Mental health & the stigma around it: It is okay if you need help
I was reading the The Nice Book with Little Bun the other day and this page really spoke to me:
It is a book about actions people take that are nice: Cuddle, Nestle, Don’t tickle .. well maybe a little! (Little Bun’s favourite part)..
And this page always spoke to me because I need to “get away” sometimes.
I need to take breaks and not be near coworkers, my family… just alone. By myself. A lot.
When I read it to Little Bun, he even points to it and says: That’s Mommy! Mommy needs to sometimes get away and take a break.
I realized very late into the parenting game that it was not wrong to want time alone.
I felt guilty that I wanted to be alone
I felt like I should be devoting 24/7 to my baby to be a good parent. I didn’t miss a single bedtime, feeding, nothing… except when he was at daycare and I felt guilty for being happy to be back at work.
Was I a bad mother?
Didn’t all mothers love being with their babies 24/7? I didn’t have anyone to ask other than my own mother but it was years since she raised us so she had no modern advice…
I talked to colleagues at work who moaned about being at work instead of at home, missing all those major milestones… and I felt the opposite. I was HAPPY to be away and while I missed him, I felt rejuvenated to get that break.
At home, particularly during rough times of Little Bun being a terror, I was so angry and I felt terrible that I had fantasies of being alone in my apartment, with a good book and a cup of something (not wine, I don’t drink…), without a screaming child and blissfully SINGLE AND ALONE.
To realize so late in the game when he was about 2.5 years old that it wasn’t wrong to be alone and take a break to refresh myself was a revelation.
I didn’t know mental health was a thing.
I didn’t know anything about “self-care” and had no idea it was a thing that could have kept me from feeling the way I did for those beginning years.
I didn’t know it was OKAY and EXPECTED that I get a break; my partner didn’t either because to him, staying at home meant staying at home and you got a break by being at home and not working — he was raised by a traditional mother who was a stay at home Pinterest-type woman who did everything… for everyone and was proud of it (Read: A woman’s place is in her home)
I felt ashamed I wasn’t strong enough to be like the women of the past, but now I realize they all had the same feelings as I did but didn’t talk about it as it was taboo and even worse, felt stronger when they suffered the most – a bit like a martyr but privately brooding at home.
I also read that 50s housewives were also heavily drugged with lots of downers (hence why they were so vacant) or secret alcoholics to stave off the boredom and caged hell that was some of their lives.
Mental health is important whether you want to call it by its trendier name now – self-care – and it should be given the respect it deserves.
Take it seriously, it is a real disease. This TED Talk by Guy Winch really spoke to me, and it is funny to boot.
Depression, particularly post-partum can be hard to diagnose and even harder to admit if you suffer from it.
You can’t just shake it off.
You can’t just chin up and smile through it.
It is an actual sickness that needs to be treated and taken seriously.
We were made of tougher stuff back then.
You’ll get over it. It’s just the blues.
Eat some cake or go shopping, you’ll be fine after a little pick me up.
It is such a stigma in society to admit that you need to “get away” and get help for what you’re suffering because it is something people cannot physically see as being wrong with you, like you have a leg cut off and bandaged.
I myself, did not suffer from post-partum depression but I definitely (looking back) suffered from some sort of mild depression while I had Little Bun because I would sometimes wake up and wonder if I could get out of bed.
I felt tired, listless, stressed and lost interest in stuff like style that I used to be so into. A few readers were alarmed and many reached out to me personally to make sure I would seek help if I needed and to be aware of what I was experiencing.
I’m grateful for that — and I wish for the same kind of support for all of you out there with your networks and to not be ashamed of what you are feeling and to get help for your mental state of mind wherever you are.
Don’t be afraid to ask for and get help for something that is pretty much invisible and only in your head. It is valid.
Do not second guess yourself, you are feeling actual emotions that need to be addressed.
It is normal to want to have time to yourself. When my mom was raising me, I drove her nuts. She made no secret of that. Our mother-daughter relationship has improved after I moved out of the house. As an adult, I wished she took more care of herself, so that she wouldn’t become an anxious mess in her golden years.
Mothers wanting peace and alone time out of their 24/7 jobs is normal. If you take care of yourself mentally, your child will benefit from the care as well. Once that child grows up and looks back, that child will remember you through your abilities to take care of yourself, how you will respond to stress, etc.