Across the globe, we are finally starting to talk about mental health, discussing the many challenges, triggers and internal conflicts that can affect anyone at any time. I'm not in a position to discuss the politics surrounding mental health funding or, indeed, to discuss anything on a clinical level.
However, I am someone who has relied on mental health services and I'm lucky to say that I've received enough support to keep me sailing through life on board a relatively happy ship. That being said, all sailors experience rough waters and we all know it can be a struggle to stay afloat. It's an ongoing challenge and can often lead to something I want to talk about, something I call “The Slump."
On paper my life is good. I'm not going to reel off the checklist of positives, that's not what this is about. Like many of you reading this, I acknowledge that I'm privileged in life: I have money to pay bills, I can afford food and a roof over my head, and I'm blessed to have my beautiful children. That's more than a lot of people in this world. So why do I sometimes feel so blue?
First, I find it strange that knowing you're fortunate in life can make you feel guilty for experiencing a slump. It seems that the pressure to appreciate life and be thankful for opportunities can make us feel as though our issues are worthless and that we are self-absorbed.
When you compare my problems to the relentless violence and famine faced by millions every day, they do seem utterly minuscule. However, like everyone in this world, I only experience life through my own filter and can only process, understand, and relate to what I'm exposed to. Everything in my world is my own reality, just like your world is your reality.
Like many mothers, the majority of my thoughts are consumed by day-to-day life admin: ensuring the children are clean, fed, and safe. It's repetitive, and that in itself brings new challenges and demands within the family. For some the daily pressures within the family unit are enough to trigger the onset of a slump, for others it can be external factors infiltrating the family that initiates a low mood. The family is always the center; it will always be affected in some way even when it's not the cause.
It's frustrating when people assume the slump is something that can be shifted easily, or can disappear by “snapping out of it." Just so we're clear, my interpretation of the slump is a person who is functioning and still able to enjoy things, but is in a permanently low mood. I genuinely believe it's time for people to openly talk about this state of mind, not only to lessen the isolating feelings of sadness, but to act as a therapeutic measure.
So here I am, shouting to the world, “I'm in a slump but that's okay!"
It's okay to not feel great all the time.
It's okay to cancel commitments and do the bare minimum for a while.
It's okay to focus on yourself rather than feeling the need to cater to others around you.
It's okay to ask for help and rely on other people.
Mothers are like rocks—we appear solid but can crumble. Crumbling isn't a sign of weakness as the rubble remains strong. Always remember that once the moment has passed, we reform and solidify once again.
On some occasions I've been unable to piece myself back together without help. It's important to state that it's not okay to ignore signals of a downward spiral. It's also not okay to close down communication. Staying vigilant to a depressive mood is vital to your wellbeing and if you start to feel persistently sad, be sure to seek professional help.
To any mother out there who has in the past or is experiencing the slump—or any mental health challenges for that matter—let's talk about it. Let's not dismiss it, let's not make light of the impact mental health issues can have on your everyday life.
Share your story, talk about what you do to try and get out of the mindset. It's nothing to be ashamed of, and you shouldn't feel guilty for feeling the way you do.
Your life matters. Your emotional state matters. Regardless of all the terrible things that happen in this world, your mental health is not to be downplayed or ignored, no matter how picture perfect your life may appear to others.