Mental Health Monday: Keeping up Appearances

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has been interviewed by ITV news recently and shared the stark reality of her feelings when she became a new wife and mother.

The thing is, how many of us recognise that look in her eyes? I’d be willing to bet we all do in one way or another.

But as she says, nobody has really asked her how SHE was doing. She’s been keeping up appearances, looking so incredibly strong on the outside, that it probably never occurred to anyone that she might not be feeling that way on the inside.

How many of us are guilting of doing that, too?

How many of us have a picture just like this one? Smiling and happy on the outside, but actually suffering a lot more than people would realise?

When you have a baby, you’re “someone’s mum”, and all of a sudden everyone is concerned with the new baby, how they’re doing, if they’re okay. It’s a lot less often that anyone is concerned with how YOU are doing, and if YOU are okay. It’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that you are your own person, especially in Meghan’s case, where she has the entire world watching her through the eyes of the press. I felt lonely and isolated enough after having a baby, that I cannot imagine how it must feel for her.

I recently had the strange experience of actually having some time off work, and decided, for once, to treat myself. I took care of ME for once, invested in myself a little bit, and felt so much better for it.

It’s important to remember that every “new mum” is still a person in their own right. It’s important to remember that YOU are still YOU, not just “so and so’s mum”, no matter how many people call you that.

Meghan, thank you so much for being honest about how you’re feeling. Being a parent is so hard, but if you’re only ever told how amazing it is, so that you’re never fully prepared for when it isn’t so amazing all of the time.

I don’t think I’m alone in being in awe of how inspiring a woman Meghan is, all the more so for this honest and frank interview. But there are SO many other mums in the UK and abroad just like her, feeling like things aren’t really okay.

Rosey (@PNDandME on Twitter) is also one heck of an inspiring lady, working so hard every day to make sure parental mental health is taken seriously, and providing an amazing support network for new mums and dads who are suffering with their mental health. I 100% recommend her weekly twitter chat #PNDHour on Wednesdays at 8pm if you feel like you’re alone and could do with a supportive network of people around.

If you are reading this and could do with some extra support, check out these online resources to access help with mental illness:

  1. http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk
  2. http://www.samaritans.org/
  3. http://www.papyrus-uk.org/
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4WLs5NlwrySXJR2n8Snszdg/emotional-distress-information-and-support
  5. https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services

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I abandoned the mirror – and you should too.

9 months ago when I moved house, I did something that many would call drastic, or unnecessary. While decluttering and sorting through my possessions, I decided to get rid of my mirror.

Yes, that’s right, it’s gone. The only mirror left in the house now is a 20cm round mirror that I use to put make up on in the morning sometimes, and my husband uses it to do his hair. Honestly? I think getting rid of it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my mental health.

I’ve spoken before about my previous history with Anorexia, and how I’m trying to combat that now I have my daughter. I don’t feel that Anorexia is something that ever truly goes away – I’m much better now, but I think the way you perceive your body is forever altered after having an eating disorder. I’ve also written about my struggles with Gastroparesis. which can cause physical symptoms that can be difficult to deal with if you’ve got an eating disorder history, like early satiety, bloating, abdominal discomfort etc.

So, why did I do it?

Quite simply, it was doing more harm than good.

I noticed that the more time I spent per day looking in the mirror, the more unhappy I was with my appearance, and that had a knock on effect for the rest of the day. I noticed that I could spend a whole day in an outfit I was comfortable and confident in, but the second I looked in the mirror and saw something I didn’t like, I’d have to change. I noticed that ‘just a few seconds’ here and there could add up to time better spent somewhere else. I also noticed that the days I hadn’t looked in the mirror were the happiest.

I soon discovered I wasn’t alone. I spoke to a close friend about it who told me she had in the past spent lots of time looking in her mirror at all the things she hated about herself. It broke my heart to hear it, because I think she’s beautiful.

The more I thought about it, the more it ate me up inside. I remembered as a teenager seeing a friend look at her stomach in a mirror and tell me that she wished she could just cut it all off. She was just 13 years old. I don’t want that for my daughter.

Once I got rid of the mirror, I soon noticed a change. I spent more time during the day thinking about how I was feeling rather than how I looked. When my husband complimented my appearance, I began to genuinely believe him rather than tell him that he was just obligated to compliment me because we are married.

Soon after ditching my reflective friend, I had to go clothes shopping as a new medication change had caused me to lose more weight. I thought that stepping into a changing room would be a challenge because I hadn’t looked at myself in a full length mirror for a few months. If anything, the opposite was true. I found that I had a newfound appreciation and respect for the way my body looked.

9 months later, I think I probably have the best self esteem and the healthiest relationship with my body that I’ve ever experienced. I appreciate the things my body can do rather than the way it looks. At the end of the day, I know that God made me perfectly to be just the way I am.

I’m not a perfect person, but I’m learning to be perfectly ok with my body just the way it is.

If you’ve never had some ‘mirror free’ time, or you’re struggling with self image, self confidence, or you just feel uncomfortable in yourself, I’d highly recommend abandoning the mirror for a while. It helped me to appreciate the person I am before the body I’m in, and it could very well do the same for you!

Have you taken any big steps to better your mental health?

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Mental Health Monday: Deployment-Related Depression and Anxiety

When Jamie was away in Afghanistan, I was already in a bit of a low place. I was still studying my Bar course full-time and working part-time, and the stress of it all got to me quite a bit. It really didn’t help that, at the time, I was still not able to drive and so I felt really alone and isolated throughout the first 4 months. Plus, does anyone actually enjoy being home alone? Or is it just me that feels really creeped out by it?

My closest family support was my husband’s uncle and their family (who were amazing help) and my mother-in-law, but they weren’t exactly around the corner!

It’s no surprise that I started to feel low, especially given that my recovery from PND was still relatively recent at that point.

So, off I tottered to the GP to talk about it and to make sure I was okay.

The GP wasn’t particularly helpful and kept talking about himself and how his wife copes with him working long hours (NOT THE SAME BRO). But… I was advised to self-refer to TalkPlus, so I did that and I engaged in CBT which you can read more about here (spoiler alert: it was really helpful!)

But actually the most helpful things to me when I was going through that deployment weren’t medical-related at all!

Firstly, the other SWAGs (Soldiers’ wives and girlfriends) and I had a WhatsApp group – where we mostly chatted about rubbish – but it was nice to have that group of us from up and down the country connected in some way, and taking our minds off the deployment! I’m still really good friends with some of them and try to keep in contact with as many of them as possible (if you’re reading this, sorry I’m so terrible at staying in touch!)

One of Jamie’s friends who had left the army by this point was also a big help – he would drive me places if I needed a lift or just pop round for a cuppa. Again, it wasn’t much but it was nice to know that I had someone there who could help me out or just take my mind off things with a chat. He’s been through his own mental health struggles with PTSD so he definitely understood the importance of not being alone!

I was obviously forever anxious that something was going to happen to the husband abroad, but regular phone contact was possible for us so I am really quite lucky. Even so, I put a lot of effort into sending shoeboxes of goodies and drawings from Olivia and Kiera and writing letters too. It gave me something positive to focus on and helped entertain the kids!

I also forced myself out of the house despite not driving! I went to uni, I worked part-time, when I finished uni I got a full-time job (that literally started 3 days after I finished so I had no time to dwell on anything). At weekends I tried to go to places with Olivia, I made use of the Welsh Guards Welfare Service and the amazing days out they had planned for their families during the deployment! I went out on my own or visited Jamie’s family (involving a lot of train rides – thank god for the HM forces railcard!)

The evenings were definitely where I struggled – I was finding it harder to sleep and just hated being alone. That’s mostly where the CBT came in to help with my motivation and routine.

Just talking to other people about how I was feeling – not necessarily medical professionals – was one of the best medicines.

So if you know someone whose partner is deployed, give them a shout. Check they’re okay. Go round for a cuppa and let them know you’re there. It can honestly be the most lonely time and just knowing you have a friend who cares can work wonders to help someone feel a little less down about it.

Have you experienced any deployment-related mental stress? What did you find helped you through it the most?

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army wife

Why I refuse to be ashamed about my miscarriage

Unfortunately, my husband and I experienced a miscarriage in May. If you’re close friends or family, this will probably not be news to you, but if you’re not, there you go.

When it first happened I felt totally lost. We told only the essential people, and spent lots of time giving our 18 month old daughter lots of extra cuddles and attention. However, when the time came that I felt I wanted to tell a few more people what had been happening in our lives, I was amazed by the amount of women who said ‘I’ve had one too’.

The one statement that I heard more than anything else was ‘it’s not something you just talk about’. Why is that? I was met with a few different responses

I was only 6/7/8 weeks. Not far enough to be too upset.

While I understand that the pain felt due to an early loss would be different to stillbirth, that’s not to say that experiencing pregnancy loss doesn’t hurt. At the end of the day, a life is still a life. From the moment a woman discovers she is pregnant, she starts to form an emotional connection with her baby. She has plans and dreams for them. It’s painful to lose that, and be totally out of control.

2. I don’t want to burden people with my problems.

I want to start by saying that pregnancy loss can be absolutely devastating. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some incredible people during our difficult time, and anyone who knows me knows that I do not mince my words and I tell it how it is. I do this because I want my daughter to grow up and know that her feelings are VALID, she’s not a burden, and that she deserves to be listened to.

BUT I do understand that not everybody feels comfortable to do that.

However, telling people about your miscarriage or asking others for help does not make you a burden. It makes you BRAVE. The people that love you are happy to help, and it doesn’t make you any less of a person to need help with something that, at the end of the day, is a big deal. Telling people about your miscarriage helps dispel the idea that there’s something wrong with discussing it. It helps you feel less isolated and alone, and it helps reality set in.

My body was designed for one thing, and it failed.

Yes, your body was designed to reproduce, it’s true. But you know what it was also designed for? To run, climb, laugh, love, eat, sleep, play, sing – the list goes on. Yes, you are created to reproduce, but you’re also designed for SO much more. While it’s difficult, don’t reduce yourself to that one function.

1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage. It’s a scarily high figure, but it means you’re likely not alone. 1 in 4 means for every three children you see, a woman somewhere is mourning for theirs.

So, I refuse to be ashamed about my miscarriage. I won’t keep quiet about it or pretend it never happened. Instead, I choose to see it like this: my baby was never cold, or hungry, or scared. There was never a time in their short little life that they were not loved, and cared for and wanted. They will never have to know how it feels to be alone.

And that’s enough for me.

Wonderful Women: Mum of three, brain surgery & ASD

  • Although we are ‘Mummykind’, put being a ‘Mummy’ aside for a second and tell us about you!

Hello, I’m Rachel. I’m currently not working because I’m recovering from brain surgery. I’ve been working on some minor home improvements as I let my standards slip a little bit when I was poorly! I enjoy gardening, spending time outside, looking after my small menagerie of animals and enjoying the company of my beautiful granddaughter!

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  • How about your children? How old are they, what are they up to?

My youngest is 13 and in Key Stage three at school. Then we have my 20-year-old son who is off to University in September, where he will study Urban Planning. My eldest is nearly 24 and a Mummy to my Granddaughter, she enjoys writing and promoting Mental Health awareness.

  • What are your favourite and least favourite parts of being a parent?

My favourite part of being a parent is seeing my children genuinely happy and succeeding. I love the relationship my children and I have. When all else fails, I know I can depend on my little family and they know they can depend on me. They all have a fantastic sense of humour and there is honestly never a dull moment when any of us are spending time together! My least favourite part is when my children are ill, especially when I nearly lost my daughter when she was giving birth and also when my youngest had severe viral encephalitis. It has also been awful seeing my children being bullied to the extent it has impacted their mental health.

  • When did you first consider that your youngest child was different?

When he had just turned two, he suffered multiple convulsions that lead to a prolonged period of him not being able to breathe. After this period of ill health, his character and behaviour completely changed. He was still our little boy, but he wasn’t quite the same anymore. The specialist said that the period in which is brain was shutting down could have well have led to cognitive changes, causing ASD.

He started to stare at the washing machine as it spun around. If he was ever in a small space, he only ever wanted to escape – he’d run into walls and try to climb out of windows. He was sensitive to sound, touch, to having too many people around. We’d have to cut the tags out of his clothes, including his pants and socks. He was withdrawn and easily overwhelmed.

  • How difficult has it been to get him the help and support he needs?

It has been virtually impossible to get him the help he deserves. Despite showing typical signs of ASD and related disorders, he wasn’t diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder until he was nearly seven years old.

Getting that diagnosis took continual visits to the GP, countless visits to our local specialist, support from his primary school and other trusted people’s supportive documents. He has been declined 5 times for a Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) as he isn’t “Autistic enough” despite being “too autistic” for mainstream school, according to his specialist provision at school. He has many struggles with not only ASD, but ADHD, APD and even some aspects of Tourette’s (to name a few!) – but he is high functioning, which hasn’t helped at all with his EHCP.

  • Describe a typical day to us? What are your biggest daily struggles? What are the highlights?

Mornings are so stressful – we have a minute by minute system of what we need to do to get him out of the house on time. It has taken 18 months of almost literal blood, sweat and tears for us to find a routine that works for him. We face multiple difficulties like him struggling with shoelaces and his tie because he doesn’t like how it feels. His anxiety levels are so high that he can’t get the bus to school, so he must be driven. He is almost done with his second year and still not doing a full school day.

He has started doing more mainstream lessons as he prepares for his GCSEs. The highlights are when he comes home happy, when he has learnt something new that he’s excited about. He does so well academically despite his difficulties that in most subjects he’s on the same level as his neurotypical peers. He is really interested in Physics and has a keen interest in space… hearing him talking about something he is passionate about makes me so proud.

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  • How has the past year been for your family?

It has not been the easiest of years! This time last year my brain condition was affecting how I thought, how I walked, how I talked – I was using a stick and wheelchair. I wasn’t myself at all. I had surgery for this at Kings in December and I’ve been recovering well since! I am so thankful that I had that surgery done when I did, it’s been life changing.

My husband had a DVT which lead to a life-threatening DVT pulmonary embolism, causing permanent lung damage – he’s been placed on medications for this and since then he’s been much better.

My son’s specialist unit at school has closed, so we’ve been in lots of meetings regarding a new smaller provision that is being piloted. We’re hoping this works well for him and helps him feel secure enough to continue to achieve.

There have been so many mishaps and incidents – I’m just thankful to have my family and my dogs by my side!

  • How have you managed to cope? What do you do to unwind and relax?

My family inspire me to keep going, as I said before, when all else fails, I still have them, and they have me. We try to get away on holidays whenever we can. I love a good soak in the bath, or a cup of tea and a chat. You can’t go wrong with either of those!

  • What hopes do you hold not only for your youngest child, but for your whole family?

Understandably my youngest causes me the most concern, above all I just want him to be happy on whatever path he chooses to take. School, work, college? If he’s happy and fulfilling his potential, I couldn’t be happier! I hope my eldest son does well at university and enjoys his chosen career. I hope that my daughter finds an answer to her many medical problems, so that she can live a happy and healthy life with her little girl. After all, I believe the most important job in the world is brining up happy and healthy children.

  •  Do you have anybody you’d like to nominate for our Wonderful Women Wednesdays?

I’d like to make a couple of nominations, if that’s okay? Firstly, Maria of Mummykind – I admire her fight to save the world for future generations. She is an excellent influence and recently won an award for her green thinking! I’d also like to nominate my Mother, Angela for a different perspective on parenting and to incorporate and include ladies from a further range of backgrounds.

Do you have anyone you’d like to nominate for our Wonderful Women feature? Let us know!

If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

(MEN)tal Health.

Mate, you just need to man up!

As I am sure most of you know, mental illness will affect 1 in 4 of us in our life times… That is a pretty scary statistic. What is even more scary? Women are twice as likely to receive help for mental health issues and illnesses than men… (and we wonder why suicide is STILL the biggest killer of men under the age of 35!?) Put it this way – I have around 1000 friends on my Facebook profile, from all over the world. I’d say a good 60% of them are male; taking that into account, around 150+ of them will experience mental health issues in their life times. That is a HUGE amount of people. Devastatingly, more than 1/3 of these lovely guys could end their lives, due to inadequate mental health treatment and the mental illnesses they experience.

SOME IMPORTANT FACTS TO REMEMBER –

  • As I was saying, mental illnesses are very common and can have an impact on anyones lives regardless of gender, physical health, race, sexuality, etc.
  • EVERYONE has mental health, yes absolutely everyone.
  • Mental health, like physical health is a spectrum from ‘good’ to ‘poor’.
  • Just because many mental illnesses are caused by hormonal imbalances it doesn’t mean females are the only sufferers. It may seem obvious, but too many people forget that WE ALL HAVE HORMONES.
  • Mental health is just as important as physical health and go hand in hand, as part of a healthy life style.

There are many misconceptions around men having mental health illnesses. As a campaigner against mental health stigma, some of these are so preposterous that they literally make my skin crawl – others I understand are just down to pure naivety.

  • If a fella has a mental illness they are ‘weak’ for showing their emotions and having such an illness makes you ‘less of a man’…

Most of the brave male friends and acquaintances I have spoken to have fear of facing stigma from this disgusting misconception. Stigma is DEFINITELY shrinking, but frustratingly, too large of a proportion of society seem to brand any man who is open about their feelings and mental health as a ‘pussy’ or ‘being weak’. Let me be completely clear here, I know I am not the only one to think that a man who can talk about his feelings and be a little more sensitive, appears so much more manly than a guy who keeps it all to himself. This misconception is likely to come from your buddy, maybe even a male relative, who means the best, BUT constantly makes you regret emotionally confiding in them by telling you to ‘man up’, ‘get a grip’ or tell you that ‘life isn’t that bad’ or asking ‘what do you have to be upset about?’.

  • Only Women self-harm and have eating disorders…

Self-harming exists in all gender identities. Male self-harm is at an all time high and is almost at a 50/50 split with females. Although eating disorders statistically affect more females than males, they are also across the board and can impact anyone, at any time. No one chooses to have these illnesses and no one takes the decision to harm themselves lightly, whether it be substance or drug abuse, cutting, pinching, hair pulling or putting yourself in risky and triggering situations. It’s a release and in NO WAY is a “cry for attention”.

  • Men only face mental health issues through drug and alcohol abuse…

Statistically, men are only slightly more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, although there is a link between this and mental health issues, it is by no means the only cause. So many mental illnesses are caused by hormonal imbalances in the brain, some are hereditary, others are caused by triggering life events such as abuse, failure, grief, change, hardships, social standings and economic backgrounds can all have a negative impact on your mental health.

  • Talk therapy? Sounds like circle time to me…

Going to therapy is possibly one of the most daring things anyone can do in attempt to turn their mental state around, laying yourself emotionally bare to someone you’ve never talk to if you had more of a choice is hardly appealing to anyone. There are many types of therapy, but those that work best, generally are those that allow someone to talk through what they’re experiencing to make sense of it in their own heads. Being open doesn’t make you weak.

  • Suicide is an easy way out…

No one contemplating suicide takes that decision lightly. Having tried myself, I can 100% vouch for that. Many men who suffer with mental illness experience extreme amounts of guilt, feeling that because they are feeling the they way that are, that they’re unworthy and a disappointment to their friends and family. That, because they can’t face the day and get into work, that everyone would be better without them? Not being able to accomplish their dreams, so they’re a write off? OBVIOUSLY, this is never the case but when you’re in the wrong mindset, that’s exactly how it feels. Suicide may stop things getting any worse- but it brutally stops the chance of things ever getting any better.

  • Mental health leave is for slackers and is a complete cop out…

I think this is sooooo ridiculous! Say, you’ve broken your ribs, you’re in too much pain to get out of bed so you’ve had to call in sick? What if you’re so low that moving makes you vomit and the idea of getting out of bed brings you to tears? What if all you see is emptiness and you know you need help? Why not call in sick then? It’s just as painful and crippling. Physical illness is no more important that mental illness.

  • Medications are for people who can’t sort their own issues out…

This irritates me endlessly, so i’ll keep it sort and simple- if you’re diabetic and you need medications to get by and live, what is wrong with taking medications to help with mental illnesses?? I may just be one woman, but I know a lot about mental health stigma and have a lot of experience in this field. It may not count for much but you’re never alone and PLEASE never be afraid to speak out. Getting help is more difficult than anything you may ever experience, but you’re not the first and you won’t be the last. A problem shared is often a problem halved and you should never worry about being a burden to anyone who cares about you. Recovery is always possible. You can never be replaced.

At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to emotions. Always be respectful; everyone is going through their own battles, so try not to be a dickhead. If you guys can take ANYTHING from this, let it be to talk. You have no idea how just a text can turn someone’s day around.

If you’re worried about a friend, let them know you’re there- take them out for a pint, go play cards, darts, go to a gig or for a coffee. All of these things are so simple, there is really no excuse to leave anyone out of contact if they mean something to you.

Useful UK links…

http://www.rethink.org
http://www.samaritans.org
http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx

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How to Deal with the Stress of Raising Two Kids

A big thank you to Murris from familyhype.com for sharing this piece with us! We all know how stressful one child can be, and these tips for coping with two are great!

Having a second child on the way can be amazing, but it can also be the most stressful time of your life if you’re not prepared. Here are some ways you can deal with the stress and have the best time of your life.

Tell Your Child About the Sibling

Sibling rivalry is a trope that doesn’t have to exist. Inform the sibling to be about what is going to happen. You can show them books, videos, or other information about the child, and perhaps they can think of what the child’s name is and help with the room for the new baby.

For more information on how to tell your child about it, go to familyhype.com.

Obviously, they may be jealous, and their feelings are valid. Just make sure that they realize they will be loved just as much, too. If they express jealousy, don’t guilt trip them, but ensure them that everything is gonna be okay.

Also, the firstborn’s opinions may change. At first, they may love their baby brother or sister.

However, whenever the baby grows older and becomes more independent, there may be some challenges. For example, the toddler may take toys or mess with the sibling in different ways. Be vigilant.

Teach Your Firstborn to Be More Independent

Preparing the food and making the beds of two kids can be a challenge. If your firstborn is old enough to be in school, they can learn to dress themselves, prepare snacks, and be more independent. Teaching your child about adult tasks is always a good idea, but besides that, it can help make everything so much more easier.

You as a mom need to make sure that your mental health is also at the forefront too.

Teach The Sibling to Be Protective, Not Jealous

As the older sibling, they should learn how to protect their baby sibling against any danger.

The child is now the caretaker too, and they can help feed, burp, rock to sleep, and take care of the baby in general. Don’t let the child feel like they aren’t being treated equally.

Budget

Laying out a budget is a good idea for any situation, but especially for having a second kid.

One kid is costly enough, so when you have two, that is a bit of problem. Think about the cost of everything and set aside even more money to cover it. Make sure you have all expenses paid. Eliminate any unneeded expenses. Cook more at home. It doesn’t take long for you to set up a good budget that works for you. Find that budget, and you’ll feel much better afterwards.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect

With the firstborn, there is often overprotection and perfectionism. Everything has to be completely safe for the baby, and there shouldn’t be anything that goes wrong. However, as you give birth to the second baby, some parents realize that they can be more lax on their second born. You don’t have to worry as much. With that said, you shouldn’t be lazy, but you can relax a little more.

Make Sure to Take Care of Yourself as Well

One of the best pieces of advice we can give you is to take care of yourself. No one is going to take care of you, after all. Stressing is natural, but too much stress can hurt you. Instead, take some time to wind down. Work out a little. Get outside and take a walk. Make sure you’re sleeping and perhaps have someone else help with the chores. Take some time to yourself too and work out any stress you may have.
Perhaps you can go out for the weekend and have your parents watch the kids. This may seem like a cop-out, but not only do the grandparents love watching their grandkids, but you need time to recover from the stress. While some stress is good, too much can hurt you in the long run, and it’s something you should avoid at all times.

Enjoy Parenting

One of the best pieces of advice we can give you is to take care of yourself. No one is going to take care of you, after all. Stressing is natural, but too much stress can hurt you. Instead, take some time to wind down. Work out a little. Get outside and take a walk. Make sure you’re sleeping and perhaps have someone else help with the chores. Take some time to yourself too and work out any stress you may have.

Perhaps you can go out for the weekend and have your parents watch the kids. This may seem like a cop-out, but not only do the grandparents love watching their grandkids, but you need time to recover from the stress. While some stress is good, too much can hurt you in the long run, and it’s something you should avoid at all times.

Parenting is a part of life, so why not make it fun? Show new places to your children. Play games. Make memories. Don’t spend most of your life stressed if you don’t need to. Parenting with two kids doesn’t have to be a challenge; it can be the start of an even bigger family that can go on many adventures.

If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

Mental Health Monday: Anxiety about having more children after PND

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When I was a 14 year old, my dream for my family life was to have twin girls (Lily and Olivia) and then a boy (Henry). I don’t think i need to go into the whys and wherefores about how that changed, but it certainly did.

Following the birth of Olivia, I suffered with Postnatal Depression for the majority of her first year. Having also had antenatal depression and just not being in the best mental state generally, I sort of knew that I would suffer with PND, though I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was or to last as long as it did. Whenever I think back to her being a baby, it makes me sad. I didn’t enjoy her being a little baby because I was under so much mental stress at the time. Of course, I can think back to happy times as well as times when I was in the middle of a breakdown, but on the whole, reflecting on her baby stage just makes me feel angry at myself, and terrified it will happen again.

Like I said, I no longer want twin girls and a boy (and my plan for having the twins first has gone to pot anyway), but I have written previously on the blog about why I don’t want any more children now and why I never want to be pregnant again. The PND plays a huge part in that.

I carry so much anxiety with me from my experience of having Olivia that things would be the same again. I honestly could not face that same depression again. It was quite crippling in many ways, and 2 years after Olivia was born I am still dealing with the aftermath and the guilt.


There’s a great twitter chat hosted by Rosey at PND & Me which has covered this topic before, and I liked reading the comments of people joining in and their very mixed experiences…

Some had PND only with the 1st child, some with both, some only with the 2nd or subsequent. I suppose, the point is, that everyone will have different experiences and every pregnancy will be different.

But we knew that already! So…

What are the actual statistics?

  • PND affects more than 10-15% of women within a year of giving birth (that’s about 35,000 women!)
  • Up to 1 in 10 fathers also suffer from postnatal depression following the birth of a baby
  • 33% of mothers who experienced depression in pregnancy then suffered with PND
  • A history of depression makes it more likely that you will suffer postpartum depression
  • Mums who have had postnatal depression with one child are more likely to suffer again with subsequent children

I’d like to think that I’m not the only mum who worries that this would happen again, after all, there are so many of us who have suffered with it once, twice or however many times.

My husband and I often look at each other when Olivia does something unbelievably cute, suggesting another one, but he knows that I don’t want anymore and I feel guilty for that too. But at those times when we think “aww, look how cute our baby girl is,” I do wish I could bring myself to have another child. I wish I could do it knowing that I would be able to enjoy the baby stage like I couldn’t with Olivia, but there are no guarantees, and really, I don’t think I’m cut out for doing it all again.

In my moments of weakness (as I call them) when I think I want another baby, I feel so conflicted because as much as I would love to have another child, I can’t face feeling like I did during my pregnancy and feeling all of the guilt afterwards of not being able to bond with the baby and feeling like I’m simply inadequate!

I know that things are really quite different now – I have none of the external drama going on that I did during my pregnancy with Olivia, so maybe because my life is more stable now, my mind would be too. If I do end up having another one I’ll be sure to let you know 😉 but, for now, Olivia is more than enough, and I am enjoying being her mummy. I can’t go back to what I was when she first arrived, so I’ll carry on being the best mummy I can be to her and we’ll just see what fate has in store for us.

Have you survived PND and gone on to have more children? How were things a second time around?

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Daddykind Corner: Being a Dad with PTSD

After we did a trial run of the Daddykind Corner with my lovely husband putting up with me interviewing him for the sake of the blog and for all of Daddykind, we present to you….

VOLUME 2!

I am very pleased to introduce our good friend Darren, who has had his fair share of mental illness and has some good techniques and tips for bringing your children up aware of mental health and how to take care of it.

Darren uses his own experience to coach other men through mental health problems and other mental blocks, so he’s pretty qualified to share his thoughts on how you can move on from mental illness and be the best parent you can be.

I’m so thrilled to feature this post from Darren because we all know how dire mental health provision is and how badly it affects men in particular. Please if any mums or dads are reading this and think they need help, contact your GP, the Samaritans or your local out of hours team if you feel you are in crisis.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Yes, of course. My name is Darren, I am friends with Sarah through her husband, Jamie. I served in the military with Jamie for 15 years and was posted overseas on many operations.
I am a father to two beautiful children aged 4 and 2, a boy and girl and separated from their mother whom I still have a fantastic relationship with….for the most part lol…
I was born and raised in the East End of London and I currently coach other men on mastering their emotions.

If you had to describe being a father in one word, what would it be and why?

If I had to choose 1 word it’d be “uncertainty” because I find I’m alway asking myself if I’m doing the right thing for them… whether that be by way of teaching and helping shape their little minds or disciplining them and training them to be good, honest, hardworking people. All that with making sure that they truly love themselves and KNOW from their core that they are worthy to achieve anything they want in life… No one said this parenting game is easy, aye?

How was your mental health after becoming a father?

I thought my mental health was fine… I was they happiest man in the world after my little girl, Evie was born…. However my wife at the time was suffering with and subsequently diagnosed with PND, which wasn’t easy at all, as I couldn’t understand why she was so unhappy all the time.

Were things different the second time around?

Oh massively… I’ll be honest and say that I never wanted a second child because I was so in love with my little girl that I couldn’t fathom having to share my love with another baby and I didn’t think it would be fair… I honestly didn’t think that I was capable of loving Mathew in the same way as Evie and subsequently it took me about 3 months to truly bond with him. Looking back it make me sad because I saw him as a burden. But now I understand that you don’t have to love them in the same way as your first and my heart literally melts every time I see him now.

Did you feel prepared for fatherhood and what could have helped you to be more prepared?

You can read all the books in the world, go to all the classes but I don’t think that anything will ever really prepare you for fatherhood. I think that as a dad having a positive male role model in your life can definitely put you in good stead to being a dad, and I never had this, which is why I do my absolute best to be the best man I can be for them because I know the importance of having both parents that want their babies to have the best start in life.

When were you diagnosed with PTSD and BPD?

I was diagnosed with PTSD from m

y military service in 2017 and subsequently discharged as a result and after using the techniques and procedures to keep on top of it I still knew that something was up with me and since have been diagnosed with BPD earlier this year after a friend opened up about her struggles it was like shinning a light on what I was going through.
Whilst growing up, I was a bit of a wild child to say the least and was in and out of care, excluded from school, engaged in dangerous or outright illicit activities at times and had a tough upbringing in East London, so I’ve always known that I’ve struggled with my emotions… something that I’ve got a grip of nowadays (for the most part). But as I grow, evolve and become more self aware over time it’s got to the point where I can’t ignore my problems and my advice to any other men reading this is: do not bury your head in the sand, just be honest with yourself… if you need help then go and seek it because drinking, fighting, drugs, being promiscuous etc etc will only lead to further problems and is just masking the true underlying issues.

What techniques do you use to manage your mental health?

There are many that you can use but finding what works for you is paramount. As a man, one of the biggest things that has helped me has been simply talking to a professional within the specific mental health niche. Because I bottled it up for so long there is only a certain amount you can take before something has to give. 
As I said, knowing yourself is also key… knowing what your triggers are and how they make you feel is also very important so you can counteract them…eg: being a massive introvert (most wouldn’t believe it lol) if I can feel myself slipping back into a rough patch…spending time alone in nature, on my motorbike, by the water really helps me to connect with myself again… it also helps to have a purpose and a goal in life and something to work on that requires discipline and focus. I find that whatever I focus on tends to expand so it’s about knowing how and where to shift your focus.

How has your understanding of your own mental health impacted on being a parent?

It most certainly has made be more aware and I listen more to my children… I’ll be honest I used to “Parent” my children and just try to get through the day making sure they are fed, watered and entertained. I now realise that it’s also key to flood their subconscious with positive affirming messages so that they love themselves. I just want them to be truly happy and not have to have a childhood they have to recover from. 

Who knows if I’m doing it right? One can only hope and time will tell.

Do you think it’s important to raise your children to understand mental illness and how would you do that?

I do think it’s super important that they know about mental health and more importantly that they take control of their own. I would certainly say that trying to go through life without any regrets is something I like to teach my kids… Whether that’s by always trying their hardest at something that they want to do and working hard for their goals or by simply being a good person and trying to never hurt the people around them or in any way compromise their integrity. 

Also, by always being true to themselves and NEVER letting the opinions of others define who they are…. I’ve always said that there is a date you were born and a date you die and that line in-between represents your life. 

So, I encourage them to think freely and live with passion and purpose.

———-

Thank you, Darren!

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Mental Health Monday: I’m taking control… Anxiety vs social media

I have an anxiety disorder. There it is, I said it. Phew! That wasn’t so hard I guess… but I’m someone who doesn’t openly discuss my anxiety issues, (being a bit of a proud and stubborn person), I still find it hard to admit that I have difficulties, which were on a daily basis. But here I am opening up about it and who better to share it with than you lovely mums?

I came off Facebook earlier this year and I’ve not looked back. When I realised that it was causing problems for my mental health, I decided it was best for me to finally ditch it.

Facebook has over the years been a great way for me, (like most people who use it), to stay in touch with old friends and new, but as my long-term relationship broke down, it was visually obvious just how much I had lost in the process. Seeing that old friends and family were deleting me out of their lives, after years together, took its toll on me and contributed towards my illness. Memories popping up each time I logged on. My anxiety was constantly telling me how lonely I had become. Some of my closest friends, I thought would be there through thick and thin, weren’t as supportive as I needed at that time, (and I recognise now that yes I was needy), and Facebook was reminding me of how much fun everyone was having, whilst I was falling into what I didn’t see at the time as depression. Of course when you’re in a better state of mind, you know that Facebook isn’t really ‘real life’, but as a result I was further pushing those people away and isolating myself as a way of coping, which I can see now.

Facebook again continued to serve as a reminder that as I reached my 30s and had become a mum, that I was no longer such a socialite. I love being a mum, so I accept that I can’t do as much; it’s part and parcel of being able to have a wonderful child, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped being me! Am I still fun to be around? My anxiety would chime in to torture and remind me that I’m lonely and instead of fun nights out, I’d be updating everyone on my excitement that I’d managed to get through the day without tearing my hair out.

The final push for me as a mum with anxiety was because I was noticing that family members were using Facebook as a way to ‘stay in touch’ with my daughter, by picture comments. Whilst it’s lovely to hear from people and to get their well wishes, (I don’t want to seem ungrateful), it means nothing to a baby/toddler, when she’s older and can read it’s a different story. I felt like people were knowing what my daughter was up to, without really knowing her and my anxiety again was causing me to have difficulty processing and dealing with this. Relatives, living nearby, were often going long periods of time without seeing my daughter. I knew I would much rather be able to see those people in person to build up relationships the old fashioned way, no matter how often that was. Coming off Facebook felt like the push I needed to arrange to see people more in person.

Coming off Facebook helped me to concentrate on my little circle of close friends and family and helped me to prioritise what is important to me and my family.

Leaving Facebook didn’t of course erase all of my mental health issues, but I’m using the social media that doesn’t trigger my anxieties instead which has helped me to feel more in control. Facebook is no longer there to remind me of the person I used to be; because I am finding that person again myself. Getting additional help from my GP has meant that my anxiety isn’t feeding me this false information, which sends me into a downward spiral where I am convinced that I am lonely. I am also far better at dealing with things that would have previously been a trigger.

I’m in a place now where I can stand up to the anxiety, (which I refer to as the A hole), and I can say I have my daughter’s and my partner’s love and that is more than enough! So with my little social circle of mums and treasured old friends, I feel very rich indeed. I haven’t felt this good about myself in a long time and I have more confidence than ever before to get out and meet new people. Each day feels like a new exciting opportunity now.

Thank you for reading about my journey.

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