Interview with Heather Black from Mothering Mental Health And Me
Today I’ve been honoured to interview the wonderful Heather Black of Mothering Mental Health And Me. She is a mother of two who has openly spoken of her postnatal depression and her desire to help others. She is also wonderfully creative and makes beautiful gifts which are not only unique and special, they actually promote good mental health.
What does a normal day look like for you?
I am self employed so thankfully can be pretty flexible around what the kids have going on, our normal week consists of lots of school runs, nursery runs and trips to play group, although those are my sanity savers!
I try to be more disciplined on the days when both kids are out and make the most of the working time and the peace and quiet.
How has motherhood changed your life?
My children changed my life in ways I hadn’t even thought possible, motherhood has changed my whole outlook on life, I would say that I worry about day to day things less than I did and I am not as neurotic but I worry more about the big things now, saving the environment and creating peace and tolerance in the world, because I want to leave the best possible legacy for my children.
I think my children, especially my youngest, have also helped me to unlock a level of creativity that I never knew I possessed.
Can you describe your mental health journey?
Around 18 months after my eldest was born I got to a point where anxiety had become such a problem for me that it had began to interfere with my day to day life and I new that I needed to seek help. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, thankfully after beginning medication and undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy I gained control over the anxiety and still use some of the tools I learnt then to manage my mental health now.
When my son was 2 we decided to start trying for another baby and I stopped my medication under guidance from my GP as I felt well and things seemed to be under control. Thrillingly I fell pregnant with my daughter almost immediately however it became apparent very quickly that I had not been as well as I had thought I was and the anxiety came back with a vengeance. I suffered terrible anxiety focused around my pregnancy, I was convinced that something would go wrong, that I would never hold a healthy baby in my arms.
After my daughter was born, happy and healthy, I could not connect with her at all, I felt like she was an interloper, getting in the way of the relationship between my son and I, I resented the time she needed from me and the change in dynamic of our family, although at the time I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that as I spent the whole time feeling full of rage. I was angry with everyone around me and snapped at the smallest thing. When she was around 8 weeks old, after a particularly bad day with my then 3 year old, I realized that I could not go on that way any longer and I spoke to my GP who gave me medication and suggested therapy. Sadly although I started the medication I felt too ashamed and undeserving to see therapy at that point. The medication helped to dull the rage but by 5 months post birth I felt nothing at all, like I was in a daze, just going through the motions and not really alive any more. I had isolated myself from everyone, which also made me feel guilty for failing my friends and my daughter by not doing more. The only good thing was that my daughter and I had bonded and become inseparable, although in the long run this codependency became difficult to deal with also as my daughter would cry every time I left the room she was in.
Thankfully at this point my GP reviewed my medication dosage and far more firmly suggested that I seek therapeutic help, I slowly began to claw my way back out of the dark.
How has creativity helped you?
As I began to feel able to focus on recovery I took a chance on buying myself a sewing machine and learnt to sew, it was like a light switch going on, unlocking a creative side that I never knew I had. Some people find mindfulness helpful but for me it was crafting, having something to focus my mind and hands on helped me to feel calm and to have a sense of achievement. Being able to start and finish a task just for me was invaluable and it quickly became a he part of my life. I also started writing a blog about my experience www.facebook.com/motheringmentalhealthandme I found writing about my experience cathartic but I also felt compelled to write about it so that it might help other mums going through similar to feel less alone.
What led you to set up such a unique business?
As my Blog grew I realized that I had an opportunity to do something helpful for mums experiencing mental illness as well as those organisations, often set up by recovering mums, that support them. With this in mind I set about creating a database of local charities, social enterprises, community interest companies and small businesses that support mums with their mental health in hopes that I can help mums connect with the services they really need and to help services have another way to get the word out about what they are doing. I needed a way to fund this and so I set up the mothering mental health and me mental health gift shop which sells items designed to be good for your mental health, to give you or someone else a little sunshine in their day. I also set up an Etsy shop, My Craftful Life, so that I would always have a reason to continue crafting.
What’s been the most rewarding experience running your business?
When I started writing my blog I had in my head that if one person read it and felt less alone then that would be enough, so every time I receive a message from a mum who has found something in what I am doing that resonated with them, it’s the best reward there could possibly be.
How would you like to challenge people’s ideas about maternal mental health?
I think we need to challenge people’s ideas about motherhood by educating mothers on the realities of motherhood and creating realistic expectations of yourself, your child and those around you when you become a mother. You can never be fully prepared for the changes becoming a mother brings but I feel like the mental health of mother’s could be vastly improved by knowing that everyone has hard times, no one is perfect and that you are exactly the mother your baby needs.
If you are a mum looking for services in your local area check out https://motheringmentalhealthandme.co.uk/useful-information/ or if you are a service looking to connect with local mums then you can email Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss inclusion on the free datatbase.