Mummy Mental Health

Mental Health, Mum, Uncategorized

My mental health is something I’ve never really been fully open about, and especially not on this scary platform for all to read. I have always really battled with my mental health, and have felt most of my adult life has been dominated by some particular demons.

When I was 20, I was diagnosed with moderate depression and severe anxiety, and although I wouldn’t say I suffer from either now, I remain an anxious person and find myself constantly struggling with my brain to ensure I don’t find myself in a position of not coping again. I didn’t want to live with labels above my head or use them as barriers. I worked bloody hard to feel all the good in me again.

I went through a summer of CBT sessions and I think these helped to the extent that it was the first time I really laid down the facts about how I was feeling and addressed things that went back as far as the age of 5. On the other hand, I found some of the techniques used in CBT weren’t for me and just filled my brain with more to think about. I constantly found myself looking for answers and the reasons why, rather than just dealing with the issue. This is still one of my hang ups now. In fact, sometimes I find myself questioning other’s behaviour more than anything else.

I worked out that if I wanted to feel better, it was going to have to come from me and I was going to have to do it myself. I read so many books about mental health and coping strategies. I kept journals of my thoughts and feelings and even had a notebook I created myself full of inspirational and motivational quotes and pictures of all the things I loved. I volunteered in the library and desktop publishing department of my now workplace. I threw myself into my degree, completing it long distance so I could do it at home and achieved 80+% in the 3 modules I was covering over that period of time. I came such a long way in such a short period of time and I could really focus on me.

I’ve always had issues with my self image and don’t think very highly of myself. I have a constant fear of not achieving or not being good enough. I come across to most, especially since Ted has been born, as a confident, happy individual. And to be completely honest, I am a happy and confident person too most the time, but I often need reminding of that.

My biggest fear as a parent is that Ted might one day struggle like I have. I know I can’t stop that from happening, but I hope I’m showing him the most appropriate way of dealing with things and that this will impact on him as he gets older. I guess at this moment in time, my new hurdle to overcome is being back at work full time and rejiggling the juggle of mum and work. Learning how to be there for my boy, but also be a professional.

Being a mum is the best thing I’ve ever experienced, and it has been the best way for me to deal with things that would typically and previously bother me greatly. My head now works in such a way that I prioritise how I feel about certain things and what deserves the most time and attention. Also having a little bundle of energy (I realise I’ve started calling him that a lot in these blogs now) running away from you and showing you all the new things he can do everyday is an amazing, wonderful distraction.

Despite my struggles, I am a strong woman. I hold my shit together when I feel like everything else is falling apart, and I just deal with it (after a meltdown or two…) Anything you can do, I can do on 2 hours sleep or vomiting every 15 minutes (pregnancy wasn’t the best for me) or with a 1 year old in my other arm. When my mental health begins to deteriorate, I bounce back. I’m working twice as hard to prove my worth, working full time, writing a book, keeping my blog updated regularly, planning a podcast, planning a masters, as well as attempting to keep my flat tidy and trying my best to be a dream mum for Ted.

I guess my point is, being a mum makes you rethink and reprioritise. Your every worry is now focused on the impact that will have on your child rather than you. Your usual self care becomes more of a team care and there’s no room for selfishness. Since becoming a mum, I’ve been less concerned with my own feelings, and sometimes they aren’t important enough for me to deal with, but the key thing is that no matter how many times people tell you and you don’t listen, you are so important. You need to think about you sometimes and that could be anything from having a nice bath with candles, or going for a walk or run, or a girl’s weekend away to clear your head and have fun. It breaks my heart seeing so many mothers struggle and battle each day because they’ve been taught that looking after themselves should come last, when really we need to look after ourselves so we are fully refreshed to look after our little ones.

Mum’s were people before we were mums and we need to remember that! Look after yourselves ❤

Postnatal Depression: Amy’s Story

Mental Health, Mum

Postnatal depression is a funny old thing, I sit here writing this with full knowledge of that fact. Some people with postnatal depression will have a history of mental health problems and some people don’t – either is perfectly normal and fine.

My mental health journey started from the very young age of 13, when I developed Anorexia. After a long, long battle with food I recovered; however this is not something I am quite ready to blog about yet.

So, we will start at the age of 17 when I was diagnosed with depression as a ‘replacement’ to Anorexia – it is like a drug addiction, it has to be replaced with something. It’s crazy how meeting someone you love wholeheartedly can change the way you think. I started to feel better and see life in a different way. When I fell pregnant I knew it would be difficult for me to see my body change and go over weights I wouldn’t be happy with, but I knew it would be totally worth it when I had Theo. Something I struggled with throughout my whole pregnancy was watching my thighs get bigger and stretch marks develop all over my body but there was nothing I could do about it.

The common Baby Blues is something everyone talks about, the typical feeling emotional and tearful. This should last for the first couple of weeks and it is a completely normal thing to experience after having a baby I mean, hello, you have just spent nine months carrying a small human and then gave birth to it!

Symptoms of postnatal depression last a lot longer than a few weeks and can make you feel awful. You can feel: like you have no energy, like you’re an awful mum, a persistent low mood, like you can’t bond with your baby and sometimes you can even have awful thoughts about harming your baby. So many women don’t even realise they have postnatal depression and bottle it up, this is when it gets worse. Let alone the sleep deprivation from having a new baby! 

I went to the doctors with all of the feelings listed above when Theo was just 8 weeks old, since then I have been on medication to help with my moods/feelings and have seen a therapist.

My plea to any mums reading this nodding their head is to go and seek some help! Its not stupid and it is a real thing. Don’t withdraw from your friends and family, reach out and talk to them.
I am also always here for anyone feeling low

Amy xox

Learning to Love your Mum-Bod

Mental Health, Mum, Mum-Bods, Uncategorized

Since Ted has been born, I’ve learned to love my body way beyond how I ever loved it before. I remember venturing out and about in those first few months as a mum and bumping into people I knew, and always getting compliments for how well I looked. People would say ‘I knew you’d be one of those people who would shrink right back’ whilst stood there with 3 extra stone on me and feeling deflated rather than being grateful for the compliment. I’d spent my pregnancy overeating and becoming a sloth in terms of movement, and I really felt it afterwards.

I started my pregnancy journey at a teeny-tiny underweight 8 stone and a size 6 (although completely in denial wearing an 8,) and 3 weeks after the birth of my son weighed 3 stone heavier. Luckily I lost about a stone of that down to breastfeeding alone within a few months, and probably would’ve lost more if it wasn’t for my need to eat a whole pack of biscuits 3 times a week.

What concerns me is the obsession and expectation that society places on women to return to their pre-baby life, and this applies to both lifestyle and appearance. But guess what… it’s actually okay to spend some time letting your body recover. It’s completely fine to not have time to blowdry your hair and wear a full face of make up. You spend as much time as you need in your pyjamas and maternity pants, and maybe upgrade to some leggings and a hoody when you’re ready and go from there girl!

I remember feeling a lot of pressure to get back into my size 8 jeans, and I did get there eventually. I remember wearing some high waisted jeans and there wasn’t a hole in my belt small enough for my waist but being so confused at these hips that are miles wider than they were previously. I remember just days after giving birth walking down the stairs to open the front door to the midwife and being told to sit down and rest because I was going to hurt myself, and being stubborn and refusing.

Celebrity culture tells us it is possible to stand outside the hospital, flat stomach, make-up and a perfectly picked outfit. I honestly can’t think of anything worse than stumbling out the hospital not being able to rub my mascara-less, tired eyes, not wearing massive knickers and not hiding under a massive tent of clothing.

Let’s fast forward a bit and skip the immediate sluggish, bloated and well padded feeling once your little one has escaped the womb. Eight months down the line and I am so much happier with this mum bod. I have a little tummy where there wasn’t an inch of fat before, my hips are wider, thighs thicker and bum bigger than pre-baby bump, but I love it. I feel more womanly than I ever have before. Not only have I done the most empowering thing with my body, but I carry the scars of that with me every day and they are the best reminder of that experience.

I hate exercise. I know I’ll never have a super toned body and even when I was underweight I was still wobbly. But I am healthy now. I love food of all sorts, and I make sure I go for a long walk almost everyday. Walks are great for your mental health too, and babies and children need to get out and discover the world. You are never going to feel good about yourself sat on the sofa all day… but it is always okay to do that until you are rested and ready.

I see these contorted images on Instagram and the botoxed, pumped up faces around me and honestly, it makes me sad that women go to these lengths. Stretch marks are normal. Wrinkles are normal. Having fat on your body is normal. All those things tell the story of what our bodies have gone through, and I really wish that women would not believe the images they see.

None of us are 100% happy with how we look, but my biggest piece of advice would be to be healthy and make the most of the bits you like. You love your legs? Wear that teeny mini skirt. You have a flat tummy? Wear that crop top. You have a nice bum? Then wear those super tight jeans! (A new body is also a brilliant excuse for some new clothes.)

I hope that more women can learn to love their new, mummy bodies. Exercise if you need to, change your diet if you need to, but ultimately what is always important is your happiness, and the happiness of your child.

Emily’s Story: PTSD

birth, Labour Stories, Mental Health, Mum

No matter how many times women told me never to plan my birth, I still had visions of how I hoped it would pan out.

Being one of the first in my friendship group to have a baby, I lacked experience or knowledge with what labour was going to be like but it didn’t scare me in the slightest. I was doing everything the blogs told me not to do. Watching one born every minute, buying girls clothes even though she had her legs crossed in her 20 week scan and reading labour stories which sounded like fairy tales.

I almost felt excited when I had a first twinge of brackston hicks despite being uncomfortable, I knew I was coming close to the third trimester and very soon I’d get to hold my little one.

However, at 32 weeks, when I thought I was just going to hospital because I was being paranoid, motherly instinct proved right and I was in fact going into pre term labour. I barely had a moment to blink before I was rushed into theatre with medical professionals running around me throwing their medical jargon at each other whilst I’m just lying there, still unaware of what fate had for me and my daughter. The only way I can describe the experience is I thought the world was ending. I hadn’t even begun my maternity leave let alone had a moment to pack a hospital bag or sort out the nursery. None of that seemed to matter after I heard her first cry behind the white sheet that separated us. All I could think is that she was alive and breathing! Thank goodness!

My little girl was born on the 4th November weighing 5Ibs. My bond with her was instant but an overwhelming sense of mourning clouded over me.
Why me? What had I done to my body that caused this? Questions I might never know but looking back these feelings of self blame were just the beginning of what was to come.

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and this cloud wasn’t going away. I didn’t feel depressed, I didn’t feel a lack of bond with my daughter but I still felt loss… fear…. and vivid dreams of those awful hospital machines beeping around my daughter. I lost all sense of trust with medical professionals who I thought were going to tell me my baby was dying or she needed to be taken into hospital again. My anxiety over the health of my daughter became so drilled into my life that I couldn’t leave her with anyone alone.. not even my partner. I was living in isolation and refused to let anyone in.

It wasn’t until my health visitor suggested 6 weeks of counselling that I had ever heard the diagnosis of PTSD in post-natal women. What? I thought that was only diagnosed for people in the military?”

It took a while for me to come to terms with such a term and initially I felt really angry I’d been thrown yet another title. “Another medical professional trying to pass me off with a “condition” and try and load me with more medication,” I thought.

However, it wasn’t the case at all. The more I off loaded in these sessions, the more I realised how lucky I was to have met my counsellor who finally gave me an answer and I accepted what it is. I had PTSD and was suffering from my traumatic birth experience.

I will never know how it feels to hold my daughter moments after she was born, never know how it feels to have her latch for the first time, never experience bringing her back to the ward, never have her lie in her bed next to me, never change her nappy for the first time or get her dressed into her first outfit. Yet, even though I missed these precious moments, one thing I will definitely know forever is how lucky I am to have a healthy and happy daughter who has one strong mummy.

I am now in my second year of nurse training and hope that my story can influence others to seek help with PTSD and to avoid making assumptions that these feelings signify post natal depression. PTSD can happen to any woman who has experienced trauma during their birth.

A year on and I still have triggers that make things a little difficult. However, I don’t dwell on the what ifs, instead I focus on the what is. I haven’t let ptsd shatter the prospect of having further children but for now I just watch in awe of my daughter who is our little shining star and I am forever blessed to have given birth to such a fighter. We love you darling!