Thursday, 23 February 2017

Hashtag Power Couple

Two months into 2017 and I don't think I've stopped raving about how important communication is within relationships. But forgive me because it's kinda one of my New Year's Resolutions (that I haven't given up on yet). A big goal of mine is to build on and strengthen my relationships with those around me, namely my relationship with Chris.

2017 is the year we become parents. (OH my god.) And while we already have a strong relationship, which naturally grows daily because of our shared loved for this little human we have created (that we haven't even met yet), I feel like relationships always require you both to work on it. If only to increase each other's happiness. And ya know, be #PowerCouple. (I'm kidding).

Over the time we have been in this relationship, we've had our fair share of ups and downs (as I'm sure a lot you and your partners have had). I'm not going to go into detail of these, but quite a big chunk of them were due to poor communication, mental health issues, misunderstandings and a lack of compromise. So, New Years Day, we went out to our local coffee shop, grabbed a coffee (decaf) and a cake and got to talking. And haven't stopped talking about this day since.

We talked about everything that had gone wrong in 2016, and what can been great. For starters, we went on our first holiday aboard together and he met my family in Turkey (who obviously loved him). We've hit some great milestones (you know, making a baby is a biggie). But we've also hit some great lows. Like breaking up.

Yeah, we broke up for a brief period in 2016. And it was awful.

We discussed all those bad times and tried to come up with answers as to why they happened (because a lack of love for one another was not one of them). And guess what? The majority of them came to the same conclusion: A lack of communication.

It made me feel a little mad inside. How could we have let things get to the point of breaking up? Or the point of feeling distant from one another due to POOR COMMUNICATION. It was mind boggling. We let our emotions build up inside until we erupted and splurted out things we didn't mean.

This led to a lack of compromise and sensitivity. A lack of respect for one another. But most importantly, we felt a huge distance between us. There was so much love there and so much to fight for, we knew we couldn't give in.

Whilst we felt like we had failed our relationship because we didn't realise this sooner, we knew it could never be too late. And together, we could work on this as a team. And learn to communicate a bit better.

Don't get me wrong, communication is not easy. Especially when you suffer from a mental illness. When you're feeling so low you want everyone and everything to get away from you. You want to be alone with yourself and your thoughts. But that's the thing. How hard is it to say to your partner "I just want to be alone right now. I need to some time to myself. I'm having some bad thoughts and I'll contact you if I need you." 

It's not hard. If you can recognise your feelings and emotions like this, you need to share it. Some days, I wake up and say "Chris, I've woken up and I'm feeling really down." And because we've communicated with each other what to do when things like this happen (i.e. give me some space for a while, encourage me to get up and have a shower, put some make up on, do my hair, have some food, go out for a walk, read a book, play the AZ game, watch a film together and so on), it's much easier for the both of us to deal with.

But I dangerously got to the point of no longer communicating this with him because my bad days were becoming more frequent and I didn't want him to become worried about me (any more than he already is) or upset with me for feeling this way, even angry with me. The truth is, what's more upsetting for him is when I don't communicate with him. When I don't share my life with him. When I eventually erupt with all kinds of emotions firing at him.

Your partner isn't a mind reader. They don't just know when you are feeling a certain way. Is it fair for all kinds of things to be flying around in their head as to why you may be being distant with them? Without being open and honest, you're potentially causing them to feel low themselves and that isn't fair at all.

It had even got to the point that I felt distant from him. God knows how he felt. I wasn't sharing my life, thoughts and feeling with him. He ended up doing the same. This had build a brick wall between us. I felt scared to be loving around him. Giving him a cuddle felt weird. Giving him a kiss even weirder. I rarely told him how much I loved him. But all I felt inside was a deep love for him. I mean, my heart still races every time he smiles at me, or I catch his eye from across the room. I get butterflies every time he kisses my forehead. So why was it so hard to show this?

In all honesty I was scared at how distant I had come to feel from him that I didn't know what to do anymore. I felt lost in our relationship. And it wasn't until New Years Day when we literally threw everything on the table, that I felt that closeness come back.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Pregnancy Glow, a load of rubbish?

I remember when I first told my friends and family I was pregnant, I kept hearing the words pregnancy glow thrown all over the place (as well as "oh I knew it!"). And there was me left feeling a bit confused as to what this pregnancy glow was, and did it really exist? I mean, I didn't feel glowing at all.

For the first two trimesters, my face was full of spots and considering I usually have an almost clear complexion, this got me down a lot. So I was eagerly waiting for this glow to arrive.

I spent hours on end searching online 'how to get the pregnancy glow' and I tried EVERYTHING. But honestly, nothing works. There were a few times I thought I had a breakthrough, like when I bought some coconut oil. But it didn't last more than a few days and the spots and and dry skin were back.

I continued to persevere. I'd moisturise and cleanse daily, exfoliate once a week, try not to touch my face often etc. but was still left with misery every time I looked in the mirror. Not only that, but my dry skin turned OILY in places. I honestly felt like I'd just hit a brick wall.

Spots, combination skin, no glow. So I gave up. Instead of using my usual expensive moisturiser (that I never ever have steered away from using for years), I just used anything. I bought a cheap Nivea moisturiser for combination skin. And sometimes, I didn't even bother moisturising. I just took my make up off every night, washed my face with soap and got into bed. Mornings, I'd wash my face, moisturise and put on my make up for the day. I'd use my usual expensive cleanser once a week, if that. I'd simply accepted that my skin was to be terrible during pregnancy (and like the weight gain worries), I just got in with it and didn't look in the mirror too much!

Then the Third Trimester hit. And everyone began commenting on how glowing and healthy I looked. My dad even commented that my skin had really cleared up and looked glowing. My dad noticed?! So I actually started to believe it. I looked in the mirror and was actually kind of happy for once. My skin had actually cleared up. And I did kind of feel a bit more glowing. Was this the pregnancy glow?

I mean, I honestly don't know. Fast forward to today and there's a pretty ugly monster sitting on my chin. But it's okay. Because I still feel glowing. I've got zero make up, because I finally feel partially comfortable to go make-up free. But most importantly, I feel glowing in myself, not just my skin.

The question is: Is it because I'm excited (and no longer as stressed) that there's only a few weeks until we meet our beautiful boy? Or is it really the "pregnancy glow"?

What do you think? Does the pregnancy glow exist? Is it psychological? To do with hormones? Or is it just because I stopped using so many products on my face and busting a gut to get that glow? Let me know your thoughts over on TwitterFacebook or Bloglovin'.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Early signs of pre-eclampsia?

The third trimester began about 5/6 weeks ago and since then, everything has seemed to go a little down hill....

I've been to the Maternity Triage unit at the hospital far too many times to count (but at least we're prepared for the journey when I do go into labour!). The everyday pregnancy symptoms (as I like to call them, take the morning sickness, achey back, dizziness, headaches for example) have definitely worsened. But one thing is for sure, Noah's kicking hasn't slowed down at all! He's being a good boy and telling me throughout the day that he's doing just fine in there and I need to stop being such a worrier. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you may have seen this little video of our little boy going a little mad - as he has been since around 20 weeks when I first felt him.

I thought I'd do a little update on everything health wise that has been going on for me and Noah, from extra growth scans to early signs of Pre-Eclampsia.

28-Week Growth Scan

Firstly, I had my 28-week growth scan, which was pretty awful. No, not because his weight and growth was low, but because of the horrible sonographer who make me feel like an awful mother. She told me his weight and rate of growth was too low because I was "tiny" and I should eat more chocolates and pizza. Not the best advice from a health professional. And since, I have upped my diet by a massive amount (eating every 1-2 hours), I really don't think (nor does my midwife!) it's my eating that is making his growth low.

And to add to this. When I went to see my midwife a week or so later, she said his rate of growth was absolutely fine! Albeit, yes, it is a big lower than average, but nothing for me to worry about!

So after a week of worrying and googling about what I can do, wondering if I'm really not eating enough etc etc. It was actually all fine. We were all relieved and I felt a little calmer about it all and comfortable that I was actually doing a good job growing him. But obviously, this calm outlook wasn't going to last very long....

First emergency trip to the hospital

A few days later, I came in from a long day at work and as I went to get out of the car, I had the most excruciating pain in my lower belly (which was not Braxton Hicks). I hadn't felt Noah kick for a few hours (usually he's kicking on the hour, every hour). And as I have quite a high pain threshold, my family were very worried about the pain I was experiencing.

So, we scooted off to the hospital for a check up. After finally finding our way around, they ran some tests and couldn't work out what the problem was. The pain had eventually subsided so we made our way home, had some dinner, got into bed and went into work the next day.

I was a bit confused as to why there was no diagnosis or explanation for this pain, (other than possibly being due to an infection) but I was glad that everything was okay with Noah and that I was feeling better, so I just forgot about it and moved on.

High blood pressure? 

A week or so later, came a few more trips to the Maternity Triage unit. I had experienced blurred vision and migraines in the second trimester (you'll see I talked about it in this blog post), but it has begun to get really bad these past few weeks.

It usually just comes out of nowhere. My vision will become blurred (sometimes going completely), I start to feel dizzy and lightheaded like I may pass out, I see spots and stars everywhere I look and later on, come the intense migraines. Due to the regularity and intensity of these symptoms, I am quite worried (and equally, fed up).

One particular day I was sitting at work and these symptoms started to come on. I done the usual, got some fresh air, took some time away from the computer and drank plenty of water. But nothing seemed to give. All of a sudden, my body felt completely weak and heavy. My vision had gone completely. And I felt like I wasn't really "here". I stepped outside the office and sat down for a minute. My body went into some kind of anxiety attack I think. I couldn't stop shaking and twitching. And my vision just wasn't coming back at all.

I phoned my midwife, who subsequently put me through to the Maternity Triage unit at the hospital and they asked to see me immediately.

The usual checks were completed: checked my blood pressure and temperate, checked the baby's heart rate for around 2 hours, done a blood test, had the doctor see me etc etc. And everything was fine. There was no explanation for the way I had been feeling, but the usual I need some rest. They signed me off to have a few days of rest (I managed one day of rest and worked from home for one day - which is good for me!) and I was back to feeling a little bit better. Baby was fine. I was back to feeling a bit better, apart from the migraines (and every other usual pregnancy symptom like exhaustion, aching body, Braxton Hicks etc.)

Early signs of Pre-Eclampsia?

The following week I was still stuck with these constant headaches and on and off blurry vision, but as I knew it was nothing to worry about and I had my midwives appointment coming up, I didn't worry too much and tried to relax as much as I could.

The morning of my midwives appointment, I was working from home and I'd had a bit of a stressful morning work-wise and personally. And then all of a sudden my vision had become blurry, I was seeing spots and starting to feel faint. I got some fresh air and just tried to ignore it as I knew it was nothing and I would be meeting the midwife soon.

The midwife done all her checks, but became worried. My blood pressure was a lot higher than the last time I had visited, baby was still measuring small and I explained the blurry vision, headaches and other symptoms I'd been getting. She asked me to wait outside so she could check my blood pressure for a third time in 20 minutes to see if it would decrease.

20 minutes later, my blood pressure had still not decreased. And due to my other symptoms, my midwife was worried it was the early signs of pre-eclampsia. She rang the hospital telling them of my symptoms and they asked to see me immediately to check over me and baby.

I was a little anxious at this point. Firstly, because of hearing pre-eclampsia and the affects it could have on Noah. And secondly, if it was just going to be nothing again like the last week I was there. Oh and I had a presentation to finish at work for the following day's big focus meeting.

Chris picked me up and we went off to the hospital. The usual checks took place: testing urine, blood pressure checked at different times, temperate checked, placed on the electronic fetal monitoring machine (which checks the baby's heart rate continiously), checked my reflexes and had another blood test testing a range of things.

Everything came back pretty much okay. Blood pressure still didn't decrease, but baby was fine, I was feeling a bit better (apart from the exhaustion and migraine) so we decided to go home. They booked me in for an emergency scan the next day and to have my blood pressure checked in a few days.

The check up and another scan

I worked from home in the morning, then went along to the hospital for my check up. They ran all the usual checks again and checked my blood pressure three times - it was still the same. So they've booked me in to come back in a few days again to keep an eye on it. My headaches have worsened, I've developed what I can only describe as "morning sickness" again and the dizzy spells/blurred vision spells are happening on a daily (actually, more than 3 times a day usually) basis. So on in all, not enjoying this part of pregnancy.

Onto better news, we had another scan on Sunday (the emergency one they booked as I couldn't make it the following day) and NOAH IS GROWING WELL. We were so happy to hear that news. I've been worrying for weeks about his growth and finally my mind can rest a little. He's gonna be our perfect little boy whatever, but knowing that I am growing him well (even though I am not really showing it), is one of the best feelings in the world. All that extra food must be doing him good (even if it's not making me feel too great). 

With more check ups this week and feeling super miserable with the constant trips to the hospital and feeling crappy, I am looking forward to our appointment with the consultant Friday. Hopefully we can just discuss all these worries and concerns I'm having and the hospital have about my blood pressure and symptoms, as well as my mental health (which I must add has been pretty good these last few weeks, despite all of this going on). And he'll tell me everything is fine and okay. 

Have you had any worries like this during pregnancy? Was high blood pressure a problem for you? I'd love to hear about your experiences and anything that helped this period for you? 


Thursday, 9 February 2017

My parents are #goals

My parents are a huge inspiration to me in more ways than one, but now that me and Chris are soon to become parents, it's made me look at my relationship with them even closer.

I've been looking around at those I consider to be my "role models" and I can honestly say, my mum and dad are hands down "parent goals". Of course, you always look to your parents for inspiration or to do things differently to them as you haven't had the best upbringing. And now is such an important time for me to do that. I hope I can follow in my parents footsteps to bring up the happy, lovely, well-mannered children they have (or maybe that just counts for my brother!)

You can always rely on me

Since I can remember, my dad has always said to me "You can always rely on me. I will never let you down". I can actually hear him saying it in my head as I write this because he's said it so many times! But it never ceases to touch me. And he's never failed to stick by this word.

I still always questioned him and he'd simply respond "If I said it will work out, it will. Have I ever let you down?" The answer was no. But every time there's something that I feel he can't possibly fix or work out, HE DOES. And every single time, I'm lost for words.

The point is not that my dad done everything for me, but that I knew I could always rely on him. For example, I needed a new car. My dad didn't "fix" the problem, by buying me a new one, but he helped me get my funds together, figure out what I could afford and found an ace car for that price (and even knocked down the price by a few hundred so I'd have enough to pay the extra insurance costs). It's something about him always protecting me, looking out for me and doing everything in his power to make me happy that is so special.

Similarly, it was this attitude that he had that "everything will work out in the end" that actually pushed me to work harder to reach that end goal. Take my exams for example: I remember being in tears to him because I was so sure I was going to fail an exam. He'd simply say: "No you won't. I know you won't. Am I ever wrong?" And that was just the little boost of confidence I needed to stay motivated, work hard and study. And I never once failed (then we'd both be in balls of tears at the sight of my results - it was so special).

You're so spoilt

Over the years, I've had a few people call me "spoilt" because of this relationship I have with my parents, especially my dad. But I think it runs so much deeper than being spoilt. There was a rocking horse I wanted so badly as a child, but we simply couldn't afford it and I needed to learn how to ride a bike. So, they let me choose my own bike (with loads of pink and purple sparkly tassels and a little horn - it was so awesome). If I was "spoilt", surely I would have got both?

But you see, it's not about getting everything I want. It's about knowing in my heart, that I can rely on my parents with my life. They will do their very best to make me happy, in any way they can. And instead of bringing up an ungrateful child, who gets everything she wants and then suddenly when she doesn't, she throws a strop, they brought up a forever grateful child. I feel blessed every time my parents do something for me to make me happy, safe, protected or content.

Love and Support during a breakdown

Another aspect of the love and support my parents give me is linked to my mental health issues, which they help me with on a daily basis if need be - especially my mum with my anxiety and panic attacks. She is so amazing at calming me down and making me feel safe and happy after a panic.

When my mental health issues first hit the surface, I'm sure it was such a struggle for my parents, because they couldn't simply fix me (not that I or anyone with a mental illness needs "fixing"!!). But I'm sure they felt absolutely useless. But all I really needed was love and support, so that's what they done.

My mum was literally my rock! She came with me to every single counselling, psychiatrist, doctors or hospital appointment. She even went to family therapy on HER OWN (because I refused to go, obviously). She was the person who managed to get me to see the best psychiatrist I have ever had, which subsequently led to my stay in a private psychiatric hospital. She was just always there for me when I was feeling down. I could just splurt everything that was in my head to her, and she didn't judge. She just listened. It actually brings tears to my eyes even writing this because of how truly amazing she was, when she probably felt like she wasn't helping at all.

I really felt the unconditional love they had for me. I felt worthless, unlovable, a failure, a let down, but they still continued to show they loved me, each and every day, even when I was a total bitch.

Loved unconditionally 

It's funny, but I remember as a child when I'd done something naughty, my dad would tell me off and send me to my room, as parents usually do. But a few hours later, he'd call me downstairs. He'd call me over to him and give me the biggest hug and kiss and tell me loves me and he's sorry for shouting, but I was naughty and shouldn't do that again. And I think that instilled one of the most important messages of all: I love you unconditionally, but when you're naughty there are consequences, but it doesn't mean I'll ever stop loving you.

And in doing this, it actually made me feel worse about being naughty. Because even though I'd done wrong, he still wanted to give me a kiss and a cuddle and show me he loved me, even when I was a brat. This empowered me each and every day to make him and my mum the happiest and proudest they could be. But the message was still there loud and clear:  I love you whatever you do, whatever you say, but remember the consequences.

Overall, they've taught me that being a parent isn't about showering your child with the most luxurious things,  but it's about unconditional love, support and them knowing that they can rely on you with their life and you will do everything in your power to make them happy. If your child feels loved and protected by you, has good morals and manners and knows they can rely on you, I feel you've done the best job. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

7 ways dogs help mental health

I adore my dog, Barney, he's part of the family. He's like my furry baby - he even asks to be picked up! And he absolutely loves having his tummy tickled and a cuddle. But most importantly, when I'm feeling down and barely can drag myself out of bed, he is there. He gives me a cuddle and just simply motivates me to get out of bed, have a shower and get ready. Even if it is just to take him for walkies.

My mum and dad bought Barney for me when I had just come out of hospital. I was dying for a dog for months, sending them pictures of cockapoos. And finally, when we were on holiday in France, they caved in. We went to see Barney and instantly fell in love. The rest is history. Everyone loves him. And he truly makes us all so happy, when we may have had the hardest day ever.

There are dozens of reasons why having a dog can improve your mental health massively. Here's some of my reasons:

1. They give you purpose. Having a dog isn't all about having someone to snuggle up to, they require looking after. You have to feed them, walk them, train them, groom them, play with them and of course, give them lots of attention (that's where the cuddles and belly rubs come in). This gives you a purpose, just like having a children. You can't stay in bed all day cuddling your dog or just binge-watching the latest reality show, you have to get up and look after them!

2. Stroking makes you happy. Cuddles! One of my favourite things about having Barney isn't just how much he loves cuddles, but how happier these cuddles make me! Stroking him, petting him, tickling his belly, snuggling up in bed with him - all these things make me happy, as well as making Barney a very happy doggy. Something about stroking a dog releases endorphins (those happy hormones) and not only this, but it reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. So it's win-win situation really.

3. They reduce loneliness. I mean this is obvious. The phrase "a men's best friend is a dog" says is all really. I hate being alone. Coming home into an empty house is something that seriously gets me down, but I don't have that anymore. I come home to a happy, jumping dog who's so excited to see me. And it really cheers me up. If i'm sitting on the sofa all night catching up with the latest soaps, as long as Barney is on my lap, I'm happy. He's a great listener too. He doesn't much love the soaps though....

4. They love you unconditionally. You forgot to get their favourite treats this week, you tell them off for being naughty, you ignore them when you come in from work because you're just so stressed and can't be bothered with a jumping happy day. Do they care? They probably look a bit sad. But guess what, they still love you. And if 2 minutes later you decide to say hello and give them a tummy rub, they'll be all smiles and licking you all over again. They love you no matter what. We all could definitely learn a thing or two from dogs.

5. They make you smile. Even when Barney is sitting there staring at me for 10 minutes straight, whining because he wants a treat and it is so irritating (because he had a treat 5 minutes ago), you can't help but smile. Dogs do the funniest things don't they? When I tell him it's time for walkies, he gets so excited he does this really funny (and cute) bum wiggle. I can't help but smile. Even though I'm trying desperately to get his collar on him and his bum just won't stop wiggling! Then he insists on carrying his lead in his mouth until you're out the door for his walk. He's a funny one.

6. They get you outside. Dogs have to go on walks. They have to get some fresh air, go to the toilet and have a good run around, this gets you out the house and exercising. Walking is one of the best exercises in my eyes because I think it's so relaxing (and fairly easy to do - you can walk anywhere!), but it's a great way to get your body moving and your heart pumping. And if you have a dog, it's even better because you're never lonely while exercising. And if you have a dog anything like Barney, he loves to run around, chasing birds and chasing you. Plus, getting outside and exercising is SO important for your mental health.

7. Playing is fun. When you've had a bad day at work, sometimes playing that game of tug of war with your dog makes everything better. It takes you away from reality for a moment and you forget all your worries. And your dog will love it.

© Ayse Lulu | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig