It’s almost 5 years since I first got my diagnosis of depression, I remember being absolutely gob smacked, I had hid it so well, even from myself.
My biggest fear when battling mental health issues was that I was ‘damaging’ my children, I know how those early years shape our future, and I felt like I was failing them on every level. I could taste the guilt and shame and the fear of not being ‘good enough’ touched every aspect of my life.
Back then I didn’t really believe that ‘good enough is good enough’, I thought it was just something people said to make you feel better but I clung to it in hope.
I felt like I was failing in so many ways, especially as a Mother, and the pain was almost to great to bare.
It wasn’t just the physical ache I felt from a love so deep that it consumed me, or the emotional and mental turmoil I was in, but there was a spiritual pain too. I didn’t know ‘spiritual pain’ could even be felt but if you’ve experienced it you know, its that complete empty, hopeless feeling, when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, you have everything you’ve ever wanted but you feel lost and life has lost all meaning. THAT hurts!
But, now I’m through the woods, I know that this spiritual pain serves a purpose, because it’s only when we lose ourselves that we’re able to begin the journey to find who we really are.
I can also now see that ‘good enough’ really IS good enough. My girls are now 8 and 5, and I can hand on heart say I have raised two amazing, independent, loving, kind, empathic, emotionally intelligent, funny, creative and out-right fantastic human beings! So if you’re going through a period (because nothing lasts forever) of mental health issues or stress, know that you’re enough exactly as you are, and your children won’t be ‘damaged’ by it, in fact if you’re honest and real with them, they will learn many great things from the experience too, like how to express their own emotions instead of repressing them, how to ask for the help they need, empathy, compassion and how to learn from their mistakes (and that it’s ok to make them).
There isn’t anything that the word ‘sorry’ can’t undo and children are very forgiving, as we should be towards ourselves. Be honest with your children, and yourself, say sorry, ask for forgiveness and forgive yourself. Let them know it’s OK not to be OK and model to them how to express their own emotions in a safe way. These are all things I did throughout my battle with mental health and I think my girls are more well-rounded because of it.
The world is changing, and children of today are far more ‘sensitive’, the old authoritarian ways of parenting don’t work, we need to be honest and vulnerable with our children to create a real connection built on mutual respect.
Having worked with mother’s for over 8 years I can see clearly how and why we struggle and I can sum it up in 2 main ways:
Lack Of Self-Acceptance
Most women are chronic people-pleasers, we’ve spent a lifetime of putting other people’s needs before our own, so when we become a mum and have this little person/people who rely on us 110% we give and we give and we give, and unless we learn how to fill ourselves back up (which most don’t) we become empty. And you can’t give from an empty cup.
And in this day and age where women are expected to ‘do it all’, we’re never done, and we never feel like we’ve done ‘enough’. These seemingly small things, when done consistently, chip away at our physical and mental health. We don’t have time for the things we once enjoyed and we don’t feel like we’re doing a good enough job at the things that we have to do, it’s a recipe for disaster.
This combination of pleasing others to our own detriment, giving until we’re empty and not feeling like we’re good enough affects our self-esteem and self-awareness, we lost sight of who we really are, because we have become who others expect us to be. The question ‘Who am I?’ can plagued us, surely we should know who we are?!? but we don’t, and we don’t want to accept who we have become.
This lack of self-acceptance has huge consequences on our mental health, and with no time to devote to our own wants and needs it only gets worse, until the time comes when we ‘break’ and we have no choice but to start finding ourselves again,
We’re Out Of Balance
Secondly, we have no balance, i’m not just talking about the work/life balance here, i’m talking about the masculine/feminine balance. The yin/yang, giving/receiving, doing/being.
Women give and give but are crap at receiving! Just watch next time you give a friend a compliment and she bats it right back at you with a dismissive comment and notice what you do when given a compliment too.
We have become predominantly masculine in our energy, pushing, striving, doing, working towards goals and targets, trying to prove ourselves in the workplace and the damn-never-ending to-do list. These are all masculine energy traits and they’re fine IF they are balanced with our feminine energy of receiving, allowing, nurturing and creativity.
It can be hard to find the balance, especially if you aren’t aware it’s needed. If you’re used to living in the masculine energy often your first real glimpse of this feminine side appears when you have children, which is something I’ve seen a lot of with career women.
Suddenly you’re still trying to push everything but then there’s this pull towards your more feminine side. You want to relax more, be more present, have quality time with your loved ones but your old needs, demands and habits are still there. You can find yourself yo-yoing up and down, not present or focused at work or at home, which leads to feelings of not being good enough, comparing ourselves to others and a mother-load of guilt! You lose sight of who you are and the downward spiral begins.
Where was all of this is the baby books?!?!?
Feeling Whole Again
I spoke with a friend recently about mental health issues and my battle with depression and she asked me how I got through it and how long it took. I answered her honestly, as I always do, and explained that I can’t pinpoint an exact time when I felt better, it was a journey, and one that begun on the inside.
Here are the top 3 things I did to start my journey to feeling whole again:
I became aware of my inner dialogue, which was pretty horrific. I judged myself on EVERYTHING. Nothing was ever ‘enough’ for the drill sergeant in my head, she expected perfection and I failed every time. But just becoming aware of this and knowing I had a CHOICE helped me begin to turn it around.
Instead of being my own worst critic I began to be my own cheerleader, in the beginning this was really difficult because I believed the thoughts I had about myself, but through practising Mindfulness I realised that I was separate from my thoughts, There is You who thinks the thought and YOU who observes You thinking the thought, YOU is your Soul, the REAL YOU, not the You of the personality and ego. I allowed my Soul to observe the thoughts and then turn them around. You have a CHOICE to believe and accept each thought You think or YOU can choose to ignore it, refuse to accept it and find the truth.
‘I am such a shit mother!’ becomes ‘This is really hard, I’m not enjoying this like I thought I would but i’m doing my best and that is good enough’. The latter is so much more empathic and accepting of how things are.
The National Science Foundation states we have approximately 60,000 thoughts per day and at least 80% are negative (this is without mental health issues) so this is not an over night fix, its a slow, steady process but every time you turn it around you are moving closer to your goal of wellness.
I began taking time for myself. My husband would get home about 6pm which meant I had long 10 hour days on my own with 2 very small children and I felt guilty if I had time to myself when he got home because he had been to work all day. But I was overwhelmed, overstimulated and exhausted so I started taking time for myself. I started going upstairs to ‘hide’ when he got home. For a long time I did nothing but just sit in silence, completely relieved to have nothing to do but breathe.
In time I had more energy to do things like read or meditate and I started to feel better from this time alone. I realised how much I craved it. And I also worked on releasing the guilt for taking it!
You can’t do it all. You have to fill your cup in whatever way you can. Deep breathing is an amazing tool which you can use anytime, it switches on the bodies relaxation response and gets you out of the fight-or-flight mode so your body can begin to stabilise. Epsom Salt baths are another amazing tool for self-care as they help to detox the body and are full of magnesium which is depleted during times of stress.
Self-care doesn’t have to be lavish or long, grab any chance you can to close your eyes and breathe!
I also began to really question who I was. I’d always dreamed of being a mum and never in a million years expected to find myself in the nightmare that had become my life, I felt like I was grieving for the life I thought I would have instead of the one I was living. Losing myself and my faith is where my spiritual pain stemmed from. I’d always believed we have a purpose to fulfil here on earth and suddenly felt like all of that was gone for good, my dreams of writing and inspiring others were shattered into a billion pieces and the tiny flicker of hope was almost completely gone. Almost.
On my journey of self-discovery I found who I REALLY am and discovered Gifts I never new I had.
Through the journey of my Pain I found my Purpose and from the broken pieces of my life I pieced them slowly, but surely, back together to became whole again.
When you fight your mental health issues, when you look for someone or something to ‘blame’ for it, you keep yourself stuck. When you accept ‘this is where I am’ and you ALLOW yourself to feel how you feel and trust that you can make it through you will begin to find the answers that you need.
Let go of the NEED to FIX this now and lean into the knowing that nothing lasts forever and you will find a way through, allow yourself to receive the support you require by ASKING for it. Forgive yourself. Accept yourself. Know that you are ENOUGH. You don’t have to figure this all out today, the answers will come. Take one step at a time. Allow your feminine energy to shine through, be kind to yourself, nurture yourself and allow yourself to receive, because your Mental Health Matters, YOU matter and NOBODY is judging you the way you are judging you
If you or someone you know is struggling with Mental Health issues, or you need a little support on your mothering journey, please take a look at my Mighty Mama Tribe, it’s a low cost 12 month membership program designed to tackle the issues raised in this post (and more) to empower mums, help them find better balance and connect with other like minded women. You can find the details here
Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help or seek the support you need, you’re not alone x