Tête-à-tête

It has been quite a long time since my last post. And yes, probably I did write the same words and I made the solemn oath to myself to write more often.

And yes, life happened and the blog got thrown right to the back seat together with my solemn oath and my will to write once a week or so.

Spring is finally here and this would be the third spring season on the blog. Funnily enough the daffodils pictured three years ago (http://thehappyboobclub.com/2013/03/17/the-first-daffodil/) are the same who decided to bloom first yet again three years later.

So, life happened. Finally I started my course on Early Years Education.  Finally I got a job working with children as an assistant. The place is fairly new and there are children from 6 months old to almost 5 years old.  Being an assistant I pivot from one room to the other  and I get to see the “ins and outs” of childcare and everything I am reading in books notes and lectures from my course I can put into practise – or not – during my work.

Needless to say I am learning so much and gaining so much experience that I feel I could write volumes. More than once I thought on writing on this blog about my day as a sort of cathartic experience but then again I am so intertwined with the confidentiality policy and child protection and child safeguarding that the idea soon became an illusion.

Not because of the name and shame – that of course would not happen – but because of the back-of-the-brain fear that my catharsis would fall into the wrong ears. Paranoid? Yes of course. I read “1984” quite a while back and it has become one of my desert island books and living with the world posed by Mr. Wells in the now is tough enough. Nowadays where EVERYTHING is readily available at the press of a button (or the slide of a finger) no matter how hard you try to hide, you will always, inevitably be found. Unless you decide to go wild and get rid of any means of communication even then you would not cease to exist in the virtual world.

Do not take me wrong. I think the advance in technology is beyond awesome and some good comes from it. I wonder – in the same way probably my parents did – what is ahead and what the future would be like for my son who uses a “Smartphone” as easy as I use a toothbrush. The innovations in technology are so embedded into us that we take it for granted and it is hard to go back to the good old paper letter instead of the fast email as a dear friend reminded me a few days ago when we were having a conversation using skype whilst she was in Argentina and I was in England.

This techno life we acquired – either by will, force and/or need – is unconsciously (or not) being transferred to children. Proof of this is not only the innumerable amount of parents who decide to switch from open dialog to Smartphone but the behaviours I see amongst children as small as 9/10 months old in my place of work.

As I said at the beginning being an assistant I hover around different rooms. Last week I had to assist in babies’ room and the babies were playing at length with different toys. Amongst those toys there were some that looked like a mobile phone made of wood with big coloured buttons and a mirrored surface (see picture, courtesy of http://www.toyshopuk.co.uk/brands/erzi).

Anyway, time came to serve tea and of course all babies were seated round a table. Guess what? Two or three babies were having tea, with a pseudo mobile phone by their plates and they were pressing buttons and time to time picking them up whilst eating. Until I intervened and removed the objects from the table which of course caused some discomfort.

This is a picture that is ingrained in my memories and honestly it hurts. It is one of those things that it does not matter how many times you blurt it out, it will still be there. It raises so many questions. My main question is if these babies when they grow old and are fully formed adults would understand the deep value and meaning of a dialog face to face with another breathing human being either across a table or side by side when they grow up without having a screen in their hands.

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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.