Today is Time to Talk day. So in honour of this I am going to share some things with you. Today is all about encouraging people to talk about mental health. Not just serious mental illness but just how you are feeling. This is a topic that, as you know I feel passionately about. Sometimes we are too quick to hide how we are feeling or coping, because we don’t want to burden others, make a fool of ourselves or suggest that we might not be up to the job. The truth is, that by opening up you are actually showing that you are human and that you are taking steps to look after yourself. I have also learned through writing this blog that the more honest you are the more people will respond. I have had so many kind and supportive comments and gestures that have really kept me going. Trust me, there are days when I doubt my intentions and wonder if I have been crazy to start this. Sometimes I feel like giving in and resigning all of it to history. What do I do? I paper over the cracks, put on my brave face and keep going. This however, could be creating more of a problem than I think.
No make up day
This morning I posted a picture of me on Instagram with no make up on. It isn’t unusual to see me without make up but in the last 3 years I have started wearing more. Now don’t get excited, I certainly do not get up at 5am and apply a full face of make up. To be honest I have actually started carrying deodorant in my baby bag, as I keep forgetting to put it on, I am so busy. What I have been doing is applying my go to eye make up. A quick and easy way to banish the bags and dark circles. Thus appearing a little fresher and well rested, especially when I really am not. Initially this was just for days at work, to feel a bit more confident and make an effort, but after BM was born I started doing it every day. Then one day I was in a rush and I forgot. I felt haggard. I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and thought I looked old and tired. I even, almost, stayed in the car and drove home instead of going to the baby group I was due to attend. Thankfully I had a word with myself and went in anyway and guess what? No one noticed. If they did they didn’t say and BM and I still enjoyed the session fully.
What am I getting at with this? Well, I am not here to lecture you about how you don’t need make up and that we should all start make up free selfies again. As I paused in the car this morning, already late and considered reaching in my bag for the little bag of concealers and highlighters, it dawned on me that in doing so I was painting a picture. A picture of a mother of three, taking life in her stride. Out running every other night. Having it all. So I stopped and instead I took a picture and posted it on Instagram. Last night I posted a similar picture of me in my new running kit. I didn’t like either. All I can see is my flaws. My pointy nose, crooked teeth, tired eyes and aging skin, wobbly bits and rushed hair. However, if I gave those pictures to my children and said what do you see? They would say “mummy”. Or possibly “mummy’s fat tummy and boobies” as this is something I hear a lot of since I started breastfeeding BM. My monkeys see me at my worst. Tired and angry. Shouting, crying, sometimes (all the time) on the toilet (sigh). They also see me happy, smiling, laughing, being silly and coercing them to say and do the the right thing (and not shout “boobies” in the street). They actually don’t care what I look like or whether or not I have a bit of make up on. What they care about is whether or not I am ok. Because sometimes I am not and I owe it to them to be the best that I can be.
Truth is, I created an illusion. I made people think I am always coping. I am not. I make time to write this blog because I need it to stop myself getting bored, depressed and frustrated. I make time to run, because some days my children drive me crazy. They make me angry, test my patience and fill me with guilt and anxieties. Anxieties that my emotional outbursts will damage them for life. I spend my 30 minutes running getting perspective and reminding myself that if I cuddle and kiss them and say sorry when I need to, they will remember the good bits. The one million times I have fixed the holes in TM’s favourite blankey or superglued a piece of plastic tat from the front of a CBeebies magazine for MM. The bedtime stories and the tickle attacks that make them shriek with laughter. Let’s be honest, there is no such thing as “Supermum”. I feel like a hero if I manage to unstack the dishwasher and switch on the slow cooker. But to my monkeys, for now, I am the best. Whether I paint over the cracks in my face or not.
Reality is, I might be wearing make up tomorrow. Sometimes it is good for your confidence. Maybe tomorrow will be a good day and I will be able to manage anything the monkeys throw at me. I will look like that mummy in the school yard with well behaved children taking life in her stride. Or maybe I will have no make up (or deodorant) on. My children will be behaving like a pack of wild monkeys and I will lose it at dinner time and have a little cry at bedtime. I’ve learnt to take the rough with the smooth. Most importantly I have learned to talk about the rough. Open up and share the load. Ask for help and take time for me. I am now managing my mental health. It hasn’t gone away but now I do what needs to be done to stop it getting out of control. If you can, be kind to yourself today and make time to talk. You don’t have to say it out loud straight away, just vocalise it to yourself. Write it down and if you think you need help, open up and speak to someone. What have you got to lose?