It is maternal mental health week this week. It’s a subject I care an awful lot about, because to be honest, the two things that use up 95% of my time/brain power are being a mum and managing my mental health.
Thing is, I have never really felt terribly confident talking about it. Not because I don’t have things to say, but more because my thoughts are sort of manifested in a state similar to Scarf Ladies discarded wool ball (any Sarah and Duck fans out there?!). I want to somehow verbalise the enormity of what becoming a mum has done to me. There has been wonderful times, where I thought my heart would explode. There has been peace, joy, hope, fun, love etc etc.
However, there has also been episodes of anxiety and depression that are different to anything I have felt before. With the kids there is no option to completely freeze over and go to bed. It means that I have managed to repress the scale of the depression I am in and not notice it until it’s become such a hulking dark cloud that I can no longer see how to cope an hour ahead.
This is obviously not the healthiest way to live, however, whilst it is new to me in the way I manage my mental health, I don’t think it’s a management technique that is remotely unique to mothers.
The truth is, the most significant impact becoming a mum has had on my mental health is on my identity. I have struggled to define myself all my life, but there always seemed to be some sort of path I could find that I felt I could follow and try to define myself on.
Now though, as soon as I try to think about what I am, who I am, what I want to achieve the first thing that is there is “I am a mum”. This is a wonderful thing to be, and something I am very delighted to be! However, it is not all that I am but when I try to look beyond that I find I am without confidence or vision.
That lack of understanding of who I was prior to having children has been magnified by having children rather than shrunk.
The thing with being a mum is, there is always someone doing it “better” and whilst this is just our perception, it still has an enormous impact on how I view myself as a mother, which is currently the only identifier I know I have.
The mum guilt, the fears and insecurities about how you are parenting and raising your children, the constant anxiety over their health and wellbeing, all creates within this sole identifier of your self, a huge question of ability.
Then though, there is the bigger picture. Who do I want to be? How can I be that? Is there any point even trying? There are things that I know I want to achieve in my life but the thing is, I equally know that it won’t happen because I am simply not good enough. Now, I might know that the inner voice shouting me down every time a new idea appears might be a liar, however, it shouts very loud into a cramped and overcrowded space and very quickly drowns out any competing voice.
I know that as the kids grow up, I will have more headspace to work out what I would like to be when I grow up, but at the moment I feel like I am not giving the best of me to parenting because part of me longs to be something more.
I don’t know I even have the capacity to do anything outside of my current mum role. My mental health, that big hulking black cloud of pain, is in a pretty dire state and getting up each day to crack on with my current role takes more energy than I feel I have. On the other hand, when I have a conversation with someone, or do a bit of work somewhere, whilst I am exhausted by it, I feel invigorated, important and like I have a brain.
This, I think, is a part of the problem. Toddlers are so much fun in so so many ways, but the level of conversation doesn’t offer my brain much work. I feel like I’m losing the ability to be a human outside of the parenting bubble. Lockdown certainly doesn’t help that…
However, these issues are all old. They have been faced by many before me and will be again. I have no answers for them, and whilst they bother me and on occasion cause me to panic and worry and generally lose a little control, I also know that this is a stage of my life, and a time will come (I hope) where I will begin to find myself again.