MENTAL MUTHA MEETS VIKTORIA MACHIN
MENTAL MUTHA MEETS VIKTORIA MACHIN
Are you a mental Mum or a Mum that’s mental?
Hmmm, a mental mum.
What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? Meditate? Talk? Hide?
I am a terrible hider and turn inwards until I implode. Rage is really not good, but it is how my illness comes out when I am overwhelmed, sadly probably because anger was always expressed far more readily in my childhood home than sadness, fear, or pain. When I first faced my mental health issues about 20 years ago or so, it was always downplayed in my family with phrases such as “what have you got to be depressed about?” and that shame has stuck with me. I think if this had not been the case then I would have been better equipped to deal with my illness and would not have attempted suicide.
Do you discuss your mental health with your mum mates?
Some of them I do, those who I feel close enough to. It’s so important to have someone to discuss with, especially someone who can empathise. One of my strongest memories of being supported is of meeting up with a friend in the school staffroom every Thursday morning, when we had both been therapy the night before. Therapy is great, but it is HARD, and having someone to debrief with was, for me, one of the more healing parts of my therapy. My therapist helped me to open up wounds, to pick at the scars, but it was that friend who put the balm on the scabs and helped me to make sense of the revelations I had come across in therapy.
How do you tackle mental health chats with your kid’s?
There is a very strong genetic thread of mental health issues in my family’s history and one of my greatest fears is my children going through this. Again, I think talking is the key and being open. My dad only discovered that his father had found his own father having gassed himself when he read about it in his uncle’s autobiography. It is shocking to think that my grandfather carried that with him from childhood and never talked about it. Of course, it is scary to talk about an illness which takes us to our very depths, but we need to open those conversations. I found a book called The Colour Thief, in the children’s section of the library and it really helped to open up the topic of having a depressed parent with my children and to discuss how families cope, how the children are not to blame.
Who helps you in the dark? (In your pits, your mental rock bottom - who is your hero?)
I have no doubt in my mind that without my meds I would be dead, and they are the only thing that truly helps. I have been on several different SSRIs over the last two decades, and it took a while to find the one that worked for me, but when I found it, it was life changing. One person who really helped me at my darkest times, in the days, weeks, and months after my suicide attempt was my GP. She was truly amazing: she knew when to talk, when to listen, when I needed to be told what was best, and when I needed to figure things out for myself. She always treated me like an intelligent adult and never talked down to me. She was the best person who could have helped me at that time, despite the fact that she had so much going on in her own personal life. We moved away and she is no longer my GP, but she remains my hero, and I know that she will still be helping thousands of others.
What helps you in the light? (Meditation? Procrastination? Perspiration? People?)
I am incredibly lucky to have two best friends who just “get me.” One I have been friends with for thirty years, since we were ten, and he introduced to me to the other who I have now known for twenty years. We used to all live in London, but have all since spread out, but we make an effort to meet up several times a year and those meet-ups keep me sane and remind me of who I am beyond my life as a mother and wife. We recently got back for a weekend away in Glasgow to celebrate our fortieths and it was the best weekend for my mental health and my sense of self.
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 think it is easier for younger generations. Our parents’ generation and before, just didn’t talk about it at all, and I am heartbroken to think what they went through. I think the digital age has helped open up the discussion too, because people often find it easier to share from behind a screen, where they don’t have to meet anyone’s eye, and when they have time to articulate themselves.
Where’s your head at? (Right here in this moment, today)
The sun is out, my children are playing in the garden, and I have new deckchair slings. I am glad to still be here, enjoying life.
Soft Play or Rehab?
Rehab. Soft play is the seventh circle of hell. Avoid it at all costs. Rehab, therapy, etc, they play a vital role in putting things into perspective. I think everyone should have therapy before they become parents, we all have issues from our childhoods which imprint onto our own experience of parenting and we need to work through these, even those who had idyllic childhoods.
Jacobs Creek or a Jacobs Cracker?
I’m not much for wine, and I am currently under investigation for coeliac, so I am going to have to go for a cocktail instead.
Nut Job or Nut Allergy?
The words we use around mental health are so loaded. I think there is a certain school of thought that says reclaiming words such as “nut job” and “mental” can be empowering, but I also think there is a chance that we will downplay the seriousness of mental health issues. I don’t think I’m a nut job, but I can understand why some people might be happy to describe themselves as such.
Self Care or Self Sabotage?
We all know that self-care should be an integral part of our weekly routines, but I have three children and my own business and find it really hard. I am terrible for self-sabotage, especially when it comes to late nights, remembering to pick up my meds, and exercise. I accept that this is part of my illness and that I will always have a propensity towards self-sabotage, so I don’t beat my self up about it too much.
Journal or jog?
I am a journal hoarder. I have so many of them which I have started and then stashed. I used to do a lot of personal writing for myself, but that was during my darkest times. Ideally, I’d like to jog, the mental health benefits of exercise are well-documented, but I need to be in the right moment to start that journey.
Ask for help or happy to hermit?
I thrive on time alone. I spent many years cultivating an image of an extrovert, because that outgoing person was my mask. But I realise now that underneath it all I am an introvert and relish time alone. In fact, it is the one thing I crave and see as a true luxury.
If you'd like to read more conversations with Mental Muthas, click HERE.
Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.