Eight Things I’m Doing For My Winter Mental Health

It’s winter which is my least favourite season. I’ve mentioned in previous posts here and here that I often suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the form of Winter Blues. Nothing drops my mood faster than grey dreary days and the cold. And I’m not the only one.

I used to let winter bring me down to the point of depression and then spend most of spring and summer crawling my way back up. But as I’ve grown up I’ve realised it doesn’t have to be this way. Combatting Winter Blues before they turn into depression is pretty simple and only takes a little bit of effort each day.

1. Get out of bed.

This is something that I find really hard to do and before I had kids I would happily spend my days that I wasn’t working in bed the whole day, thinking it made me happy but actually heading in a downward spiral. Nowadays I have to get up for my kids and I usually wait for them to wake me, but I have noticed that despite the fact I hate getting up early, I’m generally calmer and happier than days I get up before them.

2. Get outside. 

I’m a bit of a homebody and enjoy being inside, especially on cold and dreary days, but it’s not good for me or any of us for that matter. Getting some fresh air into my lungs and on my skin for a few minutes a couple of times each day gives me a pick me up and a little energy boost.  Being that it’s only for a few minutes at a time I don’t even have to wait for the sun to come out although it’s better if it’s stopped raining. The toddler and I enjoy playing in the fallen leaves as a fun outdoor activity.

3. Get moving.

Our bodies thrive on movement but winter is a time where I tend to get stagnant. The longer I sit, the lazier I get. Having three young children does get me off the couch several hundred times a day, but I try and go for a walk every day that I can to blow out the cobwebs. If it’s cold, I can just layer up. Bonus is it gets me some fresh air and keeps the toddler from. 

4. Eat something green.

We all know that eating well is good for us and it definitely helps to lift my mood. It’s so easy in winter to binge eat junk because it’s easier and comforting but for me and many others it might bring happiness at the time but generally our overall wellbeing will suffer for it. Plus eating well helps deal with winter ills! I’ve been getting extra fruits and veggies into both me and the toddler by having smoothies for breakfast.

5. Keep in touch with friends.

This is something I’m not so good at. I’m a bit of a hermit and of course winter just makes me want to hibernate. But getting out, calling or even having a conversation over messenger with a mate can do a world of good. I go to a mums group most Tuesdays and also try and contact my friends regularly. Or at least respond to their messages. Work in progress.

6. Take a break.

No matter how busy we are, it’s important to do nothing for a few minutes everyday. I find this really hard in todays world, especially when I can barely watch TV without playing on my phone anymore, but the more I give myself ‘time out’ and a chance to be mindful of what I’m doing, the better I feel.

7. Count blessings.

Sure it’s cold outside, but I have a nice warm blanket keeping me snug. When it’s gloomy outside it’s so easy to focus on the negative, so I try to take a few minutes each day to remind myself just how lucky I really am. 

8. Do a yoga.

I used to do yoga every day and I loved it. I was less anxious, slept better and my entire body felt better. Sometimes even just a good stretch is enough to make me feel refreshed. I don’t have a lot of time for doing things by myself, but I intend to start doing a little yoga every day, even just ten minutes each morning. There are thousands of yoga classes on YouTube, I really have no excuse.

This winter I have been the most mentally well that I can remember. I still have my down days and times where I don’t think I can continue, but I owe it to my boys to be as well as I possibly can, so that’s why I try to do as many things from this list as I can fit into each day.

Smiles and Sunshine,

Katie

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Nice Day For A Walk

My mood and mental health is often quite low in the winter and when there’s three weeks of gloomy rainy weather in a row and the only time I set foot out the door is to run from the house to the car it can be very hard to feel happy all the time.

It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder and it’s pretty common. Winter Blues and Summertime Sadness. I find the constant grey, being stuck inside and not being able to move around much just brings me down and these last few weeks have been no exception. 

I thought he might like to play in the leaves but he preferred to help with the taking.

This June my hometown has had some of the least sunshine hours on record. On the 18th we’d had just 13 hours and 48 minutes. That’s less than an hour of sunshine a day. It’s been cold, rainy and miserable. Most days it feels like it’s never gotten fully light, sometime we’ve even been putting our headlights on at 3 in the afternoon!

It’s fun to throw leaves at Nana

Thankfully, this past weekend has been quite sunny. Still cold, but dry and bright enough to play outside. I needed to get some air and vitamin D and Raiden has been itching to get outside for some time now, so we took full advantage, playing in the fallen leaves yesterday and going for a big family walk today. 

Love holding hands and going for a walk with this guy.

Raiden got to ride his bike, crunch leaves as he walked and jump in little puddles. I got to stretch my legs and the twins and Zombie got some much needed fresh air.

I feel better already. Less foggy and anxious, more optimistic and light. I definitely wasn’t on a downward spiral into a deep depression, but I’m hoping it’s not another three weeks before we get to play outside again.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

Caesearean Section, This Time It’s My Choice

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted, the main reason being I’m just tired.  I’m 34 weeks into my twin pregnancy and I’ve been running on empty pretty much the entire time.  I have little inspiration for writing, despite having plenty going on in life and absolutely no motivation anyway.  I spend my days going through the motions: work, looking after the wee man, running errands and doing chores that need doing before collapsing on the couch after Bubbles bedtime, too tired to even think.  My brain shuts off as soon as I sit.  I absentmindedly play games on my phone for a while, not really paying attention to anything before going to bed.  I sleep alright and wake just as tired as the day before.  In many ways I am thankful this will be my last pregnancy. It is so much harder with two little people growing inside of you.  In other ways I’m sad.  I love feeling their little kicks and watching my belly bounce around.  They’re as busy as their big brother was but being two of them it seems like so much more.

 

I have around three weeks to go until the twins are born, that being said they could decide to arrive at any moment.  If I do make it to the 37 weeks they’ll be born via elective caesarean.  If my waters break or I go into labour earlier it’ll still be a caesarean, but the doctors will try to delay the labour as long as possible before opening me up.  I have mixed feelings about having another caesarean.  This time it’s my choice and I’ve chosen this route based on all the information I’ve been given and looked into.  I view it as the safest option for the three of us, but I’m sad that I will never experience a natural birth.  What makes it even harder for me is a lot of peoples reactions when I tell them I’m having another caesarean.  Most people are supportive, but I’ve had a lot of disapproving reactions too.

First cuddle after my wee man was born

When Bubble was born it all happened very quickly.  I found out I was having a c section the day before and went through a million emotions.  I was scared, no, I was petrified.  The thought of being awake and cut open made me feel sick.    I was angry.  I felt like this was all the babies fault, I even decided for a fleeting moment I wasn’t going to love the baby because of ‘what it had done’.  Of course I came to my senses, felt guilty and disgusted at myself, shed a lot of tears and sometimes to this day still feel guilt about those thoughts.  Mostly though, I felt ripped off.  I was being pushed into having a major surgery I didn’t want.  I thought I knew better than the obstetricians.  After talking to my midwife I was still upset, but I trusted her a lot more than the doctors and while she wasn’t able to abate my fears or disappointment, she was able to convince me it was the safest option.  She knew I wanted a natural birth but as the scan was showing an estimated 12lb of baby, the risks of a natural birth were too high.

 

Looking back I realise it was the best option. Bubble was 11lb5oz with wide shoulders, he would absolutely have gotten stuck on the way out and needed assistance which could have caused trauma to both of us.  Instead he came out healthy, happy and fully intact.  I had a textbook recovery.  I didn’t even need painkillers the next day, although the midwives at the hospital made me take them a couple of times because they didn’t believe that I wasn’t in pain.

Moments after he was born and checked over by the neo natal team.

Everyone was very supportive afterwards.  I felt no judgement for having a c section, despite seeing many articles online and women in forums talking about how they’d been shamed for caesareans, regardless of the reasons.  However I personally had mixed emotions and I truly believe that a large portion of my PPD was due to the caesarean.  I blamed myself but felt anger towards the hospital.  If only they had acted sooner and induced me I could have had a natural birth while he was still small enough for me to safely do so.  They had gone on and on about how I had gestational diabetes, despite the fact that several blood and glucose tests came back showing I didn’t.  But why else would I have had a big baby?  The fact that Zombie and I were big babies and a lot of our family members were also apparently wasn’t a good enough reason.  No, it had to be diabetes.  I still feel angry and mixed about it sometimes, 19 months later, despite the fact I know that we had the best outcome possible and that Bubble is a thriving toddler who lives and enjoys life to the fullest.  Some feelings are hard to shake.

 

I have little to no feeling on the skin from my belly button to the bottom of my stomach and I don’t like touching that area at all.  It feels strange.  It’s not completely numb, but numb enough to be confusing to the touch.  Over time the area that’s numb has gotten smaller, but it still catches me off guard when I least expect it.  The strangest part about the numbness is that I can feel under the skin and that is constantly tender.  Many a time Bubble has kicked me there during a nappy change, making me cry out in pain, yet if he gets me somewhere that’s not numb it doesn’t hurt at all.  The other remnants of the surgery are mental. They are worse than the numbness.  I have talked about it with peer supporters and I don’t feel as bad as I used to, but I’m guessing it’s going to take me a while longer to get past it.

My handsome wee guy

It took me a while to decide on a caesarean this time.  With Bubble I felt like I had missed out on an experience; childbirth.  It’s ridiculous because he was born and I got to experience the delight of bringing a baby into the world, but that’s how I felt.  When choosing a caesarean for the twins I again felt like I was missing out, but at least this time it’s my choice.  The twins are very active and have spent most of the pregnancy changing positions, top and tailing, breech, transverse, breech again…  They are all over the place and likely will not be in position when it counts.  Even if they are, there is an very high change I’d need an emergency section for the second twin, which is something I’d rather avoid as having to heal in two areas with two newborns and a toddler is not something I’m keen on.  There’s a lot of other reasons I’ve chosen a caesarean but probably the biggest is the simple fact that often once the first twin is born, the second needs to be positioned manually.  By a person reaching in, grabbing them and moving them into the right place.  No thanks.

 

Of course this time round the obstetricians are keen for me to go natural, despite this time having a genuine gestational diabetes diagnosis and the fact that both twins have consistently measured 3-4 weeks ahead the entire pregnancy.  Go figure.  My midwife said it’s because they get excited about natural twin births because they are less common.  Of course plenty of women have their twins naturally, many with no issues.  But I personally feel the risks and potential intervention requirements are too high.  I just need these two to be born safely.  They already face challenges due to the fact they will be born early, let’s just get them out in one piece each.

He’s full of beans and loves life

I don’t understand why some people are having less than positive reactions this time round, but I wish they wouldn’t.  I know there is a stigma when it comes to c sections.  Some people have strong feelings about them, claiming it makes a woman not a ‘real’ mother or that it’s the easy way out.  Others just seem to think that natural is the way to go but like me with my first born a lot of us don’t get a choice and often a caesarean is the safest option for everyone involved.  They are NOT the easy way out.  You have scars, you still have numbness and pain years later.  It takes around six weeks, sometimes more to heal and in that time there is not a lot you can do, even picking up your baby can be difficult.  If you want to breastfeed your milk takes longer to come in, sometimes over a week. You can’t drive, you have to rely on others to do things for you, walking down the driveway can seem like a 5km hike and for a lot of women the mental scarring never disappears.  No one has been rude to me about my decision, but the disapproving reactions I sometimes get hurts.  I’m not hurting anyone by having a caesarean, other than maybe my own mental health but that is my battle to fight.  This is my body, my babies, my decision.  It does not make me any less of a mother.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

Me Too

In response to the news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct a copy and paste trend has risen on Facebook where if you have been a victim of sexual harassment or assault you share the status ‘Me Too’ in the hopes that the gravity of the situation can be demonstrated and it’s not okay. 

It’s not okay that there are countless women AND men who are victims of this. In the last two days I have seen ‘Me Too’ statuses from more friends and family members than I can count and that doesn’t include the people who will be too scared to post. It’s not okay that any of us have been subjected to sexual harassment or assault at all. 

At 16 years old I was raped by an older man I knew through my job and whom I trusted. I was a virgin. Yes, I had a schoolgirls crush on this man. Yes, I agreed to go to his house to watch movies. Did I consent to have sex with him? No. Did he give me a choice? No. 

I told a friend about it the next day and she dragged me to the local police station, where I had to relive everything over and over in statements and examinations. A few months later they told me that despite at least two other women who had been victims of the same man (one too scared to make a statement) there was nothing they could do as the man’s flatmate had been home at the time, which meant that I could have called out for help. The policeman was sympathetic towards me and didn’t doubt my integrity, but his hands were tied.

What was worse than this was the backlash. My so called friend went straight from taking me to the police station to my workplace and told anyone who would listen. For months afterwards I endured conversations ending abruptly as I entered a room. People would stare at me and call me a skank as I walked past. Plenty of people thought I had made the whole thing up and someone really close to me even said to my face that they thought something like that would happen to me.

The torment I put myself through was the hardest part to deal with. For months afterwards I had a recurring dream that I had fallen pregnant from the rape and would wake up petrified that it was true, despite knowing it wasn’t. Then I started to doubt myself. Had I even said no? Was it my fault for spending time with him? Did I ask for it? Sometimes to this day I still doubt whether it can be classed as rape or was I just a silly little girl who got what she deserved.

Over the years I have received plenty more unwanted attention. I’ve had men pinch my bottom at clubs, wolf whistle and yell obscenities at me from their cars and had men get angry at me and call me names when I’ve turned them down. I’ve had men and women grab me and try to kiss me against my will and endured countless hours of people talking about me in a sexual manner when I could hear them. 

A much older married man spent months pursuing me, sending me dirty text messages and trying to guilt trip me the countless times I turned him down and I even had my drink spiked while out one night by another man I trusted and have a blank patch of several hours where I somehow ended up in my bed at home with a couple of friends knocking frantically on my door to check I was okay. Apparently I had left the bar with that man although I have no recollection nor have I seen him since. Thankfully I woke up fully clothed in this situation but it scares me to think what could have happened had my friends not followed.

I am afraid to publish this post. I am afraid that I will get victim shamed again, that people will not believe me or that friends will look at me differently. 

But I also do not want sympathy for this. I want this to stop happening to men and women period. Our bodies are our own and no one has the right to touch them without our consent. If a man or woman turns someone down it does not make them a bitch or an asshole, it means they have respect for themselves. I want victim shaming to stop as well. What a person is wearing or how drunk they are does not indicate consent, consent can only be given by the person and them alone. If they are too drunk to know what is happening or passed out, they cannot consent, no matter where they are or what is going on. No one deserves to be touched against their will or harrased. 

But most of all I want all victims of sexual harassment and assault to stand up and say ‘Me Too’ without fear of consequences. I did not want to go to the police after my incident and I rarely talk about it, but despite my friends betrayal I’m glad she made me report it as more assaults and harrasmemt cases need to be reported. No one deserves to be violated ever and I hope that one day these situations will be history.

100 Happy Days 99/100, Looking Forward

I can’t believe that tomorrow will be 100 days since I started this challenge and I’m super excited about it.

I had a hundred ideas for todays post. Music, cooking, the environment, memories… 

I couldn’t decide on one. And then I realized that I’m actually really looking forward to the end of the challenge tomorrow and being able to take a day off from my blog and also the sense of achievement I’m anticipating I’ll feel. 

At my depression support group we often have to say something we’re looking forward to in the coming week and I’ve found this to be helpful in my everyday life. It’s good to have things to look forward to, sleepins on the weekend, birthdays, events, anything really. Sometimes it’s what keeps me going when I’m going through a low or anxious patch in life. And when I’m mentally well it’s always nice to have something to look forward to.

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie

100 Happy Days 51/100, Handwritten 

It’s clearly no secret that I quite enjoy writing. Aside from the fact that I’ve mentioned it over and over but the first clue is that this is a blog, one that I try to put a bit of effort into, keep it regular. 

When I was a child I used to spend hours sitting on the couch, hunched over a 1B5 furiously penning an almost illegible scrawl of a story out while it was still in my head. I had so many exercise books and all of them were filled with bits of stories that I’d think of to write but never quite be able to finish. I loved it though. Next to reading it was one of my favourite things to do. As a  socially awkward child who wanted to play with others but didn’t really know how, it was an escape.

Nowdays I don’t get the chance to out pen to paper very often. Even my course was done on my laptop for the most part. It’s practical and fast which is unfortunately the case for a lot of aspects of my life these days. But I have a some overdue Thank You letters too write which is another thing that I enjoy doing, so I’m going to try and get in the habit of spending time handwriting notes and maybe I’ll find myself inspired to spend some time writing stories again too, in my still ridiculously messy handwriting. 

Smiles and Sunshine

Katie