Being well

Yesterday in a group I was asked to “share my mothering journey”. It’s hard to know where to start sometimes isn’t it? How it was at the beginning and how it is now. All the changes you go through, the highs and lows and who you become as a person.

It’s Maternal Mental Health week, and I’m told that 1 in 4 women “experience mental health issues” but I guess this just means those people with a certain number of symptoms that means enough boxes are ticked to get you a diagnosis of a condition, or with symptoms severe enough to do the same, or those women who actually tell someone how they’re feeling.

I know that diagnoses and labels can sometimes be lifesavers, but they can also encourage us to only see feelings when they can be diagnosed as an “issue”. This is not to denigrate serious maternal health problems, but all mothers feel acute feelings at some point in pregnancy, birth and motherhood: joy, loss, love, guilt, grief, rage, fear.

In actuality there’s huge grey areas where what is broadly our “mental health” undergoes great challenges maternally. Mental health can be seen as a spectrum of wellness and suffering, one which realistically we move up and down throughout the course of our lives.

I’ve got a whole list of things that help me live well and happily that I would count as “self help” (I’ve put it down the bottom of this email) but there have been points when self-help no longer felt like it was enough, like the bad days were outnumbering the good, when moods felt extreme and I didn’t feel I was coping overall.

At these times it was a great relief to go to speak to an expert and have everything in my brain normalised. I felt I was figuratively falling into the arms of these individuals – that from the first session there was hope for better times, that I didn’t have to sort everything out on my own.

But still there’s a stigma around a therapy appointment in the way that there isn’t for a massage or physio or yoga session. Imagine if we considered going through the biggest physiological and psychological shift of our lives (into motherhood) as something worth talking through with someone, as we navigate its peaks and troughs. Or we considered it like an emotional MOT, where a session or series of sessions contributes to keeping you well.

If things seem tricky it’s rarely a bad idea to take the first stage to reach out to someone. It might simply be at the level of booking a night out with a friend to talk or something else that feeds your soul. So you can consider this a little reminder, in case you need one.

My self-help list includes: using my breath to calm myself, practising mindfulness (an awareness of being in the present moment freed from going over what happened in the past or imagining what might occur in the future), moving my body mindfully (physical yoga), writing things down, talking it out, resting in stillness, choosing to be on my own or choosing to connect with others, eating and drinking things that make me feel good (includes wine in moderation, me no saint), living according to my intentions of how I want to live, doing less, being kind to myself and others.