“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.
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!