Mental health is a huge passion of mine. I have been working in the field for over 10 years, gradually working my way up to being a Qualified Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist in an NHS Service in London. I’m currently on maternity leave, spending my days and nights running around my increasingly active 8 month old baby boy Samraj. Funnily enough, I have always had a huge interest in the maternity period since a young age. I remember sneakily poring over my mum’s Emma’s Diary when she was pregnant with my younger sister, trying to understand all the big words, piecing it all together using the pictures. I was fascinated by the idea of a baby growing inside my mum and somehow finding its way out.
I fell into working with mummies and babies in my current working role, and I have LOVED it. I got to hear first hand perspectives of childbirth and motherhood. The media sells us this idea of glowing pregnancies, and beautiful bountiful moments with our gorgeous babies. However I gained an insight into the dark moments of utter despair when my clients could not soothe their babies, or were just about coping after 45 minutes of sleep the night before. Even then, I thought I got it.
LOL. I definitely sympathised. The low mood and anxiety sounded horrendous and therapy really worked for them. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an amazing therapy approach to support people experiencing mental health difficulties such as depression and anxiety. It is clear and logical and offers a number of strategies for when life feels a bit much. It’s definitely saved me time and time again this year.
With motherhood comes amazing highs where you think you couldn’t love this tiny being any more than you do right now, but somehow you do. However parenting also entails lack of sleep, raging hormones, body changes and your life being turned upside down. It is with this life experience, I can empathise with my previous clients. I get it. The lows are really low. However with my therapy training, I knew what I could do to improve my mood when I felt it dipping. I would go out for a walk, call a friend or my mum, or simply tell myself “I am doing the best I can”. It is this that has got me through this far.
This year has got me thinking about people (mums and dads) who don’t have the knowledge I have. In a social media fuelled world, do they know where to turn? Instagram shows us how perfect all our parent friends are, with their gorgeous babies who never cry and sleep through the night. When you’re scrolling at 3am, it really feels like you’re the only one with a “devil child”. It’s a lonely place and can lead to low mood/ depression and anxiety. Do parents know they can access support for their mood from their GP and access referrals for therapy services. I’m hoping I can bridge the gap in between the Insta world and the reality of perinatal mental wellbeing, raising awareness that you are not alone and what you are feeling is normal. And offering some tips to get you back on track and get you feeling Mentally Healthy.
I understand mental health to be a continuum. You can feel really mentally healthy one day- you wake up on time, you eat well, spend time with your family and friends and feel really present and whole. Another day, for whatever reason, or for no reason at all, you feel low, you ignore your texts and spend the day in bed, and eat all the junk food you can access and doze in and out of sleep during the day, which leads to another bad night of sleep. We all have peaks and troughs in our mood as no day is ever the same.
If these experiences become prolonged, they may develop into depression and/ or anxiety. I find that these often come hand in hand. This is a key time to access support from your GP and mental health professionals to get you back on track.
These peaks and troughs are heightened in what is termed as the “perinatal” period. This includes the almost 10 months of pregnancy, and the year after the birth of your child. The body does a miraculous job, in nurturing a foetus, giving birth and if you choose to, providing nutrition for your baby for as long as you breastfeed. Each of these stages has a ton of associated hormones, which impact mood too. Parents are at their most vulnerable emotionally, physically and psychologically during this perinatal period.
I will be sharing some of my experiences in this blog, times which I found difficult or hard to get my head around and offer some insight into how I dealt with it. I’m hoping that you guys can relate to it too and maybe share some tips back! Hopefully we can all be Mentally Healthy Mummies (and Daddies!) together!
Lots of love,
Disclaimer: there may be themes or topics that arise from this blog that resonate with you. If this is the case, I highly recommend you speak to someone you trust about how you feel, as well as contacting your GP for further support. Help is available if you ask for it. The NHS is an amazing resource, use it! See the Time to Talk tab on my page.