The relationship we have with ourselves is often the hardest relationship of all.
Learning to love and respect ourselves, sometimes even to like ourselves can feel challenging at the best of times.
Over the years many different situations can impact on our confidence, self-esteem and mental health. I believe every woman endures different battles with her mental health at different times in her life. I’ve recognised mine since becoming a mother for sure, and I know they stem right back to when I was young.
"I watched her battle addiction throughout my whole childhood and during my teenage years our relationship became non-existent."
I’ve grown up not liking myself, not thinking I was clever, pretty, or good enough and my relationship with my mother has had a huge impact on my own mental health, confidence and self-esteem.
I watched her battle addiction throughout my whole childhood and during my teenage years our relationship became non-existent.
There wasn’t really any awareness about mental health back then and I didn’t realize she was clearly fighting a battle with her mind as well as everything else. What I have realised is that - the closest people to addicts are affected nearly as much as the addict themselves and it’s a painful, heartbreaking situation that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.
"I struggled with confidence and I felt like I could never be good enough because I hadn’t been enough for my own mum to fight for, to live for."
I spent the later part of my teenage years so angry with her because she chose anything alcoholic over me that when she died I couldn’t remember one nice conversation we’d had together in the last year or so. A nervous breakdown followed a year after her death and I struggled with panic attacks for a while.
I spent my twenties telling myself that I could never get married or have a family because I feared I would turn out just like my mother and I wouldn’t be able to handle life. I struggled with confidence and I felt like I could never be good enough because I hadn’t been enough for my own mum to fight for, to live for.
I have also spent a long time feeling angry, sad, heartbroken and confused by it all and even now at 37 years old I still can’t quite make sense of how I feel about it.
I understand addiction is a disease, I understand that a person’s mental health is hugely compromised before it begins and as a result of it.
"Learning to like myself and believe I was intelligent and lovable has been a journey, like stacking bricks on top of one another slowly and praying they don’t fall."
Each and every one of us has had dark in our lives and thankfully we also have light.
Meeting Chris was my light, marrying him and becoming a mum, I finally felt like I belonged. All the pieces to my jigsaw puzzle fitted and I was no longer alone.
Learning to like myself and believe I was intelligent and lovable has been a journey, like stacking bricks on top of one another slowly and praying they don’t fall. Since having my children I have suffered with anxiety, I worry about them constantly with small things niggling away at me and keeping me awake at night.
When I entered motherhood there were so many new challenges to face, most of them I wasn’t expecting. I really struggled after having my first child, the first month of trying to breastfeed her nearly put me back in hospital - I think I had post natal depression but refused to admit it and I was way too hard on myself. I also went back to exercising far too soon and ended up injuring my back badly. I had no appreciation for how hard my body had worked.
The second time however was totally different, I didn’t care that I’d piled on four stone.
I’d sit cuddling Heath all day, eating biscuits and feeling like the luckiest woman alive.
He’s 18 months now and I’ve lost my baby weight slowly and I’m working on getting the shape back that makes me feel good.
My daughter is 5 and very impressionable, she watches and copies everything I do and it petrifies me. Everyday I try and tell her how brilliant she is, I tell her she’s smart, brave and can do anything that she wants. I pray she won’t grow up believing she is worthless and not good enough like I did.
"I’ve also started to feel more comfortable in my own skin, finally."
I also make sure she knows I workout, because I like to feel strong and healthy.
A few weeks ago whilst buying a big sack of dog food the guy in the shop asked if he could carry it to the car for me and Ava-Lilly replied “Have you see my mummy’s arms? She can manage” I couldn’t have been prouder.
Exercise and my focus on nutrition are my medication for keeping mentally strong and happy. I’ve also started to feel more comfortable in my own skin, finally. Sometimes after a workout I could run around the street naked and I wouldn’t give two hoots about my downward facing boobs or wobbly bottom cheeks, I feel great on the inside and that’s all that matters. I’m starting to appreciate myself more, my mind and my body.
Loving and respecting ourselves can feel so difficult, over coming any mental health issues can feel like an upward battle, you’re never alone though and it’s never just you. The more we talk and open up about these kind of issues the more we can help and support each other, woman to woman, mother to mother.