Just Another Manic Monday?

Monday’s are the toughest day of the week for many. Statistically, it is the day with the highest number of heart attacks and suicides. At some point our mind or our bodies gives way to mounting pressure, at work, at home, at school, at university.

I used to dread Monday because that was the day Dave went back to work and I was left all alone with three kids. It was a time when I was struggling to love myself much less anyone else, and my mental health left me reeling, afraid and anxious. If you had told me two years ago that I would be healthy, happy and homeschooling I would have laughed in your face.

But God. 🙌🏻

He never left me and I know He won’t leave you. Even when I felt like I was crawling through Monday on my hands and knees, even when I felt alone, even when I wanted it all to end, to run away and start again, when I look back now I know that He was with me.

No matter what has happened, no matter what you are facing, know this: you are loved by a creator who finds such joy every time He lays eyes on you. And friend, He never takes His eyes off you. Not for a minute.

Progress can be painful, change takes time, and life can seem like a struggle. But I want to encourage anyone who is gong through something that you are also growing through something. God doesn’t leave us foundering, He can make a miracle out a mess. I can say this because I was there, and He has brought me here today.

Write down where you have come from and what you have been through. I promise you, the seeds you have sown, the toil that you out in, and the tears that have watered it, will bring forth growth. It may be slow and steady but it will happen. Shoots will spring up and buds will form. Even if you can’t see the growth right now, rest assured that just like a spring bulb wrestling in the dirt to find the light, there is movement happening in the darkness.

One day you will read your story again and see God’s love, grace and provision woven through every page. There is a plan and a purpose on your life, just sit still in the Son and trust God to get you there.

R x

Dear Harry and Meghan

Two days in to being parents, congratulations! The adrenalin is still running, hormones flowing, body aching and heart bursting. You are besotted with your beautiful boy and cannot bear to take your eyes of him for fear of missing something. Netflix has nothing on watching a newborn sleep.

Any parent will tell you that raising children is the most exhilarating and exhausting, beautiful yet bewildering role they have ever had. Being a mother was, and still is, my greatest ambition and my greatest achievement. But it has not been without its challenges, namely around maternal mental health, which was overcome with a lot of love, faith, prayer and communication.

I want to encourage you both that you have a winning formula to start your new role as parents. When we watch you in public, we see warmth, love and respect, a genuine affection for one another that overrides the world around you. This love, this bond is your greatest source of strength as you navigate your new normal.

To any new parents I say this; keep checking in on each other. Sleepless nights can strain solid marriages, teething tests a mother’s bond to breaking point and tantrums can make the most patient parent tear their hair out. These seasons of motherhood are messy and miraculous.

It’s normal to find the days long and the nights longer. It’s natural to go into survival mode as the days blur from one to another in the early weeks and months. My advice to all new parents is to keep looking at one another. Keep locking your gaze and speaking words of love, encouragement and understanding through your eyes in the way that only couples can. Talk often and openly about everything and anything.

Be patient with each other, hold hands, hold your tongue and hold on for the ride. And above all, trust God as you embark on the best role there is.

Enjoy every minute.

R x

Photo Credit: Chris Allerton ©️SussexRoyal

Everything I never wanted

It is Mothers Day, and this is the first one as a mom of three that I am actually looking forward to. Last year I was dreading the emotions (or lack thereof), that I would feel when my children bundled into bed with me.

I consider myself crazy blessed as a mom of three, but I wouldn’t wish my motherhood journey on anyone. Before I had my first child I knew a little about postnatal depression and knew of people who experienced it, but I learned so much more when I actually experienced it. I had moderate postnatal depression after my second son was born.

I put my tiredness down to juggling two, I put my desolation down to long days and sleepless night. It took me five excruciating months to get professional help with my maternal mental health and medication and conversation helped me through one of the darkest times. Fast forward a few years to the adoption of our daughter. A perfect princess to complete our family, yet when she arrived, my world came crashing down once again.

Motherhood seemed to be everything I never wanted

It seemed so unfair. I wanted to feel happy and proud but I felt terrified and trapped. I wanted to cherish and treasure my babies but I was angry and ashamed. All I had ever wanted was to be a mom, yet not once, but twice my mental health suffered as a result. I had done everything ‘right’, prepared, planner and prayed, yet postnatal and post adoption depression and anxiety tried to crush me.

But it failed.

Because my God is greater.

If you are facing tough times please know that you are not alone.

God will never leave you nor forsake you, even if you feel like He has.

I spent hours, literally hours on my knees crying and screaming out to God to fix the mess I was in, to take away the pain. I didn’t feel Him but I know He was there. And now as I look at my babies, I look back and see that while I was holding on to hope, God was holding onto them.

He cradled my baby when I couldn’t.

He soothed troubled hearts while mine was overwhelmed.

He did what I wouldn’t, then when I was ready He gently handed them back to me.

Mama, if you are reading this in the wee hours of the night because you cannot sleep, or with tears rolling down your cheeks because you know how it feels to want to just run away from everyone, everything, please know you are not alone. I was there, twice. I made it through and you will too.

Check out our Facebook group Moms on Mental Health for friendship and support with other mamas who have overcome depression or are still battling through it. We are stronger together and we would love to cheer you through the dark days.

R x

Loving me

Love. Love is a many splendid thing. I can sprinkle love like confetti wherever I go, with a smile, a laugh, a hug or a gift. But loving me? I find that incredibly challenging.

I can give advice to a friend, help her with decisions, encourage her in a new venture and tell her she looks beautiful. But I can then go back home and rip strips off myself. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t strong enough. You aren’t liked enough. You aren’t successful enough. If I heard you talk yourself down like that I would take your face in my hands and plead with you to see your worth, your value, your beauty. But me? Not so much.

Why do I do it? Is it because I am British and ridiculously modest, or it is because on some level, I genuinely think I’m not good enough?

It seems so much easier for us to give love rather than receive.

No one wants to blow their own trumpet, but I think that self-love struggles are down to a lot more than self-deprecating humility. I blame a lot of things. Firstly societies perpetual need for perfection plays a major role. That coupled with celebrities splashed across social media and broken families can leave us in a spin. We are living in a reality TV bubble that is not real life, trying to Keep up with the Kardashians, then wondering why we are floundering. Constant pressure to be, to do, to achieve weighs us down. We either spend our weeks keeping up appearances on Instagram then hiding away at weekends, or we live wildly and extravagantly on Saturday and Sunday, then spend the week eating beans on toast.

We think we need to be seen a certain way, we need to do a certain thing, and then we will have joy, happiness and success. But the truth is that the only way to feel true happiness is to love yourself.

The only way to feel true happiness is to love yourself.

Loving yourself means embracing your idiosyncrasies; the figure on the scales, the wrinkles around your eyes and the moles across your back. It means seeing your insecurities and recognising them as beautiful vulnerabilities. It means learning something from mistakes, rather than dismissing them as failures.

Loving me isn’t easy. But it is a journey I have started and am committed to staying on for the long haul. If I don’t speak kindly to myself, if I don’t look after my body and carry myself with grace, how can I expect my children to do so? I look at my beautiful babies, each wonderfully unique, with awe, excited for their future. But they are already self-criticizing at ages 5 and 9. When I hear them say, ‘I’m so dumb’ or ‘I look stupid’ it breaks my mama heart.

That’s how God sees you. When you say I am too fat, too thin, too old, too young, too thick, too scared, His Father heart breaks. He sees beauty, wonder, creativity, humility, gentleness, kindness, goodness and boldness. I imagine God swooping down, taking my face in His hands and saying, ‘Baby girl, you are everything I created you to be, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. I know every hair on your head and every word on your tongue. I have a purpose and a plan for you.’

When I find loving me too hard, I don’t try, I just let God.

He designed me just as I am, my perceived flaws are His fingerprints, my imperfections His indentations. I am not a failure, and I am not an accident. I am loved by God unconditionally, and you are too.

R x

How to cope this Christmas

So the Big Day is just weeks away, but it is not an exciting time for all. Christmas can actually be an incredible stressful and anxious time for many people. Perhaps you feel completely overwhelmed with juggling overexcited kids, Christmas shopping, organising nativity costumes and all the things. Perhaps you were made redundant and this year you simply cannot afford a Christmas like the year before. Perhaps this is the first Christmas since a loved one died or your marriage separated. Perhaps this season marks the anniversary of a child in your care being removed from their family.

There are a whole host of reasons why we can feel anxious and overwhelmed during the festive season, and our emotions are incredibly powerful. So much so, that they actually affect our physical wellbeing. What we say and what we think can be as damaging as a physical injury, and by continuing to brush our feelings under the carpet we are causing more harm than good. If Christmas is a time that you dread, fear or avoid altogether, then maybe it is time to explore why that is with a therapist. In the meantime I would love to share a few tips on how we use essential oils to support emotions over the festive period.

What are essential oils?

Essential Oils can support our emotional health as they effect our emotional state. They can help us to feel more balanced and calm, and their use is referred to as ‘aromatherapy’.

Essential oils are the lifeblood of the plant, compounds which work to repair, restore and regulate the plant, and they can massively benefit us too. Essential oils are ‘volatile’ which means they quickly evaporate and are easy to inhale them either from a bottle, on fabric or on the skin. When inhaled, these minute essential oils molecule travel past our olfactory system, cross the blood/brain barrier (something very few medicines can do) and enter the limbic system of the brain. This is the area of the brain that controls our emotional response.

How do they work?

Smells are so important when it comes to considering emotional health. Our brain uses smells within our memory bank, and certain smells will trigger a response and take you right back to the memory of a time or place in your past. These can be both positive and negative.

Emotions are stored in our cells, and because essential oils are so tiny, they can enter our cells and help us process emotions on a cellular level. There are approximately 40 million trillion molecules in one drop of essential oil, which is approximately 40,000 molecules for each cell in the human body. So a little goes a long way!

Here are my top five essential oils for emotional support this season:

Valor

This is my go to oil when I feeling anxious or overwhelmed. This is a blend of Black Spruce, Blue Tansy, Camphor Wood, Geranium, and Frankincense and smells quite woodsy. I mainly use it topically to help with feelings of strength, courage and security, particularly if I am facing a tough day. It is also great if you are feeling alone or abandoned.

Stress Away

This exotic blend was created to combat normal stresses that creep into everyday life. Stress Away contains Lime, Copaiba, Lavender and Cedarwood and Ocotea essential oils and vanilla essence. We roll this blend on every day before school to uplift our mood and calm the mind, especially before a busy day or school tests. It also helps calm small people in new environments, or those who may be struggling with being away from home.

Bergamot

This is a sweet citrus scent that lifts the mood and helps with feelings of confidence. Bergamot is also widely known to help support those who are grieving or processing loss. I would diffuse this oil with Stress Away or apply topically to my skin with carrier oil.

Orange

We call this sunshine in a bottle and it is one of my all time favourite oils because, like other citrus oils, it is so uplifting.  I pair Orange oil with Joy or Valor for a gorgeous perfume that I can roll on throughout the day.  It is perfect for use on grey days, when you are feeling a bit down or sad, and it also supports your immune system too!

Frankincense

Thank Frank. Not only is this oil already famous because of baby Jesus, it is also incredibly grounding. It is a high frequency oil which supports your whole body physically, emotionally and spiritually. If you are looking for an oil to aid prayer and meditation or something to help the kiddos calm down in the chaos of Christmas, diffuse this with Lavender and Orange.

If you want to know more about essential oils and emotions then check out my video on YouTube or message with your questions. You can order any of these by creating a free account with Young Living. Simply click here!

R x

Running with others

“Oh, I don’t run with others.”

This was my response to friends who had done Couch to 5k and wanted to join me on some of my regular runs. It makes me cringe now, looking back but there was a reason behind it.

Running for me is more than just getting fit. It is my headspace, my self-care, my therapy. It is my place to run away from my worries, to run through my frustrations. It’s often pretty messy and it wasn’t a process that I wanted others to witness.

When you run with others, there is an assumption that you are going to talk. Talking wasn’t always something that I was comfortable with, so it was easier to put my earbuds in, get my head down and keep going. I joined a running club last January and was the slowest runner there. I hated watching others overtake me, but what I hated even more was when people hung back for me.

Crazy, right?

But the kinder and more encouraging people were to me, the angrier and more embarrassed I felt. I have been conditioned to independence. Much to my poor husband’s dismay, I am fiercely stubborn and determined to things my way, on my own, in my time. (Our eldest son has sadly inherited this same fierce independence!)

If things get tough? Its okay, I’m tough enough to cope.

If things get messy? Its okay, I’ve got it under control.

If things get sad? It’s okay, I can paint on a smile.

Just run with it. Run through it. Run from it.

This philosophy is okay for a while, but running alone gets lonely. Running uphill gets hard. Running on empty is draining.

This is why God put people in our paths, to encourage us, to equip us, to energise us, to excite us. Those people who encouraged me are now seeing me keep up with them, hold a conversation with them. Over the past 12-18 months, I have entered races, run distances I could only dream of and smashed personal bests. All because I am running with others who propel me forward, running in a club that cheers me on.

We were never designed to live alone.

It is no surprise that we were never designed to live alone. We are made in God’s image, and even He doesn’t live alone. He exists as part of the Trinity; Father, Spirit, Son. The Bible is packed with men and women who needed relationship; with Jesus and with other people. God created us to live in community with others, and regardless of whether we are living the dream or lying at our lowest, we need people around us.

This week is maternal mental health awareness week. I have walked (and ran) through postnatal depression and anxiety twice in the last five years. I know first hand that despite all the treatment and all the therapy in the world, it was my community and my church that got me through. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, but I believe it takes a village to raise a mother.

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child,
but I believe it takes a village to raise a mother.

Wherever this finds you today, whether you are a mama who is walking a rocky road alone, or running with others, know that you are not alone. God never left you and He never will. He sent Jesus to crawl, walk and run alongside you. He sent His Holy Spirit to guide you. Even on your darkest day, He will be your brightest light.

God never left you and He never will.

When running, especially uphill, you need to keep your head up and fix your eyes on a focal point ahead. This is the best way to keep going, keep moving and get to the top. Running the race of life is no different. We need to keep our heads up, fix our eyes on Jesus and run towards Him. And He will take you through the deepest valley and over the tallest mountain out to the other side.

R x

Photo Credit: FreePik

Why new moms need new expectations

Expectation. What a word. To some it can bring excitement, to others it can bring exhaustion. To one, it can bring fun and to another, it can bring fear. We all have expectation in our lives, whether that is how we expect our day to pan out, or how we expect our careers to pan out, whether we expect to build a FTSE100 empire before we are 30 or build a family home.

I love having a goal, a dream, an expectation. My expectation was to get married and be a mom before I was 30. I happily achieved said expectation, but did the reality live up to the dream? Not quite. Rest assured that I am happily married and couldn’t be more grateful for the blessings that have been bestowed on me in the form of my three little ones. But that doesn’t make my long-awaited expectation of the motherhood experience any less challenging.

My first son was born (relatively) easily in a peaceful water birth, but he soon made his presence known by keeping his poor unsuspecting parents awake all hours for the first three months. I expected to cherish these first few weeks of his little life as I blissfully washed his bamboo nappies (yes, really), however, these were some of the hardest and saddest weeks as we desperately tried to fathom out our new family member and survive on next to no sleep. I vividly remember one night, around 2am, when Dave and I were literally on. our. knees. and I placed our son in the middle of the bed and stepped back, not knowing what the heck to do next. In our sleep deprived state, we had tried everything, except swaddling, and this turned out to be the saving grace for our sanity, as we turned a corner and saw our firstborn sleep for more than 2 consecutive hours.

Then came the second son. Another much loved, much planned for baby, albeit with a much larger gap than I would have liked. Surgery necessitated the long wait, and my health was more important than expanding our family, but when he came oh what joy I awaited.

Only the joy didn’t come.

Don’t get me wrong, I was head over heels in love with this little one who snuggled up to me so calmly, but my heart raced as I contemplated juggling two children. I expected to breeze into motherhood second time round, but as reality set in, my fears became nerves that grew into anxieties. I soon felt so overwhelmed that I just couldn’t face being a parent to anyone, much less the precious boys I have been blessed with. All this, despite a hands-on, supportive hubby and a fantastic network of family and friends.

After five months of juggling schedules and struggling to keep my head above water, I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. The diagnosis came as no surprise in the end, and if anything, it was such a relief to know that I wasn’t losing the plot and that I wasn’t a bad mother. I was not alone. Accepting the diagnosis was no problem. If anything, I almost wore it as a badge of honour to explain that actually, I wasn’t failing, I was a work in progress, and within 6 months I was back to my normal self.

PND is no discriminator of people or circumstance. My baby was wanted, planned for, prayed for. Yet when he came, I was so overwhelmed with the responsibility; the sudden influx of hormones, the sudden immersion into baby world, and the sudden subjection to his every need. I was an experienced parent, who knew what to expect, and my son was a relaxed little man, yet I was so completely overcome with emotion and anxiety that I could barely think straight. I thank God for the medical professionals who helped me through this difficult time, not to mention my faithful husband and my many friends who had journeyed this path before me or with me.

So onto baby number 3. She was no less planned for, prayed for, and prepared for than her brothers, if not she was more so. The nursery was decorated, the work schedules were created, the books were read and the home was ready, yet when she came I felt the old anxieties creep into my mind as my expectation stood at odds with my reality. There I was, with this sweet little one who fell into our arms with a smile and fell into a routine without batting an eye lid, yet I found myself feeling totally overwhelmed by the now enormous task in front of me. How was I ever going to juggle three children along with a writing career, keeping my home (and me) in a half reasonable style and state of cleanliness, oh and build a blog and write a book….. and manage more than 5 hours sleep in the process.

To raise another is the greatest privilege. As a mom of three, I can safely say this is the greatest, most rewarding role I have ever had, however, coupled with my expectations, it has caused the most pain, upset, anxiety, and, at times, even depression. A classic ‘achiever’, my character is such that I want to do everything to the best of my ability. This means holding it all together, at all times, having the tidy house, the contented babies, and the completed deadlines. My ambitious striving, of course, can be a strength, but for those, like me, who place too great an expectation on themselves, it can be a curse.

When it comes to motherhood, the thing I have craved, dreamed of and desired, I expect to succeed, I expect to flourish. I expect to sail through because I am a ‘do-er’, and ‘achiever’. I constantly measure myself against impossible standards, then wonder why I fall short. The advice I dish out to others I can barely swallow myself. The prayers I pray for friends are barely audible for myself.

Why? Because I expect too much of myself.

It is OK for a friend to fall apart, but I cannot. It is OK for a family member to need counselling but not me. It’s OK for a loved one to ask for help but I must march on. How ridiculous.

I recently read this quote from the inimitable William Shakespeare;

Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises or in modern day language; Expectation is the root of all heartache. 

I put too much expectation on myself, and the resulting wave of heartache that accompanies feelings of disappointment when I don’t ‘make the grade’ hurts like heck.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to succeed, with wanting to achieve, with having a dream. New mom’s do not need to cast off all their ambitions and put their lives on hold in order to raise their baby, but friends, we need to stop putting too great expectations of ourselves. Stop trying to have the Pinterest worthy house, the picture perfect family, the insta-flawless selfie. We need to embrace our flaws, our failings, and our frustrations because this is what makes us human. And I am speaking to myself before anyone else.

So next time I feel overwhelmed, fall down or mess up, rather than just painting on my face and marching on I might just let someone in. If someone texts to check in on me or taps me on the shoulder at the school gates, I might just let them know how I am really doing. I might just say, “Do you know what? Motherhood is a gift, but man is it hard work!” I might just accept the offer of a hug, a prayer, a cuppa or a meal.

Fellow parents, let’s stop being proud and start being real, and today, this starts with me.

Just sayin’.

R xx