World Mental Health Day: Why taking care of your mental health is so important
Mental health isn’t something I have touched on on the blog before, nor is it something I wish to focus on too much but seeing as it was World Mental Health Day just a couple of weeks ago I feel it is something I should address and actually sit down and write about (even if it has taken me quite a while to press publish on this one, it has been sitting in silence in drafts!)
My biggest fear when pregnant was that I was going to suffer from postnatal depression. My pregnancy was unplanned and to be honest not at a particularly good time to be having a child, I was in a relatively new relationship, I was midway through completing my masters’ degree and I was only about one year into being fully recovered from an eating disorder. I was terrified that the obvious stress of pregnancy and a baby, the inevitable changes to my body and the hormonal challenges that pregnancy and having a newborn can have on mental health, were going to cause my previously poor mental health to rear its ugly head.
I was one of the fortunate ones and I came through it all without even a touch of the baby blues and I am so grateful.
My difficulties with mental health first started when I was around 12, and I spent the following 8 years with an eating disorder, depression and periods of self-harming. I finally found full recovery at university in a group therapy course. All of a sudden everything I had been trying to learn about self love, health and my own worth clicked and I finally started working on my recovery and I got myself healthy and well. It took me about a year between finally deciding I was worth recovery and actually classing myself as recovered.
But mental health problems don’t tend to be like a lot of health problems, it’s not like an infection where you are poorly, you are treated, it goes away and it never causes you a problem again. Mental health problems linger at the back of your mind and in times of difficulty or stress that little demon lurking silently at the back of your head can get a bit louder.
That definitely still happens for me. And to be honest from what I have learning from openly talking about mental health to ‘mentally well’ people is, that that happens to everyone, mental health problems or not. Just like we can all have days feeling a bit under the weather with a sore throat or a bit of a cough, we can all have days of feeling mentally unwell; feeling anxious or down. The important thing is taking care of ourselves during these mental colds. Just like if we felt ourselves coming on with a cold we would have a cup of tea.
The important thing is taking care of ourselves during these ‘mental colds’. Just like if we felt ourselves coming on with a cold we would have a cup of lemsip and a day on the sofa with a feel-good film (or at least we would pre-children! Maybe now we just have the lemsip and a luxury extra 2 minutes in the shower). But we should do the exact same when we are feeling delicate mentally and learn how to take care of our mental health. Like an untreated cough has the potential to turn into pneumonia, an untreated down day has the potential to spiral into serious mental illness.
So take the time to practice self-care, do the things that make you happy, help you to unwind, feel at peace whatever it is you need to do to take care of yourself. Whether it’s sending the kids to whoever will have them for an hour, a day, a night. Run a bath. Go for a run. Eat a bar of chocolate. Mediate. Look through pictures of the children. Different things work for different people but look after yourself and your mind, check out my post on avoiding motherhood burnt out for some more ideas. Your mental health is honestly your most precious possession and if you ‘lose’ it, it will take you an awful lot of time and hard effort to get it back.