MENTAL MUTHA MEETS HEATHER CUMPSTONE
MENTAL MUTHA MEETS HEATHER CUMPSTONE
Are you a mental mum or a mum that’s mental?
I’m just a mum, but I think we’re all a bit mental.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? Meditate? Talk? Hide?
I used to try and do all three, simultaneously - it must have been like watching a train wreck! I’ve always been an anxious chica but when my son was born unexpectedly very poorly after a traumatic birth, it hit me like a tonne of bricks. Some time later I said ‘enough’, was diagnosed with PTSD and jumped at the offer of help which came in the form of EMDR and then CBT to work on generalised anxiety. It was a game changer.
Now, when I feel overwhelmed I hide, meditate, talk; in that order. Sometimes a little bit of hiding gives us the space we need to process what’s going on before we pick ourselves up again.
Do you discuss your mental health with your mum mates?
I’ll discuss ‘mental health’ in general with anyone and I could openly write about it until the cows come home - it needs to be woven into everyday dialogue more. But discussing MY mental health? I’m not too great with that; I guess it has to be the right timing and the right person, especially if I’m a feeling like a ball of hot mess.
How do you tackle mental health chats with your kids?
My little boy is one so unless you’re pink and jump up and down in muddy puddles, he couldn’t really give two hoots. But my girls are 9 and 11, and we talk about anxiety, worries, feelings and difficult thoughts as they come up. It’s no different from handling physical health with my kids. If they had a tummy ache then we’ll talk about it, and likewise - if they were worried, then we’ll talk about that too. They could see the fear and anxiety in me when I struggled with PTSD last year, so that conversation was always on the table. I want them to grow up knowing it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.
Who helps you in the dark? (in the pits, mental rock bottom - who is your hero?)
That’s a good question because I spent a long time reliant on other people to find that light switch for me; in their time, their approval and their direction. Insight and support can be amazing but when I’m like a tightly coiled spring, what I really need is the space to work out what my needs are right then - I have to own it and believe that I’m strong enough to go from there (even if I don’t feel strong enough).
What helps you in the light?
Happy music. Being organised and on top of my game. Slowing down. Enjoying good food with good people. Time to think properly. Having adventures to look forward to.
Is it hard to talk about your mental health - do you feel the stigma is lifting and do you feel safe to ‘speak your mind’?
I think it’s something that is still tricky to talk about but Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’re fighting against generations and generations of pained silence and so talking honestly and openly can still be a shock to the system with people. But every time we step up and speak out some more of the stigma crumbles away.
Where’s your head at (right here in this moment, today?)
I feel pretty great today after a ‘time-out’ weekend. On Friday I felt the wobble; that ol’ knot of anxiety came creeping back and I felt overwhelmed with everything that needed to ‘get done’ (we’ve just launched a small business after declaring 2018 to be a ‘quiet year’ - I’ll never learn!). I felt inadequate and panicky - but as soon as I saw it it, I took a step back and made some self-care choices. I took Instagram off my phone so I couldn’t be tempted to immerse myself in other people’s worlds, put my phone away for the weekend and grounded myself in the moment. A shift of perspective was exactly what I needed and I’m feeling on top of the knot. For now!
Soft play or rehab?
I’m not a huge fan of soft-play; I’d rather take my kids to a field and let them run wild, or tire them out on a long walk with a pub lunch thrown in.
Jacobs creek or jacobs cracker?
Both please, with the stinkiest cheese you can find.
Nut job or nut allergy?
Self care of self sabotage?
I’m a long standing pro at self sabotage but since having therapy I have serious fire in my belly about self care. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care is a discipline that needs to be cultivated with grit and determination, because its too easy to put yourself last.
Journal or jog?
The gym was my survival during the breakdown of my first marriage; it kept me together when I was smack bang in crisis mode and wasn’t ready to talk or process. But on the whole I’m way to lazy to jog and would take the journal with a giant cup of tea any day.
Ask for help or happy to hermit?
Both. I think there is a right time to retreat if it makes space for you to breathe and process. But when you feel stuck, always always always ask for help. Even if you find it bum-clenchingly difficult.
If you'd like to read more conversations with Mental Muthas, click HERE.
Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.