Behind the smiles: Mums and Mental Health on BBC 5 Live

I’ve just stepped out of 5 Live’s ‘Mum Takeover’ – a wonderful event that saw parents with all levels of experience talking about life with children, and agreeing that mum guilt is a universal problem.

In the room with me were three of the women I would say have influenced me the most since having my first child, Harry, 16 months ago:

Giovanna Fletcher – whose smiley videos have got me through many a rough morning with the baby.

Harriet Shearsmith – whose unfailingly honest writing makes me feel normal.

And Sophie Mei Lan – whose experiences with mental health are being bravely used to help others.

I’m in awe of these women, I feel like I should be sat on this bus now filled with inspiration, raring to go and knowing everything that’s concerning me can be overcome. But I’m not, I’m feeling like a failure.

These aren’t women who have intended to become role models, I don’t think their goal was to be put on a pedestal by people like me. In fact, the reason I admire them so much is because they portray what it’s really like to be a mum – exhaustion, frustration, self-criticism and all.

Sophie, in particular, would be the first to shy away from the compliment I have given her. To tell me I’m great at what I do and an amazing mum – but, at the moment, my head just won’t hear it. I feel like I’m just not good enough.

There were two issues for me while watching Anna Foster present the talk show which was broadcast live online: I couldn’t relate to a lot of what was being said (and that made me feel guilty, like I’m not getting this right), and I felt like what I’m going through isn’t anywhere near as bad as some of the ladies (and men) in that room.

Sophie has experienced severe psychosis since having her second child, a truly terrifying ordeal that she felt might result in her little girls being taken away. One lady had given birth to a stillborn child just ten weeks ago, while another became upset when talking about looking after her sick husband.

My issues simply cannot compare to those – and I feel like that means I don’t have a right to be upset about life being shit. I have no right to feel like I can’t go on, when a mum who has lost her child less than three months ago is out there talking to the public to encourage an open conversation.

One of the panellists, DJ Neev from Kiss FM (a channel I’m far too old for now!), spoke of how she’d had suicidal thoughts because she thought her daughter would be better off without her. Now, I can relate to feeling like my child would be better off without me. I can’t tell you the number of times I have planned in my head to pack a bag and just go away.

This week, I drove Harry to my partner Luke’s place of work with the intention of leaving him there, getting back in the car and driving away. It was only when I got there, worried about embarrassing him and people finding out exactly what is going on with me, that I changed my mind.

I constantly live in fear that someone will realise how crap I am at this and take my beautiful boy away from me – but worse are the days where I actually will them to do it, where I beg Luke to make it so I don’t have to do this anymore. Mums at the takeover spoke of being scared social services would remove their children – I’ve had times where I actually want that to happen.

DJ Neev talked about hitting rock bottom, explaining that was the point where she was able to snap herself out of it and pull herself together – and that is another part I cannot relate to, I have neither the energy nor the self-confidence to get myself out of this. I just keep plodding on feeling lower and lower each time the sadness of it all hits me.

I’ve always been quite a driven person, I’ve lacked the organisation to keep it up for any length of time, but I get the ideas and inspiration and long to make them come true. That was until, gosh, 12 months ago perhaps. I’m shocked to realise how long this has been going on.

I think it all started with Harry’s four-month sleep regression, the damn thing ruined my life and we’ve never really recovered. I feel like I’ve got everything wrong because my child doesn’t sleep and, according to the whole flipping world, that’s my own fault.

Slowly but surely, I’ve just felt more and more like I’m not very good at this motherhood thing and I’m not actually right for it. I think of the friends who have said to me for years, ‘you’ll be a natural mum Amy’, and feel like I’m letting them down. This isn’t coming naturally.

Then I think of the people who laughed when I said I wanted kids, ‘you’d never cope Amy. The lack of sleep, the need to be organised, the focusing on someone else… you can barely look after yourself’. Maybe they were right.

Tuesday reminded me that I’m not alone, that everyone struggles – but that just makes me feel worse, because they’re all coping with the things that go wrong and I am not. Losing my job and having a baby in the same year has completely knocked my confidence and that seems to be the root of it all.

I have no faith in myself as a mum, as a worker and definitely as a ‘homemaker’. Pfft, that’s my biggest failing… cleaning, washing, organising – never been me, never gonna happen. And that makes me wonder – was I just not meant to be a mum?

I wasn’t planning on sharing this. As we speak I’m waiting for my first meeting with a counsellor, having self-referred on the recommendation of my GP and I was going to wait until after that to publish this post.

But I felt like it was kind of my duty to talk about how I’m feeling, to raise awareness of what life is like for some mums, what so many of us go through.

Because there’s not a lot of people who know the extent to how tough I’ve found being a mum. In public, with friends and family, I put a brave face on and enjoy life. But behind that smile, I’m falling apart.

The Mum Takeover event was inspirational, and it is so important that 5 Live have given airtime to help people like me. But every mum there seemed to have it all together. They were talking about the things they’d been through and got over. They were giving advice based on what it’s like when you’ve got your head around it all.

Mine is a story that’s still at the beginning, one of a girl who’s still trying to work out why it’s all gone wrong and what on earth she does to solve it – if it’s even worth bothering.

A girl who’s simply fed up of feeling so sad.

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3 comments

  1. I’m so sorry that you’re having a tough time, but getting help is the first step to feeling happy again and you’ve done that. So brave and inspiring 🙂

    Like

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