Self care isn’t something I’ve been known to be great at. Two years ago, a counsellor asked me what were the things I did for self care and I stared blankly at her, because apparently my morning coffee didn’t count. I was very burned out at the time, working full time while in chronic pain with a very hectic toddler in the house. She set on a mission to teach me the error of my ways, and while I’ve not perfected the art of self care, I have gotten a bit better at it. When Sarah, the woman behind the Mama Moments subscription boxes got in touch with me to ask me to try one of their self care boxes, I thought it would definitely fit in well here, especially since she’s kindly offered a discount code to my readers (see the bottom of this post). She very kindly answered a couple of questions for me too, so that we can get to see the woman behind the company.
So, today is Leaving Cert Results Day. Students will open envelopes after months of waiting and agonising, and the knowledge of those results will be here. It’s a day that has both students and parents on edge. At 9am, in schools around the country, the wait will be over. It’s something I remember vividly, that wait, the going into the school. I remember walking into the principals office, him handing me the envelope and telling me he hoped I was happy with them, and walking out into the hall to open them. A mixture of emotions filled the hall – some were ecstatic, others less so. One girl sobbed in disappointment, openly.
I don’t remember the exact results I got in my Leaving Cert. In fact, when I was asked a while ago by someone what subjects I did, it took more than a few minutes of thought to remember them all. It’s now 9 years ago. It has faded from mattering, pretty much within the first few weeks of going to college. For the amount of pressure I put on myself for it, the future me is looking back and wondering just what was it for.
If you’ve been around here long, you’ll know that I will rave about the wonderful Brené Brown day and night if let go. I discovered her last year on recommendation of my therapist at the time, who thought that her work on vulnerability and shame would do me some good. Since then, I’ve been recommending her work to everyone. If you’ve not yet been introduced to her work, here are 12 quotes which might get you thinking (and entice you towards her books) this January.
I’m a self-proclaimed spoonie. It’s not a club I readily joined, it’s not something I would hope that anyone I love would join. It is however proving to be somewhat of a lifeline, this community that I have found. If you look on social media networks like Twitter and Instagram, the “#spoonie” can be seen all over the place, but it doesn’t really lend itself to an explanation. So what exactly is a spoonie, how do I fit in, and why are we so obsessed with all the spoons?
Much of the conversation about postpartum mental health revolves around the woman, the mother. Her body hasn’t been her own for the guts of a year, hormone levels are all over the place, and sleep levels are minimal. The conversation about postpartum depression centres around the mother’s mood and pressure applied to her. It’s a much needed conversation – 1 in 7 women are affected by PostPartum depression, and those are the reported figures. Many women suffer in silence from shame, from fear of the consequences for their family, from simply hoping it will go away. However, despite the conversation being all about the mothers, there is increasing evidence that it affects the fathers almost as much. We need to start talking about Paternal PostPartum Depression.
“Love Many, Trust Few, Always Paddle Your Own Canoe”. That’s a phrase my dad repeated through my childhood. It makes sense, keeping your own sense of independence. I was brought up to work hard for the money I got, that there was a pride in working for an honest wage. Work was important, as was being able to support yourself. So, when being out of work for extended time due to my back injury has reduced my income to the level where I’m not independent any more, it probably shouldn’t surprise me that I’m not thrilled with it.
Another day, another horrific tale in the news. It’s unfortunately part of life in Ireland in 2017. In the last few years, the topics of mental health and the 8th amendment have been in the news seperately and together, but yesterday’s news had something different. The Irish Times journalist Kitty Holland reported on a case from the Child Care Law Report Project which took place in 2016, and opened our eyes to fresh horror.
Late last year, I started seeing a therapist. It was after my return to work (I’ve since been out again), and I wasn’t coping particularly well with my schedule and other pressures. It wasn’t my first foray into therapy; I’d seen counsellors in college on two separate occasions for a number of weeks each time. I was good with the idea that it worked, just not that I truly had time for it.
My therapist this time was a wonderful woman, who spoke in THAT VOICE, the one that says it’s alright to talk and cry and let it all out without judgement. She could bring me to my knees in the first sessions, letting out feelings of guilt, insignificance and anger. She left me with two major discoveries: the work of Brené Brown, and the need for self care.
The month of May is chosen by the Green Ribbon campaign as their month of promotion of their campaign to de-stigmatise mental health issues. Part of the month includes a National Time To Talk Day, where they encourage people to speak openly about their mental health and that of others. The campaign has run for a number of years now and from the statistics they report on their website, it seems to be an overwhelming success. This is the first year I’d heard of the Time To Talk Day, not that it’s stopped me speaking out before. I’ve spoken quite a bit about mental health and my experiences on this blog. You’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking “Here she goes again”. But why do I write about it so much? Why do I share my story?
Parenting is a learn on the job kind of gig. There’s no training course, no book, no YouTube series that will prepare you for how full on it all is. I read a LOT when I was pregnant, and through the sleepless nights of feeds and windy babies. But the experience itself is something that you have to live through – which sounds like one of those things THOSE parents say, the ones we all resent “oh you just don’t know, you don’t have kids”. It’s life in a war zone. A beautiful, funny war zone that will leave you with scars and tears but laughter lines and good memories too. I learned a lot about life, about myself and about the whole keeping-a-human-alive thing. So, what would I do differently on a second baby?
The word “Pacing” has come to mean something different to me since being introduced to the Chronic Pain community. Prior to that, I had linked it very much so with parenting – pacing up and down corridors waiting for news, pacing up and down the house with a crying infant. In the chronic pain/illness world however, pacing is a coping strategy, basically “to pace yourself”. It’s a skill that can be quite difficult to get the hang of. In essence, you find out what your limit is, and then figure out your schedule to what you can do.
And then parenting comes along. Boom. My toddler DOES NOT CARE for pacing. Parenting and pacing are not the easiest of combinations to master.
This is a hard post to write. I don’t particularly know why, as it’s not the first time I’ve addressed it. I’ve written extensively about my experience with depression, with being medicated, with chronic pain. However, I decided this week that I would write about anxiety. Anxiety which has been exacerbated at this time of year. I wanted to share my story in the hopes that others would feel less alone in their feelings. I planned to write it for my Mental Health Monday post. Â And then I became too anxious to write it. Oh, the irony.
Every day, I take medication. This medication allows me to go about my day as a normal person, able to cope with the world. For my chronic pain, I take painkillers so that I’m able to work, to play with my son, to leave the house and not cry in pain. For my depression, I take antidepressants, which enable me to come out from under the duvet and interact with others. I work in a field where I am constantly talking to people – the idea of shutting myself away just isn’t sustainable to my earning power. So, each day I take these tablets, I get on with life and all is as it should be. I’m not ashamed of it. Not anymore.
It’s two years since I came forward on this blog to talk about my journey through PostNatal Depression. Two years. Twenty Four Months. My son has grown up into a little boy, and me? I’ve changed too. Over the last two years I have come across a whole lot of different experiences when talking about my mental health. Most people are well meaning, and some interactions are really lovely. Others leave a lot to be desired. I got to thinking, perhaps a how-not-to-do-it list might work for a Mental Health Mondays post. (And then I got distracted by all the doom in the world so here we are on Tuesday, better late than never) So, here we are: 7 Things You Really Shouldn’t Say To Someone With Depression.
Through this series, Mental Health Mondays, I’ve gotten to read and share some incredible stories of strength, character and even humour from other parents who have lived with mental health issues. It’s been inspiring and encouraging and has left me feeling so much part of a real group – parents who’ve battled our demons and lived to tell the tale. This week’s poster, Ellemental Mama, is yet another inspirational lady who has contributed to the series. Her piece looks at the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, in fighting depression. Hopefully you will find it as wonderful a viewpoint as I have!
Happy Monday! This week for Mental Health Monday, the lovely Jen from The Medicated Mommy has agreed to share a piece about her postpartum depression. This one is a bit different – she’s writing about the reasons that she is thankful for her postpartum depression. It’s not exactly the first thing you’d think of being for postpartum depression – it’s certainly far from the first thing I was and am – bitter, angry, annoyed being ahead in the line. It’s a really great piece which was eye opening to the things that can be brought out from it, and I’ve definitely started looking on my own experience in a different way.
This post is one I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s not the first time I’ve spoken about my thoughts on the Irish education system. I’ve previously lamented the level of religious indoctrination in our primary and secondary schools. I’ve given my thoughts on consent education, and sex education as a whole in Irish schools. Today’s post is somewhat similar to those, but more with a retrospective look at the education I received in second level about mental health. Moreso, what mental health education I wish I had received, instead of the lacking amount that I did.
It’s been a hectic few weeks with being away and trying to get back into the swing of things with E – September was a rollercoaster! However, back to normal scheduling now, so that means another addition to Mental Health Monday! This week, the very lovely Laura from Raising Elves has agreed to share her tale of trauma, depression and how it has affected her family life with the series. It’s a piece I found myself agreeing with a lot of and it summed up just so much of what being in the trenches with depression can feel like. As a parent with depression, I can see a lot of the same elements in my own life and it gave me pause to think about how it is impacting his life too. It’s an eyeopening read which I think a lot of people will relate to. So, without further fuss or ado, here’s Laura with her tale of being an awesome depression survivor!
This week’s Mental Health Monday combines with the World Suicide Prevention Day happening a few days back. I read this post from Claire who writes at Plodding Along Quietly Crazy. IÂ felt so much of it resonate with me. It’s brutally honest and from the heart, exactly the kind of conversations we need to be opening up. Silence is helping nobody in their battle for mental health. We need to talk about it openly and honestly. Claire is Mammy to two little men. She documents life with them and her battles with health and parenthood on her blog. You can also find her on Facebook. Hopefully this piece will resonate with you too and get you talking if you’ve been keeping schtum, or start off some conversations with those around you.
This week’s Mental Health Monday piece is from my archives – not my personal story, but a piece I wrote in conjunction with others for a magazine piece. It was eye opening for me to learn about prenatal depression and to speak to Madge and Rosey who have experience in the area. It’s something that is so rarely spoken about, which can lead to more feelings of isolation in pregnancy with women who do suffer with it. Hopefully you’ll find it insightful and a useful read.
The day you find out youâ€™re pregnant is a life-changing day. Whether it is your first or your fourth, a planned new addition or an unexpected surprise, when that test changes to a positive sign, your heart will race and everything changes. For some it is a moment of absolute bliss, but for others, it can take a while for the news to sink in and to process whether or not this is a good thing. The image of a panicked woman and a pregnancy test in hand is not just reserved for the teenager terrified to tell her parents â€“ even when youâ€™ve got your life sorted out, that positive test can rock you to your core and make you think about what you really want in your life.
On my way to work this morning, I was listening to a radio station I don’t normally listen to (Cork’s Red FM, I’m normally a 96fm woman after 9am). Amid discussions on government decisions about tax, and extra traffic on the road due to kids being back to school, the conversation turned to the traumatic events which unfolded in Cavan over the weekend, the tragic case of the family who died in a murder-suicide. This case has been all over the media in the last couple of days, with 99% of the focus on the man and his sons, with little on his wife who was also a victim. The media has talked about motivations, about mental illness, about how someone could do such a horrendous thing to the people they are supposed to love most in the world. Reading it, and avoiding any of the more salacious details which the tabloids seem to be reporting with glee, makes my heart hurt.
As a general rule, I have this depression/mental health thing sorted. I’ve gotten help from my GP, I’ve an understanding partner and family, I’ve seen a psychiatrist regularly over the last two years. I take my meds every night, I make sure to try to get sleep, I know it’s good to talk. For all intents and purposes, for the most part I like to consider the black dog my bitch. There have been a few dips, of course, to teach me my place, but I put a lot of it down to having too much time to think while out of the workplace. So when I returned to work I assumed I wouldÂ be on the home free road. And we all know what they say about people who assume.
After a few weeks break, Mental HealthÂ Mondays is back this week. Sharing stories of parents who have encountered all sorts of mental health issues, I hope that this series will educate, reassure and work towards removing the stigma of mental illness encountered by parents. The reception to it so far has been astounding, I’ve been really grateful to so many who have taken part, and to those who have read and commented and given feedback. It’s all about opening the lines of communication, removing the elephant in the room and making it a better space for people to be able to put their hand up and say “Hey, I need a bit of help here”. If you’ve not seen any of the previous posts, make sure to check them out here.
This week, Aoife from BuggyWalksIreland is talking all about the links between physical and mental health. She discusses the links to her increase in physical activity, like going for walks, to the upward levels of calm and happiness. This is something which definitely rang true with me, as I found no greater calm than putting E into the buggy and heading off on a long walk. The fresh air, the endorphins, the lack of four walls closing in on me – it did the world of good and definitely improved my view on the world.Â So without further intro, here’s Aoife and her story for this weeks Mental Health Mondays post.