From the moment I found out I was pregnant I became part of a little clique that I wasn't sure I really wanted to be in. I remember going to Starbucks for work meetings and being annoyed that the little mummy groups took up so much room with their damn buggies. Unlike most mums looking to make friends with mums in their area, I only went to NCT classes because I felt like I should. It also had the added bonus of being opposite a cake shop. I know I'm not supposed to say it, but I find some mums to be competitive and annoying. They can talk too much about their kids and being a mum and to be honest I just switch off.
I love being a mum but that doesn't mean it's all been a breeze. The thing is, I've suffered with anxiety and maternal OCD and I think that isolating myself from other mums has actually just allowed those things to take a stronger hold. I'm an intensely private person. Private to a fault. Private to the point that I keep all my problems and anxieties to myself. The perfect breeding ground for insidious mental illnesses like OCD and anxiety.
This week I was so excited to have been announced as a sponsored vlogger for the new Channel Mum. It's the UK's first multi-channel YouTube network for motherhood and parenting vloggers. It's Co-Founder Siobahn Freegard OBE, who previously founded the UK's biggest parenting website Netmums, will be offering sponsorship to 100 new vloggers. Each will be given a new camera, courtesy of Panasonic, as well as mentoring from the Channel Mum team. Whilst there is ongoing support, vloggers are responsible for their content and the production of their channel videos and therefore offering the audience an 'honest face of parenting'.
My reason for getting involved is not in some delusional attempt at doing a 'Zoella'. It's an extension of why I decided to open up about my experience of motherhood through my blog. I wanted to add to the momentum that has gathered, from other brave mums and organisations such as Maternal OCD trying to raise the profile of maternal mental health. It's a way of me sharing my journey to a healthier, happier life and how on earth you do that when you're so focussed on your family and just don't feel like you're the priority.
As mums, we're so used to feeling judged and so we often hide it from others when we're struggling. I'm hoping that by removing the anonymity of my blog, offering another face of maternal mental health and showing that you can still be a great mum and raise a happy, healthy child, will make others feel less inclined to keep their suffering as a dirty secret. Because you see, it's keeping it your dirty secret that allows it to really take hold and rob you of this most precious time.
Mental illness does not equal freak show. Mental illness does not automatically mean that you are in serious crisis. Unfortunately for some it does, but there are also those of us that live our lives with this monkey on our back, coping and sometimes even excelling at being mothers, friends and professionals, all the while using what little energy we have left to try and shake the bastard off.
Unfortunately none of the healthcare professionals I had spoken to early on, recognised what was going on for me. Thankfully after researching it myself, I came across a single video of a mum who had gone through something similar and it gave me the courage and so importantly, the desire to get better just like she had. I hope that I might be able to help others do the same.
Selfishly too, it gives me a focus. It gives me someone to answer to. Like the friend who knocks on your door and makes you go to the gym when if left to your own devices would sit and watch TV with a tub of Ben and Jerry's. I feel that by sharing with others it gives me an incentive to push myself forward.
I'm a little daunted I have to say. The internet is after all a wonderful place for faceless trolls and bullies hiding behind their gravatars. But the thing is, OCD is a faceless unrelenting bully too. So I suppose they'll just have to join the queue.
I already hate looking at myself and even worse, listening to myself whilst editing is like some form of self-inflicted torture, but I'm hoping it will all be worth it. And you know what? That little mama clique I have been avoiding, turns out to be one of the most supportive, compassionate places when you open up to it. So lights, camera rolling ... let's see where this goes.