Parenting Through Mental Illness: Fiona Ng from The Mama Tea Diet
Today, Fiona Ng from www.themamateadiet.com is sharing her story. Fiona is a stay at home mum to a 15 month old, with a second baby on the way. She lives in the North East of England and loves cups of tea!People who live with mental illness have the same struggles as other parents, plus the added worries about how those difficulties will exacerbate their mental illness. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians experience mental health and addiction. Many of those people are parents. They have silently developed great tools and have masterful skills at maintaining balance, and yet many people don't share these because they fear the stigma around mental illness. My hope is that, by shedding some light on their stories here, we can create a space where stigma is erased, and others with mental illness who have or are contemplating families won't feel so alone. Today, Fiona Ng from www.themamateadiet.com is sharing her story. Fiona is a stay at home mum to a 15 month old, with a second baby on the way. She lives in the North East of England and loves cups of tea!Describe your struggles with mental illness. Do you have a long term diagnosis or shorter episodes of illness?I have shorter episodes of low mood and depression - especially in the colder winter seasons and most recently within the first 3 months of my second pregnancy. The past 3 months have been particularly difficult as I've been battling prenatal depression (which is something I didn't realize affects so many women in pregnancy) and that combined with seasonal affective disorder has made most days difficult. Simple tasks like getting out of bed, making breakfast, and leaving the house to do the food shopping have become hard and I often withdraw in the house, spending days by myself with my toddler.How long have you lived with mental illness? This is something quite recent.What steps do you take to maintain mental wellness?I love to exercise and this has been part of my lifestyle for over 4 years. When I am well I often participate in gym classes approx 4 times a week for exercise and for socializing. When I am suffering with low mood I force myself to go at least once a week (which I'm aware isn't enough to increase my endorphin levels) but I also try and get out in the fresh air for at least a 15 minute walk. Nutrition is also extremely important for me to maintain wellness.I also pray and study the field of self development. I make sure I listen to positive podcasts daily and I also read alot of books. When I am going through a low period I may perhaps have the podcasts on but would not always soak everything in but figure it's better than sitting in front of the television.How old is your daughter?15 monthsHow does your mental illness affect your life as a parent?It's extremely hard as my daughter always comes first. She is such a happy ray of sunshine that I often feel guilty if I can't be fully present with her. On days where I'm exhausted and depressed I may get her out of bed later in the mornings which delays meal times and I'm guilty of distracting her with the TV opposed to taking her to baby groups or leaving the house.How do you talk to your daugter about your illness?She is too young to understand.What part of parenthood do you struggle most with?Being a stay at home mum, having zero structure, having no identity in the career world, being relied on 24/7 and not getting 'me time'.What part of parenthood do you enjoy most?I love nurturing my daughter, watching her grow, seeing things from her perspective, being able to be there for her to comfort her, to encourage her and to teach her about the world.Is there anything positive you take from parenting through mental illness? Or part of your parenting you are particularly proud of?I'm proud that despite often feeling low I still drag myself out of bed and care for my daughter. I'm proud that I find the strength to push through and that I am able to put a smile on my face for her.How is your illness viewed amongst your family/peer group? Do you face stigma and barriers, or do you feel supported?As someone who is perceived as quite extroverted and outgoing I at times feel people don't take me seriously when I tell them I'm having a down time or struggling. With my family I feel it is taken with a pinch of salt as they know I will just get on with it. I often communicate through blogging and through my social media channels to express how I feel as I do get support that way.Do you have any advice for others struggling with prenatal depression?
- Talk to those closest to you about how you are feeling - do not keep feelings bottled up as it is lonely enough suffering with prenatal depression, let alone not telling those you live with or spend a lot of time with.
- Try and really do some form of exercise at least once a week but ideally aim for 2-3 times a week, it really does help.
- Read other blogs and other peoples experiences on prenatal depression to understand you are not alone and chat to others who have gone through the same thing.
- Lastly be kind to yourself! We're growing a human and should be less tough on ourselves as we are doing an amazing job!