7th September 2014
With mental health being in the forefront of our minds just now due to the media surrounding the tragic suicide of Robin Williams, launching of the new Mind Your Head website in Shetland and the recent Suicide Prevention week, I thought it only apt to dedicate my blog this month to an aspect of this pressing issue.
A number of years ago I suffered from postnatal depression. When I was ill with it I didn’t want anyone to know – they will think I’m a failure, they will take away my children, everyone will make a fool of me or avoid me. I felt I couldn’t tell people what has been wrong with me. How’s things? How are you? – those dreaded questions!! ‘Yeah I’m fine’, ‘yeah not bad thanks’. LIES, LIES, LIES – I really wanted to scream NOOOOO I’m not fine, I’m having an anxiety attack just speaking to you here in Tesco because I can’t bear being around this many people. I just want to curl up in and ball and cry, I just want this darkness, rushing mind and black thoughts to GO AWAY!!
So why did I feel I couldn’t tell the people around me, the people who love and care for me? Self-Stigma is the answer for that and to be fair I really should know better! Stigma and self-stigma are horrid words aren’t they? but when depression grips you like vice, rational and self-belief get squeezed out of you.
As a young mum (ssshh!! No cheeky comments on my age!!) I found adjusting to motherhood a challenge as any mum does. When my little bundle of joy number 2 arrived, I began a rollercoaster ride that I had no idea how to get off of. Sleep deprived, running around after a, for want of a better word, ‘crazy’ toddler, cooking, cleaning, shopping, washing, living, breathing………..wow was it fun!! Don’t get me wrong, I loved my little family but I felt lost, alone and deeply overwhelmed with everything. Why did everyone else seem to be managing fine? Why was I the only failure? Why couldn’t I enjoy my babies? Why did I feel like this? Why me? Why why why……?
It took 8 months until I reached the stage where I didn’t want to go out, hated social situations, cried all the time and felt like I was THE worst mother in the entire world until my husband gave in and took me to the doctor. ‘Well Mrs Teale, it’s no big deal you JUST have post natal depression’ said the doctor. JUST postnatal depression I thought – pull yourself together you idiot. You are just a failure!! My world had become so dark that I had convinced myself I was a failure, I didn’t deserve my children or husband and perhaps this life would be better off without me in it. But with love, support and medication life became a better place to be. After a year on medication and with help from my doctor I was weaned off the medication and got back to enjoying my family. Recovery wasn’t easy but I did it and so can others. Even when life threw baby number 3 into the picture and life became chaos again, we were all ready to tackle depression head on.
As my children grew and so did my strength, I decided that I wanted to help other mums who were perhaps struggling or, at least, had the potential to. It took me many years contemplating the ideas and how best to do this. But two years ago it finally materialised into Bambeenies. I hope that our classes give mums the opportunity to get out and meet other people in similar circumstances, to know that they are not alone and to make new friendships to love and support them should they need someone to ask them ‘How are you?’ – ‘BUT really how are you?’
The classes have not only, I hope, been a life line to others but they have changed my life. I love my job with all my heart, getting into class and seeing those little smiley faces and the progress they are making fills me with a joy that I can’t even describe to you.
So what was the point of me bearing my soul to you, telling you all my failings and praying that everyone will understand. I want you mummies – that’s right I’m speaking to you……each and every one of you – to stop competing and comparing with one another, realise that we’re all in this together and help one another when we can. Let’s not judge each other. Because despite outward appearances, we are all going through struggles that no one knows anything about.
So my challenge for you all – It only takes a second to say a few kind words, this may be the only nice things the person hears all day. A little smile to a stranger on the street may be the highlight of their week. When you ask someone how they are next time, ask it with sincerity and wait to hear their answer even if it’s not the one you hope for, as they may well be putting on a brave face but screaming inside. By being kinder to ourselves and each other, we really can change the world, one kind word at a time.
Are you in???