As we are coming to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, I have teamed up with some beautiful, inspirational ladies to share our mental health journeys and to offer words of advice and support to others who may be experiencing similar feelings and emotions. We aim to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Hayley | @brummymummydiaries
Throughout my teens I have always suffered with anxiety and bouts of depression. But instead of speaking out about it, I self-managed it for years. I’m not a big sharer of emotions at the best of times, even when I’m happy my face rarely shows it. And I’ve always been the one to bottle everything up and put on a brave face because I don’t want to burden anyone else.
The first few weeks after I gave birth I felt really, really low and I couldn’t even explain why. I was thinking to myself, ‘I’ve just had a beautiful baby and I’m surrounded by loving family and I just keep crying, why?’ This led to feelings of guilt of why do I feel this way and I felt like I was a ‘bad mom,’ because I thought that these should be the most happiest, and amazing weeks of my life. I was so so proud of Elijah and excited to start the journey as a little family but my brain and body just didn’t want to show it.
After a few weeks, I went to see my GP who gave me medication and referred me for CBT. This is honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The medication has made a world of difference and has helped keep my depression under control, although I do still have bad days. I look back now and I realise that most of my postnatal depression stemmed from the crazy hormones, sleep deprivation, the numerous trips to and from hospital after birth, and the daily home visits from health care professionals (due to checking my blood pressure). I felt like I couldn’t relax and enjoy the time with my little family as I was constantly surrounded by visitors and was generally a little overwhelmed with new mom life.
My advice to other people who are finding themselves in a similar situation is to speak out, talk to friends and family, and go and speak to your GP. I know it’s a little bit scary and daunting but you’ll honestly thank yourself in the future for it. Always try and take some time for yourself to help you unwind and relax whether it’s to get some sleep or talk to a friend. And most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help; ask relatives to come and babysit for a few hours so you can rest. This honestly helped me so so much when I had been up all night and just needed some uninterrupted sleep. If you ever need someone to talk to please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’re never alone!
Sarah | @getyourfamilytogether
Is mental health a part of your family? Growing up, it was never part of mine. That is not a criticism, I was born to the generation of the stiff upper lip, the keep calm and carry on attitude that keeps feelings quietly hidden, to be dealt with by you and you alone. Don’t get me wrong, my childhood was not an unhappy one, it was a product of a message handed down through generations of keeping quiet about how we feel. This thankfully now outdated attitude definitely impacted, albeit unbeknown to me, my mental health as a child and consequently heavily influenced how I dealt with my emotions as an adult, mainly meaning I didn’t deal with anything at all. All this was never going to end well and I became consumed with fear, worry and self doubt - overthinking everything, doubting myself at every turn and spending many sleepless nights worrying about endless imagined catastrophes - all this of course hidden behind a smile.
It is often said that parents have the greatest influence on their children and never have I felt this more than when I had my own, especially my first born. Whilst I won’t go into the details, (seriously trying to keep this short!), my mental health took a nose dive in those early days and the impact this had on my son still haunts me now. Anyway, the stiff upper lip attitude took over and somehow motherhood and I stumbled to some sort of truce. Unconsciously, by doing this I was passing this generational attitude to keep everything hidden onto my children - being able to see how this affected my sons life really made me realise how destructive this could be, a particularly harsh school report in year six about him not interacting with others, falling behind and lacking the skills to be able to cope at secondary school literally broke my heart. Honestly, it is a bit of a wake up call when you see what you deem as the worst parts of yourself coming out in your child. I knew I had to change the message I was sending to my children.
So what did I do? The answer is so simple yet has been so effective, it seems ridiculous saying it - but we just started talking. Regular family discussions a few times a week, not just the standard how was your day - but exploring the idea of emotions, problems and basically introducing the concept of mental health - it really is not as serious as it sounds! Of course after years of avoiding any conversations about feelings it was completely awkward at first for all of us and my whole family thought I was nuts! But I persevered, we have been doing this for almost two years now and I can honestly say the improvements in confidence, self worth and our general relationship as parent and child have been massive and we are all learning to be more comfortable talking about pretty much anything but also the difficult subjects when they arise. Look, we are by no means perfect, my children still argue, I am getting even more embarrassing as a mum (personally I don’t see that one!) and yep, my kids still spend too much time on their phones but this journey is not about creating perfection, it is about sending a new message for the next generation. One where our emotional well-being is viewed as important as our physical one, a place where we understand our mental health and are not shamed by it, especially when we are experiencing problems and illness. In recent years , the change has already begun, people are speaking out bravely leading the way by sharing their stories. Here’s the thing, you don’t need a story to make a difference, we all have mental health and now is the time to start talking about it, all you need to do is start the conversation.
Michelle | @adventurousmumi
Hi, I’m Michelle and I am a mummy to three beautiful girlies. The photo you see to the left was taken in April 2017 and I promise I am smiling, (we had just finished a 5k park run) there is pain hiding beneath.
During this time I was having terrible anxiety attacks. I hadn’t been to the doctor yet for help, so I didn’t know what all of these attacks were. The crying, the feel of dread, nausea, pacing the floor. I honestly felt like I was on the verge of breaking. My journey had been long and is still ongoing, I am now a decaf mum with a love for chamomile tea when I feel it building up again.
One thing I recommend to anyone living with anxiety and other mental health issues is to do what’s right for you. If you need to pull yourself back don’t be afraid to, explain in the best way you can to the people who matter. I haven’t told the world that I suffer from anxiety, there are less than 5 people in my family and friends that know and for me that is fine.
Remember it is ok not to be ok!
Rachael | @mrs.p_mental_health_and_me
My mental health problems started when I was 15 after my brother passed away. I didn't know how to grieve properly and developed unhealthy coping mechanisms.
When I was 19 I had my first child and my mental health nosedived, I developed bad PND and was at the point of suicidal thoughts. I decided to go to the Doctors when my son was 8 months old and I was at rock bottom, only to be told that PND wasn't real and I should think about losing weight and improving my physical health with exercise.
I didn't go back for help for a couple more months but when I did, I got put on 200mg of sertraline a day. I took these for a year until I fell pregnant again and they took me off them. Since then I've been on an uphill battle with my mind, I have bad anxiety in many forms. My depression comes in cycles and I have PTSD from other events that have happened over the years. But I am now married with another two children and have the support I need to manage my mental health. I can't see a future where I don't struggle but I also don't see a future where I will be as bad as I have been. I've just got to take it one day at a time and work with my issues not against them.
Birth Trauma was never something that I thought I would suffer from. After going through an emergency cesarean with my first daughter, having depression as a teenager and having trauma from my childhood - I never thought it could get worse.
But in 2016, after nearly 2 years trying for our second child, I caught pregnant and was so happy. Over the coming months I felt something change in me, but I wasn't fully aware on what it was. I slowly hid myself away, I pushed all my friends away and I subconsciously hated myself and what I was.
After praying, hoping and planning for a vaginal birth, I ended up with another cesarean, that I didn't plan, didn't want, and medically at that time, I didn't need. I felt so lost and out of control. I was so unsupported with what I wanted, I had no fight left in me on the day my daughter came into the world. I sat waiting hours and hours in a room for something I never wanted. I was starving, alone, and abandoned. I had no strength to put my foot down, I had no voice in me to say no. And when that time came, I had to lay on a table, paralysed, ignored, and treated like I was unwanted property. My darling second daughter was born, she was amazing, beautiful, and just what I needed. But nothing could stop the pain I felt inside. The loss I felt for the birth I dreamed of.
For months I became even more withdrawn, I struggled to bond, I piled on weight and I binge shopped to make myself feel better. I wasn't me anymore. I plucked the courage to seek help, GPs, Health Visitors, Midwives, Counsellors. But I was failed in every direction. Over the coming months I got worse and worse and after my daughters first birthday, any sanity I had left, was gone. I became suicidal, and no one could stop me going down this road.
I really do not know what clicked but I remember the moment I realised only I could change this. 2 years after my birth trauma, 2 years of having post natal depression, of having rapid mood swings and behaviour outbursts, I stood on a bridge, looking at the place I would end all this and at that moment something came rushing back. My children, my family, my life.
No matter what happens in life, someone will always be there for you. There is help out there. And it can take a long time, but once you find the right source for you to break free, you will. And I promise to anyone who ever goes through something like this, there is light, warmth and happiness at the end. But never ever feel alone, talk to someone, talk to anyone, because this would be the first step to helping yourself.
I spent weeks, if not months trying to make my home better, myself better, I lost weight, I felt good, I started to change everything around me to help change me. I no longer felt lost, I no longer felt abandoned. I accepted what had happened with help of CBT, with the help of my children and my close family. It took me maybe up to 10 months to feel as much as I could feel, like my old self. I still have bad days, anxiety attacks and moments I feel down about what I went through. But I remember the person who is here today. I remember the fact that I am still standing, my children are alive and healthy, and I am alive.
I also made sure that when I got pregnant this time, that I spoke openly of my feeling, and I told a few close people around me to watch out for certain signs that I could be falling into another depression. This help other people to be aware and watch out for me because sometimes we never watch out for ourselves ❤x
Lianne | @thatmumwithdepression
I’m Lianne, a mum to one amazing little human called Gracie who is 4 in August!
I was diagnosed with depression from a very young age and have struggled my whole life really!
On and off medication trying to find the right balance! But nothing never really made a difference!
Until I got diagnosed with borderline personality disorder! Then everything fell into place, I kind of had my reason for being the way I am. It’s a daily struggle, and I really do struggle! But I have to do it for my daughter!
After attempting suicide a number of times in the past due to feeling like I had no purpose here, I now know that my Gracie is why I am meant to be here!
I manage my mental health with medication twice daily, and my family are starting to understand it a bit more now but it’s taken a long time!
My advice for anyone struggling is to TALK! to me, anyone, a stranger friend family anyone! Go to your dr, don’t be scared!
Kate | @shesmovingmountains
Anxiety has always been a part of my identity. I would not be who I am today if I hadn't gone through years of struggling. It has taught me to never stay down, but instead to fight with everything inside of me. It forced me to deal with my own thoughts, whether I wanted to or not.
Without growing up with anxiety I don't know who I would be.
The depression hasn't always been there. It came in slowly, hiding as tiredness. It seems as if overnight it had taken total control. I never lost to depression, I always had a way of fighting it until I got to a point where I was "good enough". It wasn't about enjoying life or having fun, it was about surviving it.
Whatever you may be going through, there will always be people who judge. They may doubt you, say unnecessary remarks, or try to bring you down. You cannot let them. You are not alone and there are people who will always be there for you. Continue to fight, every single day, because down the road you'll look back and thank yourself for not giving up.
Beth | @beth_freespirit
My name is Beth ✨ and I'm 27 years old from the West Midlands. I have a son who is nearly 8 months old. I'm currently on maternity leave and I'm an aspiring baker trying to set up my own business.
I struggled with my mental health my whole life, from as young as I can remember. I had a troubled childhood with a mentally abusive (and sometimes physically abusive) dad. My mom stopped my brother and I from seeing my dad when I was 9 years old and that's when the healing started to begin. It was a struggle and I saw so many different childhood counsellors,
I was diagnosed with chronic depression. I self harmed from the age of 14 and stopped just before I was 16. I thought I was getting better and life was easing until my brother took his own life that same year and I went spiralling back down again, this time I took to alcohol. When my brother died, I lost half my soul, we was so close growing up as we went through the same troubles with our dad. My brother and I fought the same battle, his was more silent than mine. I found life so hard I even tried taking my own on several occasions, failed attempts I called them.
The alcohol abuse stopped when I was 20 when I met the father of my child, he didn't drink at all so that kind of helped me get on to the right path. Life was better for me but I still struggled with my mental health until a few years ago when I found a new way of living. I found a positive mentality, law of attraction, a belief in the universe. This completely rewired my brain and I actually started to believe I was happy in my life. Great things started to happen for me and I found peace in meditation and positive affirmations. I now believe I can do anything and there's nothing in life that can stop me. The universe does have my back. This is also the time where I found my true self, I didn't have a very good start to my life and I will always refer to it as dancing with the devil and I now see myself as an advocate for mental health charities.
A bit of advice, it does get easier I promise. There is light in the darkness, it's always been there, you just have to want to look for it. Stop saying you can't and start saying I will and I can. Don't be afraid to reach out for help, it might seem no one is there but that's because you can't see in the dark. There is about a thousand hands waiting for you to grab on to. I'm always here if anybody needs someone to talk to 💕
I suffered from severe depression and anxiety for a very long time. It probably goes back to my childhood, could be because I don't remember any good times I have had. But what I do remember is every time I left my house I left with a big smile even though I felt so alone and I never spoke out.
As I grew into my teens things got worst for me, I was being bullied and I didn't feel safe at home. At this point I realised I am all by myself and I just couldn't bring myself to talk to anyone. I felt pathetic i thought these thoughts I am having is just not normal and I never spoke out. I felt unworthy for a long time and these thoughts I had in my head just got darker and darker and as entered my 20s I started to feel like I was failing in life, I had nothing to offer and I started to fall deeper in a hole, a hole I could not get out of anymore. My heart would race, my whole body would shake and I would just go quiet and pretend I'm invisible. I was so alone.
I am nearly 30 now and things have started to look brighter especially after I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl. I did struggle a lot after, physically and emotionally and to be honest I still have my low days but I feel worthy, I feel happy again, I feel like I can do anything. The love I have for my daughter I never knew I could love like this and I know most mothers could definitely relate to this. In the last 3 years I have started to go for loads of walks in parks areas where there is a lot of nature because I have noticed, it has always bought some sort of peace to my mind. After I gave birth having 'me time' has become one of the most important things to me I have started to appreciate my own company also started to look forward to things. What has also helped me throughout my healing process is talking to people, I have always thought that there was no point talking to anyone and no one could fix my problems.
I was wrong, talking to friends, family even strangers does help and even if they cant fix anything physically just listening can work wonders it can be overwhelming but there is a sense of support and care.
Jessica | @anaveragemum
In 2016, we lost our daughter Daisy at 25 weeks pregnant. After that, as you can imagine, I became very depressed and anxious about everything, basically I blamed myself for Daisy not making it into the world. I didn’t think I was womanly enough. In 2017, I got pregnant with my little boy Zach who is now 2 years old. After his birth I became very sad again about losing Daisy, and was dealing with demons I thought I’d buried deep. Not long after his birth, I was diagnosed with PTSD and PND. Returning to work with this was very difficult, as I felt no-one really understood me anymore.
I was on my medication for around a year, it helped me learn how to manage my emotions. Not that I’m saying I’m now perfect all the time but my brain feels a lot calmer. There are some days that I’m low, such as Daisy’s birthday but that is to be expected. I now feel like I’m a lot brighter in myself and I’m happier. I still have days where I punish myself, and I probably do it a lot more than other mums due to my trauma. However overall I’m good.
To help me with my metal health I try to exercise regularly, this also is good for your body! I like going for walks to help clear my mind if it feels a bit clouded, usually by the sea helps. I also (although I’m not very good at this) try to talk when I’m feeling a bit crap. Sometimes I get snappy first but then I finally tell people how I’m feeling. And it does help. I think sometimes I forget the power of talking to people and how good it is to speak to people who have an understanding of how you may be feeling.
Also a massive thing that helps me manage my mental health is my partner, James. He recognises when I’m struggling and supports me no matter what. He allows me to be upset, angry and frustrated at different situations but then will clearly help me find a right direction to take that is a lot calmer. So I thank him for that.
I think my best advice to anyone would be to not punish yourself if you are having an ‘off’ day. Be kind to yourself. Xx
I want to thank everyone so so much for sharing their mental health journeys - I know it really isn't an easy thing to do. We have all took time out today to talk about our mental health, and you should too. Whatever the time, wherever you are, your conversations about mental health changes lives.
Mental illness comes in all forms and is so different from person to person. But the overall advice is very similar, speak out, get help and support, and always be kind to yourself. Remember, there is always someone who will be a listening ear, whether it's family, friends, healthcare professionals, or even the lovely ladies mentioned in this blog.
You are not alone!