Enough is enough

Despite my greatest efforts, my resistance against embracing motherhood as a full time job has finally imobilised me.

I’ve told myself that I’m young enough to mother three children, have a full time job and a hobby. It’s taken me a good six years to crash and burn. I can sit back, telling my story and pushing the blame onto so many people and so many things. However, it not only enables my determination to burn out, it fills me with a resent that is only eating away at my energy, daily.

There is alot of talk these days about self love, which I thought I understood. Self love is pampering, time off and relaxation right? Wrong. I am now coming to understand and accept that self love is making good choices for your own self. It’s taking time and energy to understand ourselves the way we wish others would. I’ve reached a point in my life where I now realise the only one who can make me happy in this life is myself. Short term, of course we can rely on the happinesses of the every day, however when we primarily rely on that to have a sense of fulfillment we are setting ourselves up to fall down.

In reality, not every day can we full of joy, happiness and fulfillment; we naturally face challenging times on a daily basis too. It’s what gives us balance as human beings in society. Sometimes the balance is not level and our underlying ability to cope with small stresses begins to give way, resulting in physical and mental health issues.

How then, can we establish a strong, underlying foundation of fulfillment despite the everyday circumstances? We can begin by saying “no”. For me this was the only starting point to cease the destructive cycle of opening the door to the relentless pressure from responsibilities and personal expectations. When we can begin to say no, we begin to take control over what we’re allowing to enter our minds and ultimately we are getting to know our needs and wants as individuals.

This journey of self love is at its rawest stage, currently. The small amount of strength I am experiencing so far is maintaining me and keeping me afloat as I discover more about my needs and wants as a woman and Mother.

Speak your Mental Health.

Depression feels like a loyal acquaintance. The friction of its presence sands me down gently, sometimes roughly. The gentle whittling of its character, transforms my physical self into sediment rock – unyielding yet fragile. My shoulders hunch forward and my chest draws in, as I protect my heart from the pain in my mind.

Speak your truth, Speak your mental health.

Recognising Mental Health

When we talk about mental health in a casual or in depth way, are we considering our audience?

If we imagine walking into a meeting in the cabinet office, we’ll see a committee of representatives discussing issues that may or may not impact us directly. In that case, we better sit down and try and make sense of the discussion in hand. We leave with a better grasp about what is going on but do that thing when something has been explained five times and we just nod our head in confusion with the fear of looking silly if we ask for it to be explained one more time.

Recently, you may have noticed that there are more discussions and public posts regarding mental health. You may have also heard the phrase ‘mental health effects all of us’, well sure, having a physical body effects all of us, but what is your point? When we post or discuss mental health, most often we assume people understand what we are talking about or agree with us. The reality is that for many individuals, they will not recognise that they are being effected by mental health issues, instead they may put those feelings down to the current circumstances and expect it will all just pass with time. This may be due to many varying factors, such as culture, generation or gender for example.

If this is the case, we must begin talking about mental health in a less general and intimidating way. If we are going nurture and care for our dynamic communities, we must first understand who we are talking to. This doesn’t mean we should generalise as a result about our assumptions about others, but what we should be doing is enable ’empathy’ and ‘accommodating’ mode in our communication.

An example of this (emphasis on example), we may encounter a friend or work colleague who may be acting energetically, excitedly and perhaps erratically towards their work or daily tasks. We may respond by saying something witty like “someone’s in a good mood today”. Okay let’s pause here and understand the concept that excitement and anxiety cause almost identical physical reactions. I’m not suggesting a few energetic days in work or home mean there’s an underlying issue, but it is responsible to recognise those changes that continue over a longer period of time or reoccur.

There are a wealth of resources available to us now regarding mental health, including blogs. By reading, hearing the stories and reflections of others, we can educate the judgements of our subconscious to see that mental health is more than depression and anxiety. Mental health is as dynamic as our physical bodies are. You know that intense pain that occurs when you stub your little toe on the coffee table, well we wouldn’t say days later “I’ve got this really bad pain in my arm… it must be from when I stubbed my toe”. We need to approach our own mental health and the mental health of others creatively and dynamically. As a result, we cease trying to fit into societies understanding of mental health and begin to accept that areas within our health existed before the pandemic and we can react accordingly.

Read a blog, visit the NHS website, write a journal, speak to a counsellor… wherever you are at there is no harm in expanding our perspective about mental health. If not for ourselves but for our families and communities.

Ready or not, nuture

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.”

Making moral citizens

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.

Integrity is key

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.

Integrity is key.

Part time work and Motherhood

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?

For as long as our bodies are living, so is our mental health.

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.

Claiming Joy, Renouncing FOMO

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)!

Protect your story, nuture your mental health.

Mental health, it is a subject that is prevalent within motherhood. Whether you’re a Grandmother, Mother, Aunt or just know one, there’s no denying that mental health problems have existed in motherhood for generations.

During my time training in family therapy, I felt extremely drawn to the power of telling a story in a secure setting. Our mental health is so precious and it worries me that people’s mental health is exposed to all the elements of today’s society. Imagine it like this, our hearts are protected by skin, muscle and rib cage. It’s not part of us we see, but when we expose ourselves to stress; that physical core of us often experiences tension and palpitations which are not part of the normal functioning of our hearts. But when we safely understand our own limitations; some stress can motivate us to move onwards.

The same goes for our mental health, when we expose our emotions and story to the elements of social media, work colleagues or even that family member who thinks mental health is just being happy or sad, we expose alot more than we first think. The truth is, some people just don’t care and you will feel this when you pour your heart out, only to get a one word response or respond abusively.

Bringing awareness to mental health is really important for this generation and the next, but do not expose your story to a world who may just disregard your experience because that poses the risk of becoming your narrative.

Your story is your treasure. It is the experience that made you the person you are today and naturally you will be an example to the next generation. Feeling secure in our own mental health, we should find the processes that will work for us individually and this probably will change from time to time, but treat your mental health with care. Patients in hospital do not have a public audience commentating on their illness and recovery; they have nurses, doctors, support staff and family caring and nurturing the physical needs.

Bring awareness to mental health, process it carefully, use time and reliable sources. See that broken bridge in front of you, see the tools at your side and work alone or together to get to the other side. Then you will look back and can say “yes, you can see the new ground I have laid, you can see where the bad and good have joined but I’m here now. If I walk back and forth over this bridge, my experience will stand strong”