Do you know three mums? One of them is struggling with a mental health issue. And the likelihood is that all of them struggle with loneliness as some point each week.
Do you know which of your mum friends are struggling? I bet you don’t. And not because you’re a bad friend, but because they are probably hiding it from you.
This is what #ShoutieSelfie is all about. It’s about showing mums that are struggling that you understand and support them. That they are not alone, and that it’s ok to feel they way they are.
Luckily maternal mental health issues have been getting more and more airtime. Celebs are talking out about it (watch this space for their #ShoutieSelfies!) and normal mums like me are too.
And it’s important, because no mum should feel alone in this.
When I had my son 3 years ago I struggled with terrible post-natal depression and anxiety. But I hid away. I went from being a confidence and ambitious woman, to a nervous new mum who tried her best not to be left alone with her baby, and got panicky about the thought of her best friend popping round for a coffee.
Luckily it didn’t take me long to realise what was going on. The difference was so pronounced that it was hard to miss. But this isn’t the case for everyone.
But even though I knew what was going on, I still felt ashamed. I felt like a failure. That I’d let me son down, my husband down, my family and friends down. Most of them were supportive, but let’s be honest a number of them weren’t. And that made it ten times harder.
Comments to “pull yourself together”, “everyone is tired”, or “you just can’t be bothered” shattered me. I’d been trying my hardest every waking moment to “pull myself together”.
That’s what in hindsight actually made it worse – if I had just known how normal this feeling was and that I could get help I might have stopped beating myself up about it and recovered sooner.
But instead I battled on for a good (or bad!) two years. Pretending to be fine to many. And hiding away in my house when I just couldn’t face the world. Most of the friends and family don’t know the half of it. Because they only saw me when I was ok.
Most of them didn’t know that hardly a day, let alone a week, could pass without me wanting to run away. I truly believe that my baby and my husband would be better off without me. One less person to look after and worry about.
But I’m glad that I didn’t run away - or worse - but there were times when it was close.
Luckily that isn’t the end of my story. I started to get better, and started to talk to mum friends about my experience. And unsurprisingly, given the stats of 1 in 3 mums struggling, I found that so many of my friends had experienced similar struggles themselves. Most thankfully not as bad, but a few even worse.
And that in itself made me feel a bit better. Not because they suffered too – I wouldn’t wish a mental health issue on anyone – but because it showed that they understood. They didn’t judge me. And it helped me understand that it wasn’t “just” that I was an awful mother and person.
So since then I have been creating my own silver lining. I am now on a mission to ensure that no other mum should have to feel like I do. This started by speaking out about my experience on Channel 4 last year, and since then it has grown and grown. I’ve been in various newspapers, and on the BBC numerous times! Each time sharing my story to help mums currently struggling to know that they are not alone. And also, fundamentally, to help those around them who may be giving them a hard time, to know that it is normal – it’s awful and hard work for those supporting them yes – but it’s not their fault.
I also found that loneliness can be a cause of PND and other mental health issues, so I am excited to announce that my MummyLinks App is (finally! Doing it on no budget in my “spare” time has been a challenge!) launching this summer! MummyLinks is the safe place to meet mums for local playdate. It is invite / approval so mums know they are meeting a mum friend of a mum friend somewhere along the line. The only way to join is through the MummyLinks Facebook Group so if you are a UK mum and keen to join your local community of mums do ask to join!
And that’s why I’m so passionate about #ShoutieSelfie. It helps mums know they are not alone. I launched it last year (with just 10 days planning and 2 months social media experience, but bags and bags of energy and passion!) and it was a great success. It got maternal mental health trending in just 30 minutes of launching, and a million impression in the first week.
This year it’s even bigger and better. Not just because I’ve had longer to plan, to get some amazing organisations and people involved, but because people across the UK, and the world, are taking notice of post natal depression and other maternal mental illnesses.
So, if you love someone who is struggling – or have/are struggling yourself – of even if don’t know of anyone struggling but want to let those around you know that you support and don’t judge them, please:
Let’s do something great!