Let’s Talk Counselling

Although nothing is certain in life, there are things that we can count on and one of those things for me, is that at some point in my future I will need counselling again. I’ve been through counselling several times, sometimes because I desperately needed it and sometimes as a preventative measure, but each time it was incredibly helpful and I don’t regret doing it for a second.

First things first, I’d like to point out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with needing or getting counselling. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, people have been doing it for years and as long and you go into it with an open mind, the benefits will be well worth any stigma you may have put on yourself. Counselling isn’t limited to mental health issues, you can get it for relationships, career advice or just general stress relief as well. There are plenty of high functioning mentally sound people out there who have a counsellor just so they can debrief with someone neutral about the stress of living in the modern world. I had a counsellor once who told me it was her belief that everyone should have a counsellor and I couldn’t agree more.

The thing about counsellors is, they aren’t ‘one size fits all.’  Some specialize in different areas, others offer general counselling, but the biggest part about them is that you need to be comfortable with them. If you don’t click with them, you aren’t going to benefit from their services. Like with everything else in life, when it comes to counselling you don’t have to settle for the first one that comes along.  Some people prefer a female, some a male. You might be more comfortable with someone older, and you may prefer someone who will come to you as opposed to going to their office.  At the end of the day it is a persons choice who they want to divulge their feelings to and you dont have to feel bad for not clicking with everyone. Counselling is designed to help, so the best way is to have it is your way.

There have been a couple of times that I have requested new counsellors. It was nothing personal against the person who I was seeing at the time, it was simply that I didn’t feel at ease with them after the first couple of sessions. I’ve found the best indicator for whether or not a counsellor is going to be able to help me, is how I feel when I leave the first session. I always feel mixed emotions when leaving every session, some good, some bad, some where I even cry for a while before starting the car, but if I don’t feel like some of the weight has come off my shoulders after that first session then I know that I need to see someone else.

Another way I decide if a counsellor is right for me is by how at ease I feel during the session. This is harder to judge, as the sessions can be quite confronting and therefore make me tense throughout, but often it’s the subject matter that makes me tense as opposed to the counsellor themselves.

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Counsellors are supposed to be neutral. Their job is not to fix your problems, but to listen, and help you come to your own conclusions of how to deal with what life is throwing at you. They can offer relaxation techniques, advice and help you come up with plans of attack but they cannot tell you what to do, laugh at you, make you feel stupid or judged for what you are talking about. If at any point you do feel this way, it’s time to see a new counsellor.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

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25 Weeks Pregnant: Sleepless Nights, Swinging Moods and Success

You know those weeks that drag and everything pisses you off?  Each day you wake up disgusted that it’s still a weekday and in absolute disbelief  that it’s been more than five minutes since you turned out the lights.  Each day it gets harder to pull yourself out of bed and go through the motions of being an adult, you achieve the bare minimum required to survive and smiling is the furtherest thing from your mind.   This week was one of those weeks.  The days were long and arduous, even though nothing really went wrong and despite the fact that we are now in Autumn and definitely experiencing less daylight hours.  For most of the week it also wasn’t unbearably hot which I definitely wasn’t complaining about.

I think the worst part of this week for me was the sleepless nights.  I’m finding it very difficult to get comfortable.  I was never a stomach sleeper, but obviously this is not an option at all now.  Sleeping on my back is also out of the question although if I stack pillows behind me I can lean towards it a little sometimes.  Sleeping on my right hand side gives me a sore right hip after a short period of time and sore legs after a bit longer, which pretty much just leaves sleeping on my left side with a pillow between my legs.  The only downside to this is I can’t stay in the one position all night which makes for a lot of tossing and turning to avoid pain.  I seem to wake up every half hour to forty minutes, usually due to discomfort and I think this is the main contributing factor to my moodiness.

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It hasn’t been all bad though.  Today was the annual City2Surf and I actually managed to get a decent sleep for it.  I haven’t been walking a lot lately as I tend to get stomach pains when I do and it takes longer than it used to, but today during the 6km walk I discovered that the reason for this is actually back strain.  Walking at normal speed with the extra weight on my front must be putting a huge strain on my back (duh Katie) and the only way I’d found to combat it was to slow right down.  But then I discovered that if I spent the majority of the walk, hands firmly on hips supporting my back the stomach pain stopped.  Today I learned that it’s back brace time and I’m 100% fine with that.  Not only am I proud to have achieved this walk on a stinky hot day (28 degrees!  I was so grateful for the residents who stood at the end of their driveways with their sprinklers spraying anyone who wanted a cool down as they passed) but I’ve also discovered that I’m going to be able to walk a bit more now, something I have missed.  The walk took me just over an hour and a half, which was the time I was predicting too so all in all a good day!

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I think the best part of this week has been that my anxiety about babys’ wellbeing inside me has subsided dramatically.  I have a busy little acrobat in my belly and I’m really enjoying being able to feel baby moving about as often as he/she does.  It puts my mind at ease and it feels really cool too.  Today as I was recovering on the couch with ice cold water and a fan blowing cold air aimed right at me (it is still 30 degrees as I type this despite being late afternoon in autumn) I noticed that baby was being particularly active and when I looked down I was ecstatic to see that I could see my belly jumping about with the babies jolts!  Of course as soon as Zombie came over for a look and a feel baby decided to stop, but it was exciting for me all the same.

Pregnancy sure has it’s ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change it for the world and the more I feel my little acrobat moving about inside me, the more excited I get.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

 

My Bump Is Weird

I’m 24 weeks pregnant now and I’ve been showing for a while, so much so that I’ve already been asked several times if I’m having twins.  I’m not, but according to a lot of people, I’m looking very pregnant and a lot bigger than I should be.

It’s given me a bit of a complex.

My midwife has seen me, felt my belly and assured me that everything is where it should be, that I’m not huge.  Friends who have been through pregnancy before have also said not to worry about it, that there are so many factors in the size of the bump and that everyone is different.  Add to that the fact that I didn’t have a flat stomach to begin with and it’s all perfectly normal. Yet I’m still fixating on my bump.

It doesn’t help that it’s an abnormal shape.  It has a dent.  A dent!  A large dip that spreads across my entire stomach at my belly button.  What kind of baby bump has a dent?

I always thought that if I was ever pregnant that it would a guaranteed time in my life that I wasn’t body conscious.  Obviously there is weight gain during pregnancy and it’s not ‘just fat,’ it’s for a damn good reason.  There is a tiny human growing at a rapid rate inside me, that’s a good reason for my body to change shape and it shouldn’t be a source of embarrassment.

So I don’t understand why I’m so obsessed with it.

I can’t hide it.  Most of my regular clothes are too small now and I’ve taken to wearing what’s comfortable, the best advice I’ve been given so far, but the downside to that for my insecurities is that my bump is out and proud the whole time.  I haven’t told anyone on my course that I’m pregnant, but the way some of them glance at my bump when they see me and give up seats for me when I’m standing makes me think it’s pretty obvious.  It makes me wonder if my bump was nice and round the way I expected it to be if I would feel any better.

I decided to write this post and take a picture because rationally I know I’m being ridiculous and I’m hoping that this will help me get over it.  Until now I haven’t had the guts to share pictures and I haven’t really taken any anyway.  I’ve gone from the person who took a selfie and a picture of myself doing yoga almost everyday to camera shy, something I didn’t even experience when I was at my largest weight.

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My size should not be my focus at the moment.  Obviously I have plenty of other baby related things that I think about all the time as well and my baby is healthy and progressing well which is the important part, but I’d like to get rid of my bump insecurities and focus on the important and not superficial stuff.

Am I crazy or is bump insecurity normal in pregnancy?

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

 

 

Nostalgia

I’ve been feeling very nostalgic this past week, which for me is often a bad thing, but for a change it was really fun this time around.  The radio station we listen to at work was playing the Nineties Mania countdown.  It’s definitely not my radio station of choice, but this week it was songs I hadn’t heard for years, songs that reminded me of growing up, embarrassing moments during high school and songs that just made me laugh at how ridiculous they were, yet how much we love/loved them.

All My Life  by KC and Jojo made me giggle as it was me and my first boyfriends ‘song’ after we held hands to it while ice skating on our first date; Stop by Spice Girls reminded me of performing the actions and lip syncing with friends and thinking that when we grew up that we were going to be the next big girl group and Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice just cracked me up as it always does.  My workmate of a similar age and I spent most of the week reminiscing about what all the different songs had meant to us growing up and how important all our dreams and dramas had been at the time.   I thoroughly enjoyed both the memories and the songs.

Nostalgia is such a strange thing.  For me it’s usually a wistfulness for days passed, days that were supposedly much better than now.  But were they really?  I’m pretty sure it’s just my brain tricking me, glossing over the hardships as if they never existed.  I walked through my primary school a few months back and I felt sad the entire time.  So much of the school has changed (well it has been 20 odd years!) and for some reason that upset me.  My time at primary school wasn’t particularly good, I didn’t have many friends and I was teased and bullied and yet here I was feeling a sadness for buildings that I was happy to leave behind when it came time to move on to Intermediate school.

Just the other day I was wandering through town, looking at all the rubble, empty lots, half fallen buildings and the myriad new buildings and features  when a huge sense of emptiness struck me to the point that I had to leave.  My city is not what it was. Two large earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks have seen to this, but it only seems to be when I’m in the city centre, one of the areas that was affected the worst that I get sad about it, even though I see reminders elsewhere daily.  Again, the time I did spend in the city centre back in the day wasn’t anything to rave about.  There were some fantastic times but there were also some bad times, it’s funny how my mind only associates the lost buildings for the good times that I sometimes miss though.

I get nostalgic a lot.  Seriously, a lot.  Smells, sounds, photos, all these things trigger memories in me that instantly make me smile or cringe, often quickly followed by sadness of how those times are gone.  I’ll get a nostalgia trigger, focus on it for a while and then get upset at what could have been, completely forgetting that my life is really good now!  So much better than it was during the times that I’m pining for.  I took a long time to grow up and find myself and I often find nostalgia to be a bit of a knock back for me.  I know that instead of crying over what isn’t anymore I should be remembering these experiences fondly (or being glad that they are over in some cases) and then moving on, its easier said than done though.

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It was nice to have a week of nostalgia and not get upset by it.  The countdown the radio played triggered so many memories in me, some good, some bad, some downright hilarious, but the cool part was that during the voice breaks the DJ was reading out messages from other listeners who were having similar memories to me, some that made me laugh, some I could relate to and others that made me realise that we all have our little nostalgic things that make us react in unexpected or silly ways.  The past however, is the past and while it’s good to acknowledge, it’s not a good place to live.  Next time I get nostalgic, I’m going to remind myself to enjoy the memory and then move on and live happily in the present.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

 

Mental Health Funding In Canterbury

In the last five and a half years since Canterbury was struck by the tragic earthquakes, the need for access to mental health services has increased yearly.  People are stressed for all sorts of different reasons relating to the damage and after effects of the earthquakes and these are exacerbated for many every time there is another quake.  A lot of people who had been otherwise mentally sound all their lives, even in the years immediately after the quakes are these days breaking down over the smallest things because they’ve had to be strong for for too long and they can’t cope anymore.  PTSD rates have soared, in both children and adults.

The government wants to slash 140 million dollars from health funding across the country.  To me this seems ridiculous.  Health services are one of the most important and needed in the world and the fact that New Zealand offers a large number of free or subsidised services to it’s citizens is great and something I don’t take for granted as there are other countries that are not so lucky, but these funds should be increasing each year as the population increases, not decreasing!

An area that is coming under scrutiny for cuts to help meet these savings, is the mental health funding in Canterbury, which is not high enough as it is.  Already Canterburys funding is is $21 less per person than the national average and they want to slash that by another $15.  Mental health services have been struggling for years with the increased need for services and now they are expected to struggle more.  A much needed service for people with mental illness, Latnam House was recently forced to look at closure.  After fundraising and donations were successful it was able to downsize and merge with MHAPS, another much needed service for people struggling, that already has sky-rocketing waiting lists.

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I’ve mentioned MHAPS in my blog a few times.  It has been an absolute lifeline for me, without it, I would not be doing as well as I am now and I know this is true for many other people as well.  They offer one on one peer support services, addiction help, courses and workshops specific to all areas of mental health and ongoing support groups for those who need it.

I have attended many of these services and found them invaluable.  While I am at a point in my life where I can cope day to day with my mental health, I still attend my support group at MHAPS and I’m no where near being in a position where I could do without this.  We meet for an hour and a half fortnightly and I have had days where the only thing that has kept me going is knowing that it’s not long until I can attend group again and feel my sanity come back.

Towards the end of last year, each session started beginning with surveys, where we were asked about our opinions on the need for the groups, what could be improved etc.  Over time these surveys have become more and more specific to the point where I’m starting to get stressed about losing this service, even though the facilitators are fighting to keep them.  The fact is, the funding is not there and MHAPS is having to look at every single thing they do and where they can cut costs.  If the support groups are able to stay operating as they are at the moment, cuts will have to be made elsewhere and while I personally have no need for other services, I’m not okay with cuts anywere as every single service they offer is necessary.

I left my support group last night more stressed than when I entered it, which has never happened to me before.  I’m concerned the group is going to be cut or that there are going to be time use restrictions put on it to help with the waiting list sizes.  Obviously these people on the waiting lists need the service as much as I do, but I don’t see how pushing people through quickly is going to help anyone.  Already it’s threatening to backslide some of my progress (which I am doing everything I can to avoid) and I know I’m not the only person who is feeling this way after the increasing number of surveys we have had to take, despite the facilitators assuring us that as yet no changes are happening.

Another service I use through MHAPS, is Mad Poets Society which provides creative outlets and open mic nights for people with mental illnesses can share their art, music, stories and poems in a safe environment with like minded people.  It’s a chance for people who have difficulty socialising to meet new people who understand what they are going through and enjoy some free entertainment at the same time.  They recently had to reach out for fundraising to be able to continue the nights and classes they provide. The reason was simple: The service was no longer being funded.  They were lucky enough to raise the money they needed to continue for 2016 but what about next year?

And most importantly, what about the crisis section of the mental health sector?  People at breaking point are being turned away from services that could help because there is no room for them.  Unless they are a danger to themselves or others, people are being turned away all the time, forcing them further down.  The number of police callouts for suicide attempts has also doubled, an alarming fact that can’t go ignored.

Canterbury needs more mental health funding, plain and simple.  In an ideal world, they would all have enough funding to hire more staff, make more crisis services available, run more workshops and courses, have enough support groups to meet demands and have an excess of funding that they could use to increase services all the time, as the needs arise.  Obviously this will never happen, but the cracks are starting to show on an already stretched service that is becoming even more stretched with each funding cut.

Despite the CDHB appealing to the government about the current state of mental illness in Canterbury, it looks like these cuts are going to go ahead, stretching services and giving the citizens of Canterbury no where to go at a time that they need it most.  While there is little that we can do about this, we don’t have to remain silent.  There is a petition going around that can be signed here and other options include writing letters to our MPs, explaining our concerns and needs.  Mental health is not the only area that needs more funding as opposed to cuts, but it’s one where we currently have a chance to be heard.  We have a voice, let’s use it!

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

The First Trimester

I’m not going to lie, I found the first twelve weeks of my pregnancy very difficult. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, nausea and lethargy that despite the pregnancy being planned, I wasn’t prepared for in the slightest and had little control over, which was in stark contrast to how the rest of my year had gone.  Throw in the constant state of anxiety I was in and it didn’t make for the best end to a great year, although I was obviously ecstatic to be in the situation. Just call me oxymorons are us.

It reminded me a lot of depression, if depression came with constant nausea but an inability to throw up (for the most part). I had little to no energy and gettig out of bed bordered on impossible some mornings. Emotionally I’d be happy one minute, the next angry  over the smallest thing and then if I didn’t jump back to happy in the blink of an eye I’d start crying and be almost inconsolable for no reason. I’ve also never napped so much in my life.

My healthy eating struggled. I was so nauseous that I couldn’t get out of bed until I’d eaten most mornings (Zombie to the rescue with toast) and resorted to simple meals that didn’t require much preparation due to my lack of energy throughout the day. I wanted to eat lots of veggies and good green foods, but when it came to putting them in my mouth I just couldn’t do it. They didn’t make me feel sick, they just didn’t appeal at all.

I hid it surprisingly well. A few people at work noticed I was out of sorts, but when I mentioned to workmates about how much of a bitch I was being they seemed surprised. How I managed to hide it, I have no idea, but I’m glad that I was able to because I didn’t want people knowing in case I had a miscarriage. I’d been through having everyone at a workplace know about me losing a baby before in the past and it wasn’t an experience I wanted to repeat.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to tell people. I wanted to shout it out to the world, but I was petrified of losing the baby, even after I found out it wasn’t ectopic. I was still paranoid I would find blood every time I went to the bathroom. I never had any stomach pain but I was constantly on the alert for it.

Any day I didn’t feel nausea I would work myself into a frenzy with the thought it meant that something was wrong, even though I knew that many women don’t experience morning sickness at all. The relief I’d felt after discovering that baby was in the right place at the five week scan only lasted a few hours, before being replaced by the constant fear of miscarriage. I was a nauseous, anxious and distracted mess for weeks. It still amazes me that I got through the busy period at work without any big mistakes.

The days leading up to the 20 week scan only intensified my anxiety. Suddenly I was worried that there would be no heart beat, or that there would be other issues. Like any mother to be, I wanted my baby to be healthy and developing as normally as possibly and there was no end to the terrible scenarios that were running through my head.

The day of the scan was the worst. I was close to tears all morning, all my anxiety reaching it’s peak. I almost didn’t make it to the radiology center either because I started having car issues on the way. I remember sitting in the waiting room with Zombie and telling him that nothing mattered because there wasn’t going to be a heart beat. He tried to calm me down but as usual there was nothing he could say that would help.

Needless to say, the scan went well. As soon as I saw my baby on the screen all my fears seemed pointless. Here was this tiny little human, moving about and growing inside of me and it was wonderful. I felt like I could breathe again for the first time in weeks. I was also amazed at how much the baby moves around at such a young age!

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Anxiety is never going to leave me alone throughout my pregnancy. Even after I was into my second trimester and past the high risk period for miscarriage it was weeks before I stopped worrying about it. I was scared of telling people about the baby and what their reactions might be and of course any unusual feelings in my abdomen would set my mind racing. I’m getting better at thinking rationally over these anxious thoughts, but they’re still always there.

It’s really nice to have my pregnancy out in the open and to be able to express my concerns with friends and family and people who have been through it themselves, not just my midwife. I have people checking how I’m going regularly and it’s a good feeling to know that so many people are looking out for me. This baby has a lot of fans already and that’s a pretty cool feeling.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie