I can hear you….can YOU hear me?

N.B. This was bound to be posted on Saturday – the Saturday gone – but for one reason or another, it did not happen. Now I got the time, I publish it, but I did not change dates nor bothered swapping the “Today”  for “last Saturday”.

Enjoy!

 

Today at work was like any other Saturday. It was busy Saturday, with that overall feeling that I did not have enough hands to point in all the directions, ears to listen to all the questions or enough languages to give the answers that were needed.

As I said at the beginning, just like any other Saturday….but.

There is always a but. But this time, I think it was a good but.

Let me draw you a picture: Train boarding, loads of people invading the platform like ants, walking almost running (if not running) – and I still wonder why, after so many years watching the same ritual – to give it a name, no idea if I should call it a habit? The question always remains the same: if the train is not going anywhere until the time comes for it to depart, why oh why do people run?!

In the midst – or shall I say ocean – of people, I saw a wheelchair passenger and companion coming my way. As you can imagine, a wheelchair passenger is not so unusual a sight on a railway platform, so as soon as I spotted them coming towards me, I made my way to put the ramp so they can get on the train and everything can be as smooth as possible.

As I was putting up the ramp, obviously they were faster than me, so as I turn round to face them, I see them staring at me. The wheelchair passenger was a child – cannot pinpoint exactly the age, but definitely no more than 10 or 11 I would dare guess – and his companion was his mother.

I greet them and offered my help to get on the train, help that the mother politely refused with half a smile and certain nervousness. So, I just stood there, with a sort of silent declaration of “I respect your decision, nevertheless I am here if you change your mind” sort of thing.

They got in the carriage, and they made way to the seating area. I followed them – as I normally do – and ask the mother if she is fine with the space and if there is anything else I could do for her or for her child. She started to jabber nervously, explaining to me that her child needed to be seated upright due to a deficiency in his breathing.

As she was talking – very fast, quite nervous still – and I was listening trying to get all the information in and thinking about solutions, I heard a very soft squeak.

Suddenly, in a fraction of a second I realised that I did not have the full picture. I was dealing with two passengers, one in a wheelchair and the other was his companion. When I heard that soft squeak, I had the full picture. The wheelchair passenger was a child, no more than 10 years old, completely immobilised.

I did not waste any time, and I briefly paused the mother to ask for the boy’s name. Let’s call him Daniel and his mother Anita (real names kept private). I started to provide the answers for the questions Anita was asking but instead of answering them to her, I decided to kneel down and look at Daniel’s eyes whilst giving him the answers.

“Daniel, just so you know, I will be talking the train manager, who will be in charge during the journey, and asking him if it would be ok for you to sit in a two-seater, so you can be more comfy for the journey, is it ok if I come back in 2 minutes, I just need to talk to him?”

Daniels and his mum thanked me. Another soft squeak, a quirky smile and something in his eyes told me “thank you”. I called the train manager, explained the situation and he said “yes of course do whatever you need to do”, and so I did.

I came back, as we say in my country ‘like a dog with two tails’ to meet with Daniel and Anita, and again, kneel down to Daniels’s eye level and explained to him that he was more than welcome to stretch out in two seats, leave the wheelchair – with the brakes on, of course! – and just enjoy the ride.

Another soft squeak and something in Daniels’s eyes told me “thank you”. Anita was much more relaxed by now, and she explained, very calmly, that Daniel has a far more enjoyable trip if he can be seated upright so his lungs do not depend so much on the oxygen tank, he can breathe easily and that helps distract him with the view and the scenery.
Also if Daniel is relaxed she relaxes as well, so it works both ways.

I wave my goodbyes and wished a good journey to them, train doors closed, I left the platform and got on with another train, with not enough fingers to point in the right direction, not speaking enough languages to answer all the questions….

Just another Saturday.

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What the waves bring back…

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It has been ages since l last wrote. Life has been twisted – not to say hellish – and I would definitely say without a hint of a doubt that the universe, this time, was really, really, *really* putting me to the test.

Now that I read what I wrote, I shall say, was it really the universe or was it a direct consequence of my actions? I have no idea. For that, I prefer to blame the universe, a magnificent force that is so huge and incommensurable that is far easier to blame for absolutely everything.

Because, you know what they say, everything that happens to you, it is because something you have done to provoke it, even when you did not realise it at the time…hello! Here it is, in your face, striking back at you with such a force that you may have to take your soul to A&E to recover from a blunt trauma.

And the worse thing is, perhaps when things are coming your way – particularly the bad ones – you wonder what you have done, really, to deserve all this to happen. My answer to this question was, in a few words from a very dear friend “You didn’t let go”.

Yup. Those were the words. You didn’t let go of everything, you kept holding for dear life to things which deep inside you knew they were not worth the effort, and here you are.

My silence was I think overwhelming to the point my friend asked if I was ok, because I stopped with my diatribe of moaning and complaining. And suddenly something happened: I heard. Yes, I heard the silence; I heard my little one – who now is 20 months old! – snoring, gently (he was with flu); I heard the birds outside chirping away; I heard my breath; I heard my friend’s breath. And I think that was the starting point for “letting go”.

From that moment onwards, I will not say the classic cliché that “My life changed” but what I will say is that things had changed. Perhaps because I changed my attitude towards them, perhaps because I stopped seeing everything from a very dark corner and mainly because I stopped worrying for things that I could not change . I “let go” and waited to see what the waves brought back, so to speak.

And the shores were full!! But my attitude was different.  An example: I got an email from a group of friends that I have not seen in a long time. The friend who wrote apologised for not being in touch more frequently and you know, everything you may say in order to justify the absence of news, mixing it with antics of life.

One of the friends included in this group mail answered almost straight away. Another one answered a day later (I know this because as it seems all of the people in this group email made the effort to press “Forward all” when they wrote the reply) and then when I felt like it I replied. And having said this, at any other given time, I probably would take the time at night – when I did have the most precious time to do everything I did not do during the day – and answer straight away as soon as I received the email, with all my excitement telling aaaaalllll my news at once.

But this time it was different. Answering this email didn’t feel extremely urgent, neither necessary; more to it, when I sat down following my initial impulse, I reconsidered  and thought if it was really worth it to use that time to answer an email – a group email. And somehow, my brain told me “no”.

I did answer in the end – and yes, if you are wondering, I did hit the “forward all” reply –  and I wrote on how life was here for me, without dwelling too much into it, congratulating everyone for the news they threw on the reply and presenting my goodbyes.

Few days later I received a reply to my email from one friend, telling me that most of them kept in touch one way or another, and actually they saw each other regularly.

This made something occur to me. If they keep in touch amongst themselves, why they did not made the same effort to contact me and keep in touch with me? At the end of the day I was in the same group of people, we are – or were at the point when we met – in the same boat? Perhaps my time with this group of friends was up and I should move on.

Perhaps I am at a stage in my life where the good friends are the ones who were cemented and nurtured by time and they survived through circumstances that life threw at each other at different stages. And those are friends who are away, across the ocean. Nevertheless regarding time difference and the distance we keep in touch making the most of the technology available to us.

Since I came to live into this island, I can say I have made very few friends, and they are the kind of friendships that are still in the making, but feel “solid” as if we have known each other for quite a long time – and that somehow is reassuring.

Reassuring in the sense that I know I am not an ogre or an unsocial being and obviously I still have what it takes to make new friends.  Perhaps now – as I said before –  I am at a stage in my life where friendship is more than sharing a burden with a coffee in between. A friendship has become more of an acceptance and a frank dialog sharing what matters in that very moment with a sincere and genuine interest and perhaps a “follow up coffee”.

So perhaps is time for me to “let go” this group of friends. It is time to hear more and to wake up in the morning wondering what the ocean is going to leave on the shores, and take it as it comes.

Last time I wrote…

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…I was writing about a dear friend of mine who was trying to understand what was going on with his partner and I explained to him according to all the “symptoms” he described thoroughly (you could tell by his writing in frustration and at a loss) I gather that his partner was with PPD (Post Partum Depression).

He is my friend, for that reason I was very understanding (and forgiving) about the way he approached it. His first thought was “She is going crazy!” . And probably if I did not go through it and experience it myself, I would think the same.

Sometimes I think to myself that it is a shame that I had to go through it in order to know what it was all about. And this same thought leads me to think that it would be ideal if the PPD was more widely known.  But hey, not everyone is open to the subject and the PPD  is quite “hush-hush don’t even mention it, you will bring shame on you!” sort of thing.

In the UK – and I am very clear about this, because I am ignorant if it happens in any other countries – women are offered pre natal classes, and there are classes for couples too. For women like me, who did not have the first clue how to fit a nappy, it was a life saviour but it did not prepared me for what was to come. It did give me a good base to make educated decisions together with a widen view on what is called “motherly instinct”.

How about start to offer – and somehow make them “mandatory” – PPD classes not only to the mothers but to the partners, family and close friends? I think it would be a great relief to anyone who is around a woman who just gave birth and in return, the newly mother would feel more support hence life would be more easy for all of those involved.

In any case, what follows is a BRILLIANT article written by Walker Karraa PhD., entitled “An open letter to women fighting post-partum depression and anxiety for (The Unexpected Project)” .

Thanks to Walter Karraa who kindly gave me permission on an email to publish it on my blog. and here is a direct link to the article: http://walkerkarraa.me/2013/05/14/an-open-letter-to-women-fighting-post-partum-depression-and-anxiety-for-the-unexpected-project/

Enjoy!

An open letter to women fighting post-partum depression and anxiety for (The Unexpected Project)

                                   Originally posted for The Unexpected Project, May 10, 2013

Dear ones,

It doesn’t get much harder than this, does it? There was nothing to prepare you for it, and undoubtedly those who tried didn’t do a very good job, or avoided the truth. You didn’t see it coming, and have been rocked to the core. I think the sense of confusion and isolation is so distressing. Not knowing what is happening, not having it addressed by care providers can add insult to injury. For the life of me I don’t know why it is so difficult for those who should know better to help us not suffer. I also know that despite it, women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) persevere with grit and guts only the strongest of strong know.

Women who experience depression/anxiety during or after childbirth didn’t sign up for it, but have in their bones a power unsurpassed by most. Tis true! I know in my heart that they are made of the stuff great leader’s envy. Against all odds, and in the face of stigma, families that don’t understand, and providers who fail to ask, treat, or acknowledge symptoms—they fight. Even when you are not aware of it, you are fighting. Even when you allow yourself to tell your scariest truths about your scariest thoughts, you are fighting. When you make the call, make the appointment, walk into the emergency room, check into the hospital, finally take medication, reach a support group, read or write a post—you are courageously laying down everything you have known to be true and real and good in the world. And that, is strength born from love.

I know this from the countless women I have met and meet. I know this from the years of research and learning I have done, and I know this from my own experience of PPD. We birth a strength we never knew was possible from the most direct experience of love we will ever know.

I remember the faces of people staring at me, 8 months pregnant waiting to see my shrink at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital. See, I had been through one battle with PPD that nearly took me out. Dark, dark days. And I was NOT doing that again. So there I was, my Target maternity clothes, waddling up to the receptionist, the pharmacist, the OB/GYN, the family practitioner, the labor and delivery nurse and saying—I am getting help and giving you all the judgment, ignorance, and stigma you want. Enjoy it. Yes, I am a big crazy pregnant lady…think what you want. I am getting help.

We give it all up—right there in that one moment when we reach out for help. We have the guts to give up how we thought our lives were going to be—to stay alive for the greatest love we have and will ever know—our children. So, defiantly, we reach in our pockets and take out every last cent of ourselves—turning our pockets inside out to prove to those who need it, that we really have nothing left. Really. We hand over our bodies, our brains, relationships, and fantasies of motherhood—and we ask for, no… we demand, help. And we get better. We get ourselves out of the hole, so that our children will remain whole. Because if they lost us, they would never be okay.

I am 12 years out now, but I remember. And while I still battle depression demons, PPD taught me how to fight. So when they come, and they do, I say…bring it. Let’s party, Depression, because I have been through hell and back and I know how to roll with you old-school. Okay? Hell hath no fury like a mother who has had PPD. And, dear Depression, I would be delighted to go ninja on your ass any time at all.

You know it, too. You know that you have been through hell and back and have lived to tell the tale. Rock on.

Last night….

Last night, I decided to do a catch up with my life. I was all set, nice cup of tea by my side, and a mental list of all the things I intended to do before night’s over and I have to go to sleep (whether I like it or not, needless to explain the reasons why I have to overcome my owl syndrome and force myself to sleep) and the first item on my list were the emails – that are gathering dust, if they were real paper letters – on my inbox.

I found an email of a friend – male friend – who was in a spot of trouble with his actual partner. And more or less at the end of the email, on the final paragraph he asks “please do tell me, you who are the most analytical person I have known what it is that makes a “click” on a woman after having a baby?”

And he continued: “Honestly, something must happen apart from what we all know, and I think she is going crazy. Or I’m going crazy. I don’t know. I found a woman who was sane, and now it turns out she is going insane. Awaiting your views, xxx”.

I think if I was sitting in front of him, probably I would be speechless. To say the least.  And since I do not drink alcohol, I would request a very strong Americano and a glass with water for starters. His question opened in my mind a myriad of answers. The inconvenient was, that all those answers were based on my own experience, and for him to have an “analytical” view, I had to try to look from the outside in order to give a less subjective answer.

Was that difficult – not to say impossible – or what?

It was a titanic task. I had to work really hard not to fall on the classic “On my own experience…” but nevertheless and after hours of writing, erasing, writing, erasing, I had to resort to “On my own experience”. And I decided on this occasion honesty was going to be the best policy even when that included very little detachment.

My answer was quite simple. We women are unique, and each one of us experiences birth and the landing to motherhood in a completely different manner. In my case, after birth the time that followed was quite dark and gloom. I did not know what was happening to me, I was meant to be overjoyed and bursting with happiness. I was meant to be.

I can see now looking back I was at a loss and truth to be said I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it was not the famous “baby blues”. And if it was, it was the blue colour in all sorts of hues, all leading to black. Later on, around 6 or 7 months later, I found it was called “Post partum depression”.

Eureka moment? Perhaps. It was like someone lifted all the shutters to let the light in AND finally I saw myself. I SAW.  I saw my son, who stared at me right in to my eyes holding my fingers very tight and smiling. I saw my body, deformed after the pregnancy fighting to get back to normal. I saw my partner running like a beheaded chicken trying to help with my son – and hats off to him.  I saw that I was wasting my time trying to figure out what was going on, instead of “be a part” of what is going on and just go with the flow.

Eureka moment? Now I can say oh yes, it was. After that, I started to read a lot about  post-partum depression and I started to “tick boxes”. Because of course, when I “woke up” from all that gloom and doom coloured in all shades of blue, I thought I did everything wrong and it was unforgivable. And I came to discover that there was nothing to forgive. My brain and my body followed their own path to come into terms with what just had happened. My son was growing as healthy and happy as you could ever wish in a loving environment, and nothing was missing except for one thing: me.

Me, yes. Because I was there, in body and spirit, giving my son all the attention and the care you could imagine and perhaps more; but guess what, my brain took my soul hostage to seek out some logical answers and try to re-establish the “natural order of things”.

HA HA HA !!!

The “natural order of things” was not there any more and it was well gone and never to come back as I – my brain – knew it. The natural order of things was swiftly replaced by the “natural flow of things”. And then, when my brain realised that there were no logic nor analytical process to understand what was going on with my life, hey presto, the soul was released.

And I came back. It was not an easy path. Still it is not an easy path. I walk, towards what I feel is the exit because I feel the fresh breeze coming my way, so I follow through. The path is unmarked and sometimes – only sometimes – I would love to have some guidance, something to reassure me I’m going into the right direction.

And surprisingly enough, that guidance comes from the least expected person, who is squeezing my fingers, smiling at me with almost all his teeth out and pierces my soul with his eyes. I can say that I am with the flow, I am here, and you know what? I don’t regret a single moment.

As for my friend, I did write to him in the end that women we are unique and her partner was going to deal with it in her own time on her own terms; that she was not crazy or anything alike, she was just coming into terms of being a mother and if he noticed something more serious than expected yes, seek assistance. I also made a point telling him that we women are like little planets ruled by hormones and these can go quite unruly during pregnancy and after birth so sit down and wait, and enjoy your daughter as much as you can.

This is to you, my dearest friend. Go with the flow.