It’s Maternal Mental Health Day! Since sharing and supporting
women through post-natal and ongoing depression is exactly why I wanted to
start a blog in the first place, I figured I should probably write a blog
So, today I want to talk about two symptoms of depression…
anger and shame.
People think depression is all lying in the dark and thinking
about ending it. For this reason, anger is such an insidious symptom because
you might not realise that you’re depressed. You might write your anger off as
lack of sleep, your baby going through a difficult phase or your partner being
About 6 months after having Dom, I was angry… ALL THE TIME!
Everything that child did made me angry. Particularly trying to get him to eat.
I can vividly remember him being in the high chair and I was feeling so full of
rage I wanted to smash my head into the wall to stop release that energy in a
way that wasn’t harmful to Dom. That’s the day I Googled about my anger and
discovered it was a symptom of depression.
“Never shake a baby.” We all know this mantra. If postnatal
depression really was just lying in the dark wanting nothing to do with your child,
this mantra wouldn’t be something so drummed into all of us. It’s that anger
that comes with postnatal depression that leads us to shake our babies. That
rage that made me want to hurt myself could just as easily have been directed at Dominic.
And that’s why it’s so important to recognise anger as a
symptom of depression… so that you know it’s an actual medical condition that you
can see your doctor about.
I’m not talking here about being ashamed that you have
depression. I’m talking about the shame that depression makes you feel and
causes shame as people stop living in accordance with their own values.
Maybe it’s the walks you’ve stopped taking or the junk food you’ve
started eating. Maybe it’s yelling at your kids and nitpicking your husband.
For me, it’s the to-do list that I make each morning that never gets done. I want so badly to be motivated to clean, bake, exercise, work etc. and when the lethargy of depression prevents me, I feel shame. And then, I ruminate on that shame. So, not only do I hate myself for not being the wife, mother, friend, businesswoman and homemaker that I want to be, I can’t stop thinking about how effing useless I am.
Shame is a downward spiral. And a very difficult one to break. But it is possible!
I’m angry and ashamed… now what?
First and foremost, know this:
Depression is a medical condition in which you have thoughts and feelings that are not true!
The way forward is to develop your coping skills by challenging those thoughts and feelings. To help you do this, I’ve put together an overview and worksheet on challenging your thoughts and reactions.
Read the overview and then here’s how to use the worksheet on the final page:
If you have a reaction to something and wished you’d reacted differently, fill in the worksheet. That might be that you felt ashamed after eating that whole block of chocolate or that you felt angry and yelled at your toddler for wetting themselves.
Situation/Trigger and Emotion/Feeling:
Write down the situation and what you felt. Often a lot of emotions are all battling inside us at once.
Take the time to reflect on the thoughts that ran through your head. Write down these unhelpful thoughts. There is a page of unhelpful thinking styles in the overview.
Take the time to think about what some helpful thoughts might have looked like in that situation. This can be difficult and can at times feel a little forced. That’s OK! It will for a time.
Write down how you wish you had reacted in that situation.
Once you’ve done this a few times in retrospect, you’ll find that you’re able to pause and challenge your thinking as it happens!!! Developing coping skills doesn’t happen immediately… like anything you’ll need to practice, but know this… it is possible to learn these skills!
I’ve been working from home for the past year and a bit. I’m
still not where I want to be in terms of output, but I’ve come a long way from
where I was when I began.
I thought now would be a good time to share what I’ve
learned and how I make working from home work for me!
I have a permanent, dedicated workspace. This is the single most
important thing for my productivity. It means that I’m not having to set up and
pack up my workspace every day. If I had to get everything out, clear a space
to work, plug in my laptop and find the stuff I needed for the day, that task
would be too daunting for me and I’d fail at the first hurdle.
When Olivia and I first started DBoP, we had our meetings
either on the couch or at the dining table. When we had our meetings on the
couch, they often became chats and catch-ups rather than work meetings. It’s
true for me that if I try and work on the couch, I immediately go into
recreation/lazy mode. Same for trying to work in the bedroom… that’s my sleep
space and 95% of the time I take a nap rather than getting any work done.
Having a dedicated and permanent work set-up reduces the
barrier to starting work and also helps your brain shift into work mode,
immediately making you more productive.
2. Ergonomics and environment
This is linked so closely to my first point. If your work
from home setup is a laptop on the dining table (or worse, the kitchen island),
this is going to destroy your back
Firstly, unless you’re magically the perfect height, the
keyboard will not be at the correct height meaning you’re straining your
wrists. Remember, that your lower arm (elbow to hands) should be parallel to the
ground. Otherwise you’re risking OOS in your wrists.
Secondly, your screen should be positioned so that the top
of the screen is at the same height as your eyes. Any lower causes you to slump
and puts terrible strain on your back.
This is why a permanent workspace is so important to me. It’s
set up to meet my ergonomic needs.
Some of the other environmental things to consider are
lighting and heat. The great thing about working from home is that you now get
to enjoy natural light and fresh air!!! Make sure that natural light is coming
from the sides. Light behind you will increase glare on the computer screen and
strain your eyes. Consider using a heater in your workspace. The one downside
to having my permanent workspace is that it’s the spare room and not heated by
the heatpump or fireplace in the lounge. I have a blanket for my legs and a
heater in the room so that I can be comfortable while I work. I’d get nothing
done if the room was a fridge!
3. Take breaks
This is a contentious one. A friend of mine who works from
home doesn’t take breaks, except to quickly hang the washing out. Her
preference is to get the work day done as quickly as possible.
My advice, and what works for me, is to take breaks. Just
like you would in the office, take timed, regular breaks.
My breaks need to be timed. And frequently I need to really
talk myself into getting back to work. If I didn’t start my break knowing I had
to get back to my desk at 12.30, I’d end up down the Netflix hole for the next
Breaks are an excellent time to get exercise. When you work at
home, your incidental exercise (like from the carpark to your desk, or visiting
colleagues round the office) goes right down. I exercise most mornings because
working from home is the most sedentary I’ve ever been and if I didn’t schedule
morning exercise I’d barely move at all.
Check with your boss about whether you can experiment with
your hours. My husband is a night owl. If he was allowed, he’d work midday to
8.30pm. Those are just the hours that work best for him.
If you’re working from home, especially if your kids are
home too, your usual 9-5 might not work so well anymore. The days Connor is at
home with me, I get no work done during the day. Then once we’ve picked Dom up
from school I leave the two of them to play together and get a good couple of
hours of work in. This assuages my mum-guilt by not leaving Connor to entertain
himself while I work.
Sunday morning is another of my productive times. It’s the
morning that Ian gets to sleep in so while the kids play or watch TV, I work.
This is all well and good for me, I am my own boss… but I
think it’s worth a discussion to see if you can find the hours that work for
you, especially if you have children.
Here’s a secret. Back when I was an employee, there were
times when I “worked from home” for a day, but in reality I watched TV and just
made sure to check and respond to my emails frequently so it seemed I was
online and working.
I’d had the idea for Darling Buds for at least a year before
Olivia came and said “let’s start a business together”… I’d just never actioned
it because I know I can’t motivate myself. Having Olivia to be accountable to
was the only way this little business got off the ground.
This is my first blog since November 7, last year. I still
struggle with accountability!
If possible, can you get together with a friend or co-worker
to do work? Can your partner make sure you’re keeping your productivity up? How
about a to-do-list?
This one, I don’t have an answer to. I struggle with this
every day. It’s why I have 3 people to exercise with… because I never exercise
on my own. It’s why this blog is 4 months overdue! Please, tell me how to be
This one really shouldn’t be at the bottom of the list, but
practicing self-care is so important when you work from home. For me, I
practice self-care through socialisation. Whether this is chatting to people on
Messenger, calling my parents, or meeting up with friends for a walk, or going
to quiz nights… I need that socialisation that I usually find in an office environment.
Socialisation may be difficult in the coming days, but remember that social
distancing refers to physical distance, not emotional distance. Keep in contact
with your friends and loved ones. Make use of whatever systems your workplace
has to keep in touch with your team. Message a friend, check in with your
family. KEEP IN TOUCH!
My other self-care, as I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog,
is exercise. This morning I was out running round the suburban streets in the
dark in 1.4 degree weather. But for me, there’s no better way to start the day
than with an endorphin boost! Remember to forgive yourself. If your kids are
watching more screen time than usual, or you’re not as productive at work as
usual, forgive yourself. These are strange times and change is always difficult.
Please, be gentle on yourself.
Do you believe you have a good work/life balance? What does that even look like?
I’ve never been good at work/life balance. When I was at university the scales were very much weighted in favour of life, and when I was working the scales were weighted in favour of work. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been out of the workforce for over 2 years now. I was giving all my energy and motivation to my job and that left me with nothing for my family.
Over the past couple of months, the “work” part of life has been getting increasingly busy. Some days, I’m guilty of plonking the kids in front of the TV in order to blog or build a mud kitchen.
And that doesn’t take into account the “admin” part of life. The inescapable bits and pieces that have to happen for the rest of life to run smoothly. I’m talking the never-ending pile of laundry, housework, cooking dinner, weeding and mowing lawns. This is definitely the part of life that gets neglected when I get busy. If you’ve been to my house recently you’ll notice there’s always toothpaste smeared on the basin. I hate looking like I don’t have it all together, but it just feels so futile wiping it off only to have it reappear next time the kids brush their teeth.
So, how do I do achieve work/life balance? I’ve been doing two things lately to help ensure I’m giving each part of my life the time it deserves.
Number 1: Get up early. I’m a sleeper. I love sleep and I love my bed. Ian willingly gets the kids dressed and breakfasted in the mornings so I could roll out of bed at 7.30 and still get the kids where they’re supposed to be for the day. Instead, I get up at 6am. This is when the kids wake so I’m out of bed then too. That gives me an hour to take it slow, having coffee, playing Gardenscapes and actually eating breakfast (another one of those things that gets neglected when I get busy).
Number 2: Schedule, schedule, schedule. There is not a minute of my day from 6am to 6pm, that’s not scheduled. I schedule my breakfast and lunch, the school drop-offs, the groceries, the cleaning, the appointments. Then I see what’s left. I schedule specific work tasks and I schedule trips to the park and the pool. This is what I have to do to keep the house, the family and my work running smoothly. I sit down on a Sunday night and I meal plan for the week and I do my schedule. This is usually when I’m texting friends making plans with them for the week.
This Saturday I’m going to be building a new product. This Sunday we’re having a family outing with friends. This is how I balance work and life… I know the kids will be neglected by me on Saturday, but they have me for the entirety of Sunday.
And it’s working. The house is clean, my work’s getting done, I’m spending real quality time with the kids. And the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day is unbelievable! This is what I need to get shit done… it’s not going to work for everyone. But, if you’re feeling like your life is out of balance, maybe give it a try?
In the past 12 months, 685 New Zealanders committed suicide. That’s almost two people choosing to end their life every day.
I’ve really gone back and forth on whether to write this blog. On the one hand it’s so sensitive and there’s so much risk that I’ll make a mess, but on the other maybe I have something to say that has meaning for someone. Because silence can literally be deadly when it comes to depression and suicidal thoughts, I’ve chosen to speak up.
What I want to talk about is a thought pattern that, until recently, I never knew was considered to be a suicidal thought.
“I don’t want to be here anymore.”
When life gets tough, I start wishing I could run away… that I could just escape from this life and start a new one. I think, “I don’t want to be here anymore,” wherein the “here” is this house, this family, this job etc.
Over the past 25 years, I’ve had this thought on an alarmingly frequent basis. But I never thought anything of it. I’ve also had real suicidal thoughts… the ones where I’ve planned how I’m going to do it and I’ve yearned for the release of death. These are the thoughts I’ve always thought were the really dangerous ones.
The thing about thinking you don’t want to be here anymore, is that it’s just as dangerous… maybe even more so because you probably don’t realise quite how close that is to starting to actually plan your end.
If you’re thinking you don’t want to be here and you’re starting to dream of or even consider leaving, it’s highly likely that your depression and anxiety are throwing up all the reasons that running away won’t work and what massively hard work that will be. From there it’s a very slippery slope to the “easier” option of suicide… that gets you away from this life without all the pesky starting over to deal with.
So what can you do, for yourself or for others?
For yourself, talk about it! When parenting, work, friends, relationships, or whatever it may be, get too hard and start making you want to run away as far and as fast as you can, talk to someone. Either tell them what you’re feeling or ask for their help in easing some of your burden. If you can’t get the words out, link them to this blog or to other articles about this. This is a trick I use with my husband a lot. I send him a link to an article or blog that really encapsulates what I’m feeling at the moment because sometimes it’s too hard to articulate it myself.
To help others, listen. Do you have a friend or family member who is talking about needing a “break” or wanting to “get away”? Maybe they’re joking about putting the kids up for adoption? This talk of wanting to escape their current life and stresses could be the surface or beginning of something deeper and darker. Ask how they’re feeling, if they need help, or if you can provide a few hours respite for them. Check in on them often. If you’re really worried, recruit other people to try and talk to them as well. Help them see what’s beautiful about their life.
This isn’t the solution to the suicide epidemic New Zealand is facing, I don’t know what that solution is. But this is something I’d like people to be aware of… wanting to escape might be an early warning sign for someone. What will you do if that someone is someone you care about?
I went to a quick workshop today on writing and something they said resonated with me and so I’ve immediately sat down to write this blog.
CONFIRMATION BIAS. If something comes to mind easily, we tend to think it’s right.
Recently, I’ve been ruminating on what an abject failure I am in all walks of my life. When Olivia told me she was leaving Darling Buds and I wondered why, my brain immediately supplied the answer that it was because of me… because I’m such a shitty person that she couldn’t stand to work in partnership with me. And so I didn’t question beyond that… I had my answer. Even as she explained that it was because she chose to follow her photography passion and she simply doesn’t have time for both, I still held on to the belief it was because of me and because she was hardly going to come out and say it to my face now, was she?
That’s confirmation bias and it’s hardwired into all of us.
When it comes to self-esteem, I think that confirmation bias works against us. When my kids misbehave the first conclusion I arrive at is that it’s because I’m a terrible parent. When my kids are perfect, polite little angels, the first conclusion I arrive at is that they’ve picked it up at school or day care. Notice how in neither of these scenarios do I see myself in any kind of positive light?
So what can we do about it? What can we do to either re-evaluate that first conclusion, or to rewire our brains towards a more positive first thought?
The psychologists I’ve worked with have the answer to that first option. When we beat ourselves up, criticise ourselves or find ourselves in a spiral of negative thinking we first need to ask “is it true?” But that requires us to have the presence of mind to realise we’re in that negative holding pattern.
The other day Ian asked what was wrong and I said “I’m useless. I’m a useless person.” Ian couldn’t wrap his mind around why I thought that to be true, but for me… I’ve spent two weeks believing it and never once thought to question it.
So, how do we rewire our brains so that we have a more positive first thought and don’t end up in that downward spiral in the first place?
Practice. Start rewiring your brain to a more positive way of thinking across everything you do. Think of the old theatre improv technique of “yes, and…” As parents, or time poor people I think we have a tendency towards saying no to others and to ourselves.
When our kids ask us to build a robot with them just as we’re about to clean the bathroom, don’t say “I can’t right now, maybe later…” Try saying “yes, and then after you can help me wipe out the bath.”
When we ask ourselves whether we’re going to the gym today or if we’re going to weed the garden today, instead of making our mental excuses (I’m tired, it’s cold out, blah blah blah…), try “”yes, and…” Yes, I’m going to the gym and I’m going to have a warm bath after. Yes, I’m going to weed the garden and I’ll make sure the wine’s chilling in the fridge so I can enjoy it after.
Making this simple change in behaviour from “no” to “yes” can be a trigger to changing our first reaction, our first thought, and our negatively focused confirmation bias.
Try “yes, and…” this week and see how it goes. See if you’re spending less time dwelling on the negative and more time enjoying the positive. I’d love to hear how it goes!
The past week has been pretty crazy for me. A week ago, Olivia let me know she’d made the decision to leave Darling Buds of Play. I’ve had to really assess what DBoP means to me and whether I was ready to go it alone.
Welcome to Darling Buds of Play: The Kat Project! I’ve decided that I need to continue on with this venture. I believe so deeply in what Darling Buds is about and what we’ve been trying to achieve that I just can’t let it go.
So, in light of this reshuffle I thought I’d take some time to share who I am, what DBoP is all about and why you should stick around.
What is Darling Buds of Play all about?
Darling Buds of Play is a resource for mums who experience depression, anxiety or who just struggle from time to time with looking after themselves and finding joy in being a parent.
By sharing my journey towards mindful parenting and the struggles I face as a mum when my depression takes over, I hope to provide inspiration, support and positivity to other mums.
Why should you listen to me?
Because I’m a mum.
When I had my second child (a mere 15 months after my first child) I ended up in the Mothers and Babies mental health unit here in Christchurch. For the past four years I’ve had the constant support of psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors and family support workers. I truly wish that these were resources every mother could access because they are a huge reason why I’m the mum I am today.
Darling Buds of Play pairs the lessons and advice I’ve received from professionals, with my own unique struggles, experiences and approach to parenting. Hopefully I’m able to provide a different perspective to parenting challenges… something that you can use or adapt to support your own journey.
Want to know a bit more about me?
I’m a mum of two boys aged (almost) 4 and 5. I believe in gentle and emotionally intelligent parenting. As a parent this means I want to get to the feelings and emotions that are the source of undesirable behaviour rather than punish or deal with the actions.
I believe nature is the greatest imagination kickstarter. I believe kids should be raised to appreciate and respect all the wonderful blessings Mother Earth bestows on us.
I’m also a giant nerd. I love sci-fi, quiz nights, board games and comics. I’m a feminist and vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights. If you follow Darling Buds of Play expect Star Wars references and impassioned equality rants!
Welcome! I’m so so very glad you’re here. Feel free to introduce yourself below.