The Discussed of Tunbridge Wells
Tunbridge Wells Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em
Welcome to our first blog post!
I would do a vlog but I do not have the obligatory bookcase of unread books in the background. Convinced that my scattergun approach to book storage would not be appreciated. After taking some time to decide what to write, I became interested in how important blogs appear to be after initially dismissing blogs as white noise.
Mum Bloggers in the UK
It is increasingly evident that influential bloggers are an additional form of information and support for those who read them. This offers a sense that people are not alone. This led me to explore the rise of 'Mum Bloggers' which loosely relates to an article Harley Street Counselling and Training contributed to in 2016 about counselling and postnatal depression. This appeared in both the Spring edition of the Tunbridge Wells NCT magazine and My Tunbridge Wells - which informs its visitors about local events, classes and activities in order to inspire families in Tunbridge Wells.
Tunbridge Wells Mothers do ave em has become a post about how inspirational mothers view motherhood and what advice would they offer mums-to-be from the perspective of 3 contributors who kindly responded to a series of questions.
Interview with Tunbridge Wells Mums
Our contributors are Vickey from Mama Mixers which is a group who plan social events for mums in Tunbridge Wells. Hattie from That Mum Blog, Mumsnet award finalist blogger for a comic writer, and from Tunbridge Wells. And Beth E. Lee, who is a writer from Tunbridge Wells and a student of psychology and neuroscience at Kings College London.
Harley Street Counselling and Training: What was your fantasy about the idea of motherhood before starting a family?
Vickey – Before becoming a mother, I thought motherhood meant middle age, short crop haircut and practical clothes. I thought I would become a mother would mean I became a ‘mum -bore’ with nothing to talk about but my kids. I don’t think I thought a lot about the day to day reality of having a baby, just how it would affect me.
Hattie - Having a background and experience in childcare, I would be able to navigate all the physical demands (nappy changing, behaviour management when the baby grew up etc) and did not think about the emotional and physical demands. The idea that motherhood mainly involved changing nappies and feeling tired was something that seemed to be consistent with everything I had seen in films and on TV.
Beth – Before having children, I thought having a baby would be just like a job. Like an event. You just have to plan and follow the schedule and everything would be fine.
Harley Street Counselling and Training: How did you experience the reality of motherhood?
Vickey - I have found that I am still the same person I was before but I have evolved. Lots of things change - your freedom to do what you want when you want, your career usually gets put on hold and you’re tired to briefly sum it up. In becoming a mother, I have become a lot more patient, a lot more understanding of other people and what they might be going through. It can be a lonely place so I’m aware of that and this has softened my personality that was perhaps a little hard before. Also, sleep deprivation is the hardest to deal with, I can understand now why it’s used as a form of torture! I love my sleep so much so it was very hard adjusting to not having a full 8 + hours a night.
Hattie – I found it incredibly relentless. I found caring for another human 24/7 a hugely stressful concept and I couldn’t believe how much time the mundane jobs took up. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I could control a class of 30 children but I couldn’t get one baby to stop crying. I found early motherhood both incredibly boring and completely exhausting which was such a strange combination of feelings which I hadn’t experienced prior to having a baby. It sounds ridiculous in hindsight but the fact that every day with a baby is exactly the same hadn’t occurred to me either. Getting up all through the need to feed on a Friday night and starting the day at 5 on a Saturday, just like all the other days, seemed cruel – did the baby not know it was the weekend?!
Beth – Terribly. For me, nothing was as I expected. I thought I could be one of those women "who had it all." I didn’t want a screaming child, I wanted a cooing little human. I didn’t want to give up my high-profile career that I had worked so hard to achieve. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was superwoman and could do my job AND look after the baby too. I didn’t want to sacrifice my life for someone else’s needs, I wanted to fulfil what I thought was my need to be a mother. Those were my selfish issues. Those were my faults. And they brought me to a point where I didn’t know what to do. So, I fell into a deep postnatal depression.
Harley Street Counselling and Training: How did you manage the tension (if any) between the fantasy, verses, the reality of motherhood?
Vickey - My fantasy was not a positive one really so there was no tension. I never had a wish for what it would be like. I knew it would be hard and it was but it was also very rewarding. The sleep deprivation was an issue for me and I didn’t really know how to cope with the isolation. I remember thinking there are new mothers all over the world stuck in their own houses breastfeeding and watching Jeremy Kyle for the 6th day in a row. It becomes very important to have a network of other mums and to get out the house as much as you can manage.
Hattie - I don’t think I did really! I didn’t know how much support I would require and how difficult it would be to get support or indeed ask for it. I was the first of all my friends to have a baby so felt like I’d left them behind in a different country. It was fruitless trying to explain to them what it was like because it was like I was speaking a different language. It was a very lonely time. In subsequent pregnancies, I was armed with the knowledge that it is a temporary isolation and we put support structures in place to pre-empt any potential disappoint in the lack of support from others.
For example, when I had my second child I was terrified that he was also going to be a colicky baby which would be harder second time around with a 2-year-old to manage. Although I had a hugely supportive partner he was incredibly busy at work and more often than not absent during the week. We sat down and worked out how much we could afford to pay someone to come and help for a couple of hours a week. The postnatal doula we had for 3 hours a week was an extra pair of hands but she was also a hugely important psychological support for me – just to know that someone was coming was enough.
Beth -. At first, I didn’t manage. I turned to alcohol and drank a lot. I cried a lot. And just wanted it all to stop. It took a year of therapy to realise that the person I was before I had my children was not my true self. I had my perceptions and expectations in the wrong place, in my fantasy world with my fantasy self. With that said, going through the depression, and coming out the other end was the most confronting and positive life-changing experience. It has made me more accepting of who I am and a much more open and understanding Mum today.
Harley Street Counselling and Training: If you could choose a question to be asked about motherhood, what would be the question?
Vickey - I would ask what the best and worst things about motherhood are.
Beth - How did you get to a point where you accepted your new life?
Harley Street Counselling and Training: How would you answer your question?
Vickey - The best thing was that my daughter filled a hole I never knew existed. I have a purpose and a little human to look after. The joy you get from having a child is not something you can explain to anyone I don’t think. It’s just the best thing in the world when you make them laugh & they start communicating with you.
The worst thing for me is the freedom. I don’t really get to go many places on my own and I miss that. My husband doesn’t get back from work until 8 pm most evenings so I can’t really go out during the week. Having to arrange childcare in order to do something is the worst thing for me, especially when you are used to being very sociable.
Beth - I had lots of therapy - addressing my past, specifically my relationships with my parents, accepting and committing to my new life, finding my core values, and constantly working on what is important to me.
Harley Street Counselling and Training: In a sentence; what words of wisdom can you pass to new Mums?
Vicky - I would say take it slow, they really are only little for a short time. I would say try and do something for you as often as you can. Go out for a coffee on your own, have a bath on your own and take it in turns with your partner so you both get a break. Also, make time for your partner. Try and get a date night occasionally, it does you the world of good!
Hattie - Hang tight and be kind to yourself; new-borns change very quickly and every day, week and month will get easier.
Beth - It's ok to ask for help, it's ok to accept help, and it's ok to not be perfect because it too shall pass.
Thanks again to Vickey, Hattie, and Beth for contributing open responses which help to normalise the varied experiences that mums go through. The need for support appears to be a thread that runs throughout, along with the loss of the life they had before pregnancy. Putting in place support networks for, at least, the foreseeable problems might be a very important factor. Women often face pressure to be the perfect Mum and may experience low self-esteem.
One-third of UK mums have difficulty bonding with their baby, leading to feelings of shame and inadequacy. According to a recent study, nearly half of new mothers with mental health issues go undiagnosed and untreated. The most serious of these issues included postnatal depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and postpartum psychosis. Out of 1012 women surveyed by NCT, half said they had experienced mental health problems at some during their pregnancy, or within a year of giving birth.
Feel free to get in touch if motherhood is having a profound effect on your life. We are able to provide psychotherapy, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and counselling for postnatal depression in Tunbridge Wells.
Too much too Jung
Welcome to our second blog post!
Today, we very briefly poke our noses into the world of the younger therapist with the help of Gemma Saggers, founder of Millennial Therapists who contributes her insights as a counsellor on placement. What interested me in a post like this is that I was once a younger therapist like Gemma and wondered if some of the challenges mirrored my own.
I was armed with a Diploma in counselling at the age of 24 at the turn of the century. At the time, not only was I considered too young by some, it was perceived as a weird area of study in general. Counselling was not the boom it seems to be now as compared to the 1990’s.
A handful of peers had seemed to wonder about the perceived limits of my life experience and others would perceive it as a good thing that someone so young would want to develop themselves.
I rarely felt truly connected with my peers until perhaps my knowledge base demonstrated the slightest moments of substance. I felt treated as ‘the young one’ which became somewhat self-fulfilling, as I grew to enjoy the role of being the ‘young one’ which I think maintained the issue I perceived. I was the only person I knew of that had trained under 25 – and still am.
I recall being asked to wear a tie to look more 'grown-up' which amused me rather than fast-tracking me to feeling offended. I had been regularly patronised by those I had considered some of the biggest champions of difference and diversity, yet had become disappointed as I find these champions are all too frequently afraid to talk to builders. The people who I experienced as the most accepting were the ones I felt slightly de-skilled and fearful towards at the time and slightly surprised at their openness towards me.
I found clients much more accepting on the whole, at least, by the virtue of coming back. And I did actually wear the tie for a short time. Funnily enough, I was often asked by clients why I felt the need to wear a tie! The issue of age did not become part of the relational aspects of the therapeutic work as much as I might have expected in hindsight. Supervision was especially helpful in working with my own hang-ups.
Now after 18 years in practice, I feel professionally old. In reality, I know I am not old in the physical sense. I don’t know how much by ‘feeling professionally old’ is influenced by hitting mid-life. I am yet to buy a speedboat, so there appears to be no immediate mid-life crisis. However, this is a subject for another day.
It continues to be much more common for counsellors to train in their 30’s and 40’s but I have noticed that a ‘younger one’ will appear more frequently in training and greater in number. I started to wonder about their experience. What are the challenges?
Certainly, one issue that arose for me was my dismissive attitude towards my own self-care. It has never been a myth within the profession that counsellors are so completely ‘sorted’ but I notice it is possible to create the myth for ourselves that we are.
This manifested itself in me by busily shifting from one aspect of my life to the other without allowing much room for reflection. In addition, I was not especially attentive to physical needs like eating properly or I would drink too much. In essence, I was doing what young people do. I wondered how similar these experiences might be, for a younger therapist today.
Harley Street Counselling and Training: Hi Gemma, tell us about Millennial Therapists.
Gemma: Millennial Therapists is an online community for therapists aged between 21 and 35 to connect and share their experiences at both a trainee or qualified level. The long-term aim is to create a like-minded community of young therapists that can connect via social media or in person to offer the very particular kind of support that young trainees need. There had been times over the past couple of years that I’d struggled to connect on a more personal level with other trainees and I believe this was largely due to (an often-generational) age gap. Whilst we could excitingly chat about the content/work, we are often at very different life stages which made it harder to relate. Looking outside of my course for similar age support didn’t quite fit either. Whilst my friends have done their best to understand my training, the journey to becoming a therapist is so unique that it helps to talk to those who are going through it themselves. Although only in its early stages, it has been amazing to hear some of the responses to Millennial Therapists. Now in 2018, I hope to focus a little more energy on helping it grow and that we can continue to offer support to each other.
Harley Street Counselling and Training: Being a young counsellor in training, what have you found to be some the challenges?
Gemma: Something I struggled with was accepting myself, my interests, likes and dislikes. I’m young for the ‘typical’ therapist and for a long time struggled with people’s opinions and judgements of my decision to re-train. A lot of my mother’s friends exclaimed: “She’s a bit young, isn’t she”? “Surely she needs a bit more life experience”. “She won’t be able to hack it”!
At the end of my first year’s training one of my peers confided: “When you walked in at the beginning of the year I swore I’d never tell you anything because I assumed you wouldn’t understand, I’m really sorry for thinking that”.
For a long time, I’d allowed the worry of what other people might think to rule me so strongly that I began to miss out on things I knew I’d enjoy and do things I didn’t enjoy in an attempt to fit in or impress. Unsurprisingly, this led me on a path I knew deep down wasn’t right for me. Since the age of 14, I’d wanted to be a therapist. So, in 2015, I decided to bite the bullet. Quit my well paid corporate job and enrolled on a 4-year MSc in Person-Centred and Experiential Psychotherapy.
In order to re-train, I have had to leave London and move home to live with my parents. Despite their kindness and total backing, I found myself listening to a destructive little voice in my head. It chanted, “No-one’s going to believe that you’ve come home for this, everyone will think it’s because you failed in London. People will think you’re just home because you couldn’t hack adult life”. At times, that little voice was allowed such volume that it nearly convinced me it was speaking the truth. It was only when I learnt how to practice self-care that it began to quieten down.
Rather than continue to feel ashamed or embarrassed, I’ve accepted that re-training and returning to the countryside makes me really happy. I’m passionate about the work I do and whether or not people understand is for them to worry about!
I am fortunate enough to have been accepted into a private practice run by two psychotherapists, now 10 years into their career, who both started training when they were my age. At my interview, we were able to discuss any concerns I had in relation to my age but spent much of the session looking at the many positives that I and they believe can be connected to being a young trainee. Working there since September 2017, I can confirm that I’ve 100% picked the right career path for me. My work is a privilege and I am excited to learn and experience just how much more there is to offer in this field. So far, my age hasn’t been an issue in the therapy room. I hope this continues, but, if I come up against any challenge, my personal acceptance of myself in relation to my career will hold me in good stead.
Harley Street Counselling and Training: Learning to care for me as a young therapist was an important part of my training. Prior to your training – what did self-care mean to you compared to now?
Gemma: Prior to my training as a Psychotherapist, I had really neglected my self-care. In fact, I mocked the practice entirely. I didn’t need some social media fad dictating that I invest in avocados or buy a prosecco bath bomb or take a trapeze class. No, I was above self-care. And nothing was going to trick me into practising it…
At the time, my life looked how I imagine it might for many career-driven 27-year-old females living in the city. 15 hour working days, mindless caffeine stimulation, not enough sleep, alcohol as a means to unwind, and being the shoulder to cry on to just about anyone that needed it. Repeat.
But, during my first year on my MSc in Person-Centred and Experiential Psychotherapy, my programme leader said she was prepared to fail me. I was shocked. My essay scores and application for being a psychotherapist were all on track. I’d worked so hard, what had I missed?
“Your self-care isn’t good enough Gemma, if you carry on like this you’ll be burnt out within the year”. The one thing I hadn’t got quite so sussed: how to look after myself. It transpired that bath bombs aren’t a component and that learning how to really self-care is a lot more important (and difficult!) that I had realised.
Her words came as a huge shock. I’d initially come into the therapeutic world thinking that my mantra of “I want to care for other people” would be enough. Little did I know that neglecting myself for so many years would become the thing now standing in the way of a career I cared so very much about. I was so surprised someone had noticed over the years I’d learnt how to hide most outward signs of any sort of need. I felt seen and cared which quickly transformed into the bitter disappointment of myself. (Shame anyone?!) I vowed to both see and care for myself from that moment and actually learn the true meaning of self-care. Easier said than done!
Since that day I’ve been on a bit of a journey. (Cliché apology – but I really have!) I have worked out a plan of how I was going to implement better self-care. I have good days, bad days, and days where I let go of it all and threaten to undo all the achievements I’ve made. Self-care isn’t easy, but it’s very important. Google says it takes 21 days to create a habit. However, self-care for me has been a bit like learning a musical instrument that I had the very little natural talent for. So, for me, it’s had to start at a really simple level.
I quit the mindless caffeine (oh the withdrawal!). As a naturally anxious person, I hadn’t appreciated the damage it was doing to my central nervous system. This has meant I sleep better, am more alert during the day but feel tired when I am. This brings me to my second change… Sleep! Recently enjoying Sunday lunch with a friend who is a doctor, I asked him what he’d most recommend patients live their best lives. I was sure the answer would be spinach. Alas – without pause, “Sleep!” was his response. For me, it’s a minimum of 8 hours. I’ve embraced that the night owl party girl image I’d attempted to create in my early 20s has been demolished (I think she may have only ever existed in my imagination) and to go with the sleeping has been the necessary development of a good skincare routine. I am ashamed of the amount of time’s I’ve fallen into bed too exhausted to take off my make-up.
Developing and sticking to a morning and bedtime routine has made it easier to get up on lower days, and promote quality sleep in order to wake up feeling as refreshed as possible on the others. At this point, I could very easily launch into a paragraph about the effects of blue light (the light transmitted from your phone) on your brain and sleeping patterns, but I won’t.
With the basics of decaffeinated coffee, sleep, and cleansing now in place I could crank it up a level. My third type of self-care change and the hardest to crack: Acceptance.
Whilst it might seem like the smallest thing, having had the strength to do what was right for me and then to have it accepted felt incredible. This leads me to my final Self-Care tip: Surround yourself with people who genuinely want what’s best for you.
My journey to self-care hasn’t been all wonderful and it’s definitely taken more than 21 days to become a habit. During this process, I have had many dark moments where practising self-care has meant letting people down, breaking up with someone I knew wasn’t right for me and re-evaluating friendships that left me drained and exhausted. It has been extremely hard at times and been met with a lot of guilt when untangling myself from plans and people that were not a good fit. However, now, at the beginning of 2018, I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the friends and family who have not only accepted the changes I have needed to make but encouraged them.
Self-care is great. But it’s only great if you’re doing the self-care that works for you. Whilst what I’ve done has worked for me, you must do whatever is best for you. Self-care is not just fitting into society’s or your friend’s or a blog’s version of what will make you happier and healthier, only you know that! If I could give you one tip, it would be to sit someone quiet, away from your phone, and just think about something that makes you feel good. See if you can swap it for something that makes you feel bad and go from there. You deserve it.
Thanks to Gemma from Millennial Therapists.
Private Healthcare Award Winners 2018
Harley Street Counselling and Training are both delighted and surprised to have won two Global Health & Pharma - Private Healthcare Awards for best CBT and Logotherapy: UK 2018.
This is great to hear and feels rewarding considering so much work goes on behind the scenes by both myself and our external therapist Louise Harris. The aim is to maintain the standards we have in place whilst looking to develop the practice. View more blog posts.
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