MENTAL MUTHA MEETS MELANIE LAWSON
I’m very open about the fact that I’ve had OCD most of my life, that I suffer from anxiety and sometimes depression, that mental illness runs in my family and that my postnatal depression led to me starting Bare Biology. However, writing in detail about my experience fills me with slight horror. Actually, fills me with lots of horror. And it’s because there is a bit of me that is somehow ashamed and embarrassed. The irrational part of my brain thinks I’m somehow not as ‘strong’ as other people, not as ‘fit’ or not as ‘good’. Being hard on oneself is a classic symptom of depression and anxiety, so it could just be my internal voice or it could be what society expects. I think it’s a combination of the two.
MENTAL MUTHA MEETS MELANIE LAWSON
Are you a mental Mum or a Mum that’s mental?
I was tempted to say both, but I think I’m a mum that’s mental. My mother was mentally ill throughout my childhood, to the point where I had to have her committed. I think my kids would say I’m both, as I’m a bit of a mama bear and I also get very shouty if they’re running late for school!
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? Meditate? Talk? Hide?
I have regular CBT now which really helps, I have the best therapist on the planet. I used to go into psycho mode and get the horse whip out. I’d tell myself to work harder, do more exercise, lose more weight etc… now, I look at all the stuff that is causing me overwhelm and work out what’s really important and what’s not. If it’s not, I ditch it or park it for another time when I’m not so overwhelmed.
Do you discuss your mental health with your mum mates? How do you tackle mental health chats with your kid’s?
I do with some of them, yes. More so now than I used to. I’m more open and honest about things that make me feel crazy, rather than trying to hide them. I figure if my friends really do care, they’ll accept me as I am.
I’m fairly straight talking with my kids, they know I’ve had problems and my son suffers from anxiety and a bit of OCD too. We kind of joke about it, but in a way that is kind and makes it just one of the quirks of our personalities.
Who helps you in the dark? (In your pits, your mental rock bottom - who is your hero?)
Definitely my husband, though he doesn’t always get it. He’s patient though and accepts me as I am. He also gives me tough love sometimes too which can be quite effective, though not always! My kids’ faces help and my team at work. We’re really open at work about how we all feel, so we never have to hide the crapness when we’re having a bad day.
What helps you in the light? (Meditation? Procrastination? Perspiration? People?)
Eating well and making sure I don’t drink too much alcohol or caffeine. Sugar can make me feel depressed too. Being outside! We’ve recently moved out of Brighton to the countryside and it has transformed my outlook. I’m getting really into bird watching, it’s almost a form of meditation.
Is it hard to talk about your mental health? (Do you feel the stigma is lifting? Do you feel safe to speak your mind, even if it is possibly 'mental'?)
No, not really. It’s hard with some of my family and my husband’s family, weirdly. I’ll happily share my story with journalists, people I do business with and anyone who will listen. Nobody is ashamed of having any kind of physical illness and there’s no shame in having a mental illness.
Where’s your head at?
I’ve had a funny few weeks with a bit of physical illness and some school stress, but I feel pretty calm and I always channel Winston Churchill and I "Keep Buggering On". It’s very liberating to know that all things are temporary, and sometimes they’re rubbish, so you just need to keep going.
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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.