Megan Potts suggests four supportive things to say to new mothers with anxiety.
Life as a mum can be riddled with ups and downs - whether due to postnatal depression or the general stresses of raising a child. I’ve had to get better at monitoring my mental health - and very quickly! I’ve also faced my fair share of the all-too-common "mummy guilt."
When my daughter was four months old, I suffered a severe breakdown. A year has passed since then, and I’ve had the privilege of speaking to some of the people who pulled together to keep me safe when I was in a mental health crisis. I’ve even talked to one of the police officers who saw me at my absolute lowest point.
It was an emotional conversation, and the officer said some things I needed to hear.
I've decided to share some of those things, hoping they reach a parent who needs them today.
1. “They don’t know you’ve been gone - they’re just happy you’re here now!”
I was absent from my daughter's life for almost a month after my breakdown.
As any parent knows, small children grow and change in the space of a month. I felt guilty for missing it. Hearing these words seemed to unleash a year’s worth of built-up guilt, and I immediately burst into tears.
It was an emotional moment, but I could almost feel the weight of the guilt lifted off me.
2. “I know you’re a good person.”
During my breakdown, I was aggressive and rude to an awful lot of people. I've spent the last year apologising and letting people know that my daughter and I are doing well.
I don’t think anyone took this badly, but this particular response greatly impacted me.
It's reassuring to know I'm not the worst of my illness. People don't jump to my past when they see me. It's helped me combat guilt over my behaviour at that time.
3. “You are, and will continue to be, a fantastic mum.”
During my pregnancy, I had far too many people tell me I was irresponsible. I was "selfish" to have a child when I lived with a mental illness.
When I was in crisis mode, their words echoed around my head. I would walk the streets in the middle of the night, convinced that I’d been reckless, even cruel, for having a child.
Even now, reminders like this –that I can be a mum and a good one – get me through the rough days of being a parent.
4. “I’m sorry.”
The first people to say “sorry” don't often need to apologise. Still, their words aren’t any less meaningful.
This short phrase means that someone has recognised my pain. And, while they aren’t responsible for it, they recognise my right to it. That means a lot.
When you boil it down, all the things I needed to hear gave me both reassurance, validation, and the reminder to get my head out of the past and start looking to the future.
I have a beautiful, happy, healthy toddler. Other people haven't raised her - I have been her mother biologically and emotionally, except for one month when she was young. Her smile alone proves that my mental illness doesn’t stop me from being a good mum.
I’ve done a good job, as have countless other parents with mental illnesses. These are the things I needed to hear – maybe you or someone you know could benefit from the same.
NPS-IE-NP-00624 November 2022