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.

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.

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”