the west Sussex Countryside. These buildings date from the 13th century onwards and rather than being the grand manor houses you may be used to visiting, they are all the homes and working buildings of ‘ordinary’ people. This, to me, makes them more special.

There are some 50 buildings on the 40 acre site and each one tells the very individual stories of the people who would have lived and worked in them. Each time you step into one you genuinely feel like you’re stepping back into history and that, at any moment, the medieval farmer or Elizabethan merchant might return home and catch you there!

The surroundings allow you to totally absorb yourself. You can’t hear or see a single road, or car. Despite the car park being stuffed full, it never felt crowded. The houses are mostly spread out (be prepared to walk ALOT!) so that you can see them within the context of their original settings, against a backdrop of rolling sheep-filled fields, or nestled within equally ancient farm buildings and animal pens. You feel as much as if you’re THERE as it’s possible to be.

A real highlight for me was “Bayleaf”, a Wealdon House presented to the museum in 1968 by the East Surrey Water Company. It was originally built in the late 15th/early 16th century and has been set within a farmstead, including a barn dating from 1536, to show how it may have looked in about 1540.

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The open hall in “Bayleaf”

As I entered the building I realised I was the only person in there. It’s a big space, and so atmospheric when it’s not full of visitors! I stepped into one of the upstairs rooms and I was utterly transported to 1540. I looked out of the window to see geese running across the grass and outside I could hear a cow mooing and the metallic ‘tap tap tap’ of a blacksmith shoeing a horse. As someone who loves history and makes every effort to absorb myself in it as much as I can, it was really a magical feeling.

At the other end of the scale is Poplar Cottage which is believed to have been the home of a craftsman or “landless husbandman” dating from the early to mid 17th century. Whilst in no way is it as grand as Bayleaf, it is no less magical. The interior furnishings are recreated in such a way that you expect to turn a corner and see the original inhabitants at their work. It gave me goosebumps.

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Beautiful Poplar Cottage

As far as “research” goes, well it was very fruitful. It’s given me some great ideas for the affluence level of my Tudor dollshouse, who may have lived there and how they may have used the space. I’ve discovered that bunches of lavender tied to the walls and ceilings of each room are a must, that I need lots of pots and baskets and that a truckle bed is the best choice for the bedroom! I have a shopping list for miniatures as long as my arm!

I’ve come away from Weald and Downland having had a truly special experience and I’m adding it to my list of absolute favourite places to be! If you love social history, or indeed any kind of history, you have to visit this place. And if you’re researching a miniature Tudor family home it’s an absolute must! If you’re doing both, then you’ll be utterly in your element!

To find out more (and I suggest you do!) visit the Weald and Downland website.

Starting All Over

Somebody once said to me “your life is literally like a musical. You have a song for every moment and you never stop singing!” I don’t know if this was meant to be a mickey take or not but I’ve always seen it as a positive. Music and singing are my breathing in and out.

The sad thing is though, I’ve not been singing much in the last two years. There are a number of reasons for this. The band I was in naturally drifted apart as people got busy with other projects or giving birth – well, that was just me! We were really a sort of gig band in the sense that we got together to rehearse if we found ourselves with a gig rather than rehearse to find gigs if that makes sense. It was a project we all did for love and for fun!

I’ve also not felt much like singing the way I used to. I couldn’t drive anywhere without belting out a song and singing in the shower was as natural as shampooing! But without noticing, I stopped doing it. It wasn’t one day recently that I realised. The mood suddenly took me and I began belting out “Someone Else’s Story” from Chess. When I emerged my husband looked like I’d just bought him a new Ferrari and exclaimed “that’s the first time I’ve heard you sing for ages!”

Recently I’ve braved venturing in to a new music project but my confidence isn’t where it was. Singing has always come so naturally to me but suddenly it feels kind of alien. It’s not been helped by having a miniature snot factory living with us, sharing colds and coughs gathered from every soft play and toddler group going! And I seem to be apologising an awful lot to my new music partner, possibly unnecessarily.

This week I’ve been thinking an awful lot about music. I picked up my guitar today for the first time in a long while and learned a new chord – Am7 apparently – but don’t worry, that still only makes about 5 or 6 that I can play vaguely competently. But mostly I’ve been thinking about songs that have got me through the rough times over the last couple of years.

It wont surprise anyone to learn that I’ve listened to an extraordinary amount of James Taylor – but especially the song “You and I Again”. I heard this for the first time live during his UK tour just after Munch was born. It immediately hit me and it was the first live music I’d seen for a long while. I went to see him with my Dad and it was a moment of real happiness that was palpable. I love the arrangement, the words, the journey the music takes and of course that forever youthful, soothing voice of his.

Another song which has been an almost daily “listen” is the Dixie Chicks version of “Landslide”. A few months ago, myself and my long term singing partner Jen got together with a couple of super talented musicians we’d previously worked with to do a couple of gigs. Jen is also my BFF (is that what the kids are calling it now?) and we sang this song together. The feeling of being back singing live, with such a poignant song and with one of the few people in this world that really gets me…well, that was a feeling that needs to be bottled.

I know there are a few more songs that have been important over my PND journey (ick…does that sound horribly cheesy?!) but recalling things hasn’t been my strong point recently! Also, if I noted down every single song that got me through something tough I would break the internet!

However, there is one more song that has given me something very important and has been the song I have come back to again and again. I can remember one occasion I was in such a bad place that I took myself out for a drive, parked in a local beauty spot, looking out to sea and I just sobbed…for something near an hour. I felt like I couldn’t call anyone. I thought they’d be super bored of hearing me bang on about the same old stuff. I thought the tears wouldn’t actually stop. Then my iPod gifted me Starting All Over by a beautiful duo called While and Matthews. I listened once, then repeated it over a few times. And suddenly I wasn’t crying anymore.

And the reason for that and my reason for sharing this story is because of the simple yet perfect lyrics of the song, which I’m going to share with you. Even if you’re not really a “music person” but you’re going through the cloud of PND, I hope that you can read these lyrics and that they can help you the way they helped me. I have to thank Chris While and Julie Matthews for giving their permission to share (I say “permission”…it was more a blessing. They’re very lovely people. And incidentally me and Jen are hugely influenced by them and kind of want to be them!). So here they are…

Starting all over again – Matthews & While

From the album ‘Piecework’ While and Matthews
It’s a very long road that’s in front of you
When you’re starting all over again
You say there’s no way out and there’s no way through
When you’re starting all over again
And it’s pulling inside of you, dimming the light in you
Turning your thoughts to yesterday
Your spirit is sinking low, thoughts have no place to go
The tunnel is closing in around you

Chorus
And it’s so hard starting all over, starting all over again
But the heart finds a way to recover
When you’re starting all over again

There’s a field of gold under distant skies
Starting all over again
You won’t see it till you clear your eyes
Starting all over again
Your heart feels as black as night, it will till the time is right
Just for the moment you’re holding on
Then turning each corner, your heart will grow warmer
And finding your feet you’ll be moving forward

Chorus

Your heart feels as black as night, it will till the time is right
Just for the moment you’re holding on
Then turning each corner, your heart will grow warmer
And finding your feet you’ll be moving forward

Chorus

 

 

Should I…Shouldn’t I?

Well, having said this wasn’t going to be another “Mummy” blog…I’m in the frame of mind for writing a little post in that direction. I’ve been mulling over whether or not to write something on this subject for months – in the form of a blog post, or a piece for an organisation or something else.

What has stopped me is the potential reaction. People perceive you in certain ways and, whatever their current perception might be, this post is bound to change that – hopefully for the better but, for some, inevitably for the worse.

I mentioned in the About page that after having my daughter I suffered from PND. There are a lot of posts and articles on the subject and a lot of media attention around it too at the moment. Sharing it from my perspective may, I hope, help me in some way but hopefully help other people in similar situations to think “it’s ok…I don’t need to be ashamed of this or hide it away like some dirty secret. It’s not my fault and it does get better”.

My little one was born a day early, via emergency c-section after an initially productive labour which became less so as time went on. She was born on the Wednesday. By Thursday I was a hopeless emotional wreck. I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t want anyone near my baby and the tears just wouldn’t stop.

We all put it down to the trauma of the birth, lack of sleep, hormones, baby blues. But weeks later, the tears were still coming. And so was the shame. I continually tried to convince myself it was birth trauma, the health care assistant who’d been mean to me in hospital, the sleep deprivation. I told myself it was anything but PND. I even lied on the Edinburgh Scale (the questionnaire they give you to check if you’re depressed or not) because I couldn’t deal with the thought of being under mental health care, of having to see our lovely, but somewhat vacuous health visitor anymore. I wonder how many other women do that?

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In some ways I think I was lucky as I never, ever felt anger or negativity towards my little girl. I feel so much for the Mums who do as part of their PND. My anger and negativity was all focused on me. Minor complications after surgery left me unable to do as much as I wanted for my baby and this just compounded the feelings I had of being utterly useless. So many times I felt I didn’t deserve such a wonderful little baby. I felt that I could do nothing right, that I was the worst mother in the world and that she would be better off without me.

I would lock myself in the bathroom…sometimes for a couple of hours, just to be away. One day my father-in-law came to visit and I couldn’t face having to see someone that wasn’t my husband or baby. So I said I was having a bath and just sat on the bathroom floor sobbing for the whole time he was there.

I wanted to run away from everything because I couldn’t see how I was ever going to be able to be the Mum I thought I should be. I was even angry at my husband. It seems so unfair because he has got me through this and could not have been more supportive or understanding. But all I could think at the time was “this isn’t fair. He knew nothing about babies before ours was born, yet now he’s bloody super Dad and I am the worst mother in the world”.

I thought every other Mum was so much more together than me and looking at me as if they could tell I wasn’t coping, that I was failing, and judging me for it. If Munch cried while I was out I could feel the panic rise in me and my brain telling me “this is because you’re useless. You can’t cope with this”.

Going to meet other Mums was to me like facing a firing squad. Which seems crazy now because my Mummy friends are the loveliest bunch of ladies, awesome Mummies and almost certainly would have been enormously supportive.

Being left on my own when my husband had to work felt like I’d been locked in a dark cell with no way out. It terrified me…not because I was scared of harming Munch, but because I was scared I wasn’t capable. And it made me feel so unbelievably lonely, that my support network was gone and there was no way out of the darkness.

And the anxiety? Wow, that was and at times still is, through the roof. I just couldn’t let go of anything. I would worry about the tiniest detail. Going on a day trip anywhere required a million lists, 3 weeks planning and 5 panic attacks! I still need my lists now but slightly less planning time! I would avoid going anywhere, I would cancel plans, or I’d get my husband to do it for me! He was certainly my strength when I was at my weakest, doing endless things for me that I couldn’t face and never needing to question why.

I couldn’t face the world, I was permanently exhausted and at times the feeling of not coping was so great that I just wanted to walk, and keep walking. There was a permanent grey cloud surrounding my brain that I couldn’t shake away.

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It’s been such a long journey to get to a place where I feel almost normal again. This week has been tough as Munch hasn’t been sleeping and work has been stressful. It’s times like this when I can feel myself slipping a bit. But the difference is that now I can feel it happen so I can find ways to counteract it. Like drawing, or blogging!! Just finding time to do something for me…even if it’s just a few minutes. I definitely feel better when I eat well, exercise and go out and get fresh air with Munch, but occasionally what makes me feel better is to curl up on the sofa with a box of chocolates and some rubbish TV and just indulge in it for a minute. And that’s ok too. There are still rough days, but they are fewer now, and shorter and the rough isn’t so rough.

I do feel angry now at times. I feel angry because I feel the PND stole my joy at a time when I should have been on cloud nine. It stole moments from me when I could have been bonding with my little girl more. And I feel angry because it is a massive factor in my decision about any future sibling for Munch. I can’t look past it to make the decision clearly. Right now, I can’t face the thought of having to go through PND again.

But mostly, I think I have such an amazing little girl, a little girl who has a magic smile that has pulled me through the last 2 years and the strength of my love for her has pushed me to fight and recover so that I can be the Mummy she deserves. I don’t want to miss another moment of her, with her.

There’s so much more I could say about this whole thing but I think I’ve gone on long enough! Just hope that sticking my neck out by posting this (if it doesn’t end up just living in my drafts folder!) it might help somebody, somewhere, just a little. If you’re reading this and you are going through something similar, there is light at the end of what may seem like an endless tunnel right now. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Never think “I should be over this by now”. There’s nothing finite, there’s no set time limit. But it will happen and you will feel like you again.

Two organisations I’ve found to be exceptionally supportive:

www.pandasfoundation.org.uk

www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk

 

 

Drawing back to happiness!

I’ve been writing a lot about miniatures so I thought I’d pop in a post about one of my other hobbies.

I mentioned in the “About” section why these hobbies of mine have been so important. The hobby that really was the start of me feeling like me again is something entirely new to me. Bridal dress design! And it’s kind of hard to explain why!

Like a lot of little girls, I dreamed about my wedding day pretty much from the time I was old enough! The groom would vary according to my stage in life. At one point it was a real struggle to choose between Glen Medeiros and Rick Astley! But I always had my dream dress firmly planted in my mind.

A few years before I actually got married, my Mum started working as a seamstress in a bridal shop. She would bring home dress after dress to alter and I started to take a real interest in their styles and construction. Then, once I started planning my own wedding, I went crazy with magazines, websites, wedding TV (yep, there was such a thing if you chose to delve far enough into the Sky menu!).

But for some reason my fascination with wedding dresses carried on long after my dress was packed firmly away in the loft.

I have something of a design background, all be it vague! I have an A-level in Graphic Design and most of the design needed for the charity is entirely my work . A few years ago I met a graphic designer who was doing the job for real and he really encouraged me to explore the design world further and gave me plenty of tips which really helped my understanding and honed my skills, such as they were! (Incidentally, he has his own pretty cool illustration blog now. You should check it out).

But fashion design was never something I’d tried to do. I’ve always loved looking at fashion illustrations and had a few books about the subject. And it was something I always thought I’d like to have a go at but never really did. So, one day, I picked up a book about how to draw fashion figures and gave it a go!

It was fun, but it didn’t really click. Well, not until I was watching yet another episode of Say Yes to the Dress that is. My guilty secret is out. I love that show! I got started on it when I was feeding Munch as a tiny baby and couldn’t reach the remote and now I’m hooked! I can take or leave a lot of the people on it but I can’t get enough of looking at the dresses.

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A small selection of my “tools”

And that was it! Once I started drawing wedding dress designs, I couldn’t stop! Munch would go to bed and immediately my sketch pad came out. And it made me happy! It gave me back something that I couldn’t describe but it was tangible.

In another show of his utter awesomeness and seeing a spark in me that had all but disappeared, my husband took me shopping for new pens, portfolio folders, sketch pads. Last year my birthday presents consisted entirely of reference books, material sample books, pens and drawing boards.

My Mum reckons my designs are really good…and so do the select few others I’ve been brave enough to share them with. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll brave sharing them with you all too. My Mum is even talking about making some of the designs for me and has visions of me launching a new career in bridal fashion! I think that’s very kind of her but a step too far perhaps! For now I’m just enjoying my new found hobby and trying to be better at it!

Introducing Minis, Munch and Me!

Well, here goes nothing! My first ever blog post! I hope it doesn’t prove too painful for me or for you!

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ME

I’m very adept at repeating myself, so in order not to do that, it might be worth checking out the About page to learn more about why I started this blog and what I hope to gain from it.

To introduce myself properly though, I’m Sarah. I’m 36 and I live on the Isle of Wight but I’m originally from Southampton. I live with my husband of 5 years, Matt and my beautiful almost 2 year old daughter…more about her later! Oh, and Maisie the cat, who I must mention as she’s spent the last 2 years looking rather put-out!

I used to be a professional dancer, until I got injured and realised that actually, as much as I loved dancing, a lot of what comes with being a dancer, wasn’t for me after all. I now work for an awesome charity and find helping people through some of the worst experiences of their lives super rewarding.

I love history, music, reading, art and I am collecting hobbies! You can read more about why in that About page I mentioned before. When the little one is in bed or Daddy is being amazing and letting me have some “me” time, that’s when I indulge myself in all the things I love. Which brings me to “Minis”.

MINIS

This refers to just one of my hobbies and was the only one that seemed to lend itself to the blog title!

Maybe it’s because I’m short (5ft exactly) that I like small things or maybe I’m trying to recapture some part of childhood! Whatever the reason, I’m the proud owner of 3 doll houses. My first is Edwardian in style and this is the most complete, the second is a modern bridal shop (you’ll see a theme here) and the most recent acquisition is tudor. They’re all 12th scale and in varying states of completion. I intend to blog a bit about my progress on each of these and any really good products or techniques I uncover along the way.

Other hobbies which I shall be blogging about (is that even the right term?!) are my newly discovered love of fashion design (specifically bridal), my lifelong love of music and 3 month long relationship with acoustic guitar and perhaps a little bit of baking and cake decoration may find its way in.

Hopefully anyone reading will find something they like or find interesting – or perhaps just something that you want to point and laugh at! As long as it makes you smile!

MUNCH

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And finally, Munch.

This is an easy one to explain. When I was pregnant with my little girl, we had a scan at 10 weeks. My husband’s first reaction to seeing the little bean-like dot on the screen was “it looks like one of the Munch Bunch!”.

I couldn’t see it myself but somehow the Munch bit stuck and from then until this day, despite having a very pretty name, our little girl is very often referred to as “Munch”. Thus fulfilling the “Mummy Stuff” element!

That’s it! Introductory post done. Now follows the interesting stuff…I hope!