And, well, here's some truth. I'm waving my bingo wings in mutual (but actually really lonely) misery with anyone else suffering from mental health issues. I'm not doing too bad now, but thought it the right time to share my experience of feeling really rather shit. I'd say enjoy your read, but, you know... Enjoy.
After having our beautiful little creature, StanleyPigeon, I was "diagnosed" with Post-Natal Depression. Way to go doctors. You did it. You made it worse than it already was. That label to me, meant "you can't actually do this. You can't mum as well as you're meant to. This baby has made you terribly sad and it's his fault you don't want to wake up in the mornings."
That was what cracked me and made me realise this wasn't normal; the not wanting to do the "living" part of having to live. Do not misinterpret that as me wanting to be the big D. So so far from the truth! But having to do the living after the waking up and then later trying to sleep, knowing I'd have it all to do again the next day. That is what made me realise feeling sad and tense and worried and down and not good enough and on edge and in knots about the tiniest life details... That wasn't supposed to happen.
|The day I was diagnosed with anxiety. We took Stan to soft play. Sometimes smiling happened and that felt great.|
This was when I felt a huge difference between what I thought was depression and what I was experiencing; anxiety. Eurgh. It bloody wasn't Post-Natal Depression, it was anxiety; about Stanley not wanting to breastfeed anymore (hormones are a KILLER), about going back to work, about losing friends who turned their backs not knowing how to cope with anxiety, about friends and family saying "what have you got to be sad about, look at Stanley he's so happy!".
Anxious about getting it right and being right and feeling right. None of that was right.
I had OK days where I'd attend a MummyFit session at a local park and that helped immensely. I'd remember to eat something myself those days and I'd talk to people those days.
|After a MummyFit session, with my chubby Stan|
I was referred to my health visitor who came and we had a cup of tea and I curled up in our woven 1960s tub chair, sobbing into my cuppa. She crouched on the floor next to me and explained the following:
"Post-Natal Depression does NOT mean you're shit at being a mum. It does NOT mean your sadness is related to Stanley or your new life. It does NOT mean you can't cope. It is a term used for any mental health sufferers upto two years after having a baby."
Well that changed EVERYTHING. Whether she was lying to make things feel better, I don't care. She changed my world in those few moments. The fog completely lifted. I could look at Stanley without guilt or blaming him and realise it was the external factors of returning to a workplace that didn't want me back, my hormones being all over the place because I wasn't needing to produce milk anymore and one of the biggies: losing my hair (no one had told me I might go a bit bald after having a baby! This hit me like a tonne of hair that had fallen out of every new mums head!).
|Stupid hair trying to cover bald patches|
I was free from all the doom of believing it was all from me.
I have so much to thank my health visitor for. She then referred me onto a "new guy in town". He was over from LA teaching mindfulness and was working wonders on the people of Scunthorpe.
Tom frightened me to begin with. He was a real gentle guy and he was actually local, but had moved to LA following his passion and love of wellbeing and mindful meditation. Tom changed the way I see and think forever, though actually, a lot of what we discussed week to week was always clear and in the back of my mind:
Think of NOW. What are the "dangers" around you creating anxiety. Do they exist in your immediate proximity? Are you in "danger" from them? Is there anything you can do about them? Are they REAL? Do you believe in them/trust them/respect them? Why do we let those things affect us?
Are you a mind reader? Do you KNOW what that person is thinking? Are you just presuming those people can't cope with your mental health issues? Are you assuming *this* is how they feel because it's easier?
Are you WELL? No. And that is perfectly OK for the time being because you are bright enough and strong enough to help yourself out of the darkness.
Tom and my health visitor and people around me (mainly Stanley and a couple of total gays) changed my life last year. And I have them to thank for making me see the darkness, accept it as part of how my brain functions and then develop ways of recognising and growing out of it all.
|We went for a lot of walks to clear our heads|
One of my smaller mechanisms for clambering is the silly and totally detached from reality Instagram. It's where I found a moment of relation, recognition, sometimes jealousy, but always a smile. Finding other ladies and girls who were into the vintage scene as stylists, traders, lovers of dreams and makers of another reality. They were who I wanted to "be around". My virtual Vintage Girl Gang. So, gathering the girls up is sometimes slow because I don't have the time I'd like to actually develop the idea (I have SO MANY), but the VGG was a step away from feeling "mental mumness".
Today, is International Day of the Girl and I want to take this opportunity to share a thank you to and from all the Vintage Girl Gang for being strong and brilliant women. Some of the girls have shared their experiences of mental health "issues" or "problems" (I like to just see mine as dips so that I'm not having to fix or find solutions to them). These girls are braver than you know and are strong women leading such varied, interesting and stylish lives. Have a read about them all by clicking on the Vintage Girl Gang page.
I'm laid here, at 6am writing this post, while I remember some really dark days and real moments of clarity.
Stanley has made his way into my bed after his 7th night of "allnightlong" in his own bed. His morning routine now consists of celebrating his allnightlongs and then laying with baby at his insistence. These moments are mixed with equal love and worry that it might all happen again with baby number two.
This time though I'll be prepared, tooled up and will be able to recognise the dark before its hanging over the family.
I'll turn to my family and my gay mates, I'll hold my babies tighter, let go of my brain a bit and just embrace the surge of weird feelings that comes with being a bit "mental".
So, to all the supposed "sufferers"; don't feel suffered. Feel united that you aren't the only one out there who feels lost or broken or unstable. We are all in it together!