A daddy’s view on postpartum mental illness…

Hello everyone! I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog recently as my gorgeous husband is back from Afghanistan for a very short 12 days.

But… making the most of him being back in the UK (currently in partially cloudy Clacton), I’ve roped him into doing an interview in what I hope will be the first of many in the Daddykind Corner segment of our blog!
So we’ll consider this a trial run on a topic for our usual #MentalHealthMonday posts…
 

What do you remember about your two girls being born?

 
Apart from them being 6 years apart? With Kiera I was being asked every two minutes if I was going to cry. I’d just got back from Afghanistan and that was when 3 guys from my regiment had just been killed. Kiera’s nan was annoying me, asking if I was going to cry, and made a comment about me reading the newspaper story about my friends who had died in Afghanistan. She was very overbearing.
With Olivia, I remember playing Cotton Eye Joe at 6am while Sarah was in labour, cancelling the cinema trip to see Alice in Wonderland with Kiera. We had an Irish midwife saying it didn’t hurt Sarah that much as she wasn’t that far along, so I started thinking how is she going to cope when it starts to really hurt? Then we moved upstairs to a room where Sarah wouldn’t allow anyone to turn on the air con, so I was really sweating out. I had bad B O thanks to that, so didn’t get skin to skin with Olivia.
How did you feel once the babies were out into the big wide world?
 
When Kiera was born I laughed nervously – it was real then. It was quite daunting because I was a dad for the first time. I had Kiera on my lap, slumped over, and I didn’t know if I could move her or if I would break her neck – she looked so delicate. She looked around and I gave her a bottle while her mum had her c-section stitched up.
I didn’t feel daunted by Olivia being born. I knew I was a good dad.
 
Was there any difference to you between baby number 1 and baby number 2?
 
Because of having Kiera when I was younger, I felt more confident having Olivia when I was older. I thought that, if Olivia was like Kiera, this was going to be easy. I was worried before having Olivia that I wouldn’t be able to love a second child as much as I loved Kiera.
 
What did you know about postnatal depression?
 
Not a lot. In hindsight, I think Kiera’s mum had it after she gave birth but she didn’t get it treated, unless she did after I went back to Afghanistan. I thought maybe she did when I spoke to my friend about his wife having PND. The stuff he was saying was very similar to what she was doing at the time.
I had more of an understanding when it came to Sarah but I wouldn’t say I knew what was going on.
How did antenatal classes prepare you for what was coming?
 
They didn’t, really. How can they?
What postnatal mental illnesses have you heard of?
 
Only PND.
Did you know how to support your partner through PND or other mental illnesses?
 
No, but I’m a positive person. I tried to infect Sarah with bits of my positivity (unsuccessfully). I still didn’t understand what she was going through but I don’t think I ever will unless I suffer with a mental illness myself.
What do you think could help men and boys to understand mental illnesses and to create more awareness?
 
I think mental health is getting a lot of publicity and awareness now anyway. The mentality of telling someone to “man up” is rife in society. I don’t think we can change that now – it’s a generational thing. If we started with getting depression talked about at a young age it will hopefully, as children grow up, start to remove that stigma.
If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

Mental Health Monday: Why I let my daughter see me cry…

Olivia has just turned 2, and she’s already so receptive to other people’s emotions. She has been from a very young age. If she sees or hears a baby crying, she goes over to them and tries to comfort them in her own adorable way. She understands that certain things make mummy sad or happy, and she tells me when she is sad or when she is happy.

I honestly don’t believe we would be at this stage if she hadn’t ever seen me cry (on numerous occasions).

I want her to know that it’s okay to cry, and that she should never feel ashamed of crying. Crying doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong. You’re releasing a lot of emotion in the only way you can, and if you didn’t release it, you’d be worse off. You would bottle it up and the upset would turn into anger. I’m okay with Olivia seeing me upset.

There are many, many times when I’m upset because of Olivia. Maybe it’s sleep deprivation or just a general feeling that I can’t cope anymore on my own with her because I’ve had a whole day of her shouting “No!” at me and throwing herself around in a tantrum on the floor. It’s those times that I think it’s most important that she sees me crying – when it gets to that point.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that there are no consequences for her actions. There are certain things she will do that will upset the people around her, and every time she sees me crying, it immediately stops her from doing whatever it was that drove me to tears in the first place, and she comes and gives me a “cug” and we both feel better afterwards.

I want Olivia to grow up to be kind and nurturing, and learning to comfort others is a huge part of that! If I had a son, I would do exactly the same with him. It’s even more crucial to help boys learn that crying is okay and that they don’t have to bottle up their tears.

In the UK, mens’ suicide rates are 3 times higher than women’s, and a huge part of this is the notion that boys and men can’t show emotion. Suicide remains the biggest killer in men aged 20-49, and yet an astonishing 34% of men said that they would feel ashamed or embarrassed to take time off work for their mental health, compared to 13% feeling embarrassed for time off for a physical injury (https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-mental-health).

Mental illness is seen as a weakness, more so amongst men than women. I would never, ever want my children to grow up seeing these indiscriminate and often debilitating illnesses as things that make them weak. Facing their illness head on, confronting their fears, and learning how to properly cope with emotions is the best strength that our children can learn from us parents who have unfortunately been there and well and truly got the damn t-shirt!

My daughter will learn to show and cope with her emotions and to be supported, and my sons (if I ever had any) would learn the same.

Emotions.

We all have them. Why should we hide?

Monday Stumble Linky

Mental Health Monday: The "Worry-O-Meter"

This is something that I recently came across as a tool to help children address things that worry them – it’s a tool used by social workers a lot when children unfortunately end up involved in the court system for a number of reasons, and it works like this…

There’s a bright, colourful, sliding scale on which children can place their worries.

Right at the bottom, you have the TINY WORRIES, then next up you have the LITTLE WORRIES, MEDIUM SIZED WORRIES, BIG WORRIES, and, at the top are the GIANT SCARY WORRIES.

Image result for worryometer
This is the “Worry-O-Meter” as used by Cafcass

Using this system, children can write down what is worrying them, and they can put them into boxes according to what is worrying them the most.

As soon as I saw this, I instantly thought that this was a brilliant idea for all children. As parents, our children’s wellbeing is at the forefront of our minds, and those of us who have experienced mental illness want our children to grow up knowing that it’s okay to seek help and to talk about how they feel. This tool can really help us to do that, and it can be used in any environment.

At the moment, it’s pretty much only used for children with social services involvement for any number of reasons, but this could be used at school in liaison with the family if either of them raise concerns about a child’s wellbeing, and you could even use it at home yourself if you think your child is worrying about something and not opening up to you.

It’s a very child friendly way of opening up a dialogue with your child, and we all know how difficult that can be sometimes! How many times have you asked your children how their day was to be met with either silence or shrugged shoulders? While that may well be a very normal part of being a child/pre-teen/teen, sometimes it might not be normal. There might be something lingering below the surface that just needs a gentle pull so that your little one feels like they can talk to you about it!

I hope that sharing this is going to help someone, somewhere – it’s definitely a technique I’ll be employing later on when my daughter grows up a bit more!

Let me know if you have any other ways of getting your children to open up to you!

Mental Health Monday: why the stigma?

You may be familiar with the hashtag #endthestigma on social media, used in conjunction with posts about our mental health. Opening up discussions about mental health can reduce the stigma and lead to better understandings of what the issues may be, but why is there such a stigma in the first place?

3 things we can do to help future generations 

#endthestigma

https://player.vimeo.com/video/301598462 #EndTheStigma from Mummy Kind on Vimeo.

1. Remember, your mental health is a disability with the power of invisibility

Imagine instead of depression or anxiety or bulimia, you have a broken leg. Everyone can see your broken leg. Everyone can imagine and envisage how painful it must be, so then you get empathy.
With mental heath conditions, your illness is under an invisibility cloak. Nobody can see it, and very few people can then imagine the pain that you’re in. There’s a lack of empathy, and an attitude of “just get out of bed”, or “you don’t look depressed”.
One way we can stop these ridiculously unhelpful comments is by being open and honest. Not with the world but with ourselves and those close to us. Don’t hide away because you have an illness! This will also enable our children to grow up knowing the issues and with a better awareness and understanding, so that the stigma will be even closer to disappearing completely when their generation are all grown up.
2. Treating mental illness the same as a physical illness

Off the back of the first point, physical and mental illnesses can both relapse! So why on earth are we more afraid of admitting that depression has reared its ugly head again than we are of a chest infection coming back?

I recently went back to my GP to have a chat about my mental health, and he very helpfully explained to me that I must not see medication as a failure, having tried to manage for so long without it. I wouldn’t try to treat a kidney infection without medication so I shouldn’t have to try and treat my depression or anxiety without medication either!

The sooner people understand that physical and mental illnesses are the same, and should be treated in the same way, the better!

3. Don’t let society tell us who to be

Society generally often has an opinion of who we should be or when we should be happy… Well, for starters, you can be both depressed and happy – it is possible! But that aside, societal attitudes have a lot to do with why there is a stigma in the first place.

Emphasising certain attributes on young boys that they have to be tough and cannot show emotion is one thing which contributes to men’s suicide rates being so high! For us females, telling women that they should be happy following the birth of a baby is yet another aspect of the huge circle of guilt that plays into postpartum mental illness!

Teaching our children that they can be what they want to be and that they can share emotions from a young age can really help to alleviate the stresses they will face as adults in the same way that we are under those stresses now.

This post was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds Campaign

So that is this week’s #MentalHealthMonday post! Get involved with the discussion on twitter and tweet us @mummykindoff

Let us know if there’s anything you do to raise awareness of mental illness! We would love to feature the stories of brave men and women so please get in touch!

If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

Mental Health Monday – Self Care Days.

Today was a really difficult day Mental Health wise.

I’ve been a bit weepy and for once – I didn’t hide it from Florence. Instead, I actively involved her in a self care day.

I told her that I had a difficult phone call and that I was a little bit sad, so we were going to be spending the day doing things to make us feel good about ourselves.

We had a lovely bath with a Lush bath bomb, it reminded us of the sea and we played with boats. We had a splash war. We used my special Lush shampoo, conditioner and posh body wash. We brushed each others hair and dried it with the hair dryer. We put on some perfume. We read stories and looked at photos of people and things that make us happy (dogs, cats, trains, Grandma, Grandpa, dogs, ‘Ick’, dogs, cats and trains..) . We wore our pjs all day and changed into a snuggly fresh set after our bath. We made smoothies and had some naughty chocolate coins. We cuddled, we played, we watched the choo choo trains on YouTube and we laughed.

I want to raise a mentally resilient little girl. I will always be open about my Mental Health – even if I’m going to have to come up with the occasional euphemism to make what I’m feeling more age appropriate. There will be no Mental Health stigma in our household and she will always know that it’s okay to take some time to feel like you again.

Thank you for being my everything – Florence. You always get me, back to me.

This post was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds campaign

Mental Health Monday: New Year’s Resolutions

Today is New Year’s Day.

The first day of 2018. Does anyone else think 2017 just flew by?

Anyway, most people reading this will have made new year’s resolutions last night… a few common ones in my house growing up were to stop biting your nails or to lose weight. It’s only since I’ve grown up and left my mother’s house that I actually stopped bothering with resolutions, and realised how superficial those ones are.

For us mummies who have been through the horrors of pregnancy and childbirth, and gained a lot of weight in the process (I gained 3 stone in total!!!), it’s completely understandable that you want to lose that extra weight in the “mum-tum” region. I still have my little tummy pouch and I hate looking at it, as stupid as that sounds. For some people, setting those personal fitness goals might be the perfect way to motivate yourself and get the job done, for others, it can be a clear example of setting our expectations too high and putting too much pressure on ourselves. For me, I’m a healthy weight and not at any further health risk, so waiting until I have the time to spend toning up instead of adding it to my already full plate (a pretty poor expression when we’re talking about weight loss, so forgive me) will help me in the long run. It gives me time to focus on my education and my daughter, without constantly jumping on the scales to see how much I weigh. I know I weigh more than I want to, so what is the point in checking every day until I know I have time to do something about it!

Our blog has spoken a lot about self care, and maybe your New Year’s resolutions are your way of achieving that – great for you! But for the mums, like me, who have plenty going on already, a smaller goal for self care might be better. At the end of the day, if you set your goals too high, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of feeling like a failure and then not being proactive enough to succeed.

2018 is the first year since I left home that I will be setting New Year’s resolutions. But they’re not just about my health and fitness. I’m focusing instead on living a level 10 life, and I discovered this idea through the realms of bullet journal ideas on Pinterest.

Your level 10 life makes you assess each of the ten areas of your life…
1) family and friends
2) personal development
3) spirituality and (my own addition) inner peace
4) finances
5) career
6) giving/contribution
7) fun
8) marriage
9) physical environment
10) health and fitness

You score them out of ten, and then give yourself small goals on how to improve. You can see mine below…

 

I showed this to my stepdaughter and she was genuinely interested in my goals and how I was going to get there. I felt like that was a better message for her to receive than for her to hear myself and her mother saying we wanted to lose weight in 2018 and however many years after that. I had to hear my mother say it every new year and all it did was make me set the same goals when I was old enough to learn and want to follow in her footsteps.

So this new year, focus on the little things you can change to bring you more positivity! Don’t set your goals too high and put extra pressure on yourself… we have enough of that already just being parents!

If you’re already living your level 10 life, then that’s fabulous, but for me, it was a reality check having to assess my happiness and work out how to improve it. I think this exercise will ultimately improve my mental health and help me to feel more positive about life and it’s changes, but time will tell!

Let us know in the comments if you have any resolutions or habits you want to kick, whatever they may be! Or even if you’ve tried the level 10 life spread and want to share its success/drawbacks!

If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

Mental Health Monday: Speak Up

Although we may have all spent our teenage years trying desperately to get away from embarrassing parents, parents are a class of people that we will all come across in everyday life. Hopefully, many of you reading this post are parents – mothers or fathers. It’s so important to understand and raise awareness of not only maternal mental health but of parental mental health generally.

Particularly important is raising awareness in our workplaces, because of the progress that has been made towards diversity and equality across this sphere generally – though much still needs to be done. Gender equality is increasing and this progress cannot be undone by a lack of support or awareness of the issues faced by new mothers and fathers, who, of course, make up a significant proportion of our working population.

Work-related stress is something which has affected so many people, so it is increasingly crucial to make sure that parents have no further stress upon returning to work, either by making admissions that they are seeking help for mental health conditions, or by suffering in silence and perhaps struggling in the meantime. Postnatal depression is not normally a topic spoken about widely enough for others to recognise that it can affect both mothers and fathers equally, and potentially adoptive or other kinds of parents as well.

At the moment, postnatal depression is diagnosed in around 1 in 10 mothers (though the actual number affected may be much higher!) and, according to recent NCT research, it also affects 1 in 10 fathers, though it may sometimes be called paternal depression rather than postnatal.

But I truly believe that nobody should have to suffer in silence in fear of a backlash if they do make a public admission of his or her postnatal depression. Encouraging an open dialogue around parental mental health brings us one step closer to ending mental health stigma altogether.

In some respects, the stigma of postnatal depression is more difficult to overcome, as many people can’t even fathom how a happy event such as the birth of a baby can lead to depression, psychosis, PTSD or anxiety as a result. The truth is that there is no logic to mental health conditions, and the expectations we are given to feel a certain way can make us feel inadequate, or undeserving, which can be where it all begins.

So how do we overcome the stigma surrounding mental health concerns? It’s necessary for the proper functioning of society that we’re able to move forward, and we have to raise awareness in order to do just that.

Personally, I believe that we should endeavour to be accommodating in our lives and particularly in our professional careers for new parents, encouraging and helping people to speak up, as they may be fighting battles unknown to the rest of us.

This post was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds campaign.

Is Santa Claus Damaging Children’s Mental Health?

Now we are drawing closer to the festive season I am seeing more and more early birds on social media with their Christmas shopping already sorted. They have stacks and stacks of toys for their children and are posing questions like “Is this enough for my ___ year old?” and “How much of this should be from Santa?”.  I think it’s amazing that people want their kids to have nice things, and I am pleased that they can afford to do that but honestly? It makes me a little uncomfortable. 

It’s a crazy concept, isn’t it? That our jolly Christmastime character could cause any harm at all. I have been thinking about this for some time now, although I am yet to implement operation Santa in my own home because my son is so young. This will be the first year for us and I am so excited to introduce the spark of magic but I am also very wary of starting down a road I’m not too sure I want to travel. 
First and foremost, Christmas is a religious holiday and that should ALWAYS be respected and taught to children – they ought to know what they are celebrating.  Over the years that has taken a bit of a back seat for a lot of families but the values and spirit of Christmas remain unchanged. 
Now we are drawing closer to the festive season I am seeing more and more early birds on social media with their Christmas shopping already sorted. They have stacks and stacks of toys for their children and are posing questions like “Is this enough for my ___ year old?” and “How much of this should be from Santa?”.  I think it’s amazing that people want their kids to have nice things, and I am pleased that they can afford to do that but honestly? It makes me a little uncomfortable. 
This year, ‘Santa’ will be bringing my son a wooden train stacking toy and a wooden hammering bench wotsit. I am also going to make him a blanket (with FIIISHESSSS on it, because he loves them) and buy him some clothes and maybe a new dolly. Do I feel guilty? Not at all.  I am teaching my son to be humble, not to expect to have everything he wants handed to him and when he’s a bit older he will understand that mummy and daddy can’t always afford to buy expensive gifts and Santa will bring the kind of thing that Santa has always brought. That consistency is so important. 

So how can Santa Claus be damaging? 

I’m sure everyone can think back to a time in their lives that they were made to feel like they weren’t worth as much as their peers. It’s not a nice feeling and you would never wish it on anyone.  In the school playground in January the children are going to be talking about what Santa brought them for Christmas and one kid got a new games console, loads of games and whatever the latest must-have toys are. How are the other kids’ families supposed to live up to that? Sure, some kids know their parents aren’t as well off as others but Santa is supposed to be fair. (He’s also supposed to make the gifts which is partly why all of ours are wooden).

So then you have children from the families who can’t afford as much believing that they did something bad. They might even believe that Santa doesn’t care about them and that they aren’t as good as the kid who got everything on Christmas morning. This isn’t to say that Santa shouldn’t make a visit or that you shouldn’t get nice gifts for your family, just think about what you’re putting on the label so you aren’t setting the bar so high. If you ever find yourself struggling over Christmas you’ll be glad that Santa only ever brings a few modest gifts.

Now consider the way you discipline your child all year round – in the lead up to Christmas have you ever issued the empty threat “I’ll tell Santa not to come” just to get five minutes peace in a packed supermarket? You may not think any more of it but your child will pick up on the inconsistent discipline structure and, particularly for younger children, that can be confusing and emotionally exhausting.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px ‘Helvetica Neue’; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; min-height: 12.0px} span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

This was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds campaign.