Washed away by emotions. They’ve tugged at me left, right and from my centre. My core tense like rock as I’m left in this open space, running a cycle that never let’s up. All I see is bleakness, so much motion yet nothing to grab on to.
I express my worries, the room caves in. As a voice bellows over my concern, I wish I wish I never spoke. How do I stand strong as I am? How can I be me when my words are belittled and blamed.
Yet my pain throws me further into this open space, what does it matter if you let it all go? Allow the fire to burn this room? Your shadow raises up towards me, I retreat trembling like the prey of the lion. Put in my place once more, apologies flow from my eyes and bounce off my lips.
The life of so many, if the power of this pain could be bottled up. The world would implode, life would be free. My God holds me.
Another school pick up, another opportunity for the Hope’s and fears to sneak in…”did he do well today? Or was it time out?”.
I never truly saw the capacity for anxiety to dwell in my mind until I had my children.
Sure, the concerns differ as my experience grows but my heart has found a vulnerability that only a Mother experiences. I should know how to deal with this by now! I thought I solved that problem? I’m exhausted and the kids are at a sleepover, I miss them so much. Being a Mum is both a joy and a confusion, it’s the most complicated relationship you’ll probably ever find yourself in.
They say you truly learn how to drive when you’ve passed your test and out on the real roads! The same goes for Motherhood. We have a period of preparation where we read, we discuss nappies and feeding bottles with experienced Mama’s over coffee, we attend antenatal talks that give us an insight in the life of a newborn. That’s right, just the newborn stuff. I have debated with myself on so many occasions, whether if I was taught more at the beginning, would it have made the slightest difference to the way I am dealing with things now? Practically, I think it would be time wasted. Mentally, I think I would be less shocked by the experiences I have had, being a Mum.
We all have different ways of thinking, feeling and being, so to assume that every Mum will face anxiety could create issues that didn’t have to be there. I do believe however, in order to inspire new Mum’s; we have to show care of the physical and mental health from the very beginning. Whatever their perspective about their own mental health may be, I want to strive to see the next generation of Mum’s equipt with the knowledge and tools that will nuture their mental wellbeing, good or bad. Antenatal care is a key time for Mum’s, whether it’s the first baby or fourth. We can stitch into the fabric of education strategies that equalise the anxiety capacity; we may just begin to combat postnatal depression.
With mental health becoming more spoken about, I think it’s essential for parents to accept that there will be moments where seeking help is the best option. It is also essential that in a generation where the public health care counselling waiting lists are more than 6 months long (UK), we cannot ignore a problem that may or may not occur. In the same way communities equip their houses with damage control where floods are likely, we have to equip ourselves for the challenges ahead that may or may not cause us to suffer with anxiety, worry or depression.
Training with the Family Institute in South Wales taught me so much about my perspective of mental health. One realisation I came to, is that sitting down and having a good conversation with someone, working through challenging topics is actually pretty normal. Mental health is as normal as the body we sit in. It’s just harder for us to comprehend the unseen, but I challenge you today to imagine your mental health as an image in your mind. Whether by using colour, picture, numbers, words, shapes etc. If it helps to mark this down on paper, do so. Let’s get to know our own mental health, whatever position it may be in. Begin the process of welcoming and loving its diversity, that way we may start to understand that it isn’t to be feared, but nurtured.
“Deeply rooted heartache that falls over me when I’m lost in my parenting, it washes me up like a tidal wave. But continue moving on this wave, trusting that the shore will soon be in sight.”
Have you ever heard the phrase “sleep when you die”? What do you think of when you hear it?
As a counsellor by trade and an all round sensitive soul; words impact me greatly. I recall being taught in university that every word and phrase is valuable in the process of communication and therapy. I tapped into this as I truly believe that the words we choose or our subconscious chooses to use, expresses more about what’s being said. This effected my practice and relationships in a way that was both a curse and a cure.
If you didn’t already know, I’m Welsh by heritage. In Wales it’s quite common to see individuals speaking with their hands and using phrases that although spoken in English are a bit trivial and sound like a joke. “I’ll be there now, in a minute” as amusing as it sounds, when determining an ETA this makes complete sense to me. Not quite now, not quite in a minute but very soon!
Wherever you come from, we can agree that communication from destination to destination and from one relationship to another. Being understood is the difference between our personal opinions and emotions being valued and undervalued. As I’ve blogged about before, our personal stories are to be treasured and not to be thrown out into the open sea to be caught by any wave passing by. The same goes for the reverse of this. If we catch on to any opinion, trend or emotion that flies our way, we open ourselves up to be deeply affected by things that hold no benefit or positive outcome both ways.
In real time, imagine being a parent in the school yard who socially attracts many individuals! You are unoffcially the friend, the Mum, the teacher assistant, the governor, the mediator and the taxi! How exhausting. Your capacity to offer quality understanding and support to each of these roles fluctuate, people will feel let down and you will burn out emotionally. The same goes for the content we expose ourselves too on a daily basis.
The phrase “sleep when you die” to me is a backwards motivation to get stuff done. It bothered me for a while, with 2 kids at the time and one on the way, all I wanted to do was sleep! Even now with 3 young children, sleep in my constant goal. I had this pressure taunting me though, that people were achieving more with their time, while I was cleaning up after kids and craving sleep.
These type of phrases communicate to a very impressionable generation, that you are going to miss out if you don’t chase that money or promotion! In reality, in order to create a smooth path of wellbeing and professional success you will need more than lack of sleep.
By surrounding yourself with stimulation for your mind, whether this is reading a new book or blog! Creating a daily space to find peace through meditation and prayer, eating well and most importantly listening to your bodies call to rest. We may not be able to control all the trends or communication we come in contact with, but how we react is down to each of us. We may have to feel the pressure of fire phrases before we understand if it’s relevant or not, but the next time we know to do a U turn and seek positivity in our interactions with this world.
As we move into December, there’s the usual sense of winding down, pressing pause and signing off another year.
Yet this year has been a rollercoaster of pausing and winding down… with not much of the life we know in sight. 2020 has been defined by… well you know, I don’t even have to say whatever you’re reading this from.
It’s all sort of shaken up my perspective of the way I’m approaching my time and the things I do with it. There is a common view that the start of the year is where we place our annual goals and the end of the year is where we start thinking about the whole process again.
With a year of so much negative potential, we may feel like not much has been achieved. The new normal is definitely made itself at home but there is a sense of determination to push through, back to the normality we knew way before 2020 began.
In this season when workplaces would be on Christmas outings, schools performing live Nativities and families gathering to eat, drink, laugh and celebrate together… we have the prospect of a slow end of the year. For someone who is an introvert; I can deal with a quiet season but even for me… I’m craving the frantic buzz of last minute shopping, busy restaurants and the comedy of the school play. In the back of my mind, I’m aware that in a year of so much suffering for many many people, we are prompted by our own good human nature to be grateful for each day as it comes.
With a grateful heart for life and breath and thoughts of “I wish we could…” we have an opportunity to view next year, next month, next week, tomorrow in this new normal that I believe many of us are experiencing. Whether we like it or not, we’ve all been exposed to the reality that we are not invincible and have had real moments of fearing for our lives this year whether that be physically or mentally. Being grateful doesn’t have to lessen our goals, there’s no need to undermine our dreams just because our conscience is more aware of the value of life. Instead, we can use this understanding of value to enrich our short and long term goals.
We also can’t ignore the sense of community that has occurred from this year. In everything we do, we are encouraged to respect each other and be safe. Although this may differ from country to country, we can grasp this idea of looking up and recognising that we’re not the only ones going through this. What can we give back into our communities? Whether this is county wide, in the school yard, in work or even when we’re out and about. What difference do you want to stay or design into tomorrow?
With a grateful heart and determination for life, what is your tomorrow going to look like?
When I was growing up, high school was the place I came first in contact with the term ‘banter’. [an exchange of light, playful, teasing remarks; good-natured raillery.- dictionary.com]. Walking the corridors, passing the youngest and the oldest kids… this was the time people would shout their one liners to the crowds pleasure!
At times it would be quite amusing but after a while, it began to grate on me, on others too but even so it persisted. As mentioned before I was a quiet soul in my younger years and for some reason this was the perfect banter target. So many occasions it was implied that “it’s always the quiet girls who are the naughty ones!”. I felt embarrassed and irritated by a label that tried to define me as a joke.
Obviously when I was younger these realisations didn’t dwell on me, I wish they had. I would have stood up, kicked banter up the arse and told it where to go, because let’s be real… banter is a nice home for harassment. At the time, I thought it would make me look like a kill joy if I stood up for how I and many other individuals probably felt.
A few years later… (okay quite a few years later) here I am, I’ve been harassed for being a women since my teens. Now, for me that’s a scary thought being the Mum of two girls. Those years have just gloated by, being called a bitch, being mocked by the term “bitches” that attempts to define a population of women. Being made to feel uncomfortable to dress a certain way or to even be in a certain room. I shout at my younger self to gain more sense about what is going on. It’s not a compliment its degrading!!
We all have experiences that we should definitely analyse and understand… and then figure out a way forward. How can we use our experiences to educate the next generation and the generation after that how to stand up and not tolerate banter, flirtation, teasing, jokes, bullying… harassment. However minor or major they may seem to you, your story can educate and equip so many young people to understand what it means to be moral citizens.
During the moments of life when we feel our opportunities are being stripped away by our responsibilities, we create an opening for negativity to dwell.
Imagine being in work and a patient, client, customer or system has a complaint… we’ve all thrown a mental tantrum wanting to tell that complaint where to go. But imagine if we lived out that “mental tantrum”, a grown adult kicking and screaming because that complaint messed up their plan for the day. Well, you’d probably get sent home, probably embarrass a fair few people and probably would result in a disciplinary meeting.
When responsibility and integrity stand in our way, we sometimes feel hard done by. As if we deserve to do what we want, we deserve that promotion, we deserve that day off, we deserve that cup of coffee! When we carry this deserving belief around with us, we give ourselves a complex that is damaging to our life experiences and to those around us.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be motivated in reaching our goals but by taking aspects of being selfish and selfless, we may just get the right balance. One of the challenges I have faced since having children is finding time for myself… but rather it’s more about finding a way to accept that there will be times when I will be disrupted, I won’t get to complete tasks and overall have little control over my “break time”. And do you know what, that’s ok with me! It took time and developing maturity to get to this point. I no longer freak out if the kids don’t go to sleep on time, I care more for being a patient Mum who engages in conversations my 4 year old (even if I don’t know what’s going on!) It has taught me to value the everyday moments and I am learning more and more about myself and what I am capable of. It’s cliche to say this, but by living for the now… we don’t just get to value the experiences but we nuture our character to be patient, in control and focused on the needs of others.
There is a school, with on average two hundred and fifty students, teachers, teaching assistants, caretakers, administration staff and of course the headteacher and deputy.
Imagine then, this school has a number of naturally excelling students who need little support. Then you’ve got children who need a bit more support and children who need consistent support. What happens when the headteacher says “I want only the students who excel to receive rewards for their work.” they have instantly created as divide among the school. Does this now mean that the children who require more support will be less motivated and lack confidence? Quite possibly. Now imagine, the teaching assistants resources have been limited, not only can’t they recommend rewards but they are being directed to split their time with other students who do not need support, in order to back up the students who are excelling.
In reality, a school like this would be called out to be dysfunctional, unequal and in the most extreme terms, corrupt. Just by writing this last sentence, my mind has sparked images of so many establishments, countries and governments.
We may have already heard of the corruption within African countries, today I want to talk about a beautiful country called the Democratic Republic of Congo. This country represents every kind of energy, the energy of love, suffering, culture, physical and mental. Once you have experienced this culture, you see what true patriotism is. My extended family are from DRC and when I say extended, I now have family in France, Belgium, Africa, the UK and USA. My children will have so many opportunities to travel and experience the diversity of their heritage.
How does a country with so much energy be exploited by the rest of the world? DRC is one of the richest countries in the world, it powers this laptop, it powers the phone you are reading this on and it has beautiful treasures that we can only imagine. The depth of the land, the vast ground holding so much potential that just needs to be left alone by the unwanted help. Surely we all understand that it is easy to look like a do gooder if we change the narrative of what’s actually going on and turn it into a more pleasing story for the westerners. I can’t count the amount of time I’ve spent fiercly discussing with my husband the changes that need to be made. I said so many time, the DRC government is corrupt, it’s got no solid foundation because of the past… this is the narrative I’ve been told by so many appeal shows on my UK TV.
Yes, many men, women and children are suffering world wide as a consequence of dysfunctional governments but do we stop there and accept that as the overriding reason? Obviously the information of what is really going on will not be handed over to us by Google that simply. Neither would visiting the areas where the landscape is being torn apart give us much more than a devastating insight into the hard work and unfit working conditions and pay the workers receive. This isn’t some conspiracy, it’s a reality that is ongoing. As the AOC said “the power is an illusion” until we start looking further into the roots and breaking that down, the face value of these international stories will continue to deceive us.
There is no quick fix for any of this, but I believe we have to start by educating ourselves, emerging our families into other cultures, understanding the ways of our neighbours and most importantly making sure the youngest members of society know that their voice has power. Their skills and character have the potential to impact communities and comfortable governments who lack definition.
Part time work and Motherhood seem to go hand in hand in this generation and those part time jobs are not always suited to the skills of the woman in that role. Do we open our eyes a little bit wider to see that actually, many women are being undermined in the workplace because they are seen as the primary carer for their children and require flexibility?
At 27, I have spent many of my years as a Mum being told that I will have plenty of time when the kids grow up to do what I want. In all honesty, now is the time I was to progress, now is the time I want the equal opportunities to earn that better wage and for it to fit around my family. And do you know what, I know I can do it because I worked 32 hours a week walking around a hospital ans then returned home to two children, all while heavily pregnant. I’m now on the sick because the rigid nature of my work place has torn me apart. I questioned family or work? So many times and my answer has not changed, I want both.
People are always going to procreate and family costs money, so I will need to work. But it’s not just about the money, its embracing the diversity of our abilities, the skills we have gained from school and from motherhood, we have so much to offer to so many different roles. On many occasions I’ve heard Mothers being described as individuals who pour out love and sacrifice their own wants and needs… Sounds like an angel. In the right context I agree with this statement (I’m not talking about sacrificing nights out for multiple orders of milk and story books), we give up a lot of things we would have done if we didn’t have children and that’s personal to each individual. I challenge the reassurance that “you’ll have plenty of time when your kids have grown up”. Actually I want my sons and daughters to see Mummy sat at the table with a pile of books. I want them to see me balancing life with bags under my eyes. I want them to see me jump up and down when I get that job I’ve worked so hard for. I want them to see the better days when we’ve spent the last month scraping the barrel in order to pay the rent. Why do I have to wait until they have left home to display to them the realities of life. I need them to see what type of person their Mum is because one day they will look back on these every day moments and understand a little bit about who they are and what they are capable of.
Now I want to ask you, how do we move forward with gender equality? How do we make it possible for families to care for their loved ones but also have a job that is fulfilling personally and financially?
According to the NHS, 1 in 10 women in the UK suffer with postnatal depression within the first year of having a baby. The evidence shows that this is an issue impacting many women but I really struggle to put a timescale on postnatal depression. I believe that pregnancy, birth and being Mum presents experiences that can be traumatic on many levels and prompt ongoing feelings of anxiety and depression. We also have to factor in hereditary conditions and personal circumstances external to motherhood.
Postnatal depression is indeed a prevalent condition for this generation but I believe many women feel safe holding on to the diagnosis of ‘postnatal depression’ because it presents the idea that eventually it will come to an end and like any other physical injury it will heal over time. This is the narrative I used to tell myself about my own experience of being a Mum, yet 8 years down the road I have come to the realisation that in fact I do suffer with depression. From a young age, I remember moments where I struggled to understand why people had such a big problem with my shyness and quiet nature. The consistent unintentional attack on my character gave me a complex that was hard to shake off. Every social situation I entered into, I anticipated people to view me as a shy individual who had nothing to say and would have limited opportunities because people would not want to invest time in understanding me.
As sad as this story may sound, today I am a proud quiet natured person who enjoys speaking my mind when I know it is relevant and beneficial for myself or others. Unfortunately I am left with a number of experiences that stay in their place in my memory, reminding me of how I felt when people pointed me out, the embarrassment and the judgement can be recalled.
The same way, when the midwife told me “to get up and take responsibility” as my 20 year old self tried to snooze and understand the dynamics of feeding and caring for my first baby. The judgement and tone of her voice tore through my sensitive, prone to anxiety and sadness type of character. These examples of mine are mild and at times quite amusing, but there are moments that will wipe me out and turn my attempts to sleep a time for distress and tears as I recall the traumas.
When we try to define our mental health, just like in school we are looking for the right group for us to fit in to. The group that sounds most like is, the group that is most welcoming. We have to understand that our time is never up, we do not have to define ourselves by our current circumstances. Look left and right, see how our traumas of the past and hope’s for the future are effecting us today. Our stories are wealthy in education, the past is gone but the emotions very much live on.
Do not be afraid of seeking further help from your support systems, do not be afraid of judgement. Whether you are returning to work or to the playground, it is no ones business to tell you how long you should be suffering with postnatal depression for. The timescale for mental health is non existent, for as long as our bodies are living, so is our mental health.
Take some time to think about mental health and what it means to you. How do you define your mental health, is it by a diagnosis, is it by your personal understanding? Whatever your experience is, start a process of accepting that there will be ups and downs, people may judge and say hurtful things but these things only see you for face value. Your mental health story holds so much richness, so much value and during lifes spinning wheel things will be rough and smooth, we will be small but develop as more substance (experience) is added.
Yes it is nearly Christmas. Whether you celebrate it because of beliefs or tradition, we all seem to hold this sense of anticipation from November onwards. I wonder if this is the excitement of good times ahead, prospects of a fresh new year or just the warmth of childhood memories. Whatever it is, for alot of people this time of year is much anticipated.
As I prepare for Christmas, I seem to be making more and more excuses to do the things that bring me joy. I am a total winter bird, everything about Autumn and Winter brings me gooey feelings of romance and warmth. So, why is it I still find myself asking Google “when to put up Christmas decorations”, seeking confirmation of when I should allow myself joy, from a search engine. I instinctively know that October is too early for our family but the second week of November I get an urge to cozy up and have a tree in my living room.
Last year, I was heavily pregnant in November and due the week before Christmas, so I had already given myself the go ahead to buy presents and decorate early. This year I find myself exploring a variety of excuses. My top two are: after this year of pandemic, we need a joyful environment and we owe it to the baby who spent last Christmas day onwards in hospital.
Why am I making excuses for accessing joy? Why am I looking to others for confirmation?
Decorations aside, this is a lesson I want to hold on to from now on. When we wait on life to bring us joy, our expectations grow and we miss the precious moments of joy that pass us every day. I find that with a full on routine with family and work, I was missing out on joy in the most basic moments. In my earlier years of motherhood I felt entitled to bonuses and time off (as if paid employment) and if I didn’t access these benefits, I would feel distressed and throw a adult tantrum. It is true, the more children you have; the more of your time is taken up but you become an expert of your own needs and the needs of your family. This, for me is an area where I am gifted with the greatest satisfaction. Just to know that no one has experienced my children and my husband like I have, no one can feel the pain or the joy that has moulded me into the person I am today.
With great happiness, I’m claiming the joy of motherhood and renouncing FOMO (fear of missing out)!