Would you like a FREE copy of my memoir/self-help book Become the Best You for #WMHD17?

I often question my motivation for writing, and frequently ask myself what the point of all the sharing is. I have wondered many times whether it actually makes a difference.

The short answer is yes it does.

I might not have a million plus followers, but people regularly get in touch to tell me that I’ve helped improve their well being. They say that my words have made them feel validated and heard. That I’ve brought a smile to their face, even if it’s sometimes through tears. Just take a look at the heartfelt comments on this post if you need proof. 

So I’d like to give you a gift today, for world mental health day. I wrote Become the Best You mostly for my own catharsis, but also to help others who are going through a rough time.

Become the Best You details the rocky road I travelled before settling down, getting married and having children

#WMHD17For those who are new to my story, I had a severely dysfunctional childhood, and troubled leap into adulthood at just fifteen. In the book I talk candidly about the decision to cut ties with my family.

As well as going through two mental breakdowns in my twenties, and hitting rock bottom. I talk about every thing I did during that time, to turn my life around.

I truly believe that going through this process before having kids is the only reason I am able to now cope with my chronically stressful life.

The book has 40 mostly five star reviews on Amazon, and is now available to buy directly right here. Check out this article to learn more. 

“It’s not just a self-help book, it’s a manual for life!” – Michelle Reeves

What you need to do to claim your e-book version of Become the Best You

  • subscribe to my mailing list
  • if you are already a subscriber, send me a quick email to mummytries@gmail.com 

Cards on the table: I have been in a seriously dark place for most of this year

I kind of broke, which sounds ridiculous, but I’m not allowed to fully break am I? Not with three kids at home. I came closer than I ever imagined I would though, and it terrified the life out of me.

Having experienced mental breakdown twice already, I’m no stranger to the dark place. I know the warning signs. Sometimes they are helpful, and other times they just make me feel worse.

A toxic, negative rut

My biggest problem was that the toxic thoughts inside my head became all consuming. I found it impossible to count my blessings and focus on the good. I was deeply engrossed in a cycle of negativity, and could only see disaster everywhere I looked.

I became bleak about the direction my family was going in, and what the future held. I was catastrophising and couldn’t snap out of it. I started fantasising about running away, and not just for a weekend.

dark placeHow did things get so bad?

Back in March, as we headed into Spring, I was full of optimistic hope. We’d decided that school wasn’t for Clara, and were happy with the idea of home educating her. It felt like we were making massive progress with Polly. Freddy was going through a particularly wonderful phase.

Then a series of unfortunate events occurred, and every time I picked my little family up, something else would happen to knock us back down.

It started with Polly smashing up her front (adult) teeth on a slide at the park, then three months followed where it was literally one thing after another. Including the shock, not to mention heartbreak, of being ghosted by a person I considered to be one of my very best friends.

I was done for

I had no motivation for anything over and above the bare essentials. Or as the infamous lyric in Amy Winehouse’s Rehab goes:

“I just think you’re depressed.”

Another couple of months passed, and I found myself drinking far too much. Reaching for the wine or gin bottle multiple times a week, to drown my sorrows. This led to comedown type hangovers, leaving me feeling totally despondent, drinking endless cups of coffee to try and perk me the next day.

I did not like what I saw in the mirror. As I’ve already said, I’ve been here before. It wasn’t pretty then, and it was even uglier this time around. For the first time since becoming a mum, I questioned whether I was capable of doing this job.

There was only one thing for it: GAPS!

Call it a detox, call it a cleanse. I like to call it the ultimate reset, and it worked a treat. Check out my other blog if you’re interested in the full details.

Suffice it to say that I’m now feeling much better, and I can’t tell you how great it is to be able to say this.

After hitting rock bottom, and turning my life around in 2006/07, I honestly thought the dark place was behind me. This year has proved that it can happen to any of us, at any point.

So for the stressed out mama’s and papa’s among us, make sure you look after you. If you sense the grey clouds looming, and the dark place coming, do anything and everything in your power to stop them in their tracks.

Take every opportunity you can grab for self care. Eat well, and nourish your body and mind. Do more of the things that make your heart sing. Feed your creative soul. Do not feel guilty about having time away from the kids. If you don’t put your oxygen mask on first, and save yourself, you don’t stand a chance of helping anyone else.

The deeper you fall, the harder it is to pull yourself out of the hole.

**Huge thanks to Unsplash for the gorgeous photots.**

poem about motherhood

It was a massive honour to be asked to guest blog for the amazing AutismAwareness.com. They do wonderful work in not only raising awareness of autism, but supporting parents through their journeys. They reach millions of people every month who discuss, learn and explore topics of interest to special needs families.

Here’s a snippet of my piece 

“Usually I’m as good at masking my sadness as Polly is at masking her high-functioning autism. Lately though, I’m being asked a lot if I’m okay.

Just to be explicit, I am not okay.”

You can head over to their site for the full post, by clicking on this link here.

A story of mental health #mhaw17When I found myself pregnant with Polly in 2008, the state of my mental health had never been better. At the ripe old age of 29 I’d already been on a remarkable journey.

Extraordinary even

I had survived a dysfunctional childhood, and self-destructive young adulthood. I’d dragged myself through two mental breakdowns, and experienced the highest highs and lowest lows.

I had travelled the world, and met my awesome husband along the way. I’d made the most wonderful friends a person could wish for. Which is just as well, because at 25 I estranged myself from every single member of my family. 

I’d also learnt (the hard way) that the answers to life’s problems could not be found at the bottom of a bottle.

Believe me, I’d searched every external crevice for happiness, and realised that it comes from within.

I learnt that to be happy, I would need to look in the mirror and like what I saw

I had to distinguish between my wants and my needs, and get to know who I really was. I’d need to forgive myself for the things that I wasn’t proud of. I’d need to truly let go of the past so I could make peace with it.

I was in such a good place when Polly came along. Even a traumatic birth didn’t stop me from loving her fiercely from the second she came out. To be honest I didn’t properly recognise it as traumatic until I was giving birth to Clara two and a half years later. That’s a whole blog in itself though.  

I walked everywhere that summer, staring at my beautiful baby in wonder. Had I really made her? Could I really be that lucky?

By the time I became a mum I had overcome so much, that I honestly thought the hardest bits were over.

Surviving: A Story of Mental Health #MHAW17Oh how naive I was

I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that my own children could push me to the edge of my sanity. That I would watch my mental health deteriorate and feel powerless to do anything about it.  

Friends with kids had somberly warned me about newborn sleep deprivation. They’d said to watch out for pesky teeth, and strange changes that occur when babies are going through growth spurts.

A good friend, who’d had two kids very close together, had said to expect one seriously tough day a week. A day so bad I’d be reaching for the gin before the witching hour was over. One that I’d want to completely forget about as soon as the kids were asleep.

That’s not going to happen to me, I thought, no way. I’d leave a sensible age gap between my kids, having them super close sounds like a nightmare.

My girls are 2y 7m apart, and take it from me, the age gap is the least of our troubles

At seven months pregnant with Clara I found myself sobbing to my ex boss.

“I’m so exhausted, I don’t think I can last another three weeks until my maternity leave is due to start.”

Fortunately he’s a family man himself, and one of life’s good eggs. He let me tie up my loose ends and finish that day. If only all work managers were like him.

Back then I had a toddler who would get up ten times a night as standard, have huge meltdowns at 3am, and refuse to go to her daddy. As well as that we had a very noisy neighbour on our hands, who would be up all hours. 

We managed to muddle through though, and cope. Somehow.

Surviving: A Story of Mental Health #MHAW17When Clara was born I did everything I could to enjoy her baby days. Knowing how fast they’d go, I drunk up every delicious drop of that gorgeous girl. 

Polly was jealous of her sister, beyond what felt normal, and it was heartbreaking watching her regress. Nursery was more of a hindrance than a help, but we thought we were doing her good by letting her socialise. She was diagnosed with an allergy list as long as my arm, and so began years of exclusion diets. More frustration. More difficulty. 

Fast forward fifteen months, and a prosecco fuelled evening lead to Freddy being conceived. (Hubby has never touched the stuff since!)

By then I was back to work, and the girls were both at nursery. Clara slept through from ten weeks old, which was just as well, because Polly was still up all night. Challenging behaviour was the order of the day.

I found myself wondering on an hourly basis how I’d cope with three children when two already seemed like too many

Freddy’s pregnancy was the toughest, but with two kids to keep me busy it went fast. Two maternity leaves in three years.

Polly started school and struggled massively from day one. 

“She’s fine when she’s here.”

Oh how I loathed those words, and the patronising delivery of them. The inference being that we must be doing something wrong at home. Clearly the meltdowns and night time antics were either exaggerated or our fault.

Polly’s allergies weren’t getting better, so we had her tested for every gastrointestinal disease under the sun. Nothing. When a leading gastro paediatrician told me the tests had come back in normal range I knew what was coming next.

Autism. Diagnosed a year later

Surviving: A Story of Mental Health #MHAW17By then it felt like we were a broken family, and we desperately needed help being put back together. No such luck. When you live in London under the Tories, you’re on your own. 

Polly was on a clear cycle by then. Sleep and post-school meltdowns would get worse as we neared the end of term. Then we’d plough all our energy into making her happier over the holidays only to watch our hard work unravel when she went back.

My poor baby girl was severely overwhelmed by school, and they were doing precisely nothing to help her.

Home education wasn’t a last resort, but I wasn’t going to sit back and let it get that bad. Eighteen months later, and here we are.

Yes we’ve made progress, but the set backs can send us to square one in a heartbeat

We’re now the noisy neighbours. Our kids are loud. They have meltdowns and tantrums multiple times a day. Individually they’re awesome, collectively they make me want to cry.

I have good days and bad, but just lately there haven’t been many good ones. The challenges have been never ending, and keep on coming.

My previously rock solid marriage can feel as shaky as a dingy in the middle of the ocean on a stormy night. Most days I want to punch my husband in the face when he leaves the house to go to work, because he gets a break from it all.

Sleep is better than it’s ever been, but it’s still rubbish. Freddy’s in our bed every night. Polly’s often up. And although Clara sleeps, getting her to bed can be a tiresome task. She’s not getting enough Zzzzz’s and unlike her brother and sister, who are used to running on empty, she can’t handle it.

Home education often means being a prisoner in my own home. If Polly is anxious and exhausted and I can’t convince her to leave the house. Most days I have fun things planned for us to do, but usually we do none of them because we get caught up in Polly’s rage. She’s taken to using me as her punching bag. At least she isn’t being so violent with the younger two.

Surviving: A Story of Mental Health #MHAW17Eight years ago, when I was nearing the end of Polly’s pregnancy, I thought I had it all sussed out

Surely motherhood was like everything else? The harder you worked, the more rewards you would reap? I’d just work my butt off, and give my absolute all to my kids. Surely that would equate to happiness?

To be completely honest, even if it was possible to go back in time and tell my thirty year old self how it would actually be, I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway.

My plan was fail safe. I’d just love my kids more than everyone else loved theirs, and not make ridiculously stupid decisions that would mess them up in later life.

Once again, I’m learning the hardest way that it’s not that simple though. So here I am, eight years later, feeling more clueless now than ever before. The game is constantly changing, and I have no frigging idea what the rules are.

People warn you about maternal and post-natal depression. Nobody tells you about surviving chronic stress due to challenging children. 

The emptiness you can feel when you give everything to your kids and get treated like the enemy

The cycle of self-loathing that’s created from having toxic thoughts about the little people you created. 

The loneliness you can feel, even though you can’t take a pee in private. 

All any of us can do is try our best, and hope that when all is said and done, it was enough

**sharing for world mental health awareness week**

How to Stay Sane in a World Gone MadI don’t know about you, but my head feels like it’s going to explode on a daily basis.

Brexit has truly divided the nation here in the UK, leaving many feeling uncertain and confused about what might lie ahead.  

Regardless of whether it ends up being a good thing or not, I’m sure most will agree that these are troubling times to live through.

Sh*t has got very real indeed my friends, which is why it’s more important than ever to have a plan.

Here’s how to stay sane in this world gone mad.

Hold on tight to your integrity

As far as I’m concerned, integrity is everything. Staying true to ourselves in all areas of life means that we can hold our heads high, and know our conscience is clear. You can’t really put a price on that. All too often we see people selling out, and losing their way. There’s nothing worse than a fake, so in a world full of Kardashian-wannabees why not strive to be an authentic, decent human being instead?

I find our celebrity obsessed, trash TV culture deeply disturbing. With so much emphasis on what we look like, and how much money we have, is it any wonder that teen depression rates are through the roof? I’ve always been a firm believer that beauty is skin deep, and I’m good at seeing through people. A pretty face means nothing if you don’t have a kind heart. Also, this shouldn’t need to be said, but we can’t eat money, or take it to the grave. It’s the most obvious thing, but is clearly lost on so many.  

Buy less, make more (or make do) 

Which leads me nicely to my next point. Getting out of the standard consumerist mindset before having children was one of the best things I did. Consumerism only exists because people place too much value on the wrong things, and find it difficult to distinguish between their wants and their needs. I like to do my bit for the planet whilst raising my family, and hope that leading by example will mean my children will continue doing their bit once they’re old enough. 

how to stay sane in a world gone madOne of the easiest wins as far as I’m concerned is buying things second hand. I buy almost all my clothes from charity shops, which has various levels of good karma attached. It means I’m being kind to the environment, not being complicit toward sweatshop exploitation, and I’m giving money to charity all in one fell swoop. Like it or not cheap clothes are bad for everyone.

The same rules apply to toys, accessories and home furnishings, but isn’t exclusive to this list. I’ve written many times before about food, and how satisfying it is to make food from scratch. If you know your diet could use a spring clean, you might enjoy my recent post on redefining what it means to be healthy.

Address your deep rooted issues, and get rid of them once and for all

Cards on the table, are you depressed? You’re certainly not alone, but if the root causes run deeper than the current political climate then you’ll need to be prepared to face them head on. Getting to grips with the root of our troubles will no doubt include dredging up painful memories, but it’s the only way to properly move forward. 

I’ve suffered from numerous bouts of depression over the years, and have had two full on mental breakdowns. If I’m honest, I spent most of 2016 feeling down. I was turning to the bottle far too often, and drowning my sorrows, which just perpetuated the cycle of doom and gloom. Now that I’m hardly drinking, as well as eating super clean, I’m feeling mentally well again. Getting on track is never easy, but the road to recovery always starts with me.

Take a break from social media when it all gets too much

If there is one thing I’ve learnt since joining Facebook in 2007, it’s that social media is not my friend through times of hardship. Yes it’s good to keep in touch with friends. Yes it’s good to stay connected. But there are other ways and means of doing these things if your feeds are becoming a source of misery. 

Keeping abreast through reputable news sources instead of relying on social media should ensure accuracy. Which is essential in our post-truth era. If you’re worried that you’ll miss out on your friends’ news, why not send them a text or go truly old-school and phone them?

how to stay sane in a world gone madFind time for the things and people you love

Whatever your passions are, find a way of fitting them into your daily life. Feeding our souls with the things that make us happy is probably the most beneficial thing we can do for our emotional wellbeing.

Whether it’s through diet and exercise, honing our skills or doing good for other people, do more of the things that make you smile and less of the things that make you miserable.

It’s also imperative to spend your time with people who lift you up, not knock you down. If you are engaged in toxic relationships, on any level, they will be zapping your chances of happiness. Take a break from those who make you sad, and see how the land lies after a little time apart.

Do you have any tips for staying sane in this world gone mad?