Dark emotions and being a Mum

Experiencing dark emotions can be a confronting topic to talk about. But its also an important talking point.

And what surprised and motivated me to write this post was finding it to be an area where help is lacking.

Defining the dark

It can feel quite distressing to experience some of our darkest emotions, especially; raging anger, gloomy sadness and debilitating anxiety.

Everyone experiences the extreme depth of emotion at some point or another.

For some, emotions just come and go. They may be unpleasant whilst they last but with a relatively short lifespan, they don’t turn into a problem. The difficulty is for those of us who get ‘stuck’ in the emotion.

It’s not pretty and can be bloody scary to say the least. It may feel like it will never pass. And everyone around you may appear to be having the time of their lives in distinct contrast.

It is important to remember, however, that ALL emotions are a NORMAL part of being human. EVERYONE experiences dark emotions to some extent, at some time (whatever they may tell you on Facebook).

Dark emotions and Motherhood

Once you’re a Mother, dark emotions can become an issue if they negatively impact on you and how you care for your baby or your ‘parenting capacity.’

For some dark emotions can pass quite easily, for others they linger and we can struggle to ‘let it go.’

When I was at the height of my PND (just before my hospital admission), I felt there was so little help out there on how to cope with these awful emotions I was experiencing. It really was a lonely time. Every other Mum seemed happy or at least coping whereas I definitely wasn’t.

I’m sure anyone who has experienced PND can relate to feeling intense, dark emotions. I also believe any Mother can experience any dark emotion at anytime. It’s natural under the stressful circumstances that we face daily as a parent.

Motherhood is very challenging with tiny humans relying on us 24/7. It will press every button we have and take us to dark places. I believe eventually our journey leads us to be a stronger version of ourselves:)

But the important question is; ‘what about in the meantime?’

Dealing with the dark

Dark emotions can be really debilitating if you don’t know what to do with them.

As Mothers, we often can’t just escape the stress, practice mindfulness in a bubble or use coping strategies that worked previously. We don’t get the time for self care that previously kept our cup full. We have to learn new ways of managing these emotions.

The scenario where we are home alone with our baby, happens to all of us. There is no support around. How do we handle our tough emotions whilst caring for our baby?

I often struggled with this. My anxiety would hit the roof and my husband would be at work. I remember calling him on numerous occasions and telling him I was about to put the baby in the cot and leave the house. I never did but it reflected the desperation I was feeling. And it was a dark place.

I could no longer take the constant crying and unsettledness, alongside the difficult emotions. My first born was not an easy baby to say the least (then again do they even exist?)!

When I finally went to hospital in December 2015, I felt my whole world had fallen apart. How could this have happened? How could it have got so bad? But it actually turned out to be the start of getting it together:)

Here are a few helpful strategies that I learnt in coping with difficult emotions whilst being alone with my baby:

#1: Sing, sing sing!
This sounds a little crazy but it works very well! I remember sitting in a therapy group and someone saying ‘you can’t sing and experience anxiety together.’ I found this to be strange yet true and it extends to all difficult emotions. So, if the darkness strikes, sing your heart out! Your baby may just like your singing too:)

#2: Bath time
Having a bath with my baby was one of the best coping strategies I found. It helped if I felt exhausted as it contained my baby and calmed us both down. The water was very healing too:) Don’t forget the bath toys!

#3: Being present in play
Mindfulness with my baby was a very helpful tool, too. It didn’t always work but sometimes I found myself getting lost in an activity. Watching my baby play. Reading a book. Generally getting lost in the moment. This was such a great distraction technique.

#4: Lying down with Bub
These difficult emotions can be so exhausting. Lying down with my baby was so helpful in enabling me to cope. Reading books. Looking at balloons. Feeding. Yoga. It didn’t matter the activity. I felt more rested and could cope much better with my emotions.

#5: Get into nature
Nature is so healing. If I had the energy I always found getting my baby into a carrier and going for a walk in nature was fantastic for us both. A change of scenery really helped my dark emotions subside, when nothing else would.

#6: Reach out for support
You don’t have to talk about your emotions. Even being around friends talking about something unrelated can help. Another fabulous distraction!

If it all gets too much
If you are struggling with dark emotions and caring for your baby there are lots of organisations that can help (see numbers below).

Reaching out for professional help has been the best thing I ever did in my journey to wellness. There’s nothing to be worried or ashamed about in that:)

Please reach out if you need help, especially if you feel in desperation. It may be hard to believe it right now but with the right support you will get better. And you have a tiny human depending on you:)

Sometimes we all need a helping hand. Explore everything. Take what you like and leave the rest. Find what works and do it. Some things will work and some things won’t. You’ll get there. The dark will still come BUT you will learn to cope much better and it won’t linger half as long.

With much love and understanding,
Cat x

HELPLINES:

AUSTRALIA

PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline: 1300 726 306 
Hours: Monday to Friday 9am – 7.30pm (AEST/AEDT).

IN AN EMERGENCY OR CRISIS

LIFELINE 131114 (24/7)

OR 000

UNITED KINGDOM

PANDAS Helpline: 0843 28 98 401

Hours: 9am – 8pm every day.

IN AN EMERGENCY/CRISIS:

SAMARITANS 116123 (24/7)

OR 999

 

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