Tag Archives: choices

Thoughts about Mental Health (now that’s ironic)

While at my cutting table, preparing some new stock (‘hooray’ I hear some say, ‘finally’ say others) I have been reflecting on two different conversations that I have had in the past week, and how I have responded, reacted and considered the issues raised.

The first was a conversation with a friend last week who was complaining about his ex-wife and in the midst of the conversation said ‘And you know she is still on antidepressants.’  This took me aback and I blurted out ‘But so am I.’   (He has known me for a long time and we have discussed my medication on several occasions.)  He responded “But you are pretty high functioning, and able to operate at a senior management level” as if this somehow meant that I didn’t need to be on anti-depressant medication.

My response was that people of all walks of life, with all sorts of ability take antidepressants.  This does not mean that they are not capable, not able to function, not ‘sane’ (which was the underlying message about his ex-wife of course).  It really got me thinking about how so much of society sees that medication for mental health is somehow not a good idea, or a sign of weakness, or a sign of an unstable character.

Talking openly about mental health isn't the easy choice, but it is the right one.

Talking openly about mental health isn’t the easy choice, but it is the right one.

Then yesterday I received a communication from my ex-husband who suggested that our son may have an auditory processing disorder, and that I should research this, as it can often be mistaken for ADHD (which our son is diagnosed with, along with other mental health issues.)  Now apart from the fact that I already have an independent psychological assessment report that states that our son has processing difficulties (that has been provided to his father) it made me realise that because our son’s condition is being treated so effectively with medication, (after years of trial and error with everything from naturopaths, chiropractors, diet, exercise, behavioural management strategies etc – so please don’t offer me new alternatives to medication) his father now thinks that he doesn’t have the very issue that he is being medicated for.

While my initial reaction might have been anger at yet another challenge to the professional advice that I have sought and questioned and administered over the last 4 years, it occurred to me a little later on that perhaps the two conversations had something in common.

Neither of these men would suggest that a person prescribed medication to address a heart condition should not take it.  Neither would they consider offering their own diagnosis on what the ‘actual’ problem was.  They wouldn’t suggest that this person wasn’t fit and proper to carry out their job based on their use of prescription medication.  But when it is a mental health issue, they were both happy to judge, to re-diagnose, to second guess and to ignore the effects of medication as treating a medical condition.

None of this is new I suppose.  It just saddens me that despite education, information, and open conversations, people still can’t see past their prejudice about mental health to look at the evidence sitting in front of them.   I don’t have any answers to how to solve this, but I am comfortable with my resolve to talk about my experiences with my own mental health and that of my children (where appropriate) to remind people that depression and anxiety can affect anyone from any walk of life, and is treatable.  Maybe it will help someone else to understand that it is simply another medical condition. Nothing more, nothing less.

And now I return to cutting out fabric.  Happy days!

Why I am going to stop eating the burnt chop

As a mother I have always put my children first.  It is what I thought all mothers did, and in fact all parents did.  I didn’t see it as a sacrifice, I simply saw it as the natural order.  It wasn’t conscious, it was automatic.  I heard the stories about burnt chop syndrome (a very Australian phrase that signifies mothers eating the food that isn’t perfect while serving up the good, perfectly cooked food to their children and partner – worth googling) and just chuckled knowingly, because of course I eat the burnt chop.  That is what mothers do.  Right?

Well, no more.  I have become so good at putting my children first, at being a ‘good mother’, at making every decision in my life (career, marriage, finances, food, sleep, car, exercise, holidays….) based on what is best for my children, that along the way I seem to have lost the ability to look after what is best for me.

Well meaning friends and acquaintances have counselled me for years that I do too much, and that I need time for myself.  For a while I had a taste of that time.  After my husband left and when the children would go to his house for one or two nights a week I had what I felt was a huge luxury of time and space.  I would read books, listen to music, arrange to catch up with friends in trendy bars and restaurants, where ‘mummies’ like us didn’t normally go.

But then he left the country and I had the children 24/7 for a few years.  And I was working full time in a high pressured position.  My son started school and started to exhibit all sorts of troubling behaviour like running away.  Daily.  My girls were missing their father and couldn’t understand why he had chosen to leave them.  (Heartbreaking stuff.)  And I was trying to keep the wheels on the wagon, to be the best mother they could have to make up for the father they didn’t have, to be really good at my job so that I could advance and earn more money to pay for the things that they would have had if they had two parents living together, to keep them feeling secure, loved, and yet let them be independent.

I stopped reading books.  Didn’t listen to music at home.  Didn’t go out.  Anywhere.

I kept pedalling as hard as I could to hold down a job, to leave work to rush to the school to help locate or calm my son, then return to the meeting I had fled and assure everyone that everything was okay and continue on, being as professional as possible.

I can’t write more detail about just how hard it all got because it is too upsetting.  I felt I had no choice (and I really didn’t have many choices) but to keep going and putting my children first.

Until there was almost nothing left of me.  Luckily I have people who care about me who recognised what was happening and gave me the right support to see that if I didn’t make some changes there would be nothing left of me.

This year I am putting myself first and doing what I need, to look after myself.  I deserve to be healthy, to be happy, and to be fulfilled.  And my children deserve a mother who is more than just surviving.  Today marks the day that I say no to the burnt chop.  I am going to build a life that nourishes me, and fulfils me.  I am going to stop being the selfless martyr.  And after all these years of being told that I am a ‘good mother’ I am going  to choose to be a more selfish mother, so that I can in fact start to be the great mother that my children deserve.

I am now stepping down from my soap box and heading to the kitchen to eat the single serve dessert that came with our takeaway pizza order tonight (our first in 5 years but the heat has driven me out of the kitchen!) that I am not sharing with my children.

Have a great weekend and remember that refusing to eat the burnt chop is not a bad thing!