Speak­ing out on men­tal health sup­port

First-time mum El­lie House be­lieves it’s good to talk, and thinks we need to speak out on men­tal health sup­port

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - YOUR LIFE -

The light is soft and the woman sit­ting op­po­site me smiles kindly. There is a strange in­ti­macy be­tween us – she feels like an old friend yet we have only known each other for seven weeks. I love her bold jewellery and thick-framed glasses, and she makes a pretty good cup of cof­fee.

The room is small and plain, save for two snug arm­chairs and an or­derly desk.

I spend just one hour here each week but this space has be­come al­most sa­cred.

This is ther­apy. I al­ways imag­ined ther­apy to in­volve a couch and a clip­board, with cliches about child­hood and Freud.

I didn’t think I would find my­self in need of men­tal health sup­port 18 months after be­com­ing a mother.

A lot can hap­pen in 18 months, though, dizzy­ing highs and gut-wrench­ing lows.

Maybe it was the shock of moth­er­hood, the con­stant guilt and un­easy mem­o­ries of a trau­matic birth.

Maybe it was my in­sis­tence on re­turn­ing to work full-time when I wasn’t quite ready but so de­ter­mined to prove that I was.

Maybe it was watch­ing my own fa­ther cra­dle my son, Reuben, for the first time, know­ing full well he wouldn’t live to see him grow up.

I lost my dad one month after Reuben’s first birth­day, and I was thrown into an un­known world of fu­ner­als and death cer­tifi­cates.

What­ever it was that drove me to sit op­po­site a stranger once a week, I am sur­pris­ingly glad.

I am glad I lis­tened to the nag­ging voice in my head, which sug­gested I wasn’t cop­ing all that well.

I was pa­per­ing over the cracks with dark hu­mour and the in­sis­tence that I was fine, re­ally I was – un­til one day I wasn’t and the pain in my chest be­came too painful to ig­nore.

We talk about all sorts of things ther­apy, we even have the odd joke.

It’s not shame­ful to need to talk, to ad­dress your men­tal health in a safe space.

It was my un­con­di­tional love for Reuben which saw me seek help, be­cause if I’m not OK, nei­ther is he.

He has been my glim­mer­ing light in the dark but I can­not ex­pect my beau­ti­ful son to fix me.

There is far less stigma sur­round­ing men­tal health, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to dis­cussing symp­toms and treat­ment. in

There is also in­creased aware­ness about post-natal de­pres­sion in new moth­ers, and more sup­port read­ily avail­able.

I hon­estly be­lieve we would all ben­e­fit from go­ing to ther­apy, though.

In a world where we are more con­nected than ever be­fore, with the con­stant ping of no­ti­fi­ca­tions from smart­phones, it would seem we still aren’t talk­ing.

We’re rush­ing here and there, work­ing, par­ent­ing, or­gan­is­ing and jug­gling.

There is no time to stop and re­flect, no soli­tary hour in the day where we can do what makes our heart happy.

This is par­tic­u­larly true for moth­ers, both those who work and those who stay at home.

We put the needs of our fam­ily be­fore our own, sac­ri­fic­ing our well­be­ing in the be­lief that there is no time for per­sonal in­dul­gence.

It struck me as I took my son to be fit­ted for a new pair of shoes be­fore get­ting his hair cut, that I couldn’t re­mem­ber when I had last en­joyed ei­ther such ac­tiv­ity for my­self.

Self-care is in­creas­ingly be­ing sold as an ex­pen­sive can­dle or over­priced mois­turiser, with prom­ises that we will feel re­ju­ve­nated.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, ther­apy is far more ef­fec­tive in get­ting un­der­neath the ex­haus­tion, the stress and hastily wiped­away tears.

As a par­ent, it feels slightly lux­u­ri­ous to do noth­ing but talk for 60 whole min­utes, with no in­ter­rup­tions from an ex­ces­sively loud tod­dler.

I can’t do a food shop or put away the tow­er­ing laun­dry pile. I have no choice but to con­front what’s both­er­ing me, and that in it­self is em­pow­er­ing.

I’ve opted for main­te­nance ses­sions now I’m com­ing to­wards the end of a two-month pro­gramme.

To me, from me.

You wouldn’t for­get to MoT your car or ig­nore toothache for months on end so why not give your men­tal health the same treat­ment?

You don’t need to be in the depths of de­pres­sion to ben­e­fit from ther­apy, and talk­ing about your feel­ings might be your idea of hell.

All I know is that every day, I edge to­wards feel­ing a lit­tle bit more OK.

More able to laugh from the depths of my stom­ach in­stead of a forced chuckle, more will­ing to let grief ebb and flow without be­com­ing con­sumed.

And that can only be a good thing.

A lot can hap­pen in 18 months

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