I am as open as I can be about my mental and emotional health (I have written about it for Standard Issue Magazine) because when it hits life can be an isolated, sad, lonely and scary place to be but I passionately believe in talking about mental health to help break down the stigma and to create a better understanding of some of the mental health issues that affect so many of us every damn day.
I wasn’t raised with a lot of security and I now have a few experiences of depression, anxiety and trauma under my belt. Being a parent with mental health issues means I want to give my kids as much safety, security, time and love as is possible. Having my girls has made me stronger and capable and focused – they turned me into a grown-up and they are the best thing to have happened to me.
Life changed 9 years ago when my son died and the pain of that trauma changed me – I was diagnosed with PTSD and it is a grief I will never quite recover from. It was never as dramatic as it sounds but for a long time after my son died I was in pain and I struggled with being alive with that pain, even though I have children I love and a husband I adore. The pain of living with that grief everyday was at times crippling and I used to think about just walking into the sea, desperate for the pain to end. I was never actually suicidal but the pain was just too painful.
Drugs and therapy were essential to my recovery, as was cuddling my kids and being a mum. And here’s the contradiction about my depression and anxiety – I am also an incredibly happy, positive and grateful person. Two years ago I made a decision to live and to want to live. After 7 years of pain I knew I had to make some changes, to grab life rather than suffer it and to appreciate all I have in my family, friends and in my simple life. I was on the road to recovery and it was important to change my mindset – it’s not always that simple or easy and I still have some bleak days but they are very rare now. I am lucky, I have always been able to look after my children – they are fed, cuddled, comforted, counselled, looked after and kept safe. My ability to look after them is strong and instinctive.
But they have seen me when I have been vulnerable, when I have been grieving and crying and just struggling. I have shouted too much when I have felt scared and stressed and they have seen me unable to leave my bed because anything else felt unsafe. At times I feel like my kids had months of this shit but in reality it was a day here and there, where I couldn’t just keep on coping. But now I feel guilt for how this may have affected them – has my anxiety and my all consuming sadness hurt them? In many ways I feel like I have failed them but, now that I am well, I am trying to make the biggest difference I can by being present and being there for them as they make their way through their teenage years.
I can be very hard on myself but the need to get it right for my kids is strong. I’ve done my absolute best for them but sometimes I don’t think it’s enough – and that’s what parenting with mental health means for me.
Janine Rudin – mum of three, wife to one, friend to a few