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    Childhood Trauma

    Many don’t realize that childhood trauma is a lot more common than many may think. In a study conducted on 0-6-year olds, over half had experienced severe stressors in their short lives. As I did my research on childhood trauma to write this article I made an important discovery about myself. The trauma from my childhood was triggered by something else than I had initially thought.

    When I was 4,5 years old my grandfather tragically passed away while on vacation abroad. He was 50 years of age at the time. I never realized until now very recently that all my earliest childhood memories involve him. The scent of bacon and baked beans always take me there, the big brown armchair at my grandparents where he’d always sit and watch TV. Those clothespins we’d pretend were crocodiles and “attacked” my grandmother with, and the chewing gum he’d always sneak me. My first bike – a pink and white beauty – was gifted to me by him and I still got vivid memories of him teaching me how to ride it. It didn’t even occur to me until recently how important to me he really was. People, including myself, just assumed I was too young to remember, too young to understand. The truth is though that children understand a lot more than what many adults seem to think is the case.

    As a young child, losing an important person in your life, you need support, and a place to feel safe and secure so you can work through the emotions in a healthy way. The opposite happened for me. I don’t want to go into detail out of respect for my family, but I lost two close family members that day. My mother, who had lost her father, was never the same again. What followed was traumatic to me, it was violent and very self-destructive at times. I saw things no child should ever have to see. I strongly believe that this is the root to so many of my mental health issues. The chaotic environment I grew up in, and the loss of somebody so close to me, combined with an already anxious personality. My grandfather was definitely a safety person to me, somebody who was often mistaken for my dad (he was only 46 at the time of my birth) as I spent so much time at my grandparents as a child. Over the years I always considered myself lucky to still have memories of him, something my sister never had since she was too young to remember. But now I wonder, maybe she’s the lucky one to not know the pain of the loss. But at the same time she’ll never know the love and security I felt, either. It’s a bit of a two edged sword.

    The most common signs and symptoms of unresolved childhood trauma are:

    1. Anxiety or panic attacks that occur in situations most people would consider normal
    2. Feelings of shame. Feelings of being worthless, bad and without importance
    3. Chronic or ongoing depression
    4. Practising avoidance of people, emotions, things or places related to the traumatic event
    5. Nightmares, flashbacks and body memories
    6. Eating disorders and addictions in an attempt to escape or numb emotions of negative nature
    7. Problems sleeping such as trouble going to sleep or staying asleep
    8. Suffering from feelings of detachment, with other words – feeling “dead inside”
    9. Dissociation as a real disconnect in situations and conversations
    10. Suicidal thoughts or actions
    11.Hypervigilance, a constant feeling of being on guard
    12. Uncontrollable anger
    13. Self-harm and cutting
    14. Not being able to tolerate conflicts
    15. Unexplained or irrational fears of people, things or places

    Why it’s so hard to overcome childhood trauma
    Firstly, what makes it so hard to overcome childhood trauma is that children lack the frame of reference. They come to see what is happening as normal, since it’s all they’ve ever known. This is especially true if the source to the stress is a caregiver. In many cases it requires exposure to healthy families before they can see how damaged their childhood really was. Sadly, it gets tougher to heal, the longer you wait.

    Another factor is that the damage may be biological. Trauma can alter and change how certain genes are expressed. A study at Brown University in 2012 shows that childhood trauma such as the loss of a parent or abuse can actually impact the programming of the genes that regulate stress. This puts the person in a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression A study in 2013 have also linked trauma-induced brain changes to diminished ability to handle negative impulses.

    Also, in order to overcome certain issues it means remembering them. This is a really tough one for me personally. I’ve been crying throughout writing this article because I’ve started to remember things I had supressed or tried to ignore. Revisiting your past can be a very painful experience. Even if you’re willing to try, it may be impossible to sort out the mess of impressions from childhood. It’s tough to eliminate pain when the source of it can’t be pinpointed and all you’re left with is floating anxiety. Sometimes it’s also difficult to get proper closure even if you decide to remember and heal. Those responsible for the trauma may no longer be alive.

    Many adults who has experienced childhood trauma also close their emotions off. That’s something I tend to do, myself, a lot too. If caring becomes too dangerous for the well-being of the child they numb themselves of emotions. This tend to damage the ability to build healthy relationships, as well complicate any attempts at healing since the motions needed for healing are closed off too.

    So what can you do?
    The first step is to allow yourself to get close to people. Your childhood traumas likely caused you to spend a lare amount of energy on survival, so it’s likely you find it difficult, challenging or maybe even scary to get close to other people. Many who experienced early, ongoing traumas are more prone to chronically isolate themselves as adults. The best thing you can do is to challenge this behavioural mechanism and instead allow yourself to get close to others, and in turn allow them to see you as you are. A small handful of friends is enough and allow them to really see you and love you.

    The next step is to take good care of yourself. Both physically and emotionally. Sufferers of childhood trauma oftentimes feel subconsciously like they don’t deserve love and care. Many have low energy and just fall down a downward spiral of rejection and isolation. You deserve to be treated the same way you would treat a loved one. With love and care.

    Another thing to look at are your defence mechanisms. The way your life is today, do you really need the old defence mechanisms you’re used to, to keep yourself safe? Maybe you’ve told yourself that people can’t be trusted so you’ve became super self-reliant or decided to shut people out, for instance. The first step to heal the old pain is to recognize the things you are currently doing as a result of childhood trauma and see how you can turn them around.

    The pain may never fully go away
    I don’t think the pain I feel will ever fully go away in my case. Today made that clear to me. I’ve been tearing up time after time throughout the writing process which means it’s still very raw 20+ years later. To this day I still refuse to visit the country where my grandfather died. I just can’t bring myself to do it although I’ve been offered to go several times. Certain family members are strong triggers as well. I won’t give up though. Time heal all wounds, they said.

    With Love,

    Kristina

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    10 Things Not To Say To Someone With A Mental Health Condition

    Living with mental health problems isn’t easy. It’s usually a lonely road filled with anxiety and pain. Support in form of family and friends is crucial, but it’s not always easy for loved ones to know what to do or say in certain situations in order to help.  At times, things said can even be counter-productive.

    Before you’ve experienced mental illness first hand it’s hard to understand just how sensitive many of us are, and how important it is to speak with care. Prejudices are easy to come by, and I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of having them as well. There was a time when I thought PTSD was something only war-veterans could have, or that suffering from Schizophrenia equalled being crazy “for real”. Saying you’re OCD also seems to be one of those common phrases people tend to mis-use. Having OCD doesn’t mean you like to arrange your shoes by color. OCD, Obsessive Compulsory Disorder, is a serious anxiety disorder and term that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly. We’re all responsible to educate ourselves, to talk to the people around us and try to understand.

    I thought I’d list some of the most common comments people who suffer mental illness receive from the public and why they are inappropriate:

    1. “Oh come on, it could be worse!”
    The neighbour lost their family dog, or the colleague was diagnosed with cancer or a bomb struck in Syria. Terrible things happen in the world every day. That doesn’t mean that people who suffer from depression or other illnesses aren’t entitled to their emotions and thus deserve to have their feelings and experiences belittled.

    Mental health issues usually have no real triggers. It’s not something that is easily controlled. By comparing lives, you also run the risk of making the mentally ill person feel even worse due to guilt for feeling a certain way. It’s important to remember that illnesses are fact illnesses and not an attitude.

    2. “Just snap out of it.”
    If it only was that easy. Yet this seems to be the most commonly used comment. Telling somebody to just snap out of it is dismissive, and basically means that they should ignore, or endure, their pain.

    3. “It’s all in your head.”
    Technically that is correct. Mental illnesses are “in your head”, but not in the way this comment is usually intended- as something imaginary that the sufferer has chosen. This attitude also trivialise the physical symptoms that often comes with mental illness such as disturbed sleep, muscle pains, tiredness and weight loss or gain.

    4. “You’re just lazy.”
    Some individuals with mental health problems may come across as lazy, especially those who suffer from depression where the energy-levels are affected. Before making any such statements you first need to take into account how ill that person really is. ”Lazy” is a character trait, not a symptom of an illness.

    5. “Everyone is a little depressed sometimes – it’s normal.”
    It’s not unusual to hear people refer to themselves as depressed while in reality they are simply feeling down for a couple of days. Everybody feel down, or have mood swings at some point. That is normal. But there’s a distinct difference between being depressed and feeling down, though. If a depressed person constantly hears that what they’re feeling is normal they are less likely to get the help they need. Be careful.

    6. “You are like your father/mother.”
    We can’t help but to take after certain family members. To unintentionally mimick their habits or behaviours. However, saying things such as “you’re like your mother” or “you’re like your father” while the person endure intense stress is not a very wise thing to do. Usually this is said in a negative manner and being likened to a parent and their flaws bring extra stress and can escalate behaviours.

    7. “Look how lucky you are. Be thankful!.”
    This is such a big misconception. I am thankful for what I have. That doesn’t help depression though. Depression has biological factors and needs to be treated just like any other sickness. You wouldn’t say “You’re lucky as well, so stop sneezing”.

    8. “Happiness is a choice!”
    As if somebody would choose to purposefully not be happy?

    9. “You just need to try harder.”
    Since mental illness is usually invisible, it often doesn’t show how hard the person is actually trying. Then hearing somebody tell you you’re not trying hard enough when you’re already giving it your best can be extremely insulting and very frustrating.

    10. “You should get out more.”
    The problem here is that the symptoms of depression and many other conditions include lack of motivation and fatigue and are probably the reason the person is at home in the first place. If he or she felt well enough to go outside, then they probably wouldn’t be depressed.

    Many of these comments are usually said with good intentions, but unless you truly understand the nature of these mental health conditions there’s a good chance you’re doing more harm than good. Save the advice and instead give your love and support as they recover with the help of professionals.

    As usual, thank you all for reading! Please, comment, share and subscribe.

    With Love,

    Kristina

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    The Mental Health Awareness Month – What Can You Do To Help?

    To some, the launching of my blog may have come as a surprise. The truth is though that I had been considering it for months already. May seemed to be the perfect time for me since it’s the National Mental Health Month in the United States. I’m European myself, but I love the idea of bringing awareness to an issue so close to home so of course I’m joining in!

    For as long as human-kind has known of mental illnesses, we’ve also been juggling the stubborn stigmas that come with it. Those who suffer rarely open up to talk about their struggles due to fear of being judged or looked down upon. Our society has made mental illnesses seem like something to be ashamed of, like those who suffer are damaged goods, which is why so many people still hide it away today. We may have come quite a bit on the way already, I won’t deny anyone that. But our culture today still has a long way to go in order to reach where we should be in the year 2018.

    According to the Journal of Abnormal Psychology will up to 80% of the population be affected by mental illness at some point in their life whether directly or through family and other loved ones. 50 million people are affected by depression and over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. With those statistics it’s clear that having conversations about mental health is of importance to all of us.

    To properly embrace the National Mental Health awareness month I’ll share with you ways you can help to support those who live with mental illness.

    1. Educate yourself
    One of the best things you can do to support those who suffer from mental health problems is to educate yourself on different types of illnesses, find out what the warning signs are and learn about the common misconceptions. Much of the stigma that surrounds mental illness comes from misinformation or lack of information. Therefore, is education a vital step to fight the stigma.

    For good, basic information you can check these websites out:

    National Alliance on Mental Illness
    Mental Health America

    2. Share your knowledge
    If you yourself live with mental illness and find yourself at a place where you’re able to talk about it, then talk about it! The best way to fight stigma is to shine light upon what is unknown and provide examples to prove the contrary to what so many people believe. Living with mental health issues doesn’t make us dangerous or constantly miserable. Spread the word.

    3. Donate to a Mental Health Charity
    Donations can be made anonymously if you wish, nobody would have to know it’s you. Even smaller amounts count and make a big deal to enable charities to help those in need. Any donation of any type and value is precious so if you can, please consider.

    4. Challenge the stigma
    It is possible that you may come across comments about mental health problems that are discriminating, or are putting people with mental illnesses down. If so, you can stand up against it. By challenging stigma that surrounds mental health you may possibly change someone’s view on the subject. Just one person with a change of heart makes a difference.

    Together we can stop the stigma. Thank you for reading!

     

    With Love,

    Kristina

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    What I Wish You Knew About Social Anxiety

    Social anxiety is the third largest mental health issue in the world. Millions of people world-wide suffer from this traumatic condition every day. In some cases it’s a specific situation that is triggering, for others such as myself, it’s a lot more general.

    I’ve mentioned it briefly a couple of times now.

    My social anxiety, I mean.

    To be honest, I’m not even sure where to begin. It’s very difficult to explain what it’s like to live with social anxiety to somebody who doesn’t suffer from it themselves. How scary and debilitating it can be to just go outside for a walk on a Sunday afternoon. Not always, but often, it feels as if I’m being watched, judged, by strangers on the street. It can be small things, like my choice of clothing that day. I can be all up in my head about it, thinking I should have worn something different because now everybody are staring at me. That’s usually not the case of course, but that’s how somebody with anxiety view it.

    As a 5’10” female there really isn’t any hiding for me. When I walk into a room I get noticed. Period. I can keep my head down all I want, avoid eye contact until I go blue, and even try hiding behind other people (don’t try it, you’ll only draw more attention to yourself. Ha!), it isn’t working. The only thing for me to do is to accept I’m a wandering flagpole and do my best to get on with it. Some days are good, others are filled with anxiety and I refrain from going outside at all.

    It’s all too common that when I tell people I’m not a people-person I get a “Yes, I hate people too!” for reply. I’m always taken aback by it. Is that really what people think of me? That I hate people? I don’t hate anyone. Especially not people I don’t know. I’m typically the kind of person who accept others just the way they are and aim to always see the good in others. I can’t think of anybody I hate. Yet it seems to be a very common misconception that shy people, reserved people avoid people out of hate or dislike. I can’t speak for all, but a lot of the time it’s more fear-based than anything else. I lack confidence in my ability to speak. I speak too quietly a lot of the time, or I stutter if I get too overwhelmed. I can have something to say but I hold back in fear of sounding silly or being judged for what I said.

    Smalltalk is so difficult for me. More often than not I’ll just stand around feeling awkward while desperately trying to think of something smart to say while the other person is just looking on, seemingly wondering why I’m acting so strange. Inside I’m frozen, I feel like sinking through the ground cause it’s so embarrassing. What you can’t see is that my mind is working hard to save the situation, to make a comeback of sorts. Usually to no avail. It’s exhausting to spend the next three days wondering what the other person must be thinking of me now after our encounter, and in hindsight think of things I could have said, should have said, instead. It’s an endless road of beating myself up over what said or didn’t say or do. It’s like I can’t win with myself.

    The worst thing you can say to somebody with social anxiety is probably “you’re so quiet, you never speak”. I’ve lost count of how many times people have told me that. Nobody would think of the idea to walk up to a person with only one leg and tell them “hey your leg is missing”. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s similar. All I have to say is I know. I know I’m quiet, I know I’m socially awkward at times, and having people pointing it out, even if they mean no harm, makes us more self-conscious about it. A lot of the time it will have me desperately attempting to talk more, but since I’m so stressed about the situation already it usually backfires and I just go blank. Just be nice and friendly instead, and don’t get angry if I can’t keep a conversation flowing, or if I forget to ask you how you are after you’ve asked me. It’s nerves. It happens to me a lot.

    I know there are situations most people are anxious in. An important job interview is probably a good example of one. You feel closed in on, your stomach is acting up, the heart is racing. But imagine feeling the emotions of going to a life-changing job interview when in reality you’re simply going to the supermarket to buy groceries. On some days I’d even avoid going into a store I’d like to check out just because the shop clerk might speak to me and I know I will choke up. It’s exhausting. For a person with severe social anxiety is a job interview almost impossible.

    The phone is probably one of the worst inventions ever invented for somebody like me. Often times I’d usually leave my phone on soundless to make it less stressful for me to deal with it. It stems from childhood I think, when I felt constantly chased and controlled. Whenever my phone went off I knew I was in trouble. Especially checking it and seeing 15 missed calls within the last half an hour. Calling authorities is another high on my what not-to-do list. It’s the feeling of being small and inferior, I think, combined with fears of bothering others with my questions and inquiries. Troubling people, being ridiculed or rejected are definitely the three main reasons to my anxiety.

    The only place I ever feel completely safe and comfortable is at home. Preferably home alone, knowing there’s nobody around I must please, or could potentially annoy or bother. That’s the only time I can truly relax and just be, without feeling like I’m on the edge. There are people I feel comfortable around but they are few, and very specific.

    People who suffer from social anxiety (or any anxiety) can’t help it. Just with all fears and phobias we know it’s all in our heads, that we’re not being rational but knowing something isn’t the same feeling or thinking something. To us it feels very real which makes it difficult to just brush off.

    It’s a pretty fine, confusing line between ordinary social anxiety and Avoidant Personality Disorder, and I can’t fully tell which is which. To me it feels like the social anxiety is simply one of the symptoms of the Avoidant Personality Disorder. If the social anxiety is so debilitating that you live isolated and your quality of live is affected, it’s most likely a personality disorder and not ordinary social anxiety. In certain situations I’m considered pretty high functioning for an Avoidant, in others, not at all. In the end it comes down to life experience I think. Many Avoidants wouldn’t dream of using public transport. I, however grew up in a family without a car, therefore taking the bus wasn’t an option if I wanted to get somewhere. I’ve been trained, and got certain experience and skills, while I lack completely in other areas. I got no clue how to make friends for instance, and I’m even worse at maintaining friendships.

    Lastly, please don’t take it personally if we’re quiet, avoid eye contact or even avoid you altogether. Most of us are not trying to offend anyone, quite the contrary. We are afraid of what you think of us because we want to be well-recieved and accepted above anything else.

    With Love,

    Kristina

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    Guest Post: What I Found Works For Depression & Anxiety

    I’m thrilled to announce I got my first guest writer here on “A Peculiar Mind”!

     

    Alex Morgan, UK, is a Psychology Graduate with a Post-grad Certificate in Counselling and a life-long interest in self-improvement.

    Before I talk about the changes I have made to my life, it’s important to know what kind of position I was in before. I’ve suffered with serious Depression and Anxiety since I was 14 years old, and probably longer than that now I think about it. Until I hit 40, I was trapped in the same cycle of half-hearted self-help plans and depressive spirals.

    There was a time when I was longing for a relationship that made me miserable, drinking straight spirits every night, watching endless cartoon and pornography, wasting my life watching other bitter people complain about their own limitations. I wasn’t suicidal because I was terrified of dying but it was certainly not “living” as I now understand the word. It certainly wouldn’t have bothered me had I accidentally failed to wake up one day. One of my friends literally drank himself to death a few years before and I wondered whether he was the smart one.

    Suddenly, days after my 40th birthday, something changed: I realised on all levels that I was contributing to my own suffering. This isn’t an easy thing to realise because the only thing I felt I had left were my excuses. Thinking “It’s not my fault I can’t have a career or relationships…” relieved some of my self-blame but in doing so it made me bitter. Worse than that, it left me feeling unable to change.

    I made 5 changes to the way I thought about the world before making any changes to my behaviour:

    The first thing I did was to FORGIVE MYSELF any and all past failures. This is absolutely vital because your brain is an amazing tool. It is spectacular at problem solving but misused it can actively make us more unhappy. One thing I learned to be aware of is that sometimes I would dwell on a past failure or setback and repeatedly relive the experience. I determined to be strict with myself and to look into the past ONLY to recover useful information that would help my present or future.

    The second vital thing I did was to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for my own happiness. Sure, I can hear people thinking that happiness is outside of our control but stay with me. In large part, there are ways to focus your attention in ways that make you happier. It’s not perfect. I’m not suggesting you just think yourself happier. Just do your best to improve your life and avoid blaming others or your past as much as possible… even when it is true. One example is sick-days: I habitually played up to illness or low mood days to get out of doing things I didn’t want to do. Now, I read the signs and rebel against them, going into work and doing the best job I can manage because that feeling of toughness and responsibility feeds our sense of pride.

    The third, and possibly most controversial change I made was to forget about complex Moral problems. My morality had to change because I had been using it as a crutch to avoid difficult decisions. Instead of over-thinking every little thing, which had prevented me taking any part in the world, I decided that: IF SOMETHING GIVES YOU PRIDE, DO IT MORE and IF SOMETHING MAKES YOU FEEL SHAME, DO IT LESS.

    The fourth change is accepting folk wisdom passed down by my mother: “IF YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU’VE ALWAYS DONE, YOU’LL ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU ALWAYS GOT!” and it’s true. If the role you’ve been playing has been bringing you nothing but pain, why continue with it? You’re not a character in a B-movie. You don’t have to always act the same throughout your life. Honestly, if acting meek and sleeping all day gets you bullied more and even more tired than when you started, you’re doing something wrong. Most people aren’t sadistic bullies but regular people testing one another constantly to see who will push back. If you never do, as I never did, they will keep pushing and pushing until you snap or break.

    The fifth change was to realise how urgent was the need for change. If you were given a diagnosis that said you would be disabled and dead if you ate peanuts again… would you slowly withdrawn peanuts from your diet or realise the urgency and stamp the rule of “NO PEANUTS!” on the inside of your eyelids? You are in nothing less than the fight for your life! You are being attacked by a black dog that wants to tear you limb from limb. What are you going to do about it. TAKE THIS ILLNESS AS SERIOUSLY AND URGENTLY AS YOU WOULD AN ANGRY DOG!

     

    The Behavioural Changes I made were far simpler and easier to follow once I had understood the above Mental Changes. Some of these may or may not apply to everyone. I’m not even sure which of them I needed and which just helped me along but doing them all at once really helped.

    Exercise: Yes I know we get sick of hearing about how exercise cures Depression and we all know it’s more complicated than that. But it certainly doesn’t hurt. I do long walks in nature, high-intensity cardio and weights. I stretch regularly and do simple Qigong which is like Tai Chi. Building muscle doesn’t mean looking like He-man. It takes extreme levels of specific diet and super-heavy weights to look that way. Just know that having a healthy musculature can contribute to positive mood and confidence.

    Diet: Gut biome health affects mental health, it’s a well-known connection. Sugar and alcohol in particular change the way our bodies operate. They cause excessive Insulin and stress hormones to be released at various times, which often causes weight gain and lethargy. Other people have been shown to have Depression-like reactions to certain food allergies and auto-immune responses. It can be a good idea to isolate food groups to see if eliminating bread, sugar, alcohol, dairy, meat or certain foods like tomatoes helps your energy levels.

    Meditation: At first, I was sceptical but it really works. For just a few minutes a day, usually when I can’t sleep at night, I observe my thoughts. Sometimes, I just watch the conscious thoughts pop in and out of existence. Sometimes, I try to shut them down, focusing on my breathing or a point of light on the wall. Other times still, I run with them and follow them wherever they are going. If I’m feeling brave, I contemplate the question of what is it that experiences this stream of consciousness and sensory data? Am I one entity or a gestalt of many? I reach out to touch a wall or floor and realise that in a real way, everything I sense is actually a part of me since we are incapable of sensing the world without input from our selves. This has led to more than one beautiful, emotional experience of the divine. Don’t try to define it or hold on to it, just observe it and let it go when the time is up.

    Mindfulness: This can be done at almost any time. I ask myself whether I am present in the living moment or away in the past or potential futures. If I find I am thinking about the past or future, I ask whether I am pulling useful information from the past or planning in a useful way for the future? If not, I snap myself back to the present. The animal part of our brain is content just to exist. Most of our pain comes from the outer, more complex, human parts. So shutting down the over-thinking human aspect when it is not useful leads to greater happiness.

    Breathing: There are several good breathing exercises for Anxiety such as breathing in deeply for 4 seconds, holding for 6 seconds and breathing out all the way for 8 seconds.

    I’ve also found that deliberate hyperventilation really helps with both anxiety and pain. For that, I breathe all the way in and 70% of the way out 30 times then hold my breath all the way out as long as I can. One deep breath and then hold as long as possible. This is called “One Round” and I do 3 Rounds then…

    Cold Exposure: EASILY THE QUICKEST WAY TO SHUT DOWN MY OVER-ACTIVE MIND IS A COLD BATH. I’ve found that combining this with the Deliberate Hyperventilation described above creates a perfectly still mind. It doesn’t have to be a long exposure to cold. Even a short cold shower after my regular warm shower is often enough to reset my mind. I get out of that feeling like I could take on the world. While long-term stress is very bad for our bodies, short-term stress we can do something about is often good for both bodies and minds.

    Heat Exposure: In addition to cold baths and showers, I’ve found saunas and steam rooms really helpful. At first, they are a relaxing way to chill out and meditate or meet new people if you’re ready to push that boundary. Towards the end, it can feel like an endurance challenge which I always top off with a short cold shower. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest such treatments release “heat-shock proteins” which can extend and improve quality of life.

     

    Remember the following tips:

    A lot of these things seem uncomfortable and that’s good because the most useful thing I learned is that COMFORT IS THE ENEMY. Sure it’s great to relax after a hard day’s work when you know you’ve earned it. But spending days in bed, knowing you haven’t done anything now just makes me depressed and anxious again. It’s OK to take a well-deserved rest. But beware the slow death of living in a comfort zone. Challenge yourself to do new things that make you a little uncomfortable such as meeting new people, travelling, talking to groups, dancing, trying exotic food, joining a gym or dating site, etc.

    BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Take some time to honestly know what drives you. If what drives you is socially unacceptable to the people around you, it’s up to you what to do with that information but you can’t live your life for what you think other people want you to do. If, when you look deep into your own soul, all you want is a ton of money or to date a series of beautiful people then be honest with yourself: Chasing someone else’s dream won’t get you anywhere. Set a difficult but achievable goal.

    Break your longer-term goal down into more manageable chunks that you can measure. If they still seem impossible like breaking down “Climb Everest” into “Get fit” as the first step, then break that down further until it’s manageable and achievable. “Get fit” breaks down into “Do cardio 3 times a week. Do weights or conditioning twice a week. Eat a protein-rich diet with the right number of Kcal for your end goal.”

    If you find that you don’t know what to do in a given situation or find that you are blaming yourself, just ask yourself: “IF YOUR BEST FRIEND WERE IN THE EXACT SAME POSITION AS YOU ARE CURRENTLY IN, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THEM?” Which is effectively saying that you need to treat yourself as if you were a person you care about. This often provides better answers than anything anyone else could tell you because you know more about the situation than anyone else.

    HELP OTHER PEOPLE. In many cultures, the standard advice given to someone who is feeling low is for them to help someone else. Taking the focus off your life and being useful, as opposed to used, feels good. Humans are collaborative and co-operative animals with social hierarchies based, in part, on helping one another.

    HAVE INTEGRITY. So many people think they have to be ruthless to get ahead in life but the truth is, scarce things are valuable. People who will tell you the truth and do what they say are rare and beautiful.
    Don’t confuse being good with being weak. This is another controversial one. I used to think there were only 2 types of people in the world: Victims and Oppressors. Since I didn’t want to be a bad guy, I just did whatever I thought other people wanted. That didn’t make me nice, it made me weak because given the opportunity to be “good” but also in conflict, I would immediately back down. It has occurred to me that only who can be genuinely “good” are strong enough to choose to be good, rather than those who have to “play nice” out of fear.

    Continually forgive yourself: You will make mistakes. No-one is perfect. You’ll slip backwards sometimes and have a bad day. Learn what you can about what you did wrong, draw a line under the event and move forward with purpose.

    Let toxic people go: Some of us are forgiving and sensitive to the point where it’s pathological. If someone has proven they are untrustworthy or never put your needs first, leave. There are good people out there, you are closer to finding them if you’re single than with the wrong person. Even certain family members need to go. Just ask yourself whether someone gives you Net-positive feelings when you take into account the good and the bad. If the answer is no, well it might be time for a little ruthlessness. It’s OK to prioritise your mental health over someone else’s feelings.

     

    What about when really bad things happen?

    It’s true that in spite of all your best efforts, horrible and unfair things will still happen. A loved one might die, you might get sick or lose your job or home. In all honesty, nothing short of a magic wand can prevent these things. There’s a great saying “A brave man only dies once. A coward dies 1000 times.” It means that if you live right, bad things will still happen and you will still die. But you won’t spend your life in misery on top of that.

    If something bad happens that I can do something about, such as losing my job, I do the following: Take a moment to clear your head and come to grips with the reality of what is happening. List everything you need to do in order to take steps in the right direction. Get to work on it, as though your life depended on it. You’d be surprised but this left me feeling quite positive about the prospect of finding a new career path. Challenges are not bad. They give us the opportunity to shine.

    Even terrible things we can do nothing to prevent can be an opportunity to handle it with dignity and to make ourselves proud. There are endless stories about people on their death bed, asking about their loved ones because even at the end of their life, they wanted to be helpful. I remember reading about a man in the Holocaust who had been selected to be shot and realising he couldn’t save himself, he took the opportunity to mock Hitler and give everyone a well-deserved laugh. These are small victories but we can’t prevent suffering or death. If all you can do is damage-limitation then do that.

    So where am I now?

    With all of these techniques, battling all of those years of suffering, am I pleased with my progress? Would I have done it again, given the opportunity? Definitely. I’d do it all again, and as urgently as possible.

    I am 95-99% improved in body, mind and spirit.

    I no longer drink to get drunk because I don’t want to escape my life.

    I exercise, meditate and breathe now because they make me feel great. There’s no effort involved.

    I’ve met many new people, formed new relationships and applied for much better jobs with confidence and direction.

     

    Life isn’t perfect but it’s infinitely better than it has been for the last 26 years.

    – Alex Morgan

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    10 Ways to Become Mentally Strong

    To me has mental strength always been something genetically inherited. Something you either possess, or you don’t. Recently however, I discovered that’s not the case at all. Mental toughness and resilience is something you can actively work on and improve.

    I’ve always accepted that I’m mentally not very strong. Told myself it’s almost like a trait of mine, that I’m born that way. Since I was a child I’d often quickly break down if things didn’t go my way or give up if I deemed something too difficult and I just accepted it that way. Probably because it’s what I’ve always known. How could I know anything different?

    Last month I initiated a 30-day ab challenge as a way to incorporate more physical activity in my life. It’s basically abdominal exercises that starts off fairly easy in the first days and gradually gets harder as the month progresses. I made it about halfway before I started to feel like it got too difficult. On day nineteen I no longer even tried. The endurance, the fighting spirit, wasnt there. I made a mistake from the get-go. As I thought of myself as weak, it was “OK” to back out if it got tough. That way I wasn’t even aiming at doing the whole month when I started, which negatively affected my success.

    That my mind, or me as a whole, is weaker than others is a belief that has limited me for as long as I can remember. I’m almost angry with myself now as I realize how I just adopted that mind-set without giving it as much as a second thought. To me, that was just the way things were back then.

    Your mental strength matters more than you may think. Being intelligent is helpful in all its glory, but to really succeed in life it’s not enough to just be intelligent. You need to be resilient, not give up and keep fighting, especially when things get rough. That’s how you reach success. It’s a part of life to have your mental toughness tested again and again. We all go through it. Whether it’s losing your job, a loved one or a business. You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react, and act to it. We all need to play the cards we’ve been dealt in life and do it the smartest way we can.

    Building mental muscle is key to perseverance, grit, delayed gratification and self-discipline. All the ingredients to become the best version of yourself- both mentally and physically.

    So what can we do about it?

    These are 10 tips to try out to help improve your mental strength:

    1. Do at least one challenging thing every week
    Aim at doing at least one thing each week to force youself out of your comfort zone. Join a photography class, get a gym membership, or for somebody with social anxiety as myself it can be something as simple as asking a shop clerk for help while out shopping. Facing fears head-on will help you build resilience and chip away at your self-limiting beliefs. It can change the way you view yourself in many ways.

    2. Write a gratitude journal
    Studies link gratitude to multiple benefits. All from better sleep to reduced psychological distress. Writing down three things you are grateful for each day will change the way you see the world. It will help you focus on the positive instead of the negative. It only takes a couple of minute each day but is a sufficient way to increase your mental strength.

    3. Spend at least 15 minutes each day meditating
    Get some time to quietly reflect on your progress and think about what you can do better. A few minutes a day to recharge your batteries will help you gain the clarity you need to renew your motivation and in the end, reach your goals.

    4. Develop a kinder inner-dialogue
    Those inner conversations you have with yourself impact the way you feel about yourself and how you behave. Harsh self-criticism will only hold you back. Commit to talk to yourself the same way you’d talk to a loved one and you’ll discover hidden potential you didn’t even knew existed within you.

    5. Take better care of your physical health
    In order for your mind to operate at its best you’ll need to fuel it with sleep, healthy food and exercise. It’s not about looking good in a bathing suit though. Instead aim for building a healthy body so that you can enjoy a healthier, stronger mind.

    6. Become more aware of your feelings
    Most adults are more comfortable sharing certain feelings over others. Being happy or angry are usually easier to own up to than feeling scared or sad. Your emotions play a huge role in every decision you make so decide to become better connected to them. Label your emotions and spend some time thinking about how they influence your behaviour and the way you think.

    7. Set a timeline for your dreams
    All of us got dreams we’d like to do, or achieve, “someday”. It can be all from wanting to write a book to launch a business (for me it was to start a blog!). If you really want to turn your dreams into goals you’ll need to sit down and create a realistic timeline for yourself. You may not be able to start straight away but that doesn’t keep you from researching and learning more about your dreams now. Right?

    8. Spend more time with friends and family
    It’s easy to become so caught up in everyday life that you forget to set aside time for your family and friends. However, studies show that it’s crucial for your well-being to spend time with loved ones. Spending time with the important people in your life should be a priority. If you’re like me and have most of family and friends on a distance, at least try to get out and socialize and meet new people.

    9. Create a life that is in line with your values
    Maybe you value caring for the environment, or to give back to the community and that’s great. It’s one thing to say you value something though, and actually live accordingly to those values. Do an evaluation. Where do you devote your time and energy? Is it in line with your values? If not, you may want to make a shift in your lifestyle to ensure they are. It is essential to your mental health that you live accordingly to your values.

    10. Give up a bad habit
    Letting a bad habit go can help you work smarter rather than harder. Instead of committing to eating more vegetables, say you’ll give up that bag of chips you eat every day.

    Be sure to not overwhelm yourself. Don’t tackle too many changes at once. It’s better to start with one thing and once you’ve turned that into a daily habit you can start working on the next thing. I’m not quite there either myself. In fact, I’ve just begun this journey of self-discovery. What about you? Do you have anything to add to the list?

    With love,

    Kristina

  • Uncategorized

    Limiting beliefs: How do I overcome them?


    I am my own worst enemy at times. This is true for many of us, though. Our minds are telling us we can’t, when in reality we’re capable of much more than we think.

    Since I was a child have I always been plagued with feelings of inadequacy, of not being good enough, and have thus subconsciously downplayed every good thing I did, or skill I possess. People often tell me that I got a talent with languages, that I’m a bit of a word-smith and I need to continue nurture that. Deep down I know they are right. Still, starting up this blog was extremely difficult for me. I doubted my ability to write good content, of my skills to successfully deliver what I wanted to say in ways people understand and find it interesting. I’m not a native English speaker and the idea of people who are natives, and therefore better at English than me, reading this is terribly intimidating. To the point I’ve yet to properly promote my blog.

    This has been a re-current pattern throughout my life. Sometimes it’s almost as if I’ve purposefully downplay myself in times of self-doubt as I’d rather positively surprise people than disappoint them. It’s come to be a big hinderance in my life, though. Finding a job has been next to impossible as I constantly limit myself in my mind telling myself I’d be wasting a potential employer’s time with nonsense. I’m not contributing with anything new, everybody can do what I do. I am not wanted.

    It’s very much a self-fulfilling prophecy. Allowing my mind to control me ultimately limits my life in all facets of it as I keep “proving” to myself I was right, but only because I didn’t try in the first place. I’m battling with my mind every day to not give in to any limiting beliefs of mine. I know I need to embrace the talents I got and to continue working on my fears to ensure they aren’t limiting me when it comes to what I want to do and eventually, who I want to become. The only person holding me back is me.

    The most challenging aspect is that these beliefs are usually imbedded deep within our subconscious. Its hidden nature hinders us from noticing it’s presence, and to see just much how it affect us. One of my most self-harming beliefs throughout the years has been that as an introvert in a world made for extroverts I’m doomed. The knowledge I got, the things I’m good at and actually enjoy doing aren’t things I could make a living out of. Therefore I never even tried. Almost every job ad I’ve looked at had me thinking I’m not cut out for it so I never even bothered applying. There’s definitely a dangerous pattern to see there. I wanted to start this blog, but thought I’m not original enough. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of other blogs just like mine. I’ll just look foolish for trying. I almost didn’t start.

    Almost is the keyword.

    I did it.

    Most, if not all of us got beliefs that limit us in some way, to a certain extent. Some of the most common beliefs that get in the way of our daily lives are:

    • I can’t trust people because I’ve been betrayed before…
    • It would be better to stick with what is the easiest rather than to challenge myself at work.
    • I can’t pursue my dreams because I don’t know what I’d do if I fail…
    • I can’t do X because of Y…
    • I’m not very smart (or pretty, or interesting, or funny).
    • My brother (or sister) is the successful one.
    • I am not worthy of being loved
    • Not being good enough
    • I’m not cut out for that job.
    • That activity is really more of a guy thing (or a girl thing).
    • Men (or women) are liars and they will always be unfaithful to me.
    • Relationships always end in heartbreak.

     

    In order to find any limiting beliefs of yours you’ll need to pay close attention to the less-than-desirable patterns. Is there anything you’ve seen repeating in your life? Something that have kept you feeling stuck, small, and lonely. Limiting beliefs can indeed create those miserable realities we’re all hoping to avoid.

    The first step is to acknowledge you got them, and that’s a big feat in itself. It means you can choose to change what it is that is limiting you. You got control of this. Maybe it doesn’t feel that way, and yes, it’s hard to change something that is in your subconscious but it’s not impossible. Replace those limiting, negative beliefs with new ones that strengthen and empowers you. What many people don’t realize is that most of the beliefs we got about the world aren’t true “out there”. They are true because we decided they are. They are formed through repeated thoughts and the only reason why they carry such heavy weight is because you’ve decided to agree that it is that way. Turn it around. You can do it.

    1. Firstly, stop identifying with the beliefs. If we identify with them we allow ourselves to be defined by them, too. If you view yourself as uncreative, you will see yourself as somebody who wasn’t born with the ability to create. You’ll stop yourself from even trying to be creative because you assume you simply can’t do it. It’s very easy to get caught up in our beliefs and allow them to define us, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Stop identifying with, or define yourself based upon what you perceive to be true.

    2. Get rid of your conclusions. You may think you know something to be a certain way but chances are that things aren’t as fixed as you may think. The requirements are likely more negotiable and if you look closer at any problem you will usually find a solution in the end. Question all the conclusions you’ve previously had about what you believe to be true, whether fixed or possible.

    3. Put the assumptions you got to the test. Just questioning these assumptions isn’t going to be enough. You’ll need to push boundaries and put them to the test. You’ll need to do something to break the pattern of your limiting beliefs, take action to make sure you’re moving forward and isn’t just staying in your head about it. If you’ve previously thought yourself too anti-social to go an event with colleagues after work, put it to the test. Challenge it.

    It may sound easy at first glance, but you’ll need to take time to really cultivate it and make sure you’re not falling back in your old ways of thinking.

    Now what are some of the limiting beliefs you are struggling with? Do leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

    With love,

    Kristina

  • Uncategorized

    Self-care: What about your living habits?

    My first step of recovery included taking a long, close look at my own habits and start to actually take care of myself. Everything from your general lifestyle to social relationships and recreational activities influence your mental wellbeing, and there are ways for you to influence and boost it.

    When I initially set out on this journey of self-betterment at the beginning of the year my habits were terrible to put it mildly. I’d sit up the majority of the night, sleep about 3-4 hours before my son woke me in the early morning, and repeat. I was constantly exhausted and stuffed myself with sugar and caffeine in order to cope, and of course, my energy levels quickly crashed again after a brief high. As I started to change my sleeping schedule, sorted out my diet and tried to make sure to keep myself hydrated throughout the day I almost immediately noticed a difference in my wellbeing.

    1. Hydrate
    This was a big one for me. I used to be extremely dehydrated. I didn’t really feel thirsty so I never even gave it much thought. So please, don’t let that fool you. You don’t have to feel thirsty to be dehydrated. What I did is that I purchased a water bottle to carry around with me throughout the day. That way I can keep track of how much I drink, and I always have easy access to water. I also noticed that once my body started to get adjusted to drinking more, I also started to feel thirst regularly. It was as if my body had supressed thirst until I reminded it.

    2. Sleep enough
    I can’t stress this one enough. Sleep boosts your mental health. Research even shows that long-term sleep loss can cause depressive symptoms to increase. Set a bedtime and commit to it. Wind down about an hour beforehand by switching off your electronics, maybe drink some camomile tea and read, journal or do something that relaxes you.

    3. Eat well
    Our bodies cannot function without food, nor can our minds. Body and mind are connected. Food is fuel, and for our minds to operate optimally we need to fuel correctly. Make sure to consume a variety of different foods. Vegetables and fruits are a given. Also, make sure to choose whole grains over refined grains as they still contain the nutrients and fiber of the grain. Limit added sugar such as soda and candy. However, do feel free to enjoy more nuts and fish, but cut down on the red meat. Specific “mind foods” are fatty fish, whole grains, lean protein, leafy greens and yogurt with active cultures.

    4. Get creative
    I love this one. Being creative gives me an outlet to express myself, and allows me focus on something else than my mind for a while. It can be everything from writing, to drawing, creating music or journaling. If you’re not a great artist yourself you could always get some mandalas to color. It will still put you in that headspace of calmness.

    5. Listen to your body
    Trust your instinct. If you listen to your body you’ll be able to tell what it is you need at that time. Are you feeling tired? If so, sleep is a good bet. Feeling stressed? Maybe wind down with a good book, color a mandala or take a hot bath.

    6. Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs
    The advice is to keep alcohol to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Many people who suffer from mental illness use alcohol and drugs as a way to “self-medicate”, but the truth is that alcohol and drugs only aggravate your problems. If unlucky it can result in an addiction.

    7. Get help when you need it
    This is probably the most important tip of them all. Seeking out help isn’t something to be ashamed of- It’s a sign of strength. Treatment is effective, and with the appropriate treatment you got good chances to recover, or learn how to manage your illness.

    8. Read inspiring quotes
    On days when I feel down I usually turn to Pinterest to find quotes that inspire and motivate me. Try it.

    I’ll end the post with a favorite quote of mine:

    “Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect.
    It means you’ve decided to see beyond the imperfections.”

    With love,

    Kristina

  • Uncategorized

    Living with Avoidant Personality Disorder

    My life was chaotic towards the end of 2017. People around me urged me to turn to professionals for help to treat a stubborn depression and I finally caved in. The underlaying issue was however much deeper than we thought.

    After a couple of sittings together with a counsellor she carefully told me about Avoidant Personality Disorder. However, she wasn’t in position to officially diagnose me. I went home to conduct my own research on the subject, and suddenly all the puzzle pieces of my life came together. I finally understood me. Let us start from the beginning, though.

    I was always that shy kid.

    Yes, you know the one I’m talking about. The one sitting in the back of the classroom with their heads hanging low, avoiding eye contact with everyone- especially the teacher!

    From the tender age of 9 I was already a whole lot shyer and more withdrawn than my peers. It was noticed in school and I was relentlessly teased for how I looked, which I think made matters even worse. Afraid of conflicts and of people thinking badly of me I said nothing, I did nothing. I just bottled up as my self-esteem was shredded. The teachers were telling me I needed to speak up more in class, answer questions and participate. I was too afraid to comply, thinking I’d embarrass myself if I was to give the wrong answer, or say the wrong thing.

    Up until the age of thirteen I had some friends, but I slowly started to withdraw and with that, my friends no longer got in touch either. I had a handful of people I saw in school, but they were strictly schoolfriends, or people who took pity on me for being the sad, lonely girl. I went within. Created a dream world to where I’d go when my real life was too depressing to stay in. It was my escape of sorts. I battled eating disorders for most of my teen years, and I do think the eating disorder contributed to my avoidant behaviour. In order to not get caught not eating I needed to keep people at a distance, and it became a habit of mine that I’ve continued even after the obsession with food subsided.

    My teen years were nothing like the usual. I’d sit home every evening, usually locked away in my room. Much of it related to the overprotective nature of (unnamed) family members of mine. I was never allowed to go out, meet people, practise social skills and get over the shyness. At the age of 19 when I graduated high school and it was time for me to head out in the real world I knew nothing. Socially I was still thirteen years old, still afraid to speak to strangers. I avoided finding a job. Not because I was lazy or didn’t want to work. The anxiety I felt in regards to put myself out there, to possibly face rejection and embarrassment was debilitating. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    When I was twenty I met somebody overseas, married and moved countries, prepared to turn the page and start over. Without going into detail was the situation in my family home highly dysfunctional, and I was relieved to get away. For a while I did better. I even managed to complete two language courses with the best results in my classes, but when it came to work I was still stuck, very anxious. I couldn’t do it. When I got pregnant I was relieved. The work situation could be postponed further.

    Once my son was born in 2014 I was hit with a Postpartum depression and my life crashed completely as I slowly realized I was living the wrong life for me. I’ve been trying to re-build ever since but many days are difficult, and terribly exhausting to get through. I’m spending 2018 just focusing on me (and my son), on what I want and what I need. Therapy is likely to start later this year, and I’m already on antidepressant to deal better with the social anxiety. It enables me to make important phone calls, and get things done in general.

    The common signs of Avoidant Personality Disorder are:

    • Easily hurt by criticism or disapproval
    • No close friends
    • Reluctance to become involved with people
    • Avoidance of activities or occupations that involve contact with others
    • Shyness in social situations out of fear of doing something wrong
    • Exaggeration of potential difficulties
    • Showing excessive restraint in intimate relationships
    • Feeling socially inept, inferior, or unappealing to other people
    • Unwilling to take risks or try new things because they may prove embarrassing

    It’s important to point out that not all avoidants are the same. Not all are experiencing the exact same symptoms, or have the same coping mechanism to deal with it. Some avoidants go on to marry and have children and can manage intimate relationships with people they feel safe and secure with, while others live in complete isolation.

    My personal experience is that it is an extremely crippling disorder. A fear of everything that makes life worth living. I got two alternatives. Either I isolate myself which helps with the anxiety aspect of things but instead I dig myself into a hole of depression, or I socialize and trigger overwhelming anxiety and fears. The latter is the only real option I got at this point, and hopefully with some help I can manage the anxiety and possibly get over the worst of it and gain my own independence. That’s the most crippling thing for me. That I’m completely relying on other people.

    Before I end this post I want to ask everybody who relate to my story and are not yet in treatment to please reach out and get professional help. I wish I would have recognized the signs in myself ten years ago already and gotten help straight away. It could have saved me a lot of pain and misery.

    With love,

    Kristina

  • Uncategorized

    Postpartum Depression

    The first time depression hit me hard was back in 2014 after the birth of my son. That’s not to say I never experienced depression before, but that marked what came to be my lowest lows of all time.

    Even now as I’m writing this I hesitate, wondering if I’m even allowed to say something so hurtful about the birth of my child. What sort of emotions will this stir in those who read this? Will they think I don’t love him? They say the birth of your child is supposed to be the happiest time of your life, full of pink little clouds, cradles and fluffy stuffed animals. That wasn’t my experience at all, and I’m not alone.

    Before I continue though, I want to point out that just like all other mothers, including those who’s suffered from Postpartum depression, I love my son more than anything, or anybody in this world. We simply had a difficult start. It doesn’t define our relationship, or the love within it.

    My son was born through a Caesarean-section due to his size. He was a huge baby- 5300 g (11,7 lbs), and over 60 cm (24,5 inches) in lenght. I think that was the starting point of when things started to go down-hill. Up until that very day I was set on a natural birth, and when the C-section was suggested to me it came very unexpected. I say suggested now, but it was a lot more like a doctor’s order. Going through with a natural birth was deemed too risky for both me and the baby so I went along with it of course, not wanting to risk mine or my baby’s life. I know it was the right decision in the end, but the change of action threw me off. It wasn’t what I wanted, or what I expected and I didn’t know how to deal with the emotions of my dream birth going down the drain.

    The Caesarean went well, with no bigger complications. My son was beautiful. Brown fuzzy hair, big blue eyes and looked extremely mature for a newborn. One of the mid-wives at the hospital even called him an old-soul there on the spot. That first night though changed me. I was all by myself with the baby, still in the prep-room (for surgery) because they wanted to keep us there due to the amount of blood I had lost. To be honest, I was pretty dozed off at the time, I even got problems remember, but I know I made no attempts to hold, or feed my new baby. I was just laying there looking at him, terrified of going to sleep in case he’d die if I did. To this day I still don’t understand my reasoning behind it. I was awake almost the whole night, anxiously just staring at him.

    Four days later we got to go home. I tried to be happy. Told myself I had to be happy, cause anything else would be abnormal. I just had a baby for crying out loud, and I always wanted to be a mom. So why couldn’t I be happy? But instead I was living as if in a bubble, unable to connect to my son or to the outside world. I felt very anxious all the time, extremely alone and abandoned. Those late-night feedings when I’d sit up with a baby who wouldn’t take the breast, and it felt like all but me and my wee one were sleeping, took forever. All those walks in the late evenings because he was crying and wouldn’t fall asleep took a toll. I remember feeling like I was in a fog and that lasted at least the first 6 months. I’d cry almost daily. Feeling alone, like I couldn’t handle things, and I had nowhere to go cause my son needed me. It was as if I couldn’t breathe. Never EVER did I hurt my baby, but I’ll admit my thoughts turned very unpleasant at times. I told my son’s dad some of those dark thoughts I had in a plea for help, but nothing changed. We didn’t at all realize what was happening until years down the line, that’s when it dawned on me that I had suffered a Postpartum depression.

    My son and I got a pretty ordinary relationship today. It took longer for us to bond, but as time passed and he started to develop into a little person with a distinct personality, we finally grew very close. He’s my world, and he’s a definite momma’s boy at heart. I’d like to think that our struggles connecting made us stronger in the end. We fought for each other.

    My story is not unusual. Postpartum depression is a lot more common than most people think. Roughly 20%(!) of new mothers are faced with it, yet it’s something that is often times kept in secrecy. If a mom doesn’t love her child instantly and can connect to them straight away after birth it’s seen as a failure, like the mother did something wrong. Having a baby is an overwhelming experience, and emotions are raging high for a long time after. There is no right or wrong way to react to such an event, and blame is definitely not the answer.

    With love,

    Kristina