I have been delivering a ‘New Mum’ course for the last few weeks. It is aimed at mums with perinatal mental health difficulties including low mood and anxiety. Although I must admit I feel the course is good for any new parent who is adjusting to life with a baby.
The course is based on cognitive behaviour therapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.
Whilst delivering the course I like to talk to parents about my own experience of living and recovering from postpartum psychosis, antenatal & postnatal anxiety. I also talk about my continued daily struggles of living with long term mental illness.
Mental health difficulties do not define you or make you a bad parent, by sharing life experiences with others…you realise you are not alone. Talking with others who have struggled with mental health can help ‘normalise’ the situation.
Last week we spoke about gratitude and how being thankful can have a positive affect on poor mental health. I used to fill in a gratitude book, it was recommended to me by a community psychiatric nurse whilst I was recovering from postnatal anxiety. In the book you are to write a list of things you are thankful for or happy about that day.
I said to the group that initially I thought the idea of writing down things I was thankful for every day was a joke. How could writing things I am thankful for help me? I could barely get out of bed let alone be thankful for anything.
I did it anyway, at first my lists were short; I am thankful for being alive, I am thankful for getting though the day, I am thankful for air. I looked back at what I had written and laughed…really why I am I bothering, I am not feeling any different.
As weeks went by my mood improved and I started to write other things about my day; I am thankful for bedtime stories with my boys, I am thankful for walks in the park, I am happy and thankful when my boys laugh, I am thankful for life.
Then I stopped writing. I felt good again and the book was not needed. I put the book in my bedside cabinet and forgot about it until a few months ago.
A few months back I was feeling low, really low; In fact I didn’t realise quite how down I was until the antidepressants kicked in. As I do when I feel down I lock myself indoors and sort out the house. Cleaning, sorting and moving furniture around is top on my list when I don’t want to face the reality that is outside my front door.
Whilst cleaning I come across my gratitude book.
I flicked through the first few pages and felt nothing, wow I must have been depressed I thought to myself. Still I kept reading and then I began to notice the change in my handwriting. I could clearly see that the words written were a reflection of how I was feeling at the time. The messy handwriting at the start changed to calm controlled writing and then happy words started to fill the pages towards the end of the book…this was my mental health on paper.
As I read the pages I started to cry happy tears, It was clear that I had a lot to be thankful for in life.
So I have decided to start a gratitude journal again.. It wont be a daily thing but once a week it would be nice to jot down 5 things I am happy or thankful for.
I ask all of you to join me, you don’t need a fancy book; you could use an old notebook if you like.
I am going to use a notebook that was giving to me in Ireland (thank you Auntie Helen)
If you would like to find out more about perinatal mental health please visit www.pmhcymru.com