This week is mental health awareness week and it prompted me to write this post. Recently, over the last few months I have been utterly selfish. I am (to some extent!) prioritising my wants, my needs, my wishes and it feels so good. For years I have been on the back burner. Everything that made me me was pushed to a dusty recess of my mind. Art, photography, reading, making jewellery, silversmithing, baking and to some extent writing were all put in a box marked ‘the past’ and I focused hard on the present. Which was pregnancy and babies and motherhood.
I changed what I ate when I was pregnant, I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, stopped partying and concentrated on growing a life. I didn’t dye my hair, didn’t get tattoos, just generally changed most of the things I enjoyed! Then when I had children, I was so busy that I didn’t get a chance to even consider what I liked anymore. Who I was didn’t matter and I was too tired to even care! I just made sure that we were all alive at bedtime and considered that a successful day. We took all the spice and salt and flavour out of food and I realised I’d done the same with my life. I didn’t make time for any of the things that gave my life the adult excitement and really there wasn’t time. My days were a whirlwind of baby groups and doctor’s appointments and naps and snacks.
Then there was the birth trauma, the postnatal depression, the severe anxiety and hysterectomy to contend with, my every energy going into clawing my way out of that black hole, all the while trying to appear to everyone else as the perfect Mum, just there, clinging to a facade. My son was lactose intolerant and screamed pretty much for the entire first 10 months of his life, seeing GP after GP until I cut out dairy and he improved. Our beloved dog Monty died and then we got a rescue but he had to be returned to the charity after almost a year as he was getting unpredictable around men and with the children, he went on Mother’s Day and it broke my heart all over again, although he was re-homed within a fortnight. We have had severe anxiety in my daughter resulting in me giving up everything to homeschool, and now finally both are in a new school, we have a calm dog and life now has windows of opportunity in for me to discover who I was. Initially when I used to go out without them, I’d feel strange and nervous and the world was alien to me. I didn’t know what food I liked, what clothes suited my new body, how to make eye contact and talk to people who just looked straight at me as they weren’t trying to watch a small child at the same time. I learnt to return people’s gaze, I started getting braver with my clothing choices. My hair turned pink and blue and all the rainbow colours it had been before. I started running, and in seven months pushed myself hard and ran a half marathon.
Slowly, very slowly, I recreated myself into who I am now. Because I am very different to the person I was before children, still no smoking and hardly any drinking but I am trying to rediscover some lost loves. I started writing my blog and taking photos for my instagram and poured myself into building them up. Wanting to raise awareness for mental health and share the funny side of parenting. Then gradually it evolved into what it is today, a positive and honest place with a lovely community of readers and followers, that also makes me money and brings fantastic opportunities our way, it’s just something I’m so proud of. And now I’m saying yes to everything. I’m signed up to a photography course, an art course, a writing weekend and a massive 13 mile race with 150 obstacles next year that scares the bejeezus out of me but I’ll still do it. I’m saying yes to work things at inconvenient times and telling my husband that I’m doing them and he will have to sort out the childcare. I’m being wholeheartedly selfish, well, as much as any Mother can when she is trying to maintain a household and prevent everyone from going hungry or getting lost forever in a pile of out of control laundry! I saw a chair that I liked and just bought it, I wanted it and so I got it. I’m being assertive and I’ve decided it’s my time now. My children are happy at school, they need me less and less and the one who needs me most at the moment is me. I need to remember the things that I enjoy and just do them more. I don’t want to spend my days waiting for my children to get home from school as I don’t know what to do with myself. I want to be the best version of me that I can and in order to do that, I have to be selfish and assertive and decisive. The writer’s course I found online at 10pm and without even checking that Dave would be free, I’d checked out and saved my place!
I would never do this to the detriment of my children and they will always come first, but I would like them to see that being happy and doing the things you love are important and they should pursue their passions and dreams. Leading through example. It’s not to say I haven’t been busy over the years, in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy in my life, but I was busy doing things for others, working, or busy working on my blog. Now I’m going to make time for hobbies that I’m going to do purely for me that won’t benefit anyone else. Except the family will have a happier lynchpin! There have been a few things that have happened recently that have made me realise that life is short. You never know how much of it you have left or what you will face tomorrow so I’m determined to enjoy the moment more. Even if that means going against every fibre of my being and being totally selfish!
(All the photographs are ones I have taken after a few sessions of my course, (I paid for it myself so this isn’t an ad,) if you want to know more, it’s with the fab Jenny Giles Photography.)