Reuben: “I have something very important to tell you, Mummy”
Me: “Ok then, what’s that….?”
Reuben: “I’m never, EVER, EVER going to UN-LOVE you!”
Me: “SNAP, SNAP, SNAP” (while trying not to bawl my eyes out!!).
When this wee dude was little I spent so much time feeling guilty; like a failure; useless; not the mum he needed or deserved; ashamed; and frightened that he or someone else would just discover how incapable I was. Mental illnesses really did a number on me! I was caught in the cycle of believing the lies and trying desperately to overcome them.
Thanks to recovery, I can see things differently. I’m not a perfect mum, who is? But looking back at how difficult things were, I choose to believe that I gave Reuben everything I possibly could, despite being ill. I put his needs and welfare first and did my damnedest to make sure he felt loved, secure and important.
I often sit through talks, read articles or am even asked directly about how my period of illness has or will impact my son. I’ve been places where the language used (even if the information was correct) at best has been inappropriate and at worst thoughtless and harmful.
Last week, I had the pleasure of being at and speaking at the launch of our new Infant Mental Health Service in NI. I was delighted to be there, to share some of our story and to remind each and every one of us that HOW we talk to mums and families about the impact ANY issue, experience or circumstance MIGHT or COULD have is key. Words and tone matter. So does making sure that we offer more than just research or concepts but positive opportunities and practical support/services. We must also make sure that every mum knows she is valued and deserves help/support, with and for her mental health & wellbeing, simply because she herself is an important human being. A holistic approach, that values each of us individually AND collectively is vital.
I truly enjoyed last week. I was very nervous about going and sharing, given the theme of the Conference, but I was so very encouraged by all that I heard from the front, and in one-to-one conversations, both as a mum with lived experience and as a maternal mental health campaigner. Those around me really did “get it” and they are out working it in what they currently deliver and are planning to deliver. I’m looking forward to developing links further, I believe it’s very important.
The truth is, I don’t and can’t know exactly how all that’s gone on with us has, or will, impact my precious little dude. I can’t predict the future but I also can’t change the past. What I do know, right now, is that this little boy is loved and loves. He’s kind, funny, compassionate and is excited by life. He knows he means the world to me… and I happen to think he’s quite fond of me too!
I know many mums worry, like I did, especially when they are going though/have gone through a season of mental ill-health or are struggling with situations/circumstances. I’ve come to realise, from talking to so many, that we’re far too hard on ourselves and, more often than not, our little ones are getting the very best of us and all that we can give.
Here’s to all the parents out their giving it all they have and going the extra mile, even when it hurts and is hard. You’ve got this, you’re doing the best job you can … let’s go a bit easier on ourselves!
If you are looking for help and support – with this or anything else maternal/parental related – there are lots of great organisations here who would be happy to chat and help – Find Help & Support