Tag Archives: health


The grey has descended once more.

I thought I had it sorted, I thought I had fixed it. Just a couple of days ago I asked my GP if I could start weaning off my citalopram. I thought it was a good idea. He disagreed and now it seems with good reason.

Just a couple of days ago I thought I was coping with all that life has to throw at me. I was content with my little family, plodding along.

I was feeling better mentally and physically, settled.

Alas, it was not to last. Slowly but surely the black dog returned, along with his good friends that are the grey clouds and rain showers.

I should have known really, it never does. I should have been forewarned but I was not.

The sensible, more aware part of me tells me that low points are normal, that everyone has them. Another part of me answers back, arguing that I am too weak to handle them. It is just life.

I’ve spent most of my adult life being medicated. The last time I wasn’t medicated was during pregnancy and a short period post-partum. Before that, I cannot recall the last time I wasn’t popping one anti-depressant or another.

There have been very short periods, a week or so when I have stopped myself. Those periods never end well and I know I want to avoid that.

But how am I to know if what I feel is part and parcel of normality? How can I differentiate between that and actual depression? I don’t know any more.

The wine aisle in the local shop whispers my name. Asking me “What harm will one glass do?” but I know the answer to that. I can’t have just one glass. I can’t have enough. So I avoid it, remind myself that alcohol and happy pills and pain killers and beta blockers do not mix. So I pick up the chocolate instead, slightly recoiling at the price; when did that get so expensive?!

I snap at my beautiful, happy son for no reason other than he is being a four year old boy, one who is fiercely testing how much independence he can have and is curious about the growing world around him. The same little boy who crawls into my bed in the early hours, whispering he can’t get back to sleep because all he wants is a cuddle from mummy, reminding me he is still my baby.

I know what it is like to be on the peripheral of life, to not want to be here, to feel life is pointless and I know I am not there, yet.

I don’t know, or perhaps just can’t remember life before the happy pills were dished out, why I started taking them in the first place. I can’t seem to reach the depths of my memory that are needed to recall that. Perhaps I don’t really want to. Or maybe there was no real reason at all. Maybe I am just unable to cope with real life.


My head is pounding, my nose is streaming and I still haven't pulled myself out of the dark hole. The pain doesn't seem to come to an end and I feel it from the strands of my hair through to the soles of my feet and everything is sore.

I shed silent tears of pain as I sit bedraggled in the surgery waiting room, glancing up at the screen every time I hear that familiar beep and yet making every effort to avoid eye contact with an actual person only to notice that my name still hasn't come up.

My name flashes up and I hobble along the corridor carrying my heavy body and of course I get the duty GP (the irony of the one that knows my history is on long-term sick is not lost on me) and so obviously I have to head to the furthest office in the building. I mumble something about needing another Fit Note to excuse me from actively seeking employment and that the painkillers aren't working and oh can I have some more antidepressants as well, thank you very much. I ask, as I have every month for the last four months since we moved here, for a referral to pain management and am told there are still lots of combinations that we haven't yet tried, that these things take time.

Prescriptions and Fit Note issued, I head to the pharmacy next door and the wait is a minimum of 45 minutes so I decide that I will collect the new pills tomorrow before slowly hobbling home again where I quite literally collapse onto the sofa because I am just so exhausted.

"Are you better Mummy? Did the Doctor fix you?"

"Not yet sweetheart."

"I will get you something." And with that Harry turns around and heads into his bedroom, bringing a blanket, pillow and Ernie on his return, telling the husband "Daddy, Mummy needs a coffee now and I will give her a cuddle" and he climbs onto the sofa next to me, stroking my back as if something so simple could take the pain away.

If only, Harry, if only. But thank you so much anyway.

All the Small Things - MummyNeverSleeps



Clearly from the title of this post, you will be aware this will contain a few of my post birth memories.  Whilst this has been prompted by the arrival of the new royal prince, third in line to throne, there will henceforth be no further references to the recent news which has seemingly caused a news black out on any other subject in the world, ever.

Anyway, the last couple of days blanket news coverage have reminded me of those oh so precious first few days.  I vividly remember with fondness that first hold, still unable to feel my lower body due to the epidural (for the emergency c-section), the overwhelming love.  I remember the fear when the husband left recovery room for home at 3am and I was taken to my own room (thank goodness my work had private health insurance as a benefit). I remember losing track of time and buzzing the midwife to ask if I needed to feed Harry (because I couldn't get to him myself). That first night I didn't get any more than one hour's broken sleep.  Harry slept fine, he slept perfectly (and I was secretly smug after the warnings), it was me that couldn't sleep, that couldn't absorb that this precious, tiny baby had just been removed from my body and was mine.  The husband and I were solely responsible for another human being.  For the rest of his or our own lives.

Harry and Mummy 1

A pretty terrifying thought.

Come midday, a mere 12 hours after Harry's entrance into the world, my family descended on us, vying to meet the new arrival.  I was pretty sure that even the nurses and midwives were glad I had my own room when they saw just how many people came to visit!  For the next two hours, Harry was alert, peaceful as he had been.  My Auntie commented that she was no longer convinced I had given birth a mere 12 hours ago since he was so alert, so happy to be passed around.

The thing is, having had a major abdominal operation, I couldn't yet go home.  Had my body let me birth naturally, I still wouldn't have been permitted home that evening since late in my pregnancy we had discovered I was carrying GBS and obviously we needed to be sure that Harry wasn't susceptible.  So Harry and I were destined to spend another night in hospital sans the husband.

Except this night (technically the first one as he was born shortly after midnight), he cried.  And he didn't stop crying.  He didn't want to feed.  He didn't seem to settle with me at all.  I got so overwhelmed, so lost, so exhausted through days of lack of sleep and such a failure that I cried.  I buzzed for the midwife who promptly came in and took Harry to the nursery, with my permission to give formula if needed.

He refused that.  He didn't settle for the midwives but I got a 30 minute nap before I woke with a jolt wondering where my child was.  After that short time apart, a good feed and some safe co-sleeping, he settled quickly and we both felt so rested.

As Harry and I recovered so well, we were discharged a day early after six hours of waiting for paperwork to be signed off; I bet the Duchess and new Prince didn't have to wait around!

There really isn't a better feeling than the euphoria of having a child.  Equally, I don't think the husband and I have ever been so fearful as when we walked through our front door after leaving hospital and we were hit with the realisation that from now on, it was just the three of us and we would be winging it as first time parents.

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Yesterday I finally got to see the geneticist to have a discussion and some bloods taken so we can try and work out if I do have a faulty gene(s) and what we can do to help me.

If you are a regular reader, you will know I have various health issues which you can read about here.

The clinic was at the local Children's Hospital and I must say how much I liked the waiting room.  It was lovely and bright with lots of toys and books for the children to play with.  All of the staff were lovely and friendly and unlike normal waiting rooms, it felt cosy and warm.  Despite whatever reasons the children were there for (of which I have no clue) they all seemed really quite happy and entertained, even though I soon realised some of them had seen a number of different people and been there for some time.

After a short delay I was taken to an office and was greeted by a geneticist. And three other people. A trainee, the secretary and a Dr.

The geneticist asked if I knew I why I was there and I told her I did and said my neurosurgeon thinks a have at least one faulty gene based on the conditions I have and that my brother, H and I look so alike. I took along the photo album that was made for me for my birthday, for which she was very grateful and all of them commented on how alike we all look.

My brother and H
My brother and H

When I told her about my brother's temporary blindness last year she asked if he had an ECG and I didn't know so she said the secretary will write to him and tell him to get in contact with them.  I did mention that after speaking to his GP last month, my brother had been ordered a CT scan and I commented that I didn't think that would show up any neurological issues since mine only showed in MRI scans.  So the secretary kindly said she would suggest a MRI for him as well.

The professor definitely wants H tested too and said that she suspects that his growth gene is faulty (and probably mine and my brother's too). With H, if that is the case, they can give him injections. Therefore I have to ask my GP for a referral for him to paediatric genetics. And also for an ECG.

I am to have an ECG too. And I was sent off to the hospital next door for bloods. Whilst she has a rough idea of what could be wrong and so some results will take 6-8 weeks to come back, others will take up to 6 months. I am also being referred to someone about my circulation in feet since my feet are almost always blue. My next NS appointment is on 4 March so I guess that will be postponed yet again since none of the results will be back.

She has ruled out what I thought it was which is Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

So more waiting... But slowly slowly seem to be getting somewhere.

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As regular readers will know, the fabulous Penny, Annie and Tanya have been to Ghana, visiting various projects that have been set up and run by donations to Comic Relief here in the UK.  As part of a plan to raise awareness of the work that Comic Relief has done in the last 25 years (yes, it really is 25 years old!) these bloggers have been sending digital postcards to around 150 of their fellow bloggers and here is mine!



Dear Rachel

This woman Vivienne is one of the members of the Mental Health support group set up by the Basic Needs Trust in Ghana and funded by Comic Relief. She is standing next to a member of staff from the Trust. Like many of the group members, after treatment for her illness Vivienne received a small loan to help her progress as a dressmaker, and joined the self help group of which she is secretary. We spoke very briefly, but her passion for helping others within the community with mental health issues came through loud and strong, she is a really inspiring woman. She also welcomed us so warmly to the monthly group meeting. Amazing project.

 Love Penny


Go girls!  You did a fabulous job!
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Becoming a mum is one of the magical and treasured parts of any woman’s life. But when our little ones arrive it can be all too easy to forget ourselves and get lost in nappy changes and feeding routines. When we talk about fitness for new mums, it doesn’t just mean getting back in shape - it’s about gaining a healthy level of all round fitness.

The Change in Routine

Having a baby is almost as exciting as it is exhausting – the little-ones bring about an extreme change in everyone’s routine. If like many women you’ve returned to work then not only do you have the stress of the job - but bringing up your infant, arranging child-care and even trying to get back into your favourite clothes! That’s a lot for any woman.

If you’re finding this transition hard then there are many steps you can take to help reduce stress. Many new mums change their employment to part-time until their baby is a little older. If you are finding the return to work stressful, then why not have look at what services are available to you. This could be counselling or other options to give you a helping-hand with stress relief. benenden health  provide a 24/7 stress counselling helpline for advice & help without having to leave the home.

Create Your Fitness Plan

Maintaining fitness is not just about the physical aspects, it is also about our all round mental health. Being mentally fit needs to be treated in exactly the same way – and they both come down to exercise. When creating a new fitness plan, try to incorporate some mental actives too - these can be anything from a Suduko puzzle, a cross-word through to a chat with a friend.

A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan found;

"A brief (10 minutes minimum) chat was just as effective as spending 10 minutes on a crossword puzzle. Both activities proved more effective at boosting brain power than watching television for 10 minutes"

One major change that comes with having a baby is that sleep patterns become disturbed. This is especially true when they are very young of as they require regular feeds throughout the night. However, being fit and active does depend on our bodies getting an adequate amount of rest - without this a mum’s mood will be affected and hormonal stress levels are increased.

With this in mind make sure you factor in periods of rest both for mind and body, both need to be working in harmony to keep our mental health in check.

The recommended guidelines advertised by the NHS for physical exercise are 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week – which certainly seems achievable. This should ideally be a mixture of aerobic activities (walking, swimming, cycling) and strength training (resistance training, weight lifting*). This can break down to the follow list of activities.

  • Cardiovascular - running, jogging, swimming
  • Strength - weight training, kettle balls, push ups
  • Flexibility - yoga, pilates, ballet

A combination of these just once a week will help your overall fitness. Teamed with a mixture of mental exercises you could see reduced stress level, but make sure you show your plan to your GP before undertaking any exercise.

Fitness Outside

A recent article by the BBC created hype around outdoor activity due to the gravity of their statement: “... five minutes of exercise in a ‘green space’ such as a park can boost mental health, researchers claim”. The conducted research specifically found that certain exercises in outdoor spaces helped us to find a ‘mentally ground state’ - more so at times of high-stress levels.*

One of the easiest exercises to undertake in the great outdoors is walking and light jogging, what’s great about this is that it can be done whilst socialising with friends. Robin Gargrave of YMCAFit agrees and suggests that we interlink both walking and jogging rather than breaking into a full sprint.

"When you can walk briskly for 20 minutes continuously, you can try to "walk-jog". Walk for a minute and then jog for a minute, alternating the speeds throughout your session. Run at a pace at which you can still hold a conversation, but which feels harder than walking"

Exercising outdoors comes with a massive social aspect, exercising with friends or family will also keep you mentally stimulated (and keeping the exercise interesting!).  If you are jogging alone then why not look at changing your route every so often to keep your mind as active as the rest of your body.

Indoor Fitness

Now sometimes we just don’t have the time to get outside and exercise. So what are the options for those of us that need to stay and look after the little-one? Last year the NHS launched a Get Fit For Free campaign. It brought forth the importance of mental and physical exercise (without damaging our bank balances) and highlighted the amount of activities we can do from the comfort of our own home.

One of the more interesting ideas was a downloadable podcast for strength, resistance and weight training. These are easily downloadable to your home computer and run on a ten minute cycle, being so short these are easier to fit in amongst your day. These are designed to build upon your flexibility and for all around healthy lifestyles should be mixed in with exercise. One of the most underrated pieces of equipment for keeping fit is the skipping rope; just 30 minutes of skipping a day can potentially burn 400 calories* - team this with Yoga or strength podcast and you will be able to cover your weekly activity from home.

Whatever you decide to do; remember that getting fit is just as much about the exercise as it about creating a safe routine that will help you to become both mental, and physically fit.






*NHS Choices


* health.howstuffworks.com

*Quotes from Robin Gargraves nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Getfitwithoutgym.


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Sometimes life throws you a curve ball or two and it can be difficult to see through to the positives.

It is how you deal with those curve balls that shape who you are, who you become right?

As a family we have had a huge amount to deal with in the last year.  Redundancy, illness, relocating, illness, new job, losing job, illness, debt, more debt, illness, losing our home.  And so it continues. ...continue reading


Let me start by saying this is NOT in any way, shape or form an attack on the wonderful NHS system that we have. Without the NHS I would probably not be as reasonably healthy as I am, putting my own complaints aside to save a few pennies (or a lot of pounds) just in case H needed treatment for something.

I have always suffered from various headaches and migraines since I can remember, getting worse through my teens and then again when I stopped taking the contraceptive pill. This was put down to "just one of those things". After H was born they got significantly worse again and it seemed barely a month would pass before I needed the husband to take time off work to look after H or I couldn't go to work myself. When H was about 14 months old, after a total of several weeks off sick from work, I finally put my foot down and demanded a referral from my GP. At that time I was lucky enough to have private medical insurance through the American Investment bank that I worked for, so I used that and was seen at the local Nuffield hospital within a week. A CT scan followed a week later and then a MRI. A couple of weeks later I had seen a neurologist and a couple of weeks after that a neurosurgeon.

It was established that I have had the conditions since birth as a result of a very traumatic labour, that at this moment in time surgery isn't worth the risk and instead, I required a full brain and spinal MRI and the conditions would be monitored.

Then I was made redundant, thus losing my private medical insurance and we moved 200 miles.

This is where it gets messy. I informed the private secretary that I was no longer insured so she said I would be referred to the NHS, under the same surgeon. Before we'd moved (about four weeks later) I still hadn't heard anything so contacted her again. My notes were still with her but I was assured they would be transferred and my address changed.

Three weeks ago I received a phone call from his NHS secretary. My old address was still on the system. I explained I had moved but that to keep things progressing I would prefer to travel for appointments so I was advised the MRI department would be in touch.

I chased the appointment today. A note has been placed on my notes for a referral to a more local neurosurgeon except that still hasn't been requested!

Everything under the private insurance happened within a matter of 8 weeks. It is now almost 4 months since I advised that I needed to be seen under the NHS and I still haven't been seen.

As I said, this isn't actually meant to be a rant (and I for one am not looking forward to what the new Health and Social Care Bill means for me) but surely in this modern age there are more efficient ways of instructing referrals than such a manual and seemingly arduous process?

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