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Mental Health and Us

This week is Mental Health Awareness week, it’s important to me and so many people I know. So I have collated a group of mental health stories for you to read through. I am honestly blown away by what has been so corrageously shared. I know they can help us all to see that no one is alone in this battle with poor mental health.
Thank you so much to all of you that have contributed. Hats off to you all. We are all in this together and we are all bloody awesome!  
My Story

 

After having my eldest daughter I felt completely out of control. I was now a mother, I was now living with my boyfriend, I now lived away from home and I now no longer am carefree. I struggled and I felt awful for struggling. I had suffered from depression on and off in the past and it was clear to everyone else that I had postnatal depression but what I wanted to focus on now is what this episode in my mental health story did to the way I view my body.
I had always been bigger than others, not “fat” but bigger. When I went to university I over drank and ate rubbish and definitely was overweight. When I was pregnant I made the most of ‘eating for two’ and the pounds piled on. This should have been fine but I have always had an issue with the way I look. Having been called “Fat” “Chubby” “Chunky” a huge amount through my adolescence it’s always hard to shake it off.
So that’s how I took control of my new life with a child. I stopped eating. I would go a day with a spoonful of granola, no lunch and then a tiny dinner (which I got away with because I said I ate a huge lunch). At my lowest weight I was 7 and a half stone and I am 5’7″, I felt okay but I really did want to lose more weight. I started throwing up my meals and I spent days feeling dizzy.
I am not sure what changed it but eventually I went to the doctors, I didn’t weight little enough for them to count it as a “proper” eating disorder (yep!!), but I was sent to a psychiatrist because of my post natal depression. I got some help there and the psychiatrist said that scales do not dictate what is an eating disorder, so along with PND he treated my eating disorder too.
Now I don’t think you ever get over an eating disorder, I think you just manage it. I see myself as looking different to what others see and I genuinely feel shocked when clothes fit me because when I look at them on a hanger I am certain I am double the size. I work hard to keep my mind balanced with all of this, I exercise but I have limits (I once had a relapse when I became addicted to exercise), I also have to sometimes set out meal plans so I eat three meals a day. It’s tough and I have struggled but I feel proud of myself to get to where I am now. Taking each day as it comes.

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Craigs Story

“I have a fairly long history with mental health but I’ve only come to realise this recently at the age of 35, amazing really how long we can go and then realise we had the problem for such a long time.
Things stem from my youth and various relationships I have had.  Things got bad recently around Christmas, Christmas is a particularly bad time of year for me as I lost my nanna (who I was very close to) around that time, my mum and dad split up when I was a kid so Christmas always becomes a bit of a tug of war and I’ve had very depressing times that can be accentuated around Christmas.
Last year 2018, was bad, I didn’t have a regular income, didn’t have a great relationship with my wife and I wasn’t being a great guy.
It got so bad that at times I had been known to smash my head against a wall because I’ve found everything too hard, this was due to lack of sleep and my brain not switching off, I just could not sleep. All parents know what lack of sleep does to them but when you can not even sleep when you are allowed to your brain starts to do very scary things.
I’ve just recognised this recently and have managed to take some steps to sort it, I’ve joined a gym (lifting weights really helps) and I have started therapy which has helped so far.
I am definitely on the mend and feeling better but know I will have bad days but I can manage them.”

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Amie’s Story

“I’ve had depression and anxiety since I can remember, but I didn’t know what it was.  As a child I was nervous around people I didn’t know, I didn’t feel good enough, clever enough (didn’t know I was dyslexic at the time so I was just treated as stupid) I wasn’t pretty enough or slim enough, looking back on it now it’s sad how at such a young age I felt so unworthy, and I wasn’t even big!  

I always felt like the fun fat friend at school, and while I actually wasn’t fat, being made to feel that way by everyone, including my own mother I comfort ate…. And surprised I ended up fulfilling what I was being told. I wouldn’t go out without make up, and I developed acrophobia, when shopping in busy places I had to have headphones pumping music in my ears to keep me calm, I didn’t go to concerts and events of any kinds really made me feel uncomfortable as I thought people where laughing at me, and how I look.  When I reached my teens and I started clubbing with friends I would get very drunk to keep these feelings at bay, when drunk I felt fabulous, a feel that would last until I saw a photo of myself. I got male attention and that made me feel good about myself.

At 17 I met my now husband and we would end up in huge fights due to drink, so when I went to university I slowed my drinking down and by the time I left I didn’t drink any more. I went to New Zealand for a few months and lost a lot of weight, not on purpose but I dropped from a 14/16 to a size 10, and I felt great. Since joining the film industry in London and working long hours I’ve put more and more weight on, having children also hasn’t helped with that and I don’t like the person I see in the mirror.  

I know now that my depression and anxiety is caused by a few things, how I feel about myself being a main one, sleep being another main one and mum guilt being the third. After baby number 2 I want to work on all of these things for me! That’s the important part, I feel better when I am slimmer and I feel like I look good, for me not for other people, and now I’m a mum I care less what they think of me, but I want to be healthy for me, to make sure I’m here for my children, I want to run around with them and not need to sit down after a few minutes.  I want to get the sleep I need, that my body and mind needs, it makes me a nicer person to be around and makes me able to situations better without spinning.

I’d like to add that while I have both depression and anxiety I am also happy, I don’t use the term suffer and I don’t let it define me! I may have family members who have lost their battles against this disease (that isn’t taken as seriously as it should be!!!) including my Grandmother and younger brother, I will not let it beat me, we’ve come close but I am a survivor, and now I have children I will fight harder.   

I will always be there to help others, and would say to check in with others as sometimes it’s the happiest people who have the lowest times.”

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ANONYMOUS

 

“I have always suffered with depression in one form or another. I can remember the time it started; I was 10 years old and my Mum told me she was expecting my baby brother. I was so paranoid that harm would come to her or the baby, I’d spend 10 minutes before I went to bed checking that all plugs were out of sockets and switched off and that there were no obstacles in the way, so my Mum wouldn’t fall over.

 When my brother was born, I continuously washed my hands as to not give him germs. I’d then wash the taps because I touched them and then wash my hands again. It got so bad, they used to bleed. I also remember making my friends wash their hands before they walked in my house! Although I grew out of the cycle of hand-washing, I then became a worrier. About literally everything.

I became increasingly anxious and after being bullied at school, it quickly spiralled into depression. My history teacher told my parents he was concerned as I was often hunched over in his class. However, my love of performing arts helped and singing always made me feel better.

 

When I was about 18, I started to get a desolate feeling…like I was missing something and absolutely hated being alone. I would have panic and anxiety attacks often and found the smallest task, like turning a key in a door difficult. I started on a course of anti-depressants and things got a little better, until I went to Drama school, I came off them and had a year of hell and would often break down and cry on my again. I spiralled further and looking back now, I was close to suicidal. My parents would often call my boyfriend (now husband) to check on me as they were worried I’d ‘do something silly’. I went back on another lot of ADs and things got better. That was until I came off them to have my baby.

I had a tough pregnancy and although my beautiful baby girl was the most amazing thing to ever happen to me, I felt awful. I couldn’t breastfeed and the lack of sleep made me feel like I was down a pit that I couldn’t get out of. I felt that because I wasn’t breastfeeding, I wasn’t really her Mum, after all, anyone can feed a baby with a bottle.

 

The anxiety became worse and I’d even worry that changing my perfume meant she’d not know I was her mum. Back on the pills I went. 5 years on and things are a lot better. I have accepted the fact that I will be on ADs probably for the rest of my life. I’m lacking serotonin – I have a chemical imbalance. If I had diabetes, I’d need insulin, it’s just one of those things. I’ve also learnt to be more accepting of myself, I’m not perfect and nobody is. The best I can do is live life the best I can and show my daughter positivity.

 

You are not alone x

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Louisa’s Story

 

“This is my third time living with anxiety & panic attacks and I’m not embarrassed posting about it and neither should anyone else. Yes it’s exhausting battling with your own mind. Just because it’s not a broken arm or leg doesn’t mean the person isn’t broken inside (although so many still struggle to see this!).

 I’ve suffered with panic disorder for over 7 years! I avoid going places such as shops, the park and restaurants because I fear I’ll have a panic attack in public! I get sad because I feel that I can’t enjoy the normal things or day to day life, everything I do feels like such an effort!

 

Mental illness does not mean that the person is mental!

They are not weak, in fact they are the strongest people you’ll know. It’s the hardest,most  challenging thing to battle with your own mind. Nobody knows what that person is going through unless they’ve been through it themselves and even then we are all different.

 

Don’t isolate people just because they’re different inside, people with depression deal with things in different ways.

 

So keep inviting these people out, keep asking these people if they want to do things and keep asking these people if they’re OK!! Just because they say no does not mean they don’t want to, it’s their inner voice from stopping them doing the things they want to do.

So bloody hats off to everyone dealing with this because you are certainly not alone!!”

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Donna’s Story

“Growing up I never felt like I fitted in, we would move around a lot which meant always being the new kid with no friends,  I was bullied for being too tall or for my big feet or something else to do with the way I looked or acted . It really affected my confidence with over time affected my body image.
I was never one of those children who looked at my body and hated it. I was ok with how I looked but the comments and abuse over the years from my step mum and step brother just chipped away at me bit by bit.
I think my body image was majorly affected when I became ill with an eating disorder in 2006 . And a big part of an eating disorder is the way in which one views themself. I would spend ages looking in the mirror and pulling at all this fat I saw that cycle continued for years on and off and most recently two years ago I relapsed pretty bad with the anorexia and self harm etc and tried to take my life twice which led to a mental health unit.
I really do think body image plays a huge part in what holds me and many others back from recovery.
This person I see in the mirror looking at me, she has no future, she is ugly and she is fat but logically that’s just the body dysmorphia speaking but it’s very real to me .
I think in this culture today so many people blame poor body image on the media with models and celebs and all these fad diets, that we must look a certain way, or eat certain way. Personally for me my body image and eating disorder etc were not in anyway affected by all of that. It’s almost quite a selfish illness in the sense I feel I am the only one struggling and I only see myself as fat and a problem . I don’t look at a celebs and envy them but I know many people do. I feel we need to be more kind to ourselves and treat ourselves as we would somebody we love like I would never tell my friend she was fat or ugly or deserves to die or starve or whatever the issue maybe .
At this current moment I’m stuck at a point where I’m not ill enough for help which is stupid! But I’m too unwell to go to work and a job I like to do is now at risk unless in the next 4-6weeks I make changes in regards to my food intake and other factors – self harm, laxatives abuse etc .
I want to be able to speak up about my health and my issues and not feel embarrassed I work in a job where my arms are on show and I have a lot of recent scars and people do ask what it is and I want to be able to share my story because if it helps just one person that is enough.
Mental health matters and we all need to get alongside others even if it is just a text or a coffee .
I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom and I’m in no way recovered I struggle daily. I live day to day and that works for me”.

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Jamies Story

“I always thought my issues with my mental health started in my early-20s when I suffered with severe depression which resulted in a suicide attempt.

I’d come out of a toxic relationship and I thought I had no one to turn to. This was the early-noughties when mental health, especially for men, was still a taboo subject. My mates were very ‘laddish’ and seemingly unapproachable, whilst my parents had split and we barely spoke as a family. I was embarrassed and unable to cope. Life went on like this for most of my 20s, hiding my problems behind a mask of booze and late nights.

I relocated to London when I was 28 and perhaps it was the new lease of life, the culture, social acceptance or just escaping my old haunts, but I felt good, and after meeting my now wife, it was the happiest I’d been in years. Then in my mid-30s my depression struck again after a case of bullying. But thankfully, with mental health now widely talked about, it felt easier to express my feelings. So much so, I launched my podcast, Man Talk, to share mine and other men’s experiences to try and help others who might be suffering.

Last year I sought a private therapist and with her help, began to put the pieces of my life puzzle together, to understand why I react like I do to trauma. As I said, I always thought my mental heath issues began in my 20s, but after my therapy sessions it became obvious that my teenage years actually shaped me more than I thought. I was the classic anxious teenage boy; confused by puberty, sex, emotions, hormones, girls, and stressed with school, peer pressure and young life in general. I was also bullied at school. I bottled everything up and just got through those years. And that’s the issue, as it is with so many young men; unable to talk, unable to express troubles and emotions.

Thankfully things are changing, but more needs to be done to ensure young men are able to seek help, and not sink as dangerously low as I did.”

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Anonymous
“I am mum of two young boys, run my own marketing business and have been married for 9 years. We moved as a family to Essex 4 years ago for my husband’s job and knew from time to time he would need to travel for work, but never in our wildest dreams believed he would be away for over a quarter of 2018.
In July 2018 my husband headed off to the illuminated skies of Tokyo for a 4week stint working on jets. I was nervous, I was excited, giddy for him, but I was sad for us being left behind. My heart was beaming with pride, but my head was angry, upset and a feeling of missing out being trapped with my boys, cooped up and alone.
My friends were all aware of me being a solo mum and shortly rallied round to find a mothers help for tea and bedtime sanity relief.  I would have offers of midweek playdates, lunches at weekends and offers to stay away with friends. The intention for company was there, but stark reality is I was just too tired to commit. The continual hamster wheel of parenting; cooking, washing, doing homework, stopping tantrums and fights plus being self-employed was just too great.
My husband started to see a change in me, I could no longer keep in the angry thoughts in, the jealously of his time away; be it working or free time.
In January 2019 that our world crumbled, my husband had been away in November for a month then back at Christmas and then away again. I thought I was ok, I thought I could handle it – I couldn’t. My mother kept calling me to say ‘don’t facetime him, don’t tell him how you feel. He can’t do anything to help, he’s 6,000 miles away!’ I couldn’t contain it, I facetimed telling him exactly how I felt, shouting, completely out of control and finally hanging up to only run, sob and curl up in a ball hoping and praying the children didn’t find me.
I didn’t want him to think I was fine, I wanted him to feel my pain.
I realised that my behaviour was out of control. I decided after this moment that I needed help. I was a danger to myself and my family. So I went to my doctor, she was amazing. I told her everything and she couldn’t believe how much pressure I had put myself under. She confirmed I had anxiety and depression promptly prescribed anxiety meds and started to already feel the benefit within a week. The medication had given me the chance to step back and see the bigger picture.
The bigger picture was yes my husband is working away, but he too is feeling all the same feels as me. He too feels trapped, trapped in work and not able to stay with me and the boys.
I was and am to this day extremely sad that our relationship had to go so dark and murky to get us back on track. We have been together for 16 years, lived through 2 redundancies, 2 miscarriages, had 2 children, moved 3 times and still this was the biggest and scariest time we have experienced. I had contemplated leaving him, was self-harming and even uttered the words of suicide. This was not a passing phase, this was real.
Thankfully the meds were working, my anger had depleted, my aggression to normal situations had subsided and I was able to see things for what they really were. I am by no means fixed, but I am acutely aware of the stress my husbands trips put on me and our marriage.  He has insisted no long trips until June which is a welcome break.
I will forever be ‘brothers in arms’ with anyone who has to endure long periods of time without their partners, who are single parents and suffer mental health issues. It’s the hardest, loneliest and most selfless duty a parent can do and so very few understand it.

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Helens Story

My anxiety started about 9 years ago after a traumatic year that involved finding out my unborn baby was disabled and my 2 year old being incredibly poorly.
My anxiety relates to the health of myself and my family. As soon as I feel a twinge or a little bit off colour I immediately think the worst. The kids can develop a sniffle of a temp and I immediately think the worst.
My mind goes into overdrive, thinking of all the worst scenarios, and how we would cope if the worst was to happen. The anxiety can creep up on me out of nowhere. My heart starts beating a little faster, my mind starts racing and I begin to panic. My mind is going at 100 miles per hour, imagining the worst possible outcome to the situation. I skip straight past the rational conclusion and go straight to panic stations.
I have to concentrate on my breathing to ground myself and have a conversation in my own mind, telling me it will be ok, making sense of my irrational thoughts. I don’t have a day go by where I don’t have a moment of anxiousness but I have learned to control it better now.
If you suffer with any form of anxiety you are not alone, don’t be afraid to talk about it, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. You will be surprised by the amount of people who struggle with this.

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Thank you so much for reading and I hope these stories have helped. Lots of love and as always I am always here xxx

 

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Children Mental Wellbeing – Exercise

This is my third blog this week celebrating Childrens Mental Health Week, we have covered sleep and food, now we are going to talk about exercise.

I don’t know where I would be without exercise, for me my choice of physical activity is running and I mean it with all sincerity when I say running keeps me sane if not keeps me alive. During a run I process thoughts and enjoy the great outdoors, after a run I feel tired (in a good way) plus I feel that I have accomplished something and that my body is strong. What I also find is that because I run and have put my body through a workout I respect it a bit more, that means I am more likely to make good food choices. Most importantly fo rmy mental health running makes me sleep better. Sounds amazing doesn’t it so why dont we teach our children the basics of how good exercise is for us and how it helps us have a health mind as well as body.

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Rainy muddy runs are the best

Just remember though any exercise is good for you, a walk, a play in the park, a run around the garden. They all have benefits for your kids and getting them outdoors and active is so incredibly important when children are known to spend too much time looking at screens. Let kids explore and let them face simple dangers, we have to let our kids grow and physical exercise goes hand in hand with that.

How can exercise help our childrens mental wellbeing?

  • Builds confidence
  • Manages anxiety and depression
  • Increases self esteem
  • Improves cognitive skills
  • They will reach new goals
  • Meet new friends and gain social skills
EXERCISE RELEASES ENDORPHINES WHICH CORRELATE TO A HAPPY CHILD

Studies have shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity at ages 6-8 is linked to fewer symptoms of depression two years later.

I felt that the best way for me to understand and explain how exercise can help a childs mental wellbeing was to get some information from three professional companies. One is a one line fitness company, one is a fitness centre and lastly a sports coach. I wanted to hear about how they think exercise benefits our children

Online – Muscle Fit Nation

natahn muscle fit

Online fitness wear brand and fitness advocates Muscle Fit Nation have an excellent attitude to exercise. They want to promote health and wellbeing, to motivate poeple to work hard so they can fulfill their dreams. I managed to get Nathan to write some really great words about exercise and mental health.

“Being in the industry we hear of many different ways and reasons why people stay active. One is mental health and we believe this is becoming one of the main reasons people are more active nowadays. Being active releases endorphins which has a positive effect on your mood and wellbeing. 

Whether it’s an adult or child struggling with mental health eating well and exercising regularly can have a huge impact on their life. 

Firstly, let’s start with eating healthly. We feel with a good balanced diet people will feel better within themselves (I.e have more energy, immune system working correctly, bowels working correctly). If you can start to feel healthier and more energetic then you have more chance of improving your mental wellbeing. 

Secondly, if you have a balanced diet so you feel energised because your taking in the right amount of nutrients then you are more likely to exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym, this could mean running, walking, cycling, just something that increases your heart rate. “

If you would like to know more about Muscle Fit Nation Click here

Fitness Centre – Gymfinity

When I first heard about Gymfinity I was blown away by such an amazing club, partly due to my girls loving gym but also by the vibrance and postive feeling it gave me (and this was me just looking on their website). Then after getting in contact with Josie at their head office I heard that they promote positive mental health and even have a campaign called Gymfinity and Beyond. This is their way of showing through personal experience how exercise (in their case gymnastics) has helped mental health.

The club values speak volumes about the company as a whole;

Deliver the very best child-focused gymnastics and ninja programs, that teach “totally crazy superhero flying tricks”

Build safestate-of-the-artpurpose-built clubs with “spongey cake floors and rainbow crayon colours”

Create a club full of encouragement, inspiration and motivation, where every child matters and only the “nicest humans in the world” are coaches

I also spoke to club manager Andrew Brunning who said

 “Our club recognises that in order to be healthy inside and out it’s important to take steps to look after your body and mind together. Sports activities like gymnastics and ninja at Gymfinity Kids are a great way for children to get active in a safe and nurturing environment with a positive coaching approach.”

I would also like to attach a link for you to read which is Stellas story about how Gymfinity helped with her mental health, this is part of their #gymfinityandbeyondcampaign to read click here

Local Sports Coach – Scott Forbes

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Lastly but certainly not least I had the pleasure of speaking to local sports coach Scott Forbes. Every child in my local area knows this guy because of his upbeat and fairly infectious personality, I have never seen one person be able to tame a party of 40 children like he can. The ex professional footballer now coaches football teams, runs activity holiday camps, 1 on 1 personal trainer plus probably the most in demand party service in Essex. He is busy man so I was so happy that I have been able to get  him to write a few words about why he thinks that teaching the kids helps their mental wellbeing;

“I have been working with children now for 25 years and mental health and exercise have been proven to be closely related – and more so in children.  Additionally, creating a positive communicative environment is not only key for self development, but key to social development in all ages.

My ethos for teaching exercise is that fitness should be fun. How else will they find the drive and desire to take part unless it is fun. Using fun to inspire exercise makes desire to exercise consequential. Exercise releases endorphins which trigger positive feeling, and so the cycle continues. 

My job to help children develop in a positive environment, growing their confidence and allowing them, within reason, to express their own selves and be proud of who they are.”

To contact Scott yourself Click here

I think its clear from all three professionals that the importance of exercise for our children mental health is not one we can ignore.

You dont need to pay for exercise

I know I have used clubs and coaches as sources for this blog but that is because they are professionals in the field. What I wanted to reiterate that exercise does not need to cost money, but encouraging your child to keep active really doesnt hold a value for their health.

Yes joining clubs and having professional around them does have benefits but the most important thing is that all children get fresh air and their heart racing so get out and kick a ball with your daughter or climb trees with your son, encouraging them will give them the confidence to do these things all on their own.

Thank you for reading

Jo

All Thei

 

 

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Childrens Mental Wellbeing – Food

This week is Childrens Mental Health Week and I am writing three blogs highlighting the main areas that we can actively work on to help our children have a healthy mental wellbeing. Previously I have done sleep and I will finish with exercise. Today I am going to be writing about food.

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I love food, my family loves food. I love to cook, my family doesn’t always like what I cook but its about getting your children to try new foods and broden their tastes, the world would be a boring place in my opinion if we only ate a few favourite dishes. Educating our children like this is our job as parents. Anyway, this blog isnt about ensuring your child like sushi but for me to discuss how important what your child eats and whats in their diet, and how it can have a very positive effect on their mental wellbeing as well as their physical health.

Having a healthy diet has shown these benefits

  • Doing better at school
  • Feeling better about themselves
  • Feeling better about their bodies
  • Feeling better about their abilities
  • Coping better with stress
  • Managing their emotions
  • Sleeping better

The other factor that to me is ultimately the most important thing is that we much teach our children to be healthy and also teach them to cook so that in adult life they can do this for themselves. The more knowledge we have about food, the better choices we make about what we are eating.

What should my child be eating?

Each child is different so there is no fixed rule about what should be eaten and when, children are different sizes and do different amounts of exercise so there can be no strict rule on how much they should eat. There are charts that show you guidelines by the British Nutrition Foundation which I have attached here. These are based on your childs health in general but I would like to focus on their mental health.

For a healthy mental health we need foods that

  • give us energy
  • keep us full
  • that we enjoy

 

If we have energy then we can achieve more, when we achieve more we feel better about ourselves. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING

When we are full we able to concentrate on what we are doing and do it to our best ability. It will also enable us to have a great nights sleep. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING.

Enjoying food shows us that we can enjoy something. One of the signs of depression is not enjoying food and struggling eat. Having food that you enjoy and you know is healthy is a winning combination. POSITIVE MENTAL WELLBEING.

Its not that confusing and its no different for children. I could say that kids need pulses and nuts all day but its not going to happen, they simply wont eat it.

So lets work through the day.

Breakfast

It is the most important meal of the day and it does ‘break the fast’ so we need to make it a good meal. One common mistake with children is feeding them sugary cereals, they are no good and thats the end of it. Not only will children get a rush followed by a crash from sugar it will also potentially give children a sweet tooth.

My advice is to give a non sugar coated cereal such a weetabix, shreaded wheat, bran flakes and if necessary add some honey and fruit. Wholemeal toast is a good option too with butter and honey or some palm oil free peanut butter. These foods will keep them full and learn better at school. Keeping alert in lessons will mean that they learn more and their confidence will flourish.

Even on the weekends I wouldnt recommend “treat” cereals on both days. You want your children to achieve things on the weekend, whether it be a great painting or a really muddy walk. Giving them a good breakfast will enable them to have the energy to learn new skills that are not the ones that are taught to them at school, we want our kids to seek new adventures (essentially not be stuck to screens where the adventures are made for them nor have no energy from poor food choices).

If you are feeling flashy then eggs are the ideal breakfast with a lovely wholemeal bagel, packed full of protein, fats and carbs it really is a brilliant start to the day.

Lunch

Packed Lunches – The amount of rubbish that is so easy to put in packed lunches is endless. A packed lunch is what our child is having in the middle of their “working” day. We need it to be packed full of fruit, veg, protein and carbs. I give my daughter a small wholemeal roll or pitta with cheese or ham or chicken (she doesnt like having tuna at school as it smells fishy!!). Then I will add a little cheese block or a bit of salami depending what the sandwich is. I then have one of those compratment lunch boxes so I put different vegetables in each (fruit is for snack time). I do allow her some crisps or a different treat but I pick baked crisps or some ricecakes.

Lunches at home generally can be similar to packed lunches. I find my kids love a “picky” meal and for my older ones I just do a bigger sandwich.

Dinner

Kids need carbs! To get them through the night they NEED carbs. Yes they also need protein and fat and veg but to ensure good sleep then carbs is the answer for children. Also they burn calories at a fast rate so carbs are perfect.

Pasta (wholemeal is better), jacket potatoes, rice (again wholemeal is best), sweet potatoes, noodles… these are easy bases for all your favourite meals. For a full break down on what your child could and should have then please follow the link above but here are a few of the meals we have at home.

  • Spaghetti bolognese with hidden veg, soya mince and wholemeal pasta.
  • Chicken noodles with loads of much loved veggies (sweetcorn, peppers, brocolli etc)
  • Jacket potates beans and cheese (stick a salad on the side and its a great meal!)
  • Salmon pasta with philadelphia. Veggies on the side
  • Chicken curry and rice. Stick some chikpeas, cauliflower and spinach in the mix!
  • Sweet potato fries, keep the skin on and make a homemade nandos!!

What is a great thing to do once a week is let your child cook with you. Not only will this allow them to see what is going in their dinner, they will also learn how to prepare and cook it (this process is going to make them more likely to eat the meal). The other thing that cooking with your child will do is allow you to have a time to talk, maybe for your child to open up about potential issues that have been affecting them, when the mind is given a different task some of the underlying issues can come out.

Snacks

At school I only allow fruit, I dont allow cereal bars because they are packed full of sugar. If in need a box of raisins comes to the rescue.

At home I make fruit salad bowls and I also make sure I have rich tea biscuits in the tin. These have the lowest amount of sugar in them and my girls love them, dont get me wrong the girls have treats too. I just try to limit them. I also ensure that they only get them when they have eaten ALL of their dinner/lunch.

Yoghurts are also great and much needed for the calcium.

I know all this already

I am sure I am just rambling away to people who know far more than me (or not and nobody is reading it so it doesnt matter). I am not claiming to be a professional in this area I just know that what we eat will help our kids to have a clear and healthy head to take on the challenges of their day. Fuel your kids to achieve their absolute best!

Thank you for reading

Jo xxx

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Childrens Mental Wellbeing – Sleep

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Today marks the start of Childrens Mental Health week 2019 so I thought I would write three blogs. Each blog will be centred around one subject that really affects all of our mental health. The blogs will be about Sleep, Exercise and Food. I think that if we can instill in our children lives healthy relationships with these subjects and give them tips to help them through difficult times we will be giving  them a great foundation for their current and on going health (mental and physical). So the first of this trio of blogs is sleep.

mental health week

SLEEP

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Sleep is so important to our health. Not just mental but phsyical too. While we sleep our body repairs itself from the strains it has been through that day and it allows our brains to process all the information it has taken on and goes through all of the memories it has retained. During these hours our body works to support a healthy brain function as well as maintaining our physical health.

It seems obvious that we all need a good nights sleep and it is no different for children. In fact children are learning at a rate of knots, growing constantly and developing minute by minute so they need more sleep so to allow for growth of their body and mind. Sleep lets them tackle the new skills that each new day brings. Hence why children generally need 10 hours sleep a night (give or take).

How does lack of sleep affect our children?

There are many physical and mental issues that can arise due to lack of sleep. I am focusing on mental health rather than phsyical but in every way these two are linked so here are a few problems that may occur from lack of sleep (I have attached the NHS gudelines for how much sleep your child needs below);-

  • Slowing down of physical development
  • Lowers immunity to germs
  • More accident prone
  • More anxious
  • It is linked to obesity and diabetes
  • Feeling unable to cope with normal situations
  • Lack of appetite/raised appetite

 

What if my child sleeps too much?

Normally a child wont over sleep, they generallty sleep when they are tired and once in a while will sleep in excess of their normal amount by a few hours. They probably just need this as they are tired.

If your child has slept a lot more than normal all of a sudden they may be coming down with something so keep an eye on them and check their temperature etc.

If your child regularly over sleeps (meaning for example a 5 year old needs 10-12 hours sleep so if they are sleep 14+ hours regularly that is over sleeping) then it may be a sign of some other problems going on. It is not a good habit for children to regularly over sleep and if they continue to do so it may be a sign of certain mental health problems as well as physical ones. Remember children should be full of energy, that is why they may go to bed from 7-7. My youngest daughter doesnt sleep great but she also doesnt stop! If a child over sleeps and then is inactive all day with little energy then it may be a sign of one of the problems below;

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Sleep opnea

Here is a link to the NHS site showing how many hours sleep children should be having HERE

How can we ensure our children get a good nights sleep?

I am going to list some tips and ideas to get your children to have a good nights sleep, remember a child that sleeps well, means a parent can sleep well …

  • Have a set bed time
  • Have a routine in the evening. You dont need to bath a child every day but its good to have a nice relaxing time before your child gets into bed. Stories are the best way to unwind with your children. I would suggest at least 2 stories.
  • Time to talk. Quite often children store all their worries up until just before bed. This can be fairly frustrating for us parents who are ready for down time or need to get onto the next job on the list. We must try and give kids a moment to share so that they dont go to sleep with these worries or thoughts swirling around their heads. Its better than them waking in the night!
  • No screen time for an hour before bed (tablets, phones and tvs). Apart from the content that is on the screen making your child awake and excited it is also the simple factor of the light coming from the screen. The light that comes off screens (is a blue light) which affects the melatonin production and fools the brain into thinking that its not ready for sleep. This is just as important for us adults. I put my phone down and read before bed, its helped me a lot.
  • Eat. Having enough time before bed (a couple of hours) is good plus having enough to eat so that your child isnt hungry. Try to avoid “fast food” type meals in the evening. A more wholesome meal with carbs will keep your child fuller for longer. Also avoid sugary food and drinks for a few hours before sleep.
  • Make their bedrooms a lovely place to be. Lots of kids want to get into bed with their parents (unfortunately this wont help anyones sleep even though snuggles are lovely), try to make your child see that their room is best and keep putting them back to bed. I know it can  be hard.
  • Dim the lights. Keeping their bedrooms as dark as possible will help them sleep sounder for longer. Each child is different and I know my youngest has her room far too light for my liking but its still with dim colours and lamps.
  • Set a time to get up. This is simply by doing the maths (see the link earlier to show how much sleep your child needs). Getting them to wake up at a regular time will make it easier to get the bedtime routine running smoothly. Plus a child needs to get on with their day, a productive day is great for the brain and the mind. Staying in bed long into the morning leads to lethargy which isnt a good for anyone. (This is important for over sleepers and helps them break the routine).
  • The temperature of your child and their room needs to be right. My youngest daughter has night terrors and often it because she is too hot (this is just an example of how the temperature can affect us). Onesies are popular and snuggly but often too hot for the middle of the night. We are all different and you know your own child but being too hot in bed can lead to a very fractious and unsettled night.
  • Get exercise every day. I am not saying that your child needs to run cross country in the morning and play a football match in the afternoon but children should be active every day. Runing around in the garden, going to the park, swimming and generally wanting to be up and about playing is essential to a good nights sleep. I will talk more about exercise in my next blog.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you if you have any problems with your child and sleep.

Sleep really is the be all and end all for us to be “okay”. Our mood can be very much dependant of a good night sleep and for children who have to learn so much every day its essential to keep their minds, brains and bodies healthy.

Thank you for reading and the next blog will focus on exercise.

All Thei

 

 

 

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Ten New Years resolutions that will help your mental health

2018-background-celebration-714703It’s New Year’s Day and I am hungover. Not the best start to the year but my mind seems to be in a good place and I am determined to start this year as I mean to go on. My mental heath is a priority to me, and in my opinion it should be everyone’s priority. Some of us may assume that our mental health is always going to be good but why take it for granted.

I have made ten resolutions that I think will help you stay mentally healthy…

1. Get more exercise

I try to run three times a week, I plan on continuing this and also would like to add some strength exercises because I am not getting any younger and my arm skin is starting to flap. The benefits of exercise are multiple, not only does it help you stay in shape but for me it’s a mental exercise, a time to reflect and also gives me the best sense of achievement. Get yourself moving!!

2. Get more sleep

I am a terrible sleeper, I regularly wake at 2.30am and stay awake for hours. So this year sleep is going to be my priority. I am going to ensure I relax in the evening, read instead of being on my phone and get to bed early. I have said it time and time again but lack of sleep is my number one trigger for my mental health to slip, so it makes sense that it is my priority.

3. Get off your phone

The new iphone updates remind me of the amount of screen time I have had. Its shocking and I am pretty sure I am not alone. The problem with our phones and social media is that its a constant comparison competition and thats not healthy. We rarely post a pic of a really average fairly lousy day but we do post the happy moments. Even though we are aware that this isnt a true reflection of peoples lives we still compare ourselves. So for me, the phone is going down more and I am going to enjoy my life and those around me.

4. Learn something new

For christmas I got roller skates and I am determined to become good at it (i will be cursing myself when I am sat in a&e next week with a broken wrist). Its about doing something for yourself and having a sense of achievement. I also want to make some crochet goods (a crochetting roller skater I hear you say). Pick something that you have always wanted to do and go for it (it can be big or small).

5. Plan your life

I love lists and I love a calendar but I still forget things. When I forget something I feel bad in myself. So lets plan more. I like to have a full page diary so I can list what I need to do each day. I also have a calendar for the whole family to use. A sense of being organised is incredibly calming for your mind.

6. Learn to meditate

At Christmas I was discussing this with my brother and we both want to work on taking my mind to a place of calm, to clarify our thoughts and have more peace. I have an app on my phone but eventually I want to be able to just do it myself, anywhere. By giving yourself a couple fo minutes everyday will give you so many benefits and massively reduce your stress levels.beach-calm-dawn-267967.jpg

7. Keep a diary

Whether its a blog or an actual diary its very cathartic to write down your thoughts. Its sometimes easier to read your thoughts once written down, plus I dont think we write enough nowadays. I plan on having a physical diary and from that I will use my thoughts to write blogs, or not… its just about releasing some of your feelings, worries and stresses.

8. Be kinder to yourself

Self belief is not something that comes naturally to me and I am very critical of myself. So this year I want to work on the words that I tell myself become kinder. I want to cut myself some slack and look at the positive things that I do. Self affirmations are a great way to start, write a list of what you want to hear about yourself and what you want to achieve in your day “I will be great today” “I will be kind today” “I am a strong person”.

9. Help others 

By helping others you are able to leave your own troubles and focus on someone else. It also allows you to connect with other people. I am not saying that you have to go out and volunteer all of your time but just the odd job here and there. Help a friend with the school run? Help an elderly relative take their shopping in? It doesnt matter what it is but I always thing that these good deeds will be payed back to you when you need help.

10. Be Thankful

Stop and think about all the wonderful aspects of your life (list them if need be). I soend so much time worrying about things and focusing on things that I cannot control I have prone to forgetting what I have. Take being thankful into your everyday and your outlook of life will become far more positive.advertisement-advertising-font-519

So I hope these 10 resolutions will help you, I have also written a few more personal ones for myself but I think these are pretty good all rounders.

Happy New Year to you all, since writing this my hangover has lessened slightly and i feel inspired to get my arse into gear and get dressed. Heres to a brilliant 2019.

xxx

 

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Standing on the precipice of mental health

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Sometimes it feels like I am in a movie and i’m clinging onto a cliff edge while the ground beneath me is slipping away. As with most blockbusters I survive and get back onto safe ground. Although I just feel that I am never very far away from that threshold at all times and the potential to go over is always there.

I am not talking about suicide (not for me anyway), I am talking about the feeling of falling into poor mental health and it spiralling out of control. Where that spiral will take me is anyones guess and I spend my life making sure I dont end up there but living with that threat and fear isnt always easy.

My own struggles, which are prodemanently depression and anxiety, although having had an eating disorder in the past this is something that will always make a unwelcome appearance every now and then. My goal in life is to bring my children up well, to allow them to be filfilled in whatever they do and to respect themselves (mind and body). To do so I have to have the same goals. This is tricky when you feel like you are standing on a precipice of mental illness.

Recently I have been struggling more than normal. To visualise it I would say I am probably only a few feet away from that cliff edge where as at a stable time I am comfortably a few metres back.

A mixture of financial stresses, not being able to find work, having been physically unwell and a few family issues have my mental health take a turn for the worst. When it does it very to see a way back, I always say it feel like a fog decending on me.

What we must try and keep in mind is that we can claw it back, we can and will feel better again, but it doesnt have to get to breaking point to do so. For myself I keep a close eye on signs that I am slipping deeper and closer to that edge.

To give you an example here are …

My Signs

  • lack of concentration
  • insomnia
  • questioning my food choices
  • worrying that people dont like me (I think this all the time but normally I can rationalise my thoughts)
  • worrying that people are talking about me (same as previous)
  • questioning myself about normal daily tasks
  • social withdrawal
  • over talking
  • anxious more often than not
  • feeling like I have put on weight when I weigh the same

I cant stop these “things” from happening and I also can’t just give myself a talking to and then “get on with it” or just “cheer up”, but i can try and help myself. An obvious option is for me to go back to my doctor which if all these feelings carry on I will and I have already considered raising the amount of medication I take but I would like to give myself a bit of time with my present dose (I take Sertraline for anyone wondering) and a lot of self care.

What we sometimes forget is that we have to help ourselves, giving ourselves time will in the long run be far less time consuming that fixing a broken version of yourself.

But where do we start?

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It is all about small steps and the very first thing I do is write two lists.

The first one is a long term list (say within the next month), and the second is a daily list.

For example

Long Term List 

  • Do a face mask
  • Give yourself a manicure
  • Finish your book
  • Make nativity costume
  • Clean out kitchen cupboards
  • Sort through the girls clothes
  • Organise class christmas party

Daily List

  • Wash hair
  • Put on make up
  • Take anti depressant
  • Stick a wash on
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Clean kitchen
  • Mop floor
  • 5 minutes meditation
  • 10 minutes yoga
  • Walk dogs
  • Vacuum lounge
  • Put away ironing
  • Call to book hall for party
  • Pack girls bags to go to their Dads
  • Go through calendar with christmas dates
  • Apply for 5 jobs
  • Finish Blog
  • Pick up girls
  • Go to shop
  • Cook dinner

The point of having two is that its great for your own wellbeing to get some instant gains, looking after yourself and your home will make you feel instantly better. Tick off the items once they have been done and write a new one every morning.

Some of you will think that having to put wash hair on a list is ridiculous but I am telling you we all need to remember to give ourselves a few moments. Being a mum at home I sometimes think it doesnt matter what I look like as I “don’t have a proper job”… its not true, I do have a job and I do have to look after myself. Sure wear a tracksuit to school but do so with clean hair and a bit of mascara.

Three times a week on my daily list I also add a run but I have made an effort everyday to meditate using an app plus a simple yoga routine I have found on youtube. Anyone can do it and I am not sure I am doing it correctly but its about feeling calm even if its just for a short preiod.

The long term list is because we all know that with a busy life we have to grab moments, so finishing a book could take a while but I promise you it will help with your concentraion plus means you are not on your mobile which is a huge contributer in poor mental health today.

So this is my current plan, I am unsure it will be the end of this chapter and maybe I will need more medication but c’est la vie, at least I am trying. No negatives can come of it and thats all we can do. Hopefully one day I will complete a daily list but for now I will just focus on the ticks.

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Childhood Mental Wellbeing

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World Mental Health Day is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. 

 

Well that sounds like a pretty important day to mark if you ask me. I spend a lot of my time on social media talking about my own experiences when it comes to my mental health. I do this to try and normalise mental health and do my little bit in reducing the stigma attached to it.

While that goes on what I also feel incredibly passionate about is childhood and adolescent wellbeing. Depression, anxiety and many other mental health battles are becoming more and more common amongst young people. 1 in 10 young people will be affected by mental health problems but unfortunately 70% of these won’t get the appropriate interventions. 

It’s become clear that mental wellbeing is just as important as physical health. Just last night I went to a talk about teenage anxiety and it was filled with great and simple advice to help our children. 

  • healthy eating 
  • Exercise
  • Good sleep
  • Less social media 
  • Less screen time
  • Turn off phone at night 
  • Keep hydrated 
  • Talk 

This all being said the government have promised changes and to increase the budget given to childhood mental health services because at the moment needs are not being met due to huge shortfalls in the system. The NHS is stretched and waiting times for initial interaction after a mental health referral from your GP is 18 weeks and even after that your child/ the child may not meet the criteria as only the most critical cases can be seen. This means we as adults whether it’s parents, friends, teachers, grandparents, family members etc, we need to help this younger generation. There are a huge number of websites out there which have great references.

Here are some great sources of support

  • Great site for young people and parents. It even has a parent hotline.

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https://youngminds.org.uk/ here

  • A brilliant page for young people to feel safe and can speak about their problems

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https://kooth.com/ here

  • Get some ideas and downloads for ways to cope. We have to help ourselves.

https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk// here

  • A fantastic site for parenting advice. They also run handon workshops! We all need help and advice when it comes to parenting.

ministryofparenting

http://www.theministryofparenting.com/ here

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Let Harry Kane get on with being a Dad

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Yesterday my Husband told me about a tweet that he thought would interest me. He was right, I did and it has played on my mind ever since.

Harry Kane (Tottenham and England footballer and all round nice chap) had a new daughter this week and sent a quick tweet out letting everyone know baby Vivienne had been born and also to say how proud he was of his fiancee going through labour pain-free. I am sure the tweet was made in the blink of (a very tired) eye and he didn’t think much more about it.

Well maybe he should have because The Guardian felt that the tweet was so insulting that they got a journalist to write an entire article criticising him for doing so and basically telling him he had offended and added pressure to a large amount of women in the process. I really hope that Mr Kane and his lovely fiancee are ignoring it all focusing on baby Vivienne’s poo, feed and sleep patterns (in that order).

So to this article written by Barbara Ellen for The Guardian. She gives it a subtitle “As the England footballer has discovered, how you have a baby is as competitive as football”. For goodness sake Barbara where did you get all this tosh. He simply said he was proud of her. He didn’t say she was better than any other mum, he didnt say he wouldn’t have been proud of her had she had pain relief, he was just proud she hadn’t. Perhaps it was because him seeing a baby come out of his partners vagina looked like the most painful thing in the world (he is right) and he himself could not imagine doing it without being on 17 morphine drips. (Although I am speculating here).  Like most men viewing childbirth (or any woman) its mind-blowing.

In your article you seem to compare it to someone having their appendix out without pain relief, it’s not the same and you know it. Something happens in childbirth (I am not medical so wont even try to name stuff) which means we (mothers) have loads of adrenalin in our bodies that allows us to go through it, with or without pain relief we will experience some kind of pain (before, during, after) yet we go through it again if we have another child. The magic also happens in the way the cervix dilates to 10cm and allows a surprisingly big head to travel out. Add to this the euphoria of finally meeting your darling child and I think you get the idea. If you had your appendix out they would cut you open, the adrenalin would not be there nor would a little cut suddenly grow to 10cm and the removed appedix is hardly worth meeting. What you are suggesting is too hard to fathom. (Although if someone has had an appendectomy done it without pain relief then bloody hell credit to them).

I have since read tweets with reference to the article where women agree that he should not have said anything to do with pain relief and he should focus on the health of the baby (and mum). All I can say is that he just tweeted a quick tweet and honestly it is their  (the Kanes’) birth story and they should be allowed to focus on which ever bit they want. I went on to read that by praising the lack of pain relief he was not highlighting the importance of breastfeeding or mental health, this made no sense to me. Every time we praise anyone for anything we could be offending someone else who can’t or hasn’t done it. Why does everyone make everything such hard work.

What I am trying to say to you Barbara is that you didn’t need to write the article, you are making “fake news” and by doing so I am sure you have added stress to the lives of a couple who have just had a newborn baby. I can’t work out why you wanted this, as we know a mother is in a very delicate situation after giving birth and even the slightest thing could send a woman into depression so shame on you and shame on the guardian.

Lets just leave it – as all women who give birth with pain relief, without it, with a planned or emergency cesarean are all women we are proud of. Congratulations to Harry, Kate and their beautiful healthy daughter.

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Time To Change Champion

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Why is there still a stigma attached to mental health? Why are we much better at talking about physical ailments? These are questions that I think about a great deal and when I read about the Time to Change campaign I knew I wanted to be part of it. A month ago I met with Sarah who heads the West Essex team and talked through becoming a Champion.

The Time to Change Campaign is led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, its goal is to change the way people think and act about mental health problems.

I think that before I write about how chnage needs to happen I do want to say that huge steps have already been made in addressing people preconceptions and attitude towards dealing with and accepting mental health problems. This being said we have a long way to go.

Mental health probelms will affect one in four of us, yet many still fear seeking professional help  or simply voicing their issues to family members due to a stigma that is still attached to a health problem that should be as normal as telling someone you have broken a bone. When I struggle with my mental health it is like something is a little broken in me and like a broken bone it can be fixed but the crack will still be there and is a bit weaker that it had been. Telling someone you have broken your arm will always be greeted with concern and well wishes (perhaps a little joking about how it happened). Telling someone you have had to go on anti depressants and are struggling with anxiety may (at times) be responded to fairly differently. Dont get me wrong, many of my friends and family are excellent at dealing with mental health but there are still some who on learning that I have these issue will give me a wide birth or simply not know what to say. They may find the topic awkward and outside their comfort zone. With a statistic of 1 in 4 I think we need to bring mental health into all of our comfort zones.

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The Time To Change Campaign is doing exactly this, it works on many levels, from promoting good mental health with your friends it also reaches out further into the community. When I met with Sarah from West Essex Mind she was telling me about how she was trying to get the Time To Change campaign into the workplace and was contacting local businesses to give them free advice and information so that they have a mental health strategy operating. Too many employers do not have any eductaion in caring for the mental health for their staff, this is not necessarily their fault as perhaps the information hasn’t been redily available. At times employees find that they cannot admit problems that are occuring until maybe its too late and are signed off by the doctor for stress or other issues. If procedures are in place it is shown that less time off would be needed, Sarah is doing an amazing job for businesses in Uttlesford. Time To Change also works with schools and young people, I am well aware now looking back that I was depressed in my teens and at the time due to thinking that the normal teenage angst was, well, normal. I didnt do anyhting about it. More and more teenagers and young adults are needing help, which shows that we are getting better at seeking it but also says we need to educate from a younger age. On the Time To Change site there is lots of useful information for teachers too. The video below shows just how important it is to educate young people.

As a small team, the West Essex Mind hope to spread the word in the community and have stalls at local events where they offer a space to have a cup of tea and a chat. We have plans for having more of these events in local towns, maybe at fetes or country shows too, so if you are running any events and would be able to offer us a stall please get in touch with me at jojohnson8083@gmail.com.

If you feel you could offer any time to volunteer or want to become a champion yourself and live in west Essex please send Sarah an email at  sbevan@mindinwestessex.org.uk. If you live elsewhere here is the link to the main website to sign up to become a champion http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-change-champions/register-champion

Below I have added a video from the Time To Change website, I think it shows what they are trying to achieve and just how important it is.

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My Daughters Hip Dysplasia

 

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Some of you will have heard of hip dysplasia and some of you will not have. I am sure you remember at the hospital when they check your babies hips at birth, part of what they were checking is for hip dysplasia. When babies have it there are many different treatments. Some are placed in a spica cast which immobilises the movement in the hips, so allowing them to heal or form properly and others have operations early on. It must be hard for mums and dads to have to see this but from the numerous groups I am now a member of many of these babies go on to be absolutely fine and have no future problems. Having said this there are babies and children who aren’t as lucky and end up having to have quite a few procedures throughout their early years. With my daughter it was a very different case, as with her there was no indication when she was very little.

 

5 years ago Anya started complaining about pain in her hip, she was 7 years old. It wasn’t constant nor was it so painful that I initially felt there was anything to worry about, I thought it was growing pains or something like that. After a few episodes when I could see she was uncomfortable and then her teacher mentioning it at the end of school I took her to the doctor. We were sent to hospital for an X ray but came back with nothing to show on it. This went on for another 2 and a half years, trips to A&E and being told there is nothing wrong. Then one day a few months after an x-ray was taken I got a call from my GP saying that it had been reviewed and that they thuoght Anya had Perthes disease. This is when blood doesn’t reach the bone and so eventually the bone will deteriorate. Obviously I was very worried and we were referred to an paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Addenbrookes Hospital.

 

It was at this appointment that we were told that it definitely wasn’t Perthes disease (huge relief) but it was hip dysplasia (worry again). It was clear from the X rays what the problem was and before I could catch my breath the surgeon was talking of which surgery would solve the problem. Anya’s hip didn’t sit correctly in her hip joint, it was as simple as that and surgery was the only option, if we wanted her to be pain free. It was also explained that if we didn’t operate, early arthritis and a new hip would be likely.

 

Over the next 6 months we had a few meetings with the surgeon. It was decided that she would have a femoral osteotomy on the right leg which would change the direction the hip sat in the socket. It was major surgery and as I had never seen any of my babies put under anaesthetic before, let alone cut open, bones broken and pinned together, the whole thing was hard to take in. The waiting time was lengthy with the NHS but eventually in November last year (Anya was 11), we went in to have the surgery.

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Anya was so brave. She had had a small procedure in the summer to put dye in the joint, so she was aware of what the going to sleep process would entail. She didn’t like it much last time so they gave her a pre-med which made her cry with laughter by the time time she got to theatre mearly from being pushed down the halls and waving at strangers. We left her for nearly 5 hours in theatre, I know this is Anya’s story, but for me those hours were the strangest and hardest of my life. I had complete faith in the team but still there were always risks. It was a struggle seeing her in recovery too as she would not come around and hours later she was still sedated (I think she just liked the sleep). She had also lost a huge amount of blood in surgery and was lucky to not need a transfusion, which will obviously lead to a slower recovery.

 

The next day the realisation of the extent of what had been done hit home. Firstly Anya was very sick from all the drugs and in huge amounts of pain, the morphine button was being pressed constantly and she went days eventually without eating. The hardest thing to see was that though they assured us the operation was a success she really couldn’t move at all. Though I think part of it was her fear, for the next 48 hours they spent managing her pain and eventually she sat up. The 3 days expected in hospital became a week, but in that time Anya became able to walk with her crutches and was taught to get up the stairs safely.

 

I am now going to jump to where we are 5 months later. It’s been a long 5 months with the logistics of getting Anya to and from school and catching up on school work. Then there were the few falls that she had (one of which was me throwing her out of her wheelchair – worst mum ever), these falls resulted in a pin that was keeping the plate on her bone in place moving. Her bone growth was also slower than it should have been but we are where we are.

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So now, we still have weekly trips to Addenbrookes for physio and just last week we faced our next huge hurdle to overcome. Anya’s legs are now different lengths, to such an extent that more surgery will be needed. I have to say I am pretty devastated but at the age of 12 being told by orthotics you will need to have “special shoes” made for life, I know it is something we will have to do.

In fact Anya will need another 3 operations, 2 (at least) to correct the leg length and one to remove the pins and plate and shave some of the hip bone away at this operation as her physical shape has changed. It is now wonky (her words are “I am like KIm K but only on one side). We knew it may show but not to this extent. There is an element of vanity here but I don’t believe that a girl her age should live with this if there is another option and they will be doing an operation anyway to remove the pins and plate when they shave the bone.

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Anya has shown the most amazing amount to courage to get through all this, the time in hospital, missing her friends, the endless appointments, the pain, the scar, having to walk with a crutch still. I don’t think many 12 years olds would cope so well.

 

We are not at the end of Anya’s hip dysplasia story and so I hope soon to write another blog about a child who can run again. I know that what we have had to do is so that Anya is pain free but I would be lying if I didn’t feel so much guilt about so many aspects of it all. If only I had spotted the issues earlier, if only I had pushed when we had the endless trips to A&E, if only I could be the one going through all this instead of her.

I know that it could be a great deal worse for Anya, and I am well aware that there are a huge number of children (and adults) coping with much more but as a mother I have found this extremely challenging. We are lucky to be where we are, and have the NHS, but I just wish this chapter of our lives will be over soon.

 

I have asked Anya to write her feelings and outlook about what is most definitely her journey

 

“When I was told I had hip dysplasia I was quite shocked and scared. When the surgeon showed me (on an x ray) what was wrong it seemed really obvious. In some ways I felt relieved because I finally had some sort of resolution to the problem. It was overwhelming, because they immediately started talking about operations, but I felt like I was in good hands.

 

Now I have had the operation the pain that I had in my hip has gone but I have pain elsewhere because of having the surgery and my (now) uneven legs make my back hurt. I am not nervous about having to have the upcoming  operations but I know that the results are not guaranteed so that scares me a little. I think the biggest issue is that it’s been so frustrating, I can’t do things I want to do, or see people I want to see but I know I am so lucky to have the care I have from the hospital and my family.”