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Not All Heroes Wear Capes - Motherhood and Mental Health

Nobody has written the definitive guide how to win the game of life. Our individual journey is unique and special to each of us, with trials and tribulations a-plenty. While some people may claim to be an expert, the truth is that we are always stronger and better off for falling – because this means that we have to get back up and fight another day.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Maya Angelou

Being brought up by the most amazing parents and having everything we needed, that’s all I ever wanted for my children; for them to be loved, feel safe and secure and to be happy and healthy.

I learnt quickly when I fell pregnant at 15 that it was a lot harder than it sounds - at 15 everyone is expecting you to fail! Well, I was a kid on a mission - I wasn’t going to fail and, with the support of my parents, I had this!

When I met my first ‘boyfriend’ I was 14 and fell pregnant quickly. I felt trapped. My boyfriend had been brought up differently to me, so whilst I had maternal instincts from the moment I seen the positive pregnancy test, I was pressured from my boyfriend and his family to abort my baby. They spoke to each other as though I wasn’t there, I felt invisible, but this was my baby! Cruelly and insensitively they’d remark “just because it’s in her doesn’t mean you can’t tell her to get rid’, without any consideration for my feelings.

The whole school found out because his mum was drunk in a local pub and told the mother of some girls who bullied me at school. I was called a slag; they said I didn’t know who the dad was, I had things thrown at me and I was judged from day dot. In truth, I was so quiet and shy that nobody actually knew me and the way they would talk about me, it sounded like another person – but I was not that person. I was powerful and a force to reckoned with.

“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”

– Michelle Obama

Gritty and determined, I finished my exams and had my baby, I moved out on my own at 16 - I wanted to be independent. I was! I passed my driving test and got a car. My baby was happy and healthy; except I wanted a family and my boyfriend knew that. I was 17 now and desperate for my boyfriend to grow up and want to be at home with us, but instead he would lie, cheat, steal and take drugs. In a wicked attempt to cause further hurt, his family would tell me that he was in bed with other women and when I called around with my baby they would look out the window see it was me, then sit back down in an act of twisted ignorance. Exasperated and confused, I stayed away from them, but I had their grandchild and their behaviour was difficult to understand.

I carried on with my life with my little one and when he started school I got some time for me and started to find myself. My boyfriend didn’t like that. At 20, he moved in with me and this was the biggest mistake I made – this was the beginning of the emotional abuse and pathological jealously that would forever be a feature of our relationship. He manipulated every situation and made me feel bad for something which I wasn’t even responsible for. I’d be accused of cheating every single day. I had no privacy, he would sit and rifle through my phone every night. I wasn’t allowed to talk to men. I was the butt of his jokes with his friends and he would tell me that I had to work harder on my personality to make up for not being good looking. When this is added to his constant misogynistic jibes, then he must sound like a real charmer, hey?!

“Put blinders on to those things that conspire to hold you back, especially the ones in your own head.” ― Meryl Streep

I eventually had a second child and when she started school I thought that this was now my time, my chance to do something for myself. I started working in a children’s home and I loved it, but, of course, my boyfriend hated it. The jealously continued - I was accused of sleeping with the boss when I was doing wake-in nights – it was emotional torture! I didn’t deserve this, I was innocent, but still each day I was crying getting into work. When the kids would get upset he’d phone me with them crying down the phone. He even brought them to work one day, my daughter was heart-broken. When he left with the kids I had a panic attack at work. My kids needed me and I felt helpless. I left work, I was gutted, but I knew where I needed to be. My mental health began to deteriorate – I was anxious and depressed. I was a nervous wreck. My idea of self-worth changed, I had no self-esteem. I had zero confidence and I hated myself. I had been ground down, over the years he’d slowly chipped away, isolating me, being unfaithful and driving away all of my friends. I was made to feel inadequate.

I found the courage and tried to leave him. We split up and I started to see someone else, but he ran me off the road in his car - he literally crashed his car into the side of another car that I was in. I was petrified! He cried and apologised, he also made threats to end his own life – the emotional turmoil just would not stop for me, it was exhausting. Eventually, he received several convictions for his behaviour and he had a long criminal record.

“Learn from every mistake, because every experience, particularly your mistakes, are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are.” – Oprah Winfrey

I was determined to learn from my experience and grow as a person. I went to the GP and spoke about how I was feeling, I was prescribed anti-depressant medication and I slowly started to feel like me again. I joined a gym and lost weight, in turn I gained in confidence. I felt better, but then the abuse started again – I was followed and called a lot of hurtful names, like “mental” and “crazy”. My mental health took a dive again - three children, fat, ugly, lonely and mental! What was the point?! I was confused. Why was the person who was supposed to love me was hurting me so much? I was the mother of his children. Honestly, I would of preferred him to beat me than put me through 18 years of emotional abuse. The way I seen it, I could get over a black eye, those types of wounds heal, but words hurt the most. They stay and cut deep. I fell out of any love I had for him years before we split up and, in a bizarre turn of events, he actually left me. Believe it or not!

“Everyone has inside of her a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” – Anne Frank

Once he was gone then there was never a chance that he was walking back through that door! Once I’m done I’m done, there’s no going back, I have my limits. I felt a rush of relief, 18 years of being questioned, my every move being monitored, being lonely and isolated - now I was finally free! Over five years have passed now, yet he still tries to control me. He will ignore court orders regarding the kids, spread lies about me, not to mention I’m still his wife! I will be free from him eventually, despite the struggle and his desperate efforts to hold me down. On my down days the effect of all of this takes a hold of me - it’s hard. I do struggle, it stays with me, but I’m the person today because of what I’ve faced and for that I’m stronger than ever. It has made me the person I am today, no matter what day I’m having I try and be the best version of me. Words hurt just as much a punch; they wear you down and can fester in your head. Engage your brain before you open your mouth, once it’s out there you can’t take it back. Be kind, you don’t know what people are dealing with behind closed doors.

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain!” – Dolly Parton

You have to take responsibility for your own happiness, surround yourself with people who only want the best for you.

I have the most amazing family. My mum is my hero, she has been there for me always, she listens, never judges and most of all loves me. If I’m half the parent my mum is then I’m winning. My children are my whole entire world and I will be the one person who never lets them down, to protect them, love them unconditionally and be their hero if they need one. I have to be strong and well for them, they deserve a happy mum.

I’m finally on my way to my own fairy tale, not the one in the films (they don’t exist), but my own version. I met Darren over five years ago and life is hard at times, but he gets me and we have got this! We have had a testing five years, losing Darren’s mum was heart-breaking, dealing with my children’s court dates, moving away, having children with disabilities and, the global pandemic! Our children will always come first and we have always got each other’s back. Darren is my best friend and my knight in shining armour.

My memories and fears don’t just disappear but I have learnt how to deal with them. I still have bad days, but now I have people who do love me, they support me through and won’t give up on me. I take every day as it comes; I educate myself and try to understand people’s behaviour.

Not everyone is made the same and that’s ok. We have to respect each other’s’ differences. We have to be kind to each other. We should learn to understand our own self-worth. I can’t change how people treat me, but I have a choice of whether or not I’m going to allow it - never again! I am worth more. Everything happens for a reason, try to look for positives, learn from everyday and never ever give up!

Thank you for reading

“Women have to harness their power—it’s absolutely true. It’s just learning not to take the first no. And if you can’t go straight ahead, you go around the corner.”

– Cher

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