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.

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.

Create, Educate, Encourage and Inspire

Have you ever been in the countryside as evening is drawing in, minimal artificial light and that kind of peace that makes you feel like you’re breathing for the first time.

While on a camping holiday in Pembrokeshire as a child, I distinctly remember waking in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom, which was on the other side of the site. Quietly walking through the field with my Dad, avoiding bumping into tents. We gazed upwards to the midnight sky, which was like nothing I had seen before. Twenty years later the vision replays in my mind.

That night, the sky was weighing down over us like a vast canopy with layers upon layers of stars. I felt dizzy as I attempted to walk and permanently gaze. It took my breath away then and it takes my breath away now as I describe it. A natural phenomenon that prompts stories and inspiration.

When I contemplate how the light of a star reaches our tiny visual perspective here on Earth, it’s hard not to be impacted. It is said that the stars we see most probably still exist but what we are seeing is the state of the stars a few years ago. If this is true, the stars further away but still visible within our universe could potentially be billions of years old. Unfortunately or fortunately for us, there is no way of proving this. We may continue to bask in the great beauty of our solar system, as the light blasts through generations.

My friends in the sky, how can you be so many but so individually significant? Wherever my eyes choose to rest on your beautiful canvas, I will feel as tiny as you look to me. Your light is powerful, your community is vast. You’ve created stories, educated us, changed perspective and encouraged belief. Can we as humans, grains of sand over generations transform our story into one that will create, educate, encourage and inspire thousands of years later.

Our responsibility is clear, create testimonies where we are, love others who surround us, maintain our roaring identities that pave a way for the future to join. Because whether you like it or not, today will be visible 50 years from now.

“You’re a star, baby!”

I couldn’t resist…

Empathy is essential to us, as a human race.

It’s that time of year, when anticipation and joy is in the air. We enjoy the comfort of our cozy, festive homes and the tempting abundance of treats in every shop we visit. I honestly love Christmas and all the memories I have of Christmas are warm and happy. As a follower of Christ, I have always had this sense of celebration; not just for the gifts or prospect of a new year.

Jesus is my new beginning every day, He is the one that keeps me above water when the world is pulling me under.

Reflecting on the actual story of Christmas, I have thought about the journey Mary and Joseph made. For an expectant Mother and anxious Father, it would have been intense to say the least. They travelled strong by their faith in Gods plan and purpose. It’s the story we hear about in the Nativity plays and on the TV. But when we read further, we are reminded that the long journeys didn’t end there. After the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to seek refuge from the threat and persecution stemming from King Herod.

Matthew 2:13

Reflecting on this part of the story with deeper thought and realism, I have feelings of despair of the unknown, pain for the those families whose sons were killed and an overwhelming sense of confusion. I believe the only way Mary, Joseph and the mourning families could see tomorrow after experiencing the murderous corruption, physically and mentally is by accepting that life is more than what is happening here, now.

In comparison, I think of the millions of individuals and families that flee from their homes, seeking refuge and the warmth of knowing their children are safe from the danger they faced. I want to speak carefully as I write this, as my understanding of the experiences people seeking refuge is so on the surface. All I know is that the level of pain and distress is in a category of its own. We hear stories of refugees in the news, always painted with a political stance. Politics has this dangerous way of minimizing the real experiences, it launches a load of questions and information our way that leaves us feeling overwhelmed by what is right and wrong.

This is where empathy is essential to us as a human race. If we first listen to story with empathy, we begin to find ourselves on the freezing cold journey, approaching a foreign land. We begin to think in a way which questions “what next?”, we stand in a pair of shoes that can only go forward.

Reading the story of Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt with baby Jesus, we know the details, we see the bigger picture. In that moment though, the reassurance Mary and Joseph had was their faith in God and the plans that had gone before them. They would have had very human experiences, very human pains and very human fears, but this was the only way forward for them as a family, a scorching fire was chasing them and they had to flee.

Having a faith is a bridge that opens a path into tomorrow, into a tomorrow better than today. Even if we don’t see that straight away, one day we will reflect and see the resilience, wisdom and character that our experiences has gifted us with. Faith varies all around, however you see yours just know that it is as essential as the blood flowing around our bodies. It is what breathes us into our future.

Washed away

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.

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.”

Listen to your body & mind

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.

With a grateful heart & determination for life

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?