JUST A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR HELPS THE MEDICINE GO DOWN

Oh, dear Mary Poppins, I wish it was that simple for me!

Ok, I guess it’s time to talk about it, because the clock is ticking, and it will soon be the time where I won’t be able to run away from this massive issue I have. I have been working hard to avoid facing it, because it causes me a lot of mental pain; however, thanks to the incoming surgery procedure, dodging this bullet again won’t be an option… so I better do everything in my power to get ready before the storm will hit me in all its fury.

Unfortunately for me, I have been living with quite a nasty phobia. It is a massive one, a “wonderful” gift from post-natal depression: I am totally, absolutely, completely, and undeniably terrified of taking medicines other than the odd paracetamol. The thought of having to do it triggers quite a severe anxiety attack, the act of taking one… well, it’s a full-force panic attack with its horrible aftermath. Not a pleasant experience, believe me. At times, even vitamins and supplements can trigger an anxiety attack. Even cosmetic treatments!!! My gosh the day I had a fake tan… sheer terror (by the way, I’m having another one because I’m brave). Unlike my love for mushrooms, that disappeared during those three years of mental hell only to come back as nothing ever happened once I made it to the other side, this phobia overstayed it’s welcome and I’m still battling it to this day. When people joke about phobias and the impact they have on people, I become quite angry: you don’t know how frightening it is living with one till it happens to you, and even if for you it is stupid or inconceavable, for that person is a trauma, so be kind – nobody wants to have to deal with it!

The thing is, this medicines phobia it’s not something that is easy to challenge in a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy style (which I hate with all my heart, by the way), like I did with most food (at my worst, during my post-natal depression, I survived only on plain rice and plain pasta): I can’t just pop pills randomly to get used to them and don’t be scared of them anymore. Besides, even if I were crazy enough to do it, what medicines would I pick? I’m scared of all of them and there is a plethora available over the counter alone. What should I try? And why, since I’m perfectly healthy? My liver appreciates me treating him nicely and keeping him on a (almost) permanent state of relax. I rarely take medicines anyway, unless I’m really, really sick, so even when I could have the chance to challenge myself, I just don’t feel the need to.
I thought I had to face my phobia when I had my elbow surgery two years ago, but once the anaesthesia wore off, I found I had no pain at all, or nothing that a tiny bit of paracetamol would not solve, so I dodged that bullet at that time. However, it seems now that my next surgery won’t be a walk in the park as the previous one: my lovely surgeon wrote, on the pre-admission letter, that I am to expect considerable pain till two (but likely four) weeks post-op, and that pain will be considerably higher than what I experienced with my elbow. Yep, the odd paracetamol would simply not be enough… and my phobia is already waiving hello in the back of my head, feeling like an annoying acquaintance that you rather walk the long way round than crossing his path and having to wave hello back.

I always have been very blasé about my health and medicines. Not that I ever took a lot of them, but I guess it was the same as for any normal person: if your doctor says you need it, you take it, if there is anything over the counter that would solve your issue, you just buy it, take it and end of the story. My mum, her sisters and my grandma had a very… let’s say interesting relationship with medicines: for them, it was like exchanging shoes or clothes!
“Did you try this? Oh my gosh best painkiller ever”
“Really? Because I was using this other one and I can assure you this is so worth the money, you should totally try it!”
My dad, every time he saw them chatting away like that, he used to raise his hands and say “the drug dealers are in a meeting”. One of my mum’s sister used to be a nurse, and I will never forget that time I had food poisoning with egg pasta: she gave me a massive shot of Brufen that basically knocked me out for the whole night.
I took all the medicines I have been prescribed without a single problem, including a round or two of antibiotics. Before I got pregnant, I re-took my MMR vaccine, and all was going fine in my own little world.

Unfortunately, towards the end of my pregnancy, I had an allergic reaction to the hair dye I was using to cover my very dark roots (I was a proud bottle blonde), and something cracked in my brain: I was suddenly scared of any chemical thing. I coped kind of ok till I had to be induced, and I had a panic attack straight away: from that moment onwards, I descended into a spiral of pure terror at the thought of taking any medicine whatsoever.

It has been 6 years and counting now that my phobia gives me a panic attack hey pronto as soon as I’m required to take any medicines. This is also the reason why I am deeply ashamed to admit that I skipped, for the fifth year running, the flu jab: I rather take the risk of having the flu rather than having to face the guaranteed panic attacks I’d have before, during and afterwards (but, before you yell at me, my son has been vaccinated). The only medicines I do not have an issue with are paracetamol and Gaviscon (a heartburn medicine); however, overcoming this fear has not been easy: it took me few panic attacks and ultimately a very kind nurse on the phone who stayed on the line when I took them, and talked me out of the raging storm in my head. To this day, I’m eternally grateful to her and she is proof that a bit of care and kindness do change people’s lives: it certainly changed mine for the very better.

I know, for normal people, this phobia is quite stupid, but believe me, I can feel the anxiety building up as I write about it; I can already picture myself in pain, with a box of ibuprofen in my hand, petrified at the thought of either keep being in physical pain or to dare and alleviate it at the cost of causing myself mental pain. It’ a horrible, vicious cycle, I know.

To be honest, I am a bit fucking done with this phobia. It doesn’t mean that I wish I could walk into a pharmacy and swallow every medicine I could lay my hands on without an issue, but I just want to be able to take what I get prescribed without spending hours (or days, or months) of my life completely terrified. I told my therapist that, in a weird and masochistic way, I’m ready for the challenge: like a wrestling match, it is about time I get in the ring and start punching my way to victory, rather than just seeing my phobia holding the championship belt and yelling abuse at me to scare me away from even daring to get near it.

Will I be able to win this one? Any suggestion is more than welcome!

POST-NATAL HELL? THIS ONE IS FOR YOU

I was reading the news today on my journey to work and I suddenly stumbled this very sad story about this woman who killed herself because post-natal depression made her psychotic, and even though she asked for help multiple times, everyone dismissed her or treated her like a lunatic nuisance. She worried social services would have taken her daughter away from her, and even though her family rallied to help her and kept asking her doctor for help, she didn’t see a way out from her hell but by committing suicide. I knew I should have steered clear from that article as soon as my eyes read the title, but… I just had to read it. It hits very, very close to home.
My heart breaks for this woman, for her family and for her daughter. I’m sitting here writing this and crying, for her, for me, for all us women who have been ignored, dismissed like stupid hoes trying to get attention, mistreated and made to fear for our children’s wellbeing because of the actions of doctors and health providers.

I know what it feels to be in her shoes.
I have been in her shoes.
For three good years.
Fair to say I have quite the experience learned directly on the field.
I know how painful it is to be badly brushed off like you are a stupid idiot wasting doctor’s time with your stupid, irrational fears; didn’t you read the books? Weren’t you paying attention to antenatal classes? It’s baby blues for fuck sake, get a grip! Bloody first-time mum…
I know what damage a badly-mannered health visitor can do to you: I was a very fragile woman, caring 24/7 for my son with my mind spinning and my body aching, and I got treated like the worst mother in the world, I got made to feel guilty for stuff that wasn’t even under my control: for example, my son developed jaundice soon after birth; the midwife who came round told me off in a badly manner for not taking my son out enough for him to benefit from the sunshine to ease his condition; however, since I came out of the hospital, the weather had been rainy or dull and grey nonstop for weeks. Bitch, I ain’t no Storm from X-Men OK? The fact that I’m in my pyjama has nothing to do with my depression but all to do with the stupid shitty weather that is almost the norm in this bloody country of yours, and I can’t do anything about it or else I would have made the UK as hot as a Caribbean island all year round, you dumb twat. I’m Italian, I like sun, I hate freezing my ass, I’m not stripping my son naked when outside is barely 10 degrees Celsius.
I got told everything I was doing was wrong, I got yelled at and treated like a I was the dumbest person on planet earth. I got threatened with social services paying a visit to my house when I dared to mentioned I kind of was feeling a bit suicidal.
I wish the person I am now could go back in time and be present in the same room where the old me was being treated like scum by these midwives and health visitors because I’m telling you, shit would hit the fan at the first word uttered by those witches from hell. I would slap the shit out them and boot their sorry asses out of my house. No way I would have let them treat the old me like they did. Heck, I’d even ring the police and then we see who’s the bad bitch in here, you prick. You watch me.
Then, I’d make the old me a lovely cup of tea, give my old self a massive hug and tell myself “bitch, you will go through shit, I’m telling you, it’s going to get worse from now on, but hold on tight princess, you will get through this. You’ll be stronger, you’ll become a strong a fierce Queen, but before that happens, you need to see how deep the hell inside you is… and believe me, it is almost bottomless. But you will win, because you don’t know it now, but you are so, so strong, and that strength will keep you alive. By the way, you are doing, and you will do, a great job, don’t let these shitheads make you believe otherwise”.

I don’t want to read these news ever again. I don’t want other women to go through the same shit I did. I’m tired of hearing stuff like “The NHS is stretched already as it is and be grateful you get what you get”. Fuck off. Myself, that poor woman, all other women going through this hell, we need HELP. We need to be taken seriously. We need to be made to feel like we are not idiots. We need someone to truly listen to what we are going through, to care for us in those delicate moments, to hold our hands and reassure us, not to fucking being threatened with social services. What the hell! We are not bad mums, if anything, we want to be great mums.

I’m furious. This news brought up feelings I kept bottled up for years. I’m crying, I’m shaking and I’m raging. Oh my gosh I’m furious. FURIOUS.

If you are a new mum, and you are going through something that it is not exactly adding up in your brain, if you are a mum going through this hell, please, please, please, listen, because these words are for you:
I know you are scared.
I know you can’t seem to think straight.
I know you have this gut feeling that something is getting worse by the minute.
I know you feel like you are not supposed to feel the way you do: after all, everyone has filled your head with this impossible idyllic maternity ideas such as that you should be feeling happy, blessed, serene and peaceful, and that is all but anything you are feeling right now.
Oh, forget to compare yourself with those impeccable, incredible, super yummy mummies who knows it all, who make you feel inferior because your baby should be sleeping eight hours a night like an angel, you should snap back in shape like a model two weeks after birth, you should be breastfeeding, eat organic shit, go to yoga “mum & baby” classes, but the only thing you can barely manage to do on a daily basis is getting out of bed.
You are doing you.
You are going through an extremely delicate and difficult time of your life right now. You need help. Don’t hide, speak up. There are people who will listen to you. I would listen to you because I’ve been there, and it is a very lonely place to be when you are on your own fighting that monster who is eating you inside.
Please, listen to me: don’t surrender. I know the temptation is there. I know at times it is so strong, so… so seductive, that it seems the only way to go. It is not. There is an end to your hell and it is not necessarily the end of you. There is help out there. Scream if you have to, don’t keep it bottled up inside you. If you don’t have the strength, make your friends, your family, whoever you trust, make them fight that corner for you.
If your doctor is not listening go and find another one. If that doctor is not listening too, go and find another one, and another, and another. If only I managed to meet my current therapist years ago, my life would have been so much more different. I am sure there are amazing midwives and doctors out there, unfortunately the rotten apples cause damages which put everyone under a bad light.

You are an amazing human being, I know you are. I know you shouldn’t be feeling the way you do, it is unfair, why you? Why me? One thing is certain: it is NOT your fault. It is not a sign that you did something wrong, it is not because you are a bad mother. It is very bad luck, it is a fucking shitty lottery and you got the (un)lucky winning ticket. As hard as it is to believe it right now, I can assure you it will get better. It will take some time, but you will come out of this.
Stay strong my sister.
You are not alone in this.peony