Mental health. This isn’t something I have ever personally given much thought to. I have been fortunate enough that throughout my life I have always felt pretty balanced. Sure, I had shit days when everything seemed, well shit, and then I had days when I felt so happy I thought I might spontaneously combust. But for the majority I always felt in a happy equilibrium.
But then I had a baby. Or two to be precise. Twins. Not that I think that has much to do with this issue of post partum mental health. One, two or three babies at once – it still produces a shit load of hormones and completely turns our lives on their head.
As a new mother, I always feel so guilty when I say I feel low, unhappy or stressed. I mean I have two incredible babies who were created out of my love for my husband and his love for me. When you break it down it doesn’t get better than that does it. However, I have felt low, unhappy and very stressed at times over the past year since they arrived. This has nothing to do with them, my husband or my family and wholly to do with hormones and my body. Oh and the lack of sleep (but that’s a post for another day).
Then today, in a spinning class I burst into tears. Sweat mingling with tears of anger, frustration and irrational hopelessness. Thank god it was dark, music blaring and in the middle of another bloody “climb to the top people”. Despite praying that no one saw me I felt a sense of relief from this outpouring of emotion. And that’s what it was, pure emotion. It wasn’t one emotion or one thing that made me cry but a hundred different feelings that just poured out of me to the soundtrack of Sweet Disposition.
In that moment I felt helpless, sad, angry and relieved all one right after the other. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. For someone who always felt that I had my feelings under control (pre babies) this was a wake up call. I don’t feel right all of the time. I don’t feel 100% me and I shouldn’t feel ashamed to say it.
I read an article not long ago about how times have changed since our parents generation and how now the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” just doesn’t exist for us modern mothers. Especially living the other side of the world from your family and closest friends, like we do. It’s fucking hard. There, I said it. Like REALLY FUCKING HARD at times. I have learnt so much about myself the past year and not all of it is good. My tendency to focus on the negatives is something that has probably been quite grating for those nearest to me. Hey, it bloody pissed me off at times too. The process of being positive and keeping that up day in and day out when you have this rollercoaster of emotions surging through your body on about 4 hours sleep (if you’re lucky!) is something I have really struggled with. I’ve wallowed. I’ve moaned. I’ve felt like life is out to get me.
I needed perspective.
I needed time out.
Since recognizing this and trying to squash that “mom-guilt” I have begun to take time for myself. An hour just for me. An hour to exercise and get rid of the last few kg of baby weight that is refusing to budge. An hour to write. An hour to read. An hour to chat rubbish with my best friends and NOT about babies. An hour to rest my mind and come back and be the best mother I know how to be.
My girls are my life now. My life has changed. Maybe this is what I have been subconsciously fighting. Why can’t I lie in anymore? Why can’t I go away whenever I feel like it? Why can’t I go out and not worry about the hangover tomorrow? With a little perspective, I understand this is all nonsense. What do I want to be able to say on my deathbed? I really enjoyed all of the sleep? Or I raised two smart, funny, kind and generous women who understand the difference between right and wrong, who treat people how they expect to be treated and who can not take life too seriously and laugh at themselves?
Starting to speak to other moms I know has really helped too. It is too easy in today’s “perfect life” culture to pretend that everything is rosy and well, perfect. Just take a look at Instagram for a taste of “the sweet life”. What I’ve learnt is that behind the scenes it very rarely is and people should share the challenges as well as the triumphs. Sometimes it feels good to appreciate what we have, here and now including the good and the bad, rather than the constant aspiration for more. Really, more of what?!
Since sharing how I have felt many moms tell me they feel the same or have shared their other personal worries, fears and irrational moments. It felt good. Not that they were having challenging times too (that was crap) but that it happens to most of us and we aren’t alone (sorry for the cliché) or most importantly that we aren’t losing our minds. It is our bodies reacting to the colossal change it goes through when having a child and the subsequent sleep deprivation. It is not you. You can ask for help. You just need to find the words.
The hormones are something that I hope will settle down in time or maybe I just need to adjust to living with them from now on and take control of my emotions, but learning to recognise when I am being irrationally emotional is step one. For anyone else who feels like this, you’re not the only one out there and we should build each other up together.
Maybe this can be the new “village”.