MENTAL MUTHA MEETS GEMMA ABBOTT
MENTAL MUTHA MEETS GEMMA ABBOTT
Are you a mental Mum or a Mum that’s Mental?
Well, I’m definitely not the former - despite fierce protestations to the contrary in his company, I have to grudgingly admit that my husband is the ‘fun’ parent and I am the safety-first, stick-in-the-mud. Am I a Mum that’s Mental? I’m anxious, a lot of the time. Usually to a manageable degree, occasionally to a breathless, shaky, not-coping-very-well degree.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? Meditate? Talk? Hide?
I used to just hide, but there isn’t much scope for that as a stay-at-home-parent (my kids are charmingly terrible at hiding but they demonstrate spy-levels of competence when it comes to finding me hiding in the kitchen trying to steal a moment to take a deep breath (ok, ok, and eat a chocolate biscuit)). I try to talk about it as much as possible; my husband is amazingly good at talking me down from metaphorical cliff edges. I try to listen to guided meditations, though if I’m very anxious then I find it too hard to concentrate on calming down! The absolute best thing for my anxiety recently has been Rolfing. It’s a form of deep tissue manipulation and movement education that has transformed my creaking, achy carapace of a post-natal body into a robust, physically-grounded human! It’s also become a safe space just to talk for a while about what is on my mind (which, interestingly, is not always what I think is on my mind!) A form of therapy, if you like.
Do you discuss your mental health with your mum mates?
Yes, very much so, although when I’m really in a hole, it can be hard to say much more than “I’m really struggling” by Whatsapp message. I find it pretty easy to share in the aftermath though, in a way that I’m fairly sure I wasn’t able to when I was younger. Motherhood has gifted me many things (extreme happiness, an unexpected obsession with stools, breasts that resemble two charity collection envelopes with a pound coin in each...) but one of the most important has been a new emotional maturity and eloquence, which is not to say that I suffer any less from anxiety as a mother (in fact, it’s probably worse now I have two tiny humans in my care) but that I have better tools to cope with it and greater confidence to talk about it.
How do you tackle mental health chats with your kids?
We talk very openly about feelings and emotions at home and we try to make sure our son has the vocabulary he needs to articulate how he is feeling. He’s only three, but I’m already so impressed by his emotional intelligence. I am terrified by the toxic masculinity promoted by our society; I see it already encroaching when people exhort him “not to cry, to be a big boy” etc and it makes me furious. We make sure that he knows that all emotions are welcome in our house and that sharing the hard ones can sometimes make them feel a bit more bearable.
Our daughter is only one, so not really there yet verbally, but I hope she’ll find him a really positive role model for self-expression. Obviously as a toddler she is already absolutely brilliant at conveying her emotions non-verbally!
Who helps you in the dark? (In your pits, your mental rock bottom - who is your hero?)
My husband, for sure. He can see the anxiety brewing a mile off and he’s always ready to help calm me down. My best friend too is a constant, life-affirming presence; I always feel better for talking to her.
What helps you in the light? (Mediation? Procrastination? Perspiration? People?)
Exercise definitely helps. I haven’t really gotten back into things since having kids but I used to love to run. I have a place in the Royal Parks Half Marathon this autumn so I really need to start training again! I’m fundraising for a charity I’m a trustee of called A Mile in Her Shoes (we offer running opportunities for women vulnerable to homelessness) and so I’m really determined to do well!
Is it hard to talk about your mental health? (Doesn’t mean on Instagram necessarily, but do you feel the stigma is lifting and so you feel safe to speak your mind, even if it is possible ‘mental’?)
I used to find it completely impossible. Now, I’m pretty open about having anxiety and I will usually share when I’m feeling a bit sketchy. I think there is a stigma still, but things are improving. I wonder if I’d feel the same if I felt I had a more ‘serious’ mental health issue though...
Where’s your head at?
It’s fairly good. I am busy with a new charitable project (to provide free sanitary products to local schools for girls who might otherwise go without - check out @TheRedBoxProjectStokey on Facebook!) and it is making me feel productive and really positive about my local community.
Soft play or rehab?
Soft play, but only if there’s another adult there. I need man-to-man marking on the kids, otherwise I get really stressed! I quite like the idea of rehab in many ways (assuming my ridiculous idea of it being like a spa with a few therapy sessions thrown in is correct) but I think I would feel too sad being away from my family. I recently had my first ever night away from the kids (in hospital disappointingly, rather than a romantic trip away with the husband) and the separation felt bruising.
Jacobs Creek or Jacobs Cracker?
Jacobs Cracker please! I bloody love cheese.
Nut job or nut allergy?
Nut job, I think (see above).
Self care or self sabotage?
Self care these days; I haven’t time for the tiredness and paranoia of self-sabotage. Children wait for no hangovers.
Journal or jog?
Journal (well, blogging) at the moment; jogging soon. No, seriously, very soon.
Ask for help or happy to hermit?
Happy to hermit but getting better at asking for help.
Gemma writes about motherhood, being a stay-at-home parent, extended breastfeeding, how bad sleep deprivation can feel like you're dying, the fact her daughter doesn’t seem to like her much, and anything else she can find to worry about at https://whatsmynameagainsite.wordpress.com/
If you'd like to read more conversations with Mental Muthas, click HERE.
Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.