‘I Was Worried What Would Happen To My Children If I Spoke Openly About My Mental Health’

This Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, Chrissy Brown shares her experience of post-natal anxiety and how – unable to find the help she needed – she formed the Motivational Mums Club

maternal mental health

by Chrissy Brown |
Updated on

My mum and dad gave me a really good upbringing. They taught me right from wrong, to always side with what is right, and to think about the importance of equality. Their guidance, along with my lived experience, has shaped me into the woman and mother I am today.

During my first pregnancy in 2016, I felt amazing and was so excited to become a mother. My pregnancy and labour were great - I had no complaints.

While I was at home being a first-time mum, I decided to host an event for mothers to network in a safe space. I had speakers talk about their life experiences such as stillbirth, being a single mum, working mum, finding love and being a domestic violence survivor.

Little did I know, during that first ever event, I was expecting my daughter - while my son was only seven months.

I was planning my return to work and had a plan on how I was going to manage my home and work life. It was all figured out until I found out I was pregnant again. It was scary because I didn’t want to lose my sense of ‘self’. I didn't just want to be ‘Mum’ - I wanted to be Chrissy as well. Looking back now, I can see that I started to lose my sense of self and I lost my joy by not doing things for me. I was too focused on being a mum but in order to be the best you can, mums need ‘me time’.

After the birth of my second born in 2018, that’s when things started to change. Anxiety started to build up and take over.

I didn't understand why I didn't feel as amazing as I felt after my first pregnancy. Postpartum wasn't what I thought it would be.

I felt lost, I didn't want to get out of bed and everything seemed like a blur. I could have a conversation but not be present.  I would have anxiety every time my kids went to sleep. I would ask myself, ‘Are they breathing? Did I give them enough milk? Will they get a reaction to the milk? Am I a bad mum by giving up breast feeding?’

The support from my family was always there - they just didn't know how to support me during a time where I was battling with my mental health. My background is African. My mum and dad's generation, till today, believe in praying away your problems and being grateful. However, in order to heal, they don't understand that we need to break the stigma around mental health and talk about it, without the fear of being judged.

My experience with the GP

I booked an appointment with my GP for my mental health after a lengthy conversation with a former work colleague and to better understand how I was feeling. She noticed the skin by my nails was red from all the biting I did, due to my anxiety. She asked me one simple question, ‘Are you okay?’ That’s when I broke down and opened up about my mental health.

At the appointment, I wasn’t approached with any care. I was uncomfortable as there was no effort to connect with me or to have a conversation with me. The GP gave me a questionnaire to answer and based on my answers he decided the best route was anti-depressants. I needed to feel seen in order to trust the system, but I didn't get that. I didn't feel included in my own care. There was no sense of love in my care. It felt like a tick box exercise.

Chrissy Brown

You’re supposed to trust your GP, but because of this uncomfortable interaction, I didn’t. I was worried what would happen to my children if I spoke openly about my mental health. This created barriers for me because I didn’t know which services to access to help my perinatal mental health.

I was offered anti-depressants and I challenged this immediately. I asked if there were any peer support groups I could be involved in. Only then my GP gave me leaflets for this. I felt like I was doing their job for them. I was helping me when I was seeking help from professionals.

I started to speak openly with a few close friends about my experience and I quickly realised that my experience was very similar to others. It’d come to the point where I did my own research and found out that perinatal mental illnesses affects one in five pregnant women and new mums. I also discovered that if left untreated, it can have long-lasting effects. In some unfortunate circumstances, it can even lead to suicide. This will inevitably have an effect on the children and other members of the family.

How I founded The Motivational Mums Club

At the time, I had a very small circle of friends and they were at work while I was looking after my children. I needed more support and I had lost faith in healthcare professionals. This was my turning point.

After doing more research, I also discovered that the waiting list for someone to get a mental health screening with the NHS can be up to 2-3 years. It’s unacceptable for any mum or parent to wait that long to be treated for something equally as important as physical health.

I wanted to start something that would make sure that mums get the help that they need. I wanted it to be accessible, meaningful, free and for it to promote mental health stats for more awareness and to also promote good tips on how to maintain good mental health. The Motivational Mums Club was born.

The Motivational Mums Club provides free mental health sessions to mothers and birthing people with qualified mental health psychologists. I also conduct and gather my own research from the services we provide to mothers/birthing people. I also work closely with organisations such as BBC Tiny People, Best Beginnings, NHS England, NHS East London, Maternal Mental Health Alliance, King’s College London and more. Along with speaking at key conferences, one being The Mental Health Foundation Charity.

The mission of The Motivational Mums Club is to focus on your perinatal mental health. So, I decided to invest in the mission of my business while raising my incredible kids by resigning from my 9-5 as a HR Advisor within the Banking Industry.

My advice to mums who are struggling with their mental health

There is NO shame in asking for help. Help is waiting for you whenever you need it. Everyone struggles and everyone needs help.

Be kind and patient with yourself. I know you’re busy raising a tiny human, but make sure you look out for yourself too - physically and mentally. Give yourself grace.

Find your tribe. Connecting with other women/birthing people who understand what you’re going through is essential. Don’t ever think you have to do any of this alone. I found my tribe through sharing my experiences via The Motivational Mums Club. Mothers started to open up to me about their experiences and we shared self-care tips for better mental health. My perspective of feeling 'shame' has now changed. I feel proud of my journey and proud of others for seeking help through my business.

Finally, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. I realised very quickly that it’s a learning process, even for people who are not first-time parents. Parents learn from what they have heard or learned from their own parents and friends. But doing it yourself, with your own child, is an entirely different thing. Children each have their own identity and parenting them involves adjusting your skills depending on your child’s needs. If I had known this before, I would have not been so hard on myself.

Young Positive Minds

I later founded the sister company, Young Positive Minds. Through this I aim to empower children with the mental health tools they need when faced with challenges. This also supports parents, educators, and family members to help children become resilient. As a result of this, we now sell affirmation flashcards, stickers and wrapping paper. The characters who play the affirmations on the products are my children, who are Black British. I strongly believe in diverse representation as it’s important for children to see their background being represented in educational resources.

Check out www.motivationalmumsclub.com for further information on The Motivational Mums Club and Young Positive Minds Products and services. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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