In an era where Women are encouraged to have it all, there is little wonder so many Mothers go through struggles with their mental health. Growing up with ambition and enthusiasm for both academia and career, it always frustrated me when I was asked whether I would pursue my career after having children – I could not fathom why I couldn’t possibly have both.
And, after the best part of a decade of trying to figure out motherhood, finally, I have actually achieved just that – a balance between motherhood, career, self care and external interests, but it was a long and winding road to reach that destination.
In those early all consuming days of babydom, being made redundant was an easy escape from the exhausting juggle. The unfathomable concept of returning to work with two young children conveniently whipped away from under me, leaving me both distraught but also somewhat grateful for the ability to focus on doing one job to the best of my ability.
At times, I beat myself up so hard for giving up my career to be with my children, and when I began to realise I was missing the light and shade that working life brought me, I beat myself up about giving up on my children.
Paralysed by the sensation of being so depended on, full time motherhood stunted my ability to perceive a life with balance and variety. So far away it seemed; out of my reach over a vast canyon of logistics, finances and emotions and yet other women seem to be juggling it all and mastering it so eloquently.
Those cyclic feelings of self disappointment got me down, and after a long time feeling isolated, painting on a brave face and of being scared to break out of our norm, the dark cloud over me grew heavier, stormier and more brooding.
My mood darkened, my paranoia grew, and negative emotions gave rise to repeating behaviors of obsessive cleaning and tidying in a spotless home in which my children’s messy play grated on me and our daily timetable became my self imposed prison.
Undeniably, most of all by me (and Dad Muddling Through), this could not go on.
Through talking to others; close friends, my husband, my family, I began to realise I needed a little help. A way to find the light again and if not to answer all of my problems, then to bring laughter and joy back into our lives.
I was so worried talking to my GP would be wasting her time, but that half hour spent talking things through with her was the pivotal moment in which life turned a corner. She understood. She did not judge and she encouraged me that things could get better.
With her help, I accessed medication for anxiety and cognitive behavioural therapy through Mind. The combined effect of both of these tactics helped me to figure out who I was, what I needed, and where I was going.
It wasn’t an overnight fix of course. The medication took a good month or two to lift my mood. The CBT started three months after that first GP appointment and lasted 6 weeks. I recently weaned off the medication, gradually over a good few months until finally stopping. In total I took Sertraline for just over 18 months.
But in that time life has turned around for me, for all of us.
This is my mental health story and I am passionate about being open, talking about it with others; particularly Mums with whom my situation may resonate.
I have just passed my one year anniversary at a part time job that I love. My kids have coped with the transition and more than missing me while I work, they have more of me than they ever did before; They have the best of me.
But of course this is not a tale of working Mum’s versus stay at home Mum’s. I have walked both paths and they both filled me with joy and coffee in equal measures. This is about realising your worth, that your mental health comes before the washing pile, or the first meeting of the day, and that it’s okay to break the mould, whatever that mould may be.
It’s okay to not be okay, and when putting things right feels impossible, know that help is out there.