It’s been four days since I did five back-to-back yoga sessions to raise awareness for maternal mental health and to raise cash for Cocoon Family Support. To say that the day challenged me is an understatement. It damn near killed me but it was worth it and here’s why.
I read online the other day that suicide is the biggest killer of mums with a child under 1 year old. I’m just going to let you digest that for a minute. The biggest killer. That’s a stat that saddens me for all sorts of reasons; it saddens me because there are children left without mothers but most of all, it saddens me because we can change that statistic. It is in our power to make that better. If we can break the silence and eliminate the stigma when it comes to mothers talking about their mental health, then we can create a space in which some of those at-risk mums feel like they can ask for help. If we can do that, maybe, just maybe, we can reduce that number.
Most of us find motherhood hard; many struggle with the transition and that’s normal but for so many women it’s more than that. For some, birth triggers in them a physical, chemical change that affects their mental health in a way that is so much more than ‘finding it hard’. This disease can swallow these women whole until they are unable to recognise themselves. They’re thoughts are not their own, but they are in their heads. It’s confusing, terrifying. Add to that the phenomenal pressure of external expectations regarding what motherhood is, should be, what it should look like and feel like and these women are ill, scared, isolated and slowly drifting further and further away towards a place from which asking for help is so very difficult.
When I embarked on my yoga journey, my mental health was in a fairly good place. I was off the anti-depressants for the first time in three years, my anxiety was under control, I felt like it was a great time to use that positive change for the power of good and raise awareness for those still struggling. What I didn’t realise is that managing the event itself would lead me to have to carefully manage my own mental health as it deteriorated under the pressure. The irony isn’t lost on me and I don’t regret it because it was a timely reminder that my mental health issues are and always will be still there. That’s not necessarily a negative thing, but this is an issue that needs us to constantly scrutinise the context in which we talk about it. It’s not going away.
I trained for four months in the run up to the event. I’m not sure there has ever been such a thing as ‘yoga training’ but that’s what I did. I needed to get my body to such a place so that it didn’t feel the heat. I needed to build up my strength so that I could do 15 planks a session over five sessions (and all the rest of it). I needed to build my stamina and develop my mental approach so that my head didn’t let me down in the face of such a huge challenge. I trained at least 3-4 times a week. I found that time at the very beginning and ends of the day. In between, I ran the blog, Hustle & Fox, my family. I changed my eating and drinking habits, I gave up time with my family to be in a hot room of 42 degrees and 40% humidity so that I could get through this one day.
When it came, I felt ready. The first three sessions went by in a blur. By 1.30pm I’d completed 3.5 hours in the room and felt strong. The third session was full of all my friends, supporters, family who came in to spread the word and share the session and the fact that so many people travelled out to Eastcote to do exercise in a hot room is testament to the passion people have for the cause. They may be on Instagram, they may filter the shit out of their lives, their kids, their houses, but they’re all mums and they all know. Even if they haven’t been there, they’ve seen it, they’ve felt it, they’ve watched their friends struggle and fall. They were there because they know that it’s not ok to sit back and watch while suicide is the number one killer for mums with children under 1 year old.
By the 4th session I was spent. This was the longest at 90 minutes and the hottest and the emotions were starting to build. I was digging deep for every plank, for every balance. Every backbend nearly brought me to tears but I got through it, with the amazing Leanne and Amy from Hot Yoga House at my side.
The 5th and final session was overwhelming. I’d asked Jimmy to get there before the end of the session to pick me up and wait for me. I knew I’d need my ‘person’ to be right there when I was done. I knew it was going to break me. I knew I’d need holding up. By the end of the session, I’d been crying for the last twenty minutes. The tears were not because of the physical struggle; they weren’t because I was knackered. The tears were a result of being overwhelmed by the emotion of the day. I’d had so much relentless support from everyone across social media – instamums, celebrities, friends, family, followers – they’d all turned out to cheer me on and they’d all helped to do exactly what I’d wanted to do: they’d shouted about it from the rooftops. They’d all banged on about maternal mental health until I could see conversations popping up all over the internet between women and men talking about their own mental health struggles, openly, honestly and without fear.
Mental health can be ugly. It’s not cool, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s too easy to hide. My blog has always been and will always be about two things: honesty and kindness. I’m not sure I realised this when I started the blog, but that decision to always be honest and kind must have come from my experience of struggling with mental health. I needed honesty and kindness when I was struggling and now, through HOT FOR MENTAL HEALTH, I’m hoping to offer that to someone, anyone, who might need to hear it.
There’s still time to donate HERE.