We Need To Talk More About Mental Health

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This morning, I dropped my daughter off at school. It was a bright sunny, autumnal morning, and we chatted about buying her some new gloves to keep her hands warm. She skipped off happily towards her classroom. On the way back from dropping her off, I was fighting tears and by the time I got home, all I could do was collapse onto the sofa and lie there, sobbing for 20 minutes.

I didn’t feel particularly unhappy about anything, and nothing had happened to upset me. I just had this overwhelming need to cry.

If I’m honest, this happens to me a lot. I’ve spoken before about how I battle with hormones and how I didn’t realise I had post-natal depression until two years after the event. But after reading so many articles and blog posts surrounding World Mental Health Day, last week, I want to talk about my experiences some more.

I’m no expert, but I suspect that mental health isn’t something which you clearly fit into one of two categories: Good mental health or bad mental health. Like a lot of things, I suspect it has a sliding scale and we all sit somewhere along that line, sometimes sliding down a little and sometimes climbing back up.

80% of the time, I’m happy as happy can be. I feel motivated about work, excited about new opportunities, I love hanging out with my family and catching up with friends. 20% of the time, I feel low and anxious and tearful. I now recognise a pattern where I crumble a bit when under stress – when I look back on periods of my life when I was having a hard time at work, or feeling the weight of mum-guilt, or coping with big changes, I can see that I’d have a huge wobble and spend a lot of the time feeling like I wanted to cry.

So it’s no surprise that I’ve been feeling a bit loopy recently – in early September, three things happened in the space of a few days. The (now) five-year-old started school, Mr P started a new job which entails him being out of the house for 15 hours a day and our cat died. OK, so we were doing a long-term cat sit for my friend, but we’d had her for six months, and the grief I felt in the days after she died was pretty overwhelming. That, combined with being thrown into the fast-paced world of being a school mum, where you need to think on your feet and be one step ahead at all times, plus supporting Mr P through a big job change, resulted in me spending a large portion of last month feeling fragile and like I was massively failing at life.

This isn’t a sob story, though. 

I think it’s important that we all talk about mental health more. If I’d spent the best part of the last month with a massive headache or a broken toe, I’d have mentioned it on Facebook and possibly on the blog. But when there’s something wrong with your brain, most people are reluctant to talk about it. It’s getting better, but there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues. I feel it now – I’m writing this and in the back of my head, there’s a small voice saying “People will judge you. You’ll be that person.” But I’m ignoring that voice. It’s important we talk about this.

Because there are so many people, going about their daily lives, feeling like this. We put a brave face on and smile when we meet people in the street. We catch up with friends over a wine, and when they ask how we’ve been, we say “Oh fine!” rather than telling them the truth. We get so caught up in the routine of life: putting the bins out, ironing the school uniform, meeting deadlines, having meetings, that we don’t pay enough attention to how to make ourselves feel better.

This morning, after my 20 minute blub-fest, I picked myself up and had this conversation with myself:

Me: “Right, what would make you feel better?”

Me: “Fresh air, exercise, getting stuff done around the house.”

Me: “Well then, put a load of laundry in the washing machine, pack your gym kit and go to the gym.”

So I did. And I felt a lot better for it. Later, I still had a mini-cry as I left Mothercare, after the lady at the till was super kind and chatty to me when I returned some navy school tights. But it set my day off on a much happier path.

12105842_10156100935530133_3833251298227789172_n-2Do I suffer from depression? I don’t think so. Most of the time I feel fine, but there are large pockets of my weeks and months where I just feel like I’m not coping. Life feels too hard. And all I want to do is hide under my duvet and switch off my phone. Making dinner or emptying the dishwasher feel like unachievable tasks. (Flashback to one night, last month, when Mr P came home from work to find a mascara-streaked wife on the sofa, eating biscuits for tea.)

I know that my issues are linked to hormones, and I’ve started taking medication to balance them out, but it still all feels like hard work, a lot of the time.

It would be great if the stigma surrounding mental health could be shattered. I know a lot of amazing people who suffer from mental health problems – many of them talk about it openly, but we need more people need to admit they’re struggling. We can offer each other support and advice.

Image: DTTSP

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29 Comments

  1. Nicol
    October 12, 2015 / 9:28 pm

    Here here, absolutely. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’ve suffered with horrendous panic attacks and depression, PTSD and now diagnosed with Hashimoto’s because I talk about it. If I’m having a bad time I tell my friends because not addressing it was what made it all so bad in the first place. It’s an illness and although it’s not physically obvious it can be just as crippling. I hope your bad days become less frequent but remember they do pass and it does feel better. My optimistic self says that the good times wouldn’t seem so good without the bad times. That doesn’t mean that I enjoy them though. And you’re right. It wouldn’t seem so scary if everyone just admitted they all have days where they feel the doom. Because they do. Sending hugs, you’re doing great xxxx

    • Alison Perry
      Author
      October 13, 2015 / 6:19 am

      Blimey, you have been through it, haven’t you, Nic? I find it hard to talk to friends I guess because a) I don’t want to be putting a downer on a conversation b) it makes it seem more real c) they might think I’m being over dramatic. Which is bonkers really, isn’t it? Definitely agree that it makes the good times seem even better 😉

      • Nicol
        October 13, 2015 / 7:48 am

        The true friends will be happy to listen 🙂

  2. October 12, 2015 / 9:48 pm

    Brilliant. Posts like this are so important. Moments of anxiety and feeling low are way more prevalent than we care to admit. I was part of a fanstastic collab team that did a blog series in the lead up to World Mental Health Day and even for someone who has put their hand up and said I struggle with anxiety it was an eye opener. The more we talk about this stuff, the easier it will be. Thankyou for sharing with such honesty and integrity xx
    Mrs C recently posted…How to scare the Anxiety Monster.. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Alison Perry
      Author
      October 13, 2015 / 6:22 am

      The blog collaboration you took part in sounds great – I’ll come over and check it out and read your post. Thank you x

  3. October 12, 2015 / 9:50 pm

    This really resonates with me. In fact I was only thinking today how I’m definitely not depressed but have this struggle with anxiety and it’s not good for me to be constantly fighting a low level knot in my stomach, that sometimes builds to be not so low level. My OH has also started a new job, that frankly is consuming him, although thankfully not out of the house for 15hrs and a child starting school. Too much change freaks me out. Definitely get those hormonal swings too, but never realise until I realise, if you see what I mean. It’s so hard to talk about, especially when mostly I’m happy and I definitely have a blessed and lucky life. This is a great thing to share, Alison. Thank you.
    Emily recently posted…Brains and voices. . Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Alison Perry
      Author
      October 13, 2015 / 6:25 am

      I think it’s surprising how many people do feel like this, Emily. Anxiety can feel awful and I think change is a common trigger. The good thing about change is that we get used to the new way of being eventually (that’s what I’m telling myself anyway!). Sending hugs to you lovely x

  4. October 12, 2015 / 10:45 pm

    Really liked this post – thanks for writing it. Was talking about World Mental Health Day yesterday with a friend – he thinks it’s all bluster and doesn’t achieve anything. I don’t agree. I think if it encourages people to think and talk about mental health more, just by providing a focal point of sorts, that is in itself a win. And that’s happening – judging by this post, responses to it and other posts, articles and debate on the topic in recent days. It made me feel brave enough to discuss the horrors of coming off anti-depressants too suddenly, in any case.

    Oh, at for what it’s worth did you know that mental health is now (finally!) included on the PSHE curriculum. I was super happy to hear that.

    Ella x
    Ella @ Breaking up with contraception recently posted…Pain, medication and withdrawal. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Alison Perry
      Author
      October 14, 2015 / 10:06 pm

      It seems unbelievable that it has only just been included in the curriculum, doesn’t it? It’s so vital, even for kids, to discuss it and have an understanding of it. I agree that World Mental Health Day starts conversations and that alone is so important. Thank you for commenting.

  5. October 13, 2015 / 5:51 am

    You’re so right Alison, we really do need to talk more about mental health. I think it’s essential to work out why we’re unhappy and figure out a plan to boost our wellbeing.

    For some it will be as simple as doing what you’ve suggested. For others it will be a long process which includes trawling the past for clues, confronting demons, and facing them head on so they can be buried.

    I am so passionate about helping others get to the root of their troubles, but it’s not a quick or easy fix.

    Honesty, openness, kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others is absolutely vital.

    Thanks for sharing your story xx
    Mummy Tries recently posted…The Most Common Forms of Neurological Disorder in Children. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Alison Perry
      Author
      October 14, 2015 / 10:07 pm

      You’re right, for many tackling how they feel is not as easy as I found it the other day.

      “Honesty, openness, kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others is absolutely vital.” I love this. So true.

  6. October 13, 2015 / 6:05 am

    Brilliant post. I am sorry you get these moments. There is nothing worse but the talking yourself round is a great tool and it shows you are handling very well.

    I agree on the whole talking thing. I do not publicise at all that I am diagnosed bipolar/manic depressive. I have been since my teens. Most of the time, like you describe I am happy, if not I cry, dust myself off and go on. But it is hard. Last night I cried hard. I still feel ashamed off my diagnosis all these years later. It is still such a faux pas.
    TY for sharing. Very brave xxx
    Kara recently posted…Living Life Is More Important Than Writing It…. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Alison Perry
      Author
      October 14, 2015 / 10:08 pm

      Hey Kara, I had no idea you have been diagnosed with bipolar. It must be so so hard. Especially with everything else you have to deal with. Big hugs lady xx

  7. October 13, 2015 / 7:19 am

    I just wanted to come on here and say that I adore you Al. And I’m really proud of you for writing this. And I just want you to know that, you are a true friend, but also someone I look up to, just as you are. xx
    Charlotte – Write Like No One’s Watching recently posted…Brilliant Number App for Kids. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Alison Perry
      Author
      October 14, 2015 / 10:08 pm

      Bless you Charl xx

  8. October 13, 2015 / 7:59 am

    Its hard to say “I am not good” but its important that we do. I have had times in my life where I tried to pretend that all was right with my world but it wasn’t and almost had devastating effects. Thankfully I took a Cham e, reached out and got amazing support from my former boss. From that moment I realised it was nothing to be ashamed off and that people want to help so when I have been having a bad time I have turned to my closest friends who help to pull me back up again. The one thing I can’t do is,write about it on my blog though because there are a number of people who read it that I would rather not discuss things with and sometimes that can make you feel censored, trapped almost. Big hugs Alison and well done on speaking out, I am sure you have an amazing support network around you but if you ever need one more then I am here x

    • Alison Perry
      Author
      October 14, 2015 / 10:10 pm

      It’s scary what can happen if you try to keep it all in, isn’t it? even having one person to talk to can help.

  9. October 13, 2015 / 9:24 am

    Well said. I didn’t realise how lonely and frightening, and tiring Motherhood would be for me and I wasn’t prepared for the anxiety I would face with having twins. I have always considered myself strong and confident. But there have been times when I really struggled. We need to talk about our feelings more and admit when things are tough. Talking helps so much. Great post. Jess xx

    • Alison Perry
      Author
      October 14, 2015 / 10:11 pm

      The way you describe motherhood is how I felt for the first couple of years of my daughter’s life. It’s hard, isn’t it? Hope you have a good support network around you, Jess x

  10. October 13, 2015 / 12:29 pm

    Great post, and probably rings true for many of us.
    I do not considered myself to be depressed or stressed and have always been quite chilled, in fact my friends say I’m the most laid back person they know. But I too have days when life feels too much, I usually can’t explain why or how, it just does.
    If we were all honest, it would probably be true that we all have days like this. But in the world of social media, and glossy images it can often feel like everyone else has the perfect life. I think its great that you have spoken out. As bloggers and women and mothers its important to reveal the not so perfect side sometimes.
    I love reading your blog
    Clare x

  11. Lee-Ann Plaister
    October 13, 2015 / 1:05 pm

    I can totally resonant with what you are going through . I too have felt like this at different times in my life , it’s overwhelming and sometimes just unexplainable . I never discuss it with my friends .WHY ….. I don’t know !I want to control of my life again and not be controlled …….
    , I decided to have acupuncture and start taking Chinese herbs , I have been doing this since April this year and finally feel like me again and able to enjoy my life to the max ….. Changes and all !!

    Recently started meditating every day for 20 mins , feel amazing afterwards.
    Take care lovely lady , your blog is amazing and I do enjoy reading it ……

  12. October 13, 2015 / 2:38 pm

    I get this too and I’m pretty sure mine is hormone related. I’ve always suffered with anxiety that can almost not be there at all or completely take over but I also get some days I just feel generally depressed and crap. It’s never for any one reason and it sucks all my happiness and enthusiasm for the things I usually love. I’ve actually just started to keep a mood diary to see if I can find a pattern in it. I think it’s actually the end of my period when I’m at my worst even though I’m moodiest before it starts, bloody hormones! Well done for writing though, I totally agree about it needing to be talked about. I think we all feel like people will judge us when I bet it’s more common than we realise especially these days with so much going on in our lives xx
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted…This Homeschooling Life #2. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  13. October 13, 2015 / 2:55 pm

    It certainly doesn’t make anyone weak to talk about it, and yet that’s how I feel. On some blue days when I know all I need to do is vent and purge myself of the inner panic or angst that sometimes hits me, I feel too judged to speak about my mood. Like it would make me too much of a martyr to say that I’m not coping today. When I’m out the other side I realise just how unhelpful I am to myself. One day, I hope we all talk more about it so that my girls can get the support if and when they need it freely, rather than feeling the need to hide away!
    Sugar&Rhubarb recently posted…AW15 Girls Boots Wishlist. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  14. October 13, 2015 / 7:06 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this Alison.

    I have similar periods when life is stressful – I kind of just want to retreat into myself and take life in the slowlane. It has definitely happened with the seasons changing, too. It’s good that we can recognise it and almost give ourselves a mental shake to get out of the pit, for me writing about how I felt yesterday really helped then forcing myself out the door to the gym to get the endorphins going. I definitely use food as a crutch (which is why I try not to have magical chocolate hobnobs in the house…) and I find it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. I eat crap which makes me feel crap which makes me then feel even more crap.

    I’m waffling a bit now: TLDR- t’s so good that we are opening the conversation about this – it really helps me and I’m sure others, too xx
    Alice recently posted…Three Years On – What Post-Natal Depression Felt Like For Me. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  15. October 13, 2015 / 9:33 pm

    Such a great post A, although I hate the thought of you being sad like today 🙁 It’s so important that we realise that IT’S OKAY to talk about this sort of thing though. If we had a physical injury, we’d go to a physiotherapist once a week, tell people about it, and no one would bat any eyelid. If you told someone you saw a therapist once a week, I’m fairly sure the conversation would be awkward and self-concious, and as Brits we often tend to do the whole ‘stiff upper lip’ thing. I’m okay now, but looking back and definitely had a hairy time mental-health wise whilst at uni and for a few years afterwards, and it’s only now I realise this. It just didn’t occur to me to talk to anyone about how I felt at times. Hormones are a bitch too. The last 6 months I’ve been okay (touch wood) but up until then, post-kids, I would be evil and weepy for a few days every month. xx PS You know you’re always welcome over to mine for a cuppa and weep after the school run! x
    Becky | Spirited Puddle Jumper recently posted…Exciting times- my 3 pages of fame!. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  16. October 13, 2015 / 10:07 pm

    Great post, honest, open and informative. I nodded along to most of it…. I tend to want to be Elsa, strong as ice and as cold as that too so nothing can break through and make me break down… blogging is like therapy I guess, which definitely helps. Had never thought of hormones but that could also be a reason… see, am sure you’ve given many food for thought! Thanks for sharing and hope you continue on a long good phase x
    Stephs Two Girls recently posted…What did you expect when you were expecting?. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  17. October 14, 2015 / 9:28 am

    Your post rings very true!

    I think my low days are hormone related but i’ve never thought to make a note on a calander etc which is a thought.

    Admitting you feel low is scary…as you put you dont want to be judged. You dont want to be labelled. I think i prefer not to let on as to how im feeling because i feel it makes me weak even though i know thats not true and very silly. Previously when ive hinted at it with friends they just dont seem to get it or theyre self absorbed which ends up annoying me and making me feel worse.

    It worries me more as my mum suffered with depression and my sister with post natal depression. I remember seeing on my pregnancy notes about family history and it making me want to be even more determined not to succumb but i know its not something you can prevent like that.

    Knowing others feel similar deffinetly helps!
    thismummylark recently posted…Living in the moment. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  18. October 15, 2015 / 9:27 am

    Here here, I can really relate to this post.. I suffered with anxiety & depression badly, I no longer take anything for them as I feel I’m stronger than that now! But I know exactly how you feel, some days you don’t want to do anything but sit and cry and not even sure particularly why or what for! And for me too it’s seems to be when things get on top of me and I’m over stressed! Yesterday I was having a bad day, things were getting on top of me, my daughter wasn’t listening and we were in a rush to get out the door for nursery/work I just felt like loosing it. I got a little angry with her and told her to put her shoes on otherwise I’d be going without her and she burst into tears and so did I! I felt so cruel and mean, but had I been having a good day I wouldn’t of said those things or cried about it after. Instantly I felt like phoning up work saying I couldn’t make it in, and I just really wanted to go and put my jogger back on and crawl in a ball on the sofa! Today I’m okay, keep your chin up! And don’t beat yourself up about having bad days x
    Ell recently posted…Follow my blog with Bloglovin. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

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