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Complimentary Thinking and my PND journey so far. Hope this helps someone!!(2 Posts)
Hi there, I'm pasting below the latest post from my new blog, Mummy Kindness. It explains what I've learned since "coming out" about my PND two weeks ago and how I feel us mums can help each other by sticking together more and competing less. I'd love your feedback. You can find more from me at www.mummykindness.com
I think there is something about sharing your darkest secrets with the wider world that makes people trust you and feel comfortable sharing their own stories with you. As a result my head is spinning a bit. I have already learned so much in the two short weeks since I started this blog. Ive received messages from people Ive not seen for years, telling me about their struggles with depression, and messages of encouragement from mental health professionals congratulating me for my honesty and advocacy. This means more to me than I can articulate.
Its been a scary, scary process so far. Two weeks ago not even my dad knew about my depression and neither did some of my very closest friends. Everyone has been incredibly supportive, but still I admit Ive questioned myself. I have a terrible habit of reading in to things that people say and imagining hidden messages that usually arent there.
For example, one very dear friend asked me via text message how I felt about my story being out there in the wider facebook world. Her message was of genuine concern for me, having recently found out things about me that had previously been unknown to her. She was worried that I was feeling regretful. However, my mind started racing and my imagination went in to overdrive. Does she think Im over-sharing? Are people talking about me or criticising me for putting so much out there? Does she think Im doing the wrong thing? Am I doing the wrong thing? What have I done? This was absolutely my own self-doubt rearing its ugly head.
The point Im making is this: Even though written and statistical evidence support the fact that lots of people have been helped by this blog (its now had over three thousand views in under two weeks), this is still a very scary thing to do. Particularly for someone prone to anxiety. I dont take compliments well and I have a hard time in believing nice things people say about me. There is a technical term for this that I learned during my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and its called Mind Reading, or assuming you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts.
For me, its not enough to just share my story in the hope that other mums like me will know that theyre not alone. Reminding mums that theyre not the only ones feeling like proverbial swans on a lake, seemingly gliding along on the surface whilst underneath kicking and thrashing about to stay afloat is all well and good. There must be something I can do to encourage other mums, above and beyond sharing my own (mis)adventures in parenting.
Ive given this a lot of thought and there will be more than one post on this topic. But first Id like to cast my mind back four years. In my old life, I used to have a pretty high profile job negotiating advertising contracts for a national newspaper. I was responsible for bringing in tens of millions of pounds a year in revenue. It was a big responsibility. But I had a manager, she had a manger, he had a manager and his manager reported in to the City. Everyone was accountable to someone. We had regular one-to-one meetings and appraisals and knew in no uncertain terms whether or not our performance was up to scratch.
Move on four years, and I find myself doing the most important job in the world, raising two small children. But I have no boss (well, actually, my son often feels very much like the Boss of Me but thats not the point!). I dont have regular appraisals (I know the health visitors are there if you need them but I stopped paying attention to them when they told me to limit my sons carbohydrate intake when he was seven months old).
As mums, were only really answerable to ourselves, and were our own worst critics.
Rightly or wrongly, other mums are the benchmark for how well I feel Im doing as a parent. My husband or mum may tell me they think Im doing a good job, but in my mind theyre obligated to say that. Its in their job description. (Theres a CBT term for this, too actually. Its called Discounting Positives, or dismissing positive things as trivial).
Now luckily for me, and as Ive said before, I have a very supportive group of friends. We are usually pretty honest when it comes to the highs and lows of raising babies and toddlers and we dont feel the need to compete with one another. With this in mind many of them seemed hurt that I hadnt told them about my PND at the time I was going through it. The reason I held back wasnt that I didnt trust them, far from it. I didnt tell them because I knew them well enough to know the words of comfort they would offer, I knew what theyd say and I knew they were right. It just wouldnt have made any difference to me at that very low point in my life. I couldnt really believe anything complimentary that my friends might have said to me. I discounted their positives without even hearing them.
My point is this: We may believe we know someone, but deep down, we never really know whats going on behind the scenes. The mum who you think has it all together may well be falling apart at the seams and feel completely unable to discuss it with anyone. But what can we do? How can we make a difference?
The best bosses I ever had in my media career were those who asked for input from their teams and gave feedback on a job well done. And yet, the majority of comments Ive had so far on this blogging adventure have been from mums who feel inferior to other mums, who feel in competition, who feel they are judged by their peers on every parenting choice they make.
Only this morning, one of the mums at nursery said to me I never really had many female friends before having children, but I thought this would change once I became a mum. In actual fact, its even worse. Women can be so ** and competitive, especially when it comes to child-rearing. I cant be bothered with it all! Wheres the solidarity and sisterhood?
Now this? This we can do something about. This is where we can affect change.
If you see a mum whos managed to make it out of Tescos with shopping done and sanity seemingly intact, whats to stop you saying Nice work there, sister! Last time I tried to do the shopping with my kids in tow I aborted the mission and contemplated abandoning my children along with the shopping trolley. I take my hat off to you. Well done! ?
Conversely, when the mama with the screaming kids in the supermarket is, for once, not you, a friendly smile or words to the effect of weve all been there, love, dont worry could well go such a long way in helping her to survive her ordeal. Id argue that random words or encouragement from strangers are just as valuable as praise from those who know you well. And remember, we dont know whats going on under the surface of even the most immaculately made-up face.
I genuinely believe that if we were more confident in our abilities as mothers and less focussed on our insecurities wed be able to brush off some of the more tactless comments were regularly bombarded with. I think its our lack of confidence in ourselves that cause us to find hidden meanings in otherwise harmless comments from our peers.
I think if we focus on praising our fellow mums by giving credit where its due we can go a long way in remembering that were all in this together. Were all fighting our own individual battles and we could be lightening each others loads. I bet you can think of countless mums that you admire for different reasons. But do they know this? Could it be that whilst youre comparing your insides with her outsides, shes doing the same and finding herself to be lacking?
Here is an excerpt of an email I received from a friend after she read my blog. Im nervous about sharing it as it feels a bit like blowing my own trumpet but I think it proves my point:
To use the not-so-random example of you, who was never anything other than friendly and supportive to me, I enjoyed seeing you but it was always mixed with envy/insecurity that Monkey* was advanced in crawling, walking etc, that you had family close by, a routine, less night waking, a spotless child-friendly but stylish house and that you always looked great! Its not that I was unaware you had a horrible birth experience and were upset that breast feeding hadnt worked but in my mind, the things you could control, you excelled at. I dont know how relevant that is but thought you might be interested to hear it.
This whole paragraph was a revelation to me. It had never occurred to me during those early days that anyone would look at me and see anything worth looking up to. But there it is, in black and white. Who knew? I wonder if having this knowledge would have made a difference to me when depression hit two years later with the birth of my second daughter? Impossible to say.
But were not just talking about me here. I genuinely think that almost every mum could benefit from a bit of encouragement now and then from her peers. That by consciously making the effort to support one another with kind words, we can help culture an environment of solidarity rather than competition.
I asked an online group of mums to tell me if theyve ever received a lovely compliment and how it made them feel:
My autistic sons paediatrician said to me you clearly have a great understanding of his needs and are so in tune with him, he is lucky to have you as a Mum she may have said that to everyone, but I dont care! it helped.
A friend recently told me You are incredible. Youve had so much to deal with lately and you just get on with it; you are a wonderful mum and a fantastic friend and your children are a credit to you.
I was on my way home from the school run with my three year old twins in the pram. A lady stopped me and asked me if I didnt mind her telling me something!! She went on to say what lovely children I had, how they were always well dressed and polite, that my daughter was always on time for school and how calm I was all the time!! I was gobsmacked!! And I felt very emotional as I had been struggling so much. I told her how much it meant to me! It made me feel like the best mum in the world! My friends often compliment me on how well behaved my children are! I have struggled with PND since having my twins so compliments mean a lot to me.
An older lady stopped me in the hospital toilets to tell me that my son (age 6) was a lovely spoken, polite little boy. It feels lovely when its a stranger telling you rather than somebody you know (although thats still nice too).
I hope youve got examples of lovely compliments that youve been paid. I hope that youre able to accept genuine words of support and encouragement and not discount them. I hope more than anything, that in reading this article, youre formulating a mental list of women you know who deserve a pat on the back and some recognition for the incredibly important and often hard job were all doing our best at. A psychological pay-rise, if you will.
So with this post Im setting you some homework. Please go out in the world and practice some Mummy Kindness today, and come back here to the comments section to tell me and your fellow readers how it felt to make someone elses day.
A simply fantastic post. Off to read website now. Another compliment for you - you've brightened my day!
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