Posted on October 10 2016
Today is world mental health day, a day to highlight mental health issues, to encourage us to support each other, to encourage us to look after ourselves and our mental health. To reduce the stigma associated with mental health and to talk more openly about it.
Since becoming a mum mental health has been a real topic of note. At pre-natal classes it was raised as something to watch and the GPs focus on it post-birth. To summarise my mental health pre-baby, I was a sensitive child and teen and had counselling on and off until from 7 until I was 16. I needed to talk about things and found it hard to do with my family. I also spent a huge amount of time (years) saying daily affirmations and eventually built myself back up to A+ confidence from my late teens!
For those of you who don't know my husband Dave and I lost our first child Alice five days after she was born, due to birth complications and hospital negligence. It is coming up to the two year mark in November and I suppose my mental health has been on my mind a whole lot more in the past two years. As with any grief and loss a period of unconsolable depression is allowed and expected, and then you have to pick yourself back up, piece back the jigsaw of your life with one huge gaping hole, and find some kind of 'new normal'.
I worked hard on getting to that new normal. I tried mindfulness (didn't stick it for too long though), I had reiki, I had acupuncture, I walked, I talked, I wrote (my blog here), I did something called Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique), we fundraised money for the unit that looked after Alice, and I kept busy. After having our son Casper I was aware that I could feel low, so paid close attention to how I was feeling. The first week in particular I was so low. Probably hormonal but also grief at not being able to bring Alice home, not having those first precious days with her the way I was having them with Casper.
Again I worked hard. I got my trusty tools in place and had a tapping session with my therapist and continued to do it on my own when needed. I listened to a great postpartum meditation, which you can find here - for all mums, not just new mums. There were some days (not too many) where I felt so low and couldn't understand why. I was wandering around Tesco crying and trying to hold it all in and not wail down the aisles. I realised I'd had no time for myself. I felt overwhelmed that I was looking after this little baby so much and it was clear I wasn't looking after me - fulfilling my needs and wants - no time off. I only had a few days of this, and I remember thinking, my god if Post Natal Depression feels like this and I had it every day then I think I'd lose the will to keep going. I know there are mums out there feeling like that every day.
I am so aware that this is just my experience of it, and I am absolutely no expert. Your mental wellbeing can be affected by hormones, chemicals, lack of exercise/fresh air, the weather, your circumstances and current predicaments. When you are low, everything is so much harder. Having mental health issues doesn't mean you're crazy. I understand it is a spectrum of varying degrees of unhappiness and depression that affect your thoughts and behaviour in equal measure. When you are unhappy, your thoughts are negative, and your behaviour is likely to be negative too - damaging to yourself and others. And vice versa, negative thoughts lead to negative behaviour and feeling unhappy.
From my experience in order to get out of the negative spiral of doom (what I call it!) you need to be over the top with positive thoughts and phrases. By consciously and repeatedly saying positive affirmations you start to believe them. They seep into your subconscious and set about correcting those negative feelings and behaviours. I used lots of different ones when I was a teen but I've used the YESMUM cards from Hollie de Cruz to help me do this since being a mum. They are little daily reminders of positivity. Its a bit of a shameless plug for something we sell, but it is something I believe so much in that I can't leave it out.
So I urge you to check in with yourself. How do you feel today? This week? This month? Are you generally happy, or do you feel a bit off? Mums - it is so important to look after yourself. Its okay to not feel okay, but for you and your family, if you are not feeling good you have to do something about it.
You can try some things on your own, like acupuncture to regulate your hormones, or yoga/meditation, have some time off for you, try daily affirmations etc. Or you can talk to someone like your GP or local mental health charity and see if they can point you in the right direction. Most likely it will take a bit of work on your part. And sometimes that work is painful, like crazy painful. My first session of Tapping/Emotional Freedom Technique was heart breaking, I cried for two hours solid. But then I felt a lot better, I had released a lot of pain my body had stored up, locked away. (If you want to read more about it have a look here). If I hadn't done that, how would I feel now. Would it be affecting me daily? It probably would. I'm glad I dealt with it when I did.
In summary, I urge mums to check in with themselves every now and again. Make sure you are doing something for yourself. Schedule in some time off for you, have some treats in the diary to look forward to. You need to put yourself on the priority list. It is so easy to become bottom rung. If you know a mum who might not be feeling ok, maybe ask her if she's ok or if she wants an hour to herself sometime and you'll babysit! We are all in this together. If everyone is in a happy place the world will be a much happier place!
Lots of love