Was there a time when you were pregnant, or after you gave birth, that you felt so horrendously shit and just wanted someone to talk too? But you were either too afraid to say what was on your mind or no one asked you how you were really feeling?
If you're nodding yes, you really aren't the only one.
It's estimated that seven out of 10 women with one of the many forms of maternal mental illness will suffer in silence, not getting the vital treatment they need. I was one of those seven. For three years I lost myself to PND too afraid of the consequences of seeking help. Scared that my children would be taken off me and terrified of the shame people would place on me for having a mental illness. Little did I know that I had nothing to be scared about. The scariest thing was living so long in the darkness.
Today we celebrate Maternal Mental Health Day (4 May), and in my bid to stop other mother's prolonging their suffering, I'm going to be taking part in the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health's #Askher campaign.
Simply put, I'm going to be taking the time to talk to my new mum or mummy to be friends and family and ask them how they are truly getting on. It only takes that one supportive and trusting ear to ask you how you are truly feeling for you to be able to open up. Opening up is the first stage of getting the help you need but it is also the hardest.
I have seen how much we can do as women when we support each other, so come on mums, reach out to that friend, daughter, sister, niece, or cousin and ask her how she is doing. You could be the one person that can make a real difference in their lives.
I know it can be daunting to talk to someone about their mental health. We all have that little social awkwardness in us that stops us from asking emotional questions, afraid of the backlash or crying you might receive. So here are some little tips for getting the confidence to start that conversation:
1. Don't jump right in with 'how are you'? You're more than likely to receive the automatic 'I'm OK' that we all do even when we feel like crap. Meet somewhere comfortable for them, talk about other things first, make them a brew and help them relax. Your more than likely to get a deeper conversation that way
2. When you ask her 'how are you?' don't speed out the words like you're rap battling with Busta Rhymes. Look her in the eyes, keep eye contact and slowly ask the question. That makes us feel like you truly care and easier for us to open up.
3. Don't worry that you need to have all the answers, you really don't. Just listening to us without judgement is the best gift you could offer. (A problem shared, is a problem halved really is bloody true!)
So please join us this Wednesday, and share the message around. The more we talk about mental illness the better we will be at ending the stigma and improving the support offered for all mothers
For more on the campaign visit the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health page.