Happy. Mental Health. This is not something I have talked about often, if at all publicly. With the push to make people more aware about mental health, I thought I’d share my story. Or at least a part of it. It’s been a tough journey which started nearly 6 years ago when I had my baby girl. There are 3 distinct periods of my world that led me down a “not so half glass full” path. Which is very unlike me. I am usually such a positive and happy person. I was dealt emotions that I never anticipated and had to face them. Or hide behind them in some cases. Some emotions took me longer to face than others. Some I am still managing!
My brush with PND
Now I can’t be 100% certain that it was PND. But on reflection, 5 years down the line, I labelled it that. When Isla was born she didn’t sleep very well, which is normal for a newborn I know. She would be awake in the middle of the night screaming. In pain. Wriggling in agony. She couldn’t be settled until the pain passed. This happened most nights. This kicked in the absolute exhaustion. I felt tired, I felt terrible that I couldn’t make her pain go away and I felt guilty that all I wanted was sleep. My then 18 month old needed my attention too and if I am absolutely honest with myself I didn’t give him that. I just cried. I cried everyday. If someone asked me how I was, I’d cry. I couldn’t stop crying. It was only when life was a bit more of a routine that I started to cope with my new world!
Hubby had his own photography business at the time. There was a lot of pressure on both him and myself. We used to shoot weddings together, this meant 12 hour days on location. Smiling. Socialising. Making people laugh to get the right shot. The worst part though was that I couldn’t breast feed and work 12 hour days. So I had to stop breast feeding Isla at just 3 months. I wasn’t ready. Neither was she. My entire body has been crying out to feel that bond with her again, ever since I stopped. I harbour a huge feeling of guilt because of it too. It’s the one major regret I have. To top it all off, I went back to work after only 6 months. So I felt guilty about that too.
I often feel the reason I spoil them so much is literally down to my own guilt for the choices we made back then.
Losing my Grandad
This was an extremely hard and dark time for me. It was just after Isla’s first birthday that we found out Grandad had cancer. He was 90. There was nothing they could do. It was horrific watching his decline. He stopped eating certain foods, slept more and more until all he did was sleep. He went into a local hospice mid July and passed away on the 1st August. He was my father figure growing up, he gave me away, he bailed me out when I needed him, he cuddled me when I needed it, he played games when I needed it and he let me drink his froth on the top of his pint of Guinness! He had one every night. He swore by it. I felt like I had been sucked into a vacuum afterwards. I can barely remember the following months. I was just on autopilot. Nothing really motivated me. I hated everything. I remember driving home from work one day thinking “the kids and hubby would be better off without me”! Quite unlike me. Over the years I have come to terms with it a bit more. I know we all have to die. I know I won’t have everyone around me forever. I also try to picture grandad up in the clouds walking his dog. I see him hiking around the wonderful landscapes of New Zealand where his family are. This makes me feel happy. Turning my thoughts around has been a big step. It has helped me control my emotions and snap out of the darkness I had been consumed by.
My Cancer scare
At the start of last year I was told by my GP that she thought I had cervical cancer. I know lots of women go through the abnormal cells letter of doom after a smear test. But I’m pretty sure they didn’t get the words “I think you have cancer” handed over with it. From the doctor whose standing at the wrong end, whilst your legs are in stirrups, with the look of dread on her face.
It was that doctors words that broke me. She said it only a few days before my hospital appointment to have the abnormal cells investigated. But it was 3 days of sheer mental torture. What if? A million different what if scenarios entered my head. I didn’t want to have cancer. I didn’t want to have a hysterectomy. Hang on: I didn’t? I want another child! Having the options taken away from you can all of a sudden do strange things to your wombstrings! But then I came to terms with a hysterectomy. It was better than the alternative option. I probably sound like a drama queen about now. I hope not. I can’t explain it other than I felt like I’d been swallowed up into a dark hole. I felt completely lost and scared. Thankfully the cells were not yet cancerous and taken out. Phew. It’s just a shame you can’t laser out the emotions too. I still had all these thoughts and feelings running around inside of me. It definitely made me appreciate what I have and since then have felt a new lease of life.
I started my counselling journey just after this. I only just finished it last month. I can’t begin to explain how helpful it was. To work through emotions, discuss strange feelings and thoughts and to feel that determination again to be myself. That’s the biggest thing for me, realising that I wanted to be myself again.
I feel like a switch has been turned on again recently. Like something switched off back in 2012 and it’s been darkness since. Then ping… my glass seems half full again. My smile is real again. My emotions are there, but I’m managing them. I’m enjoying things again. I’ve started writing music again… something I definitely have to have the right energy for.
The aim is to continue on this path. I share my feelings with the people closest to me now. I had stopped doing this too, I tried to battle these emotions on my own for a long time. I don’t hold onto things anymore, with the fear I’ll be a burden to others or that no one wants to listen. As I’ve learnt the people that love me do want to listen. Want to help. I’m lucky I have such great people in my life that care about me.
Everyone of the people around me support me in very different ways. I’ve learnt to identify those differences and embrace them. When I feel lost, I hold my husbands hand. When I feel like I miss Grandad, I sit in his armchair talking to Grandma. Or my uncle reminds me of where he is now, which helps me think more positively. When I remember how scared I felt last year, I give my babies a hug. When I feel guilt and pressure to be this fabulous multi tasking mother, worker and blogger extraordinaire, I just smile and say I CAN DO THIS. Then have a cuppa (Mumma’s answer to everything) or take a photo and do something creative. I’m pretty obsessed with my camera. I’m also very grateful to my lil sister who gave me Fearne Cotton’s Happy book for my birthday this year. I’m finding it helpful to identify words to describe my feelings.
I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to be happy. My version of happy. And so far it seems to be working… if you want some advice and support the NHS have a great site called The Moodzone, check it out for a list of helpful numbers and information. Please do comment below or on social media (@mummyconstant) – I am a very good listener!