Friday, 24 October 2014

What my child experiences

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In the experience of the expert training last week there was a leaflet from Vantaa City’s Social and Health Care Services: How do the children manage with us? The parenthood of a depressed parent. Wonderful thing that so much effort is made in creating such a leaflet, it will surely be needed! Three are so many parents struggling with these issues. Finding information or gaining understanding can be a challenge when one of the parents is depressed or exhausted.

I have struggled, and I still do again and again into the future, with the great guilt. How and what my child experiences due my illness. How will it affect them, their growth, their development? Reading whichever child rearing manual or basics of psychology, the interaction between a mother/parents and a baby/child is stressed in the development of a child. Sometimes some book got left unread when I could not bear the “guilting” of the mother than started from page one. Or so I experienced it, because with my own children, the early interaction was not perfect. The children were less than 1- and 3-years old at the time when my darkest moments were imploding, when I was thinking of death as an option. Then I was not being a mirror to my children’s emotions. Of course I took care of my children, washed them, fed them, dressed and held them, but I was also sad, anguished and distant. Enough?

What can I do, then, when my children have seen and experience their mother’s depression and exhaustion. They have seen that their mother is not herself and not always present, and mummy does not always have the energy to smile. Does this mean it is all ruined, game over? Or would there be some chance that my children will not develop deep, un-healable gashes within their being? I cannot replace lost time. But can I, however, make this day and the future a road smooth enough for my children, so they can survive without any unbearable trauma caused by my depression/exhaustion?

When my older son was around three years old, he began to ask questions; is mummy feeling good? Then I did not think of it much further. But now, in hindsight, he probably saw my bad state. Even if I must have been good at hiding it, as it was not noticed or understood in many of the mental state facilities where I reached out for help. At least is goes to show my child is very perceptive! I do not anymore remember when my son stopped asking if I was feeling good. Probably around the same time when I started to feel better and the child could stop worrying.

At the moment I think it could not really have been that simple. But I do see that perhaps through an experience such as mine, one can become an even better parent, better than before being sick. Perhaps as a consequence I have developed more sensitive feelers for my children’s troubles and their needs. I would catch even the smallest of things and I would wonder if it is somehow connected to the past, my depression. Of course one would wish that the child would not have to suffer from a mother’s illness. And if I have ever caused any anguish that will only surface later in life, I want my children to have the tools to deal with it. I want to cradle myself in the thought that an experience this hard must have a positive and didactic outcome.

I hope to be the best mother to my children as exactly as I am, and I feel I can replace those lost moment by being there now and being able to help them process things. By today being smarter and kinder to myself. I believe when I am feeling better, I can be a better mother. Even if the guilt from those lost years still gnaws at me.

The best and most beautiful moments of daily routines are when I see my children after work. My four year old runs to me screaming “mummyyyyyyy” and leaps into my arms. Then I know I am good enough! The most important message has been passed, I love my children above all else even if some days I did not have the strength, the know-how, the understanding or the memory of showing or telling it to them. Life carries you and today I have in a tight interaction directly with my children.

Translated by Aija Oksman

Photography by Timo Turkka

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Life Hurts

Thursday 26. January 2012

Moments past where life caused pain. When the pain was so overpowering that you would fear you could die. The bad feeling inside so huge, so powerful, almost explosive. Mental anguish and ache is almost impossible to explain. All that which is unreal, floating and heaving. As if a giant fist is squeezing you to pieces, holding you tight. Those moments when only thing you can muster is crying, shaking and fearing if you can bear any more, any longer.

It is sad and painful to realise today how utterly broken I was then. How absolutely sick I was. It is in all logic incomprehensible how anyone could live with all that pain and ache. How even eating is an insurmountable exertion. How completely you can forget yourself or stop caring about yourself and your own well-being. How the hatred inside of you turns against your, how you wish to be hurt, because you are bad and useless. Absolutely worthless and a failure in everything.

Despite all the pain and being broken I still move forward. I recuperate and heal. The road to recovery continues still but I have made good way. Stability and self-knowledge is a skill you need to learn on the road to recovery. I make my path with curiosity for what will come. Moving towards a happier future.

Today I rejoice and enjoy a pain free life. I wonder the functioning concentration, the ability to learn. I wonder every day how I have really been able to heal and recover. There were times I could not believe in my own recovery. I had no strength to believe the words people said to me, them saying I will get better. I found joy and happiness back into my life. I learned to love and enjoy my life. To appreciate and even like myself, more than I had before. I am good, I am good enough!

Translated by Aija Oksman

Photography by Saila & Timo Turkka

Saturday, 11 October 2014

You chose the path you’re on

Thursday 19. January 2012

You chose the path you’ve embarked upon! So one might think or even say to your mum or dad when speaking of the “misery of life”. Many times it might be used as an off-the-cuff joke, but the words can be surprisingly hurtful. We cannot always choose what parenthood brings with it.

Today I had a good day. I woke up in relatively high spirits and perky for the new morning. To celebrate the wintery day, I took the children to day care on their toboggan. Exceptionally I also picked them up in the afternoon as my husband working late that night. Together with the children we managed to do the groceries without additional choler, together we decided upon a dessert in honour of Thursday and daily routines. We journeyed on to home on the toboggan and stayed to slide downhill for a good few runs on the toboggan; we were in no hurry. Housework left undone has got done on its own before (no matter how I might hope it would) and would not disappear this time either. Quick warm up of evening meal, kids shows on the television, building with legos. I was enjoying mum’s-own-time on the computer. After a light night snack and brushing teeth it was time for bed, and for nightly story time. A short moment later the children were fast asleep.

I felt incredible and happy that a good day was successful wrapped. Good mood had held on all day. Time and energy was not wasted in testing my own condition. In pondering how can I bear and survive another day, the next hour or even the next minute. I don’t anymore need to think if I have to take a sedative to hold myself in one piece. Or I didn’t spend time worrying how the medication would impact the child I was breast-feeding. No more do I spend time worrying bursting to cry in some inappropriate moment or location. I am no longer afraid of lonely moments and evenings alone with the children when my husband is at work. I know I can go through the day, even sometimes angry or tired, without those emotions being the centre points of my whole existence, masking my ability to function.

I chose to have a family and my children. Even in school when other girls dreamt of careers as doctors or teachers, I dreamt of being a mother. Motherhood is my choice and I am forever grateful of my chosen career path. My choice, however, was not to be burdened with exhaustion, depression or anguish. No, I did not choose them. I also could not fathom that they would be spin-offs of motherhood, nor did or could my husband expect it. I have many times put guilt on myself or whipped myself for having made this choice of being a mother, so I must also bear whatever comes with it. I have endured the joys of motherhood but I almost could not tolerate or abide to the demands of the illness. Many times these two unavoidably got intermixed. Of course motherhood and being a parent is not a walk in the park or straightforward. The illness, however, inescapably add to the burden, and it is unconscionable to claim that one would be expected to bear that as well, without a whine.

My getting ill and my healing have taught me so much that I am not all too sure whether I would give that away or change any of it, if I could. Maybe it just did not need to be that very thorny as it was…

With great enjoyment of my motherhood and daily routines I’m off to bed!

Translated by Aija Oksman

Photography by Saila & Timo Turkka

Monday, 6 October 2014

My empowering photography

Friday 30. December 2011

I started photographing as a hobby about 11 years ago when I obtained my first systems camera. But the depression, exhaustion and a general new life situation pushed photographing back for a while. After we moved to Helsinki I found that the Finnish White Ribbon Union were organising a seminar on empowering photography in spring 2009. The seminar expanded over two days and consisted of lectures and group work. By chance I spotted the advert for the seminar online and thought it could be something that could help me. Around the time I was “minding” my own medication and was left wandering from one end to the other in the health care system, as I did not really belong to any spectrum. I yearned for some connection, something with which would help me to help myself. As a continuation to the seminar there was also a course of the empowering photography, one that I eagerly participated in.

At the course we delved more in depth to the concept of empowering photography and photographed each other. At the same time we were all building our life cycle albums. As the course progressed we also began to photograph each other in groups. The photographing trips were truly productive; I learned to be photographed, to see myself in another way, see myself as good and even beautiful. Mostly the long hours of photographing were rewarding through the reconstructive conversations that took place. For me, the photographing trips were an excellent opportunity to detach myself from the stay-at-home mother routine and be the centre of attention for a while.

In the beginning it was exciting to go from behind the camera to be the one being photographed. Slowly the trust for the camera was found, I even began to enjoy being photographed. At the first photographing sessions, I “wanted to be a fairy”. I was seeking for contrast between the central park woods, from between the old trees and from among the wood anemones. Other times amidst busy traffic. At first seeing my own photos felt strange. Also exciting and strange was showing my photos to others, to explore what I saw and what another saw in my pictures. After some initial photographing trips I wanted to see if I could incorporate a feeling into the pictures, an emotion that someone else might also recognise. Somehow we managed to capture it. This gave birth to an idea of capturing the emotions and experience related to depression and exhaustion.

I suggested to my husband that he could photograph me at home. Easy self-made studio set up in the living when the children were sleeping, whole lot of white sheets and some lights. The shared photographing moments with my own husband were worth more than gold for me, for our relationship and maybe even for my husband. In the pictures I explored to capture different feelings, experiences and emotions I associated with depression; after taking the pictures I talked and talked. I spoke of the feeling and experiences that we had just captured on camera. We went through all of them again, together. At times our conversations were racking but in their own way also purifying and are quintessential part of my own recovery.

When there was a situation where I began to shut down and could not bear to talk about something, I would ask my husband to take my picture. Often he had not the slightest clue of “what to film”. I built a studio with props, I picked out my outfit, I coordinated expressions, position and directed him to film me in a particular way. When we had the pictures, I could talk again. It was unbelievable how through these images I could express myself so even others could find that particular emotion. It was inconceivable how I could speak of the things after I had first captured them into images. When the picture was ready, it somehow broke the clasp around feelings. Mostly incredible was that I got to do this project together with my husband. Each and every story and experience was turned up and open again, and talked through.

Translated by Aija Oksman

Photography by Saila Turkka & Eija