All in Mental Mutha Meets
I’m both a mental mum and one that has mental health struggles. Bipolar was the diagnosis’ I received in 2014, yes it does confirm that I have mental health struggles daily but it doesn’t always define me as a person or a mum. Of course, my son will remember the days I’ve been riddled will depression and laid in bed all day long and Daddy has had to take over with the normal day to day routine. However my son will also remember the mental mum I am, that sings songs in silly voices, speaking to him in different accents, gives him tickly cuddles, being loud at ice hockey and dancing in the kitchen.
I suffered with mental health issues from the ages of 11-13 and found it terrifying & isolating. I was incredibly anxious all the time, found school daunting, thought I was going mad… because when you’re young and everyone else seems to be having a great life, it can be heartbreakingly lonely when you’re struggling to just do mundane things without overthinking it all. I grew up around violence at home and now I’m old enough to realise my behaviour was a perfectly normal reaction to dealing with what was out of my control.
I don’t feel like the stigma is gone, it’s definitely there, but I do find it easier to talk about mental health now that I’m in the practise of it. I still get cringey, and feel weird talking about personal things occasionally. But once the convo has started, there’s pretty much no stopping me.
It’s easy with people in my life that I trust, but with people I’m unsure of it feels risky to talk about my mental health and like it will be written off as 'moaning, being over sensitive or being hard work'. That defensive critical ‘everyone’s got problems’ mentality that sometimes comes from others not realising there is more to it plays on loop in my head, but there is room for everyone to understand and own their mental health.
Perspective is always a great thing to pull me out of the depths and when I think to what both my husband and son have overcome, it makes me feel capable of overcoming my own issues. It doesn't necessarily "fix" whatever is wrong with me at that particular moment, but it definitely takes the edge off.
I’m a talker which is probably a good thing in the long run. Weirdly, I was brought up to be quite secretive but in later life I suddenly had this explosion of emotions and I found talking it out to be the best medicine. At the same time I do like to “hide” from my phone. I find taking time away from social media and multiple whatsapp group convos so refreshing.
They say it takes a village right? For me that’s true. I know who I would go to, for absolutely no judgement and complete support and that would be my best friend of 33 years, Jo. She’s seen the best, the worse and the damn right ugliest of me. Equally, my therapist – there is something about someone being there for you, and wholeheartedly hearing you. I feel very safe with her and that’s hugely important to me.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and although you can't see it, it's powerful. The mind has a 'mind' of its own and it's up to you to learn how to control it.
For me, Social Media has been brilliant for raising awareness about mental health. It gets a lot of flack for causing comparisons of the perfect highlight reel feed but I see so much support, motivation and positivity in the little squares. The key is following the right people and using the ‘unfollow’ button when a page is dragging you down. Every day online I see people who never would have met, and may never meet, helping each other feel understood and less alone, which is amazing.
I’m a pretty honest person, yet that’s something that’s only come with motherhood. Writing Happy Mum, Happy Baby was the first time I’d really addressed a lot of the things that were going through my head as a new mum. The response was incredible. I never realised there were so many people out there who felt just like I did. I wish I’d have spoken out as soon as those doubts, fears and worries came into play. They felt overwhelming and mammoth, but knowing I wasn’t alone would’ve helped massively.
I think I’m going to go with the latter, a Mum that’s mental. To me, ‘Mental Mum’ is a label that attaches the mental health to the person, rather than a regular Mum who happens to feel mental sometimes.
The last year I’ve hit a few dark days. My big girl has been amazing always giving me hugs when I’m crying, my boy would make cards to try and make me feel better. On my truly dark days in the past my mum has helped me. She has been in dark places herself and sort of understood how I felt. She repeats to me over and again “this too shall pass”.
When it comes to my usual general issues such as Eating disorders and OCD I absolutely don't talk about it. In fact I am amazed and proud I am even mentioning it now. My fear is as soon as they know, they will watch me eat and look at me differently.
Before I wrote my first blog post I would never have spoken out about my mental health. I have written posts about my struggle with Post Natal Depression, bonding and paranoia as a mother. Initially my writing was a journal entry for myself but I felt others could benefit from my story so I published it. Publishing was one of the most scariest and proudest things I have done.
My story comes following a miscarriage I had at the end of 2015. It fundamentally changed me as a person and I ended up being diagnosed with PTSD. It was something I thought only happened to people who had been in really traumatic situations, but after my first session with a counsellor she got me to see what I hadn't realised - I had been through a major trauma. It was a mix of the actual miscarriage, a strange combination of feelings when I found it would have been twins, some of the care I did(n't) receive and not recognising that I wasn't letting myself grieve.
I’ve learnt through my work that vulnerability is absolutely vital to good mental health, but it has taken me years to grow in confidence in being open with friends. The more you chat stuff through, the more you realise that not everyone is going to do a runner when they hear your story. In fact, it can be hugely empowering and incredibly contagious. Discussing my mental health has saved me.
I’m borderline personality disorder on the positive scale. Everything is great. Everything is manageable. The only thing that makes me pause is my kids health. If they are struggling it’s always in my head. You’re only as happy as your least happy child.
I am awful when I feel overwhelmed, I go into shut down mode and push everyone away, it’s really sad but at that point all I focus on is making sure the kids are happy and alive. The feeling floods my body and it takes me into a dark place where I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
When I first became unwell I was petrified what people would say and kept it to myself, but once I told people I felt relieved. I don’t really understand why there is a stigma to be honest , if you had a broken arm you wouldn’t feel shame, but a broken mind you feel you can’t tell a sole.
I think as you get older you care a little less what people think of you and realise that we’re all only human and emotions are normal. Having said that, I do sometimes overshare and get strange looks when I tell people my emotions are affected by a full moon- oh shit I’ve done it again!