I was talking to a friend last week about how we don’t find time to process difficult or even joyful emotions. How life just seems to sweep you by, things happen one moment and the next you have to just pick yourself up and keep moving. People around you probably think that you are strong and resilient for doing so, but how does this behaviour affect our mental health? Should our experiences and emotions not be confronted head on and processed over time?
When I was pregnant I felt like I was in a little glowing bubble of joy. I was untouchable, nothing fazed me, I did not feel stressed or pressured. I just felt so happy knowing that I had this tiny human being growing inside of me. All of my anxieties and worries were gone, nothing could bring me down because all that mattered was our future as a family.
I did not believe for a second that it was all going to be sweetness and light, of course it was going to be hard work. I had seen my sister bring up two children and she is a pro, I knew what was involved. It was that feeling of knowing that my baby was growing inside me, it blew my mind. It was the happiest I had ever been in my entire life.
After Cass was born my emotions were obviously all over the place, like any new parent. We were tired, a bit out of sorts, unsure of what was actually going on but I was still so happy. We had a beautiful baby boy.
When you are pregnant, especially for the first time there is a lot of focus on you as the mother, how you are feeling, how you are coping. Constantly being checked at the doctors, fighting for what kind of birth you want, making decisions. It is a lot to take on, stressful and overwhelming at times. A lot of focus is put on the pregnancy, no one really tells you what is coming. No one really prepares you for what happens after labour, all the focus is on what drugs you want when you are in labour, where you want to give birth and if your baby does not arrive in a specific time scale, what medical procedure will be thrown at you to make sure it does.
When Cass was around three months old I remember feeling very overwhelmed by everything. Due to Will’s work and not having any family close by, I was spending a lot of evenings alone and bedtimes were an absolute killer. Feeding all day and all night and trying to survive on a couple of hours sleep, it was too much. I felt totally isolated. I called the health visitor who came round and just talked, her support was amazing. She reassured me and it gave me the strength I needed to keep going.
A few months ago I was returning to work, still getting zero sleep, really struggling with night feeds and the rest. I felt like a shell, but I just kept going. One day everything just crashed down around me, I couldn’t cope anymore. I had totally lost myself and shut down. Luckily for me I had some fantastic women around me, the support of my family to help me get back on track and an amazing doctor.
Talking about what was happening and how I was feeling was not something that came easily, I had to swallow an absolute fuck-tonne of pride and face some mammoth demons. I realised at this moment I had to start taking better care of myself and making positive decisions about how I was going to look after my mental health.
Different people react in different ways to situations and mental health is very unique to each individual. For me, I do not take time, I rush through things and become engrossed in the next project or exciting life event and forget about how I am feeling at that exact moment. I am forever looking to the future and not taking time to enjoy ‘now.’ Sometimes I don’t want to enjoy ‘now,’ I want to forget about it, it is hardwork, crap, upsetting or stressful.
In the past 14 months I have learned so much about my own mental health and emotions, I am working through, and confronting things that existed before Cass was born, which is a bit shit to be honest. I wish I would have just dealt with them at the time, but this is helping me learn and grow NOW so I do not make the same mistakes in the future. I am learning to deal with things and not bury them. I am taking time, albeit very small amounts of time to talk about how I feel, with friends and my husband. I am taking time to talk about both positive and negative emotions, learning from the good and the bad. I am being honest with myself and stepping out of my comfort zone.
I cannot emphasise how much talking helps, find someone who will listen, anyone! A friend, family, the samaritans, your doctor no one should ever feel alone. Take strength from small achievements and always remember that you are enough. Fill your cup and take time, even if it’s just a minute to text a friend or hanging out at soft play with some other parents. Everyone has shit but we should never be alone.