How will I cope? Mental health tips for mums
PUBLISHED: 16:24 10 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:53 10 May 2018
Maternal Mental Health Week inspired Wymondham mum-of-two and blogger Sally White to share some tips
I’ve written before about the enormous feelings of loneliness, isolation, judgment, fear and anxiety that can side-swipe you when you find out you are pregnant. Somehow, everyone has an opinion on what you should do or look like or feel like or behave like. This can lead to a lot of confusing and conflicting feelings. Becoming a parent also forces us to examine how we were raised and our own experiences of family life. It picks at wounds that we’ve hoped were healed but were in fact just plastered over.
Becoming a mum also forces us to reevaluate and recalibrate who we are and what we’re capable of.
And it makes you so, so goddarn tired. It’s a dangerous combination.
One in five women develop mental health problems during pregnancy or the first year after birth. It is an issue that needs to be discussed and destigmatised.
I am not a health expert. My only qualification is that I’ve been there - am still there - and I have a few strategies I’m happy to share.
Talk about it.
I have found other women a source of great comfort and reassurance. You need a good WhatsApp group of other like-minded women who you can text during the 3am feed. Tell them how you feel. Say out loud those deep miseries because hearing someone else say ‘Me too’ will give you an immense sense of relief. Also, talk about it with your health visitor and if they don’t listen talk about it with your GP and if they don’t listen talk about it with another GP. Keep talking.
Ask for help.
It’s a privilege to be asked to help. People like to help. But people don’t always know how to. So when someone asks if there’s anything they can do, say ‘Yes’. Ask people to babysit or meet you for a walk or just listen for 10 minutes while you download your worries. And if asking doesn’t work, just tell. Tell your partner you’re going to sleep in the spare room tonight because you’re on the brink of madness from exhaustion. Tell your mother-in-law that you’d really appreciate her minding the toddler while you go for a swim.
Get out. Alone.
When we sold our house last year, I realised that in the six years we’d been living there I’d never spent a night alone in it. It really struck me how much I missed my own company. Even if the kids are asleep and the partner’s watching telly in the other room, just go and stand in the garden and breathe. Or get in to bed and read a book. Find some time to be yourself again.
Laugh and let go.
Try and laugh at the fact that you’ve toddler has done an enormous humdinger just as you’ve buckled them in their car seat. Get on the group WhatsApp and laugh about the fact your car keys were in the washing machine and you’ve just spent 40 minutes looking for them.
Don’t savour every minute.
Because a lot of it is hard, unpaid, gruelling, unhygienic and tedious. Enjoy the good bits and laugh off the bad bits and have a good cry and moan a bit because parenthood is a broad scope of feelings.
Use social media.
I have found Instagram a great source of support and solidarity. Follow the hashtag #maternalmentalhealth for links to resources that may help. Follow Natasha Bailie for her excellent work on demystifying mental health. The website www.mentalmutha.com is a great resource too. The website getmeout.org.uk is a Norfolk-based charity that organise family events and have a support group for parents who’ve been diagnosed with post natal depression.
Everyone will tell you that motherhood is hard work. You will hear about ‘baby blues’ and ‘tiredness’ and ‘feeling low’ but if you suspect your difficulties go beyond those phrases, check your symptoms on the NHS website and start a conversation with your health visitor or midwife. Whatever you’re feeling, others have felt it too and you will get through it. We are all comrades in this together and I’m sending you warm cups of tea and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Come and visit my blog wifeofawigwearer.com for other posts about combatting maternal loneliness. Or follow me on Facebook by searching ‘wife of a wig wearer’ and on Insta where I share upcoming events to help get you out of the house.