MENTAL MUTHA MEETS STEPH DOUGLAS
MENTAL MUTHA MEETS STEPH DOUGLAS
Are you a mental Mum or a Mum that’s mental?
Erm… I have a baby so I’m just tired. And a bit mental. A mental Mum then.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? Meditate? Talk? Hide?
I go a bit manic first. I start trying to take it all on and write a lot of lists and dash about with a pained look on my face and then I realise the lists are impossible and I can’t do it and I will say to Doug that I feel overwhelmed (or maybe just shout at him a lot about other unimportant stuff and he’ll work out that I am indeed overwhelmed) and he’ll talk me down. I think sometimes you need someone else to look at your list and go ‘well of course you can’t do all of that. Noone can do all of that’. Then I work out what I can drop or push back, what plans I can cancel and I pull up the drawbridge. Once I realise I’m in that zone I’ve got much better at getting out of it, I just don’t always realise it’s coming and then suddenly I’m in the thick of it.
Do you discuss your mental health with your mum mates?
Yes. I am basically an open book and a terrible liar. If you know me and you see me, you’ll know pretty quickly exactly where my head is at just by the look on my face. When you say ‘how are you?’ I will probably cry on you if things have got too much. I used to run on a Sunday morning with my friend Nat (before I got too pregnant to run) and they were like therapy sessions for us both. Talking about mental health and being honest about how you’re feeling is incredibly important and I’ve ended up with friends who all feel similarly. Actually, the test of my greatest friendships is that when we get together, it’s guaranteed someone in the group will cry. It’s a good thing because we’re comfortable enough that we feel safe to say how we’re really feeling and ask each other for some help. If noone cries, it means everyone is in a good space. But that rarely happens because life is constant ups and downs. We’re not supposed to all be happy all the time and that’s something that is becoming more and more clear to me as I get older. Right now, I have friends going through break ups, friends falling in love, friends wanting babies, friends watching someone they love get diagnosed with cancer, friends struggling with depression themselves and in their family... life can be shitty as well as wonderful, all at the same time.
How do you tackle mental health chats with your kid’s?
Buster is like me – he came home the other day and started confessing as he walked through the door that he’d not paid attention in lessons and got told off and he looked so burdened, so we have both talked with him quite a bit about it. Both my big kids are going through an adjustment phase with a new baby in the house, so we’re trying to keep a really close eye on them. It’s so interesting how it comes out – they are gorgeous with Frank, but this big change still has an impact and they’ve both had funny little new behaviours since he was born which I don’t think they can probably make sense of.
Who helps you in the dark? (In your pits, your mental rock bottom - who is your hero?)
Doug. He drives me insane on a daily basis but he’s a very pragmatic person and he knows me better than anyone – he knows exactly what to say. Also if I’m just being dramatic because I’m tired he helps me get perspective without being a knob. I’ve got some amazing friends too, and I would go to different ones depending on the problem.
What helps you in the light? (Meditation? Procrastination? Perspiration? People?)
Exercise definitely helps. As an ex-rugby player, Doug has a really healthy attitude to food and exercise (god he’s coming out as some sort of hero) and after I met him I realised that, for me, as long as I exercise, I can enjoy all the food. I start to feel a bit panicky when I haven’t done any exercise and much as I sometimes have to drag myself, it always makes me feel better in mind and body. Also dates with girlfriends – the ones I’ve mentioned above. We cover a lot over dinner and drinks, cackle as well as cry, and I feel lighter after. And sleep. At the moment naps are saving my sanity and my marriage. The world is a brighter place when one has had a bit more sleep.
Is it hard to talk about your mental health? (Doesn't mean on Instagram necessarily, but do you feel the stigma is lifting and do you feel safe to speak your mind, even if it is possibly 'mental'?)
I’ve been writing and talking about these early months with a baby and I’ve had lots of feedback from people liking the ‘honesty’ of it. This is my third baby and I think the best thing about doing it again is the inner confidence you have – I couldn’t give a shit what anyone thinks about my parenting, and that feels brilliant. It’s not the baby bit we were worried about this time around, more how we’d cope as a couple (tiredness + hormones = rage) and also how I’d feel losing myself for a while. This is a phase of ups and downs. I had an appointment the other week where the health visitor said ‘and how’s mum?’ and when I said ‘oh you know, up and down – that’s just how this bit is isn’t it, but mostly I’m ok’ she looked totally freaked out. I think they’re probably more used to people going ‘Yes! Wonderful! Being a mum is wonderful!’ or maybe breaking down in tears. The reality for most of us is that some days we’re ok and others we’re exhausted and I am most definitely happy to talk about it because it’s normal. Pretending anything else is dangerous, especially to new mums or people without a support network who are looking on and thinking they should be bouncing back and full of cheer.
Where’s your head at?
It’s in a good place! I feel relief to have made it to 12 weeks with Frank and to not have lost the plot, which I did with the other two. I’ve banged on about pulling up the drawbridge and napping but it’s made THE biggest difference, despite on paper it being more challenging as I have two other kids and a business this time around. I have an underlying anxiety about all the work I need to do, but I have to keep pushing it aside and reminding myself I have a small baby, the business is fine, and I’m the one pushing the timelines. It’s a constant conversation with myself but I’m slowly getting better at it. The strain of the early years of babies and the early years of the business have taught me a lot. You can't do everything you did before and chuck a baby in the mix or a business and expect to just carry on. Or you can, but you'll crack eventually. Noone is going to stop you when you're at your limit and look after you better than you.
Soft Play or Rehab?
Rehab.I feel I’ve done my time with soft play, although probably going to have to do it all over again with Frank... dammit!
Jacobs Creek or a Jacobs Cracker?
I love wine AND cheese so I’m calling both.
Nut Job or Nut Allergy?
Self Care or Self Sabotage?
It’s an eggy term, and I wish there wasn’t a term for it as it’s often stuff we should be doing all the time, but women are particularly shit at it so self care.
Journal or jog?
Ask for help or happy to hermit?
Ask for help
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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.