I was recently tagged in a post on Instagram, asking how I stay mentally healthy. Since we have just finished Mental Health Awareness Week I thought that I would write a little post about it. Just like we all have physical health, we also have mental health, and both of these need to be taken good care of. It is a fact that the physical health is much more accepted as a conversation topic amongst people and I am likely not the only one who would wish that this changed. If I want others to talk, I guess that I have to start by doing so myself. One in four people experience mental health problems in any given year and sadly it is also a fact that 9 in 10 young people fear the reaction of their friends, if they talk about their mental issues.
My Mental Health
I think that my own mental health is good. Sometimes I can have a day or two off, not the kind with no housework and a lie in, but the kind where I feel blah and useless and I am much more emotional than usual. I don’t know exactly why I have days off, but I have a feeling that most people have them, except they do not speak much about it. It is possible that my days off could be tied in with hormones and my monthlies. What matters though, is how I deal with it.
When I start feeling down I usually tell James pretty quickly. He can also sense it sometimes, but I do not expect him to read my mind. I know that the best way for myself to start feeling good again is to take care of myself, so that is what I do. I do this by for example reading. At the moment I am reading a very inspirational book called Big Magic. It inspires me every time I read even just a page and I can not recommend it highly enough especially for anyone with a bit of creativity in them. Another activity that I always finds cheers me up is going for a drive or a nice walk, preferably to some beach and preferably with the camera in hand. Getting out into the fresh air, having fun with the family and capturing the memories at the same time seems to be a good recipe for my happiness. I also bake and knit, both of these have a relaxing effect on me. And then there is sleep! JJ still naps during the day, and sometimes I take one with him. I remember when he was just born and everyone went on about how I should sleep when he did; I think that this sometimes also goes for toddler mums, especially if the toddler does not sleep through the night like JJ doesn’t.
Last but not least, I write! I find my blog to be such a great platform to say what is on my mind and writing it down has a special effect on me. There are days, even weeks, when I don’t write a single word. But then there are moments like these where this blog post is just spilling out on the screen infront of me. I really need to go for a shower right now, but I can’t stop writing as my creative muse is right here with me. She might go visit someone else if I go for a shower 😉
Being A New Mum
Becoming a mum is a massive life event and it is completely normal to go through a variety of emotions both during the pregnancy and after. For some, these emotions will have a great effect on their life and that is when an issue might be present. One in five mothers will go through mental health problems during the pregnancy or in the year after giving birth.
JJ is almost 2 years now, but I still remember those first weeks as a new mum and just how emotional I was. I remember thinking, that I knew these were just my hormones playing up and I also wondered if this was how people with mental health issues felt. I would cry at anything, I mean anything. Just like most mums I worried that I had PND, and when the health visitor came to visit and did the EPDS (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) questionare, my score was close to the limit (I have not spoke much about this before). We then spoke about some of the questions and I got to take the questionare again and the second time my score was better. My health visitor was lovely and we spoke about anything that was on my mind. I remember her telling me to go by my gut feeling when it came to mothering, and I have ever since.
It took my emotions a couple of months to get back to normal (not a big fan of that word, what is “normal” anyway?). No wait, what am I saying, they never went back to what they were before, haha! Becoming a mum changed my emotional spectrum completely. My emotions are now more intense and things which I did not think about before can now make me worry so much. But equally, things which I did not know before now bring me immense joy and happiness. Being a mother is a terrifying and overwhelmingly beautiful adventure!
Let’s Keep Talking
Talking is so important. I know this is easier said than done, but sharing the burden with someone always makes it easier to carry. Before you start talking it might seem that telling others about your thoughts will make the issue bigger, but instead you will feel a relief that you don’t have to spend energy hiding it and pretending that everything is alright. You do not have to be an expert in mental health in order to talk and listen to someone about theirs.
We have now finished Mental Health Awareness week and I hope that people will keep talking an sharing their experiences. I would welcome any comments below on this post with your experiences of mental health problems and how you take care of your mental health.
P.S. Here are some useful links for anyone wanting to read more about mental health awareness.