Sunday, 9 July 2017

Mental Health + Relationships - with Mami Skilts!

Isn't blogging amazing? On the one hand, you can find excellent tips and reviews for beauty, fashion and books, but on the other, you find bloggers who open up, share their story, and really connect with their readers. Sarah (aka Mami Skilts) is the driving force behind not one, but two blogs, which is very impressive in its own right! But when you read about the challenges life has thrown at her, it's even more remarkable that she finds the time. But I am so glad she does, as her posts are always really well-written, heartfelt and so genuine.

Sarah's Mami Skilts blog covers a variety of topics, including parenting, mental health, books, crafts and reviews. Some of my favourite posts are her monthly roundups, where she recaps what's gone on in her family life in real detail and with a lot of honesty. Sarah also runs BellybuttonPanda with her son, where they talk about their life living with Aspergers and teenage cancer. It's informative and also deeply personal. It's definitely worth a read. Sarah is also active over on Twitter, where she is so supportive and friendly to everyone. You know the kind of person who is always ready to compliment someone on their hard work? That's Sarah - and just for the record, I think she is amazing, with how hard she works! You can also catch her on Instagram, where she posts some pretty photos and kick-ass quotes!

1. Introduce yourself! Tell us about your blog, tell us which post you're most proud of, and tell us about your mental health story!


I am a Lifestyle Mentor and Social Justice advocate at MamiSkilts.co.uk providing guidance and advice on a range of topics covering everything from Parenting and Homeschooling to Diabetes, Dementia, Depression, Additional Needs, and Hypermobility Syndrome. With a little homemade crafts and sparkling wine to lighten the load occasionally. I have a degree in Education with 10 years experience as a teaching assistant specialising in speech and language therapy.

I have been writing since 2014 when I started a blog with my youngest son who is autistic and also fighting a rare lymphoma. We blog about our emotional journey but sometimes light-hearted look at living with Aspergers and Teenage Cancer at BellybuttonPanda. Join us on our winding and bumpy trip down Lymphoma Road, stopping off at Autism Central.

2. Have you discussed your MH with your loved ones? If yes, how did you start that conversation, and if not, why not?


Not really. I have nothing diagnosed and hope that my anxiety is more short term than most while I deal with the complex stresses of caring for my ill teenager. I have always been an anxious person. Not shy, but always over-analysing and I question every single decision I make or sentence I speak. I have written a blog post about my most recent and devastating episode so the conversation may start from that.

3. How have those closest to you reacted? Any particularly positive or negative feedback?


I should think it would be mainly positive. I have a family member who is open about her depression. My family are very close and supportive and I just want to open up and share my own experiences.

4. How has your mental health affected your relationships (whether with a partner, friends, family)?


My husband and I, fortunately, have a very strong relationship, our son's autism diagnosis tested us and our ability to cope, but we worked together and were able to support each other so that if one wasn't coping the other would step up. Since his cancer diagnosis though our ability to cope has diminished and we have really struggled this time to support each other. We are both in therapy separately.

5. In the reverse, how have your relationships affected your mental health?


Not having the strength this time round to support each other and the added stress of knowing my husband and elder son are not coping have added to my anxieties.

6. Is your mental health something you actively talk about with your loved ones, or do you prefer not to discuss it? Are there any pros or cons to your approach?


I think it is very important to talk. I have tried the bottling up approach and it made me very ill, both physically and mentally. 

7. Is there anything you wish you could tell those closest to you or wish that they understood? What is stopping you from telling them?


I pretty much wear my heart on my sleeve and there is little my family don't know about me. If there ever was something that I felt I couldn't share it would be from fear of being judged.

8. What advice would you give to people who want to tell their loved ones about their mental health?


Do it. The more mental health is talked about the less taboo it will become and the less impact and negative effects it will then ultimately have on our lives.

9. What advice would you give non-sufferers who want to support their loved one with their MH?


Listen, don't judge and don't offer meaningless advice like "cheer up". We seriously would if we could. It isn't fun feeling lost, alone, isolated and scared.

10. Are there any support systems (other than loved ones) you use that you'd recommend for those who may need them?


Speak to your GP in the first instance or arrange an appointment with HR in your workplace who can then involve OT (Occupational Therapy) or other professionals. There is help out there, but you have to make the first move. It won't come knocking to you. 

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Can I just say how thankful I am to have had an interviewee who doesn't have a formally diagnosed mental illness? That might sound strange, but I did worry that this series was becoming too focused on mental illness as opposed to mental health. Sarah's story reminds us that everyone has mental health, and even if you don't have a doctor's label for them, your feelings are important regardless. Everyone struggles at times, and Sarah is right - we need to be much more open and honest about things so that we can reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

I really am in awe of Sarah and how much she has to deal with. I also really related to her saying that knowing her family members were also having a hard time was added pressure for her. Loved ones can be a wonderful support to us, but when they are also struggling it can really intensify feelings of loneliness and isolation. We can often feel a sense of duty to help people even when we're not coping well, but it just leaves us open to burning out completely. It sounds like it has been a very tricky time for Sarah and her husband, but the fact that they are both in therapy sounds like a great idea to me. You can't be a life-raft for someone else if you're also drowning - taking care of your own mental health first is crucial in supporting others.

The most humongous thank you to Sarah for taking part. I honestly don't know how she finds the time, but I'm so grateful for her insight.

SARAH'S LINKS:

To check out the other interviews in this collab series, click here!

If you'd like to be involved in this project, feel free to email me, chat to me on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

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3 comments

  1. I know I wrote the answers, but seeing actually together in context in such a beautifully put together post has proved really emotional. Bethany, the way you have presented this series is just awe inspiring of your compassion and empathy to others.

    Thank you and it was an honour to take part.

    Sarah x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Sarah, your kind words mean so much to me! And thank you for taking part, I felt really honored to have you involved xx

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  2. I'm in awe of Sarah and how incredibly strong she has been through everything that life has thrown at her, I have a new appreciation for her now as I had no idea about many of these aspects of her life! I definitely agree that it's important not purely to focus on those who have a formal diagnosis, as mental health does indeed impact upon each and every one of us! Thank you Beth (and Sarah) for another touching and thought-provoking piece.

    Abbey 😘 www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

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