Time to talk openly about Mental Health it said but hasn’t that been done and continues to be done all the time I said with an air of scepticism in my thoughts. Maybe because I work in a large corporate organisation and have the resources and work groups to promote positive wellbeing, I am getting a little complacent about this topic in 2022. I feel that most of us are already on the self-help journey by now and that stigma that I encountered literally on a daily basis when I started the biggest role that I was ever going to undertake, being a parent many years ago, has somewhat subsided. As I sit here now reflecting on the recent Mothers Meeting event some 24 hours later it continues to raise many questions for me…..whilst everyone’s ‘hard’ is different have I really addressed all that learned behaviour and mistakes that I made during my twenties and thirties that I still have many regrets about. Have I really forgiven myself and others for some very dark, tough times that I call my ‘hard’. Do I need to go to that safe space again of Lucy who has been my therapist for many years now…..maybe, maybe.
So, its Monday morning and I have already spent most of Sunday night and all of Monday morning thinking about what I am going to wear to the Mothers Meeting Event that is being held at the amazingly cool Stratford Hotel in East London. Who is going to talk to me and what interesting things do I have to talk about, those thoughts have taken over yet again and with a quick goodbye to home I set off to hopefully see and meet some friendly women just like me. It doesn’t matter how many of these meetings I have been too I still stand at the bottom of the stairs and give myself a talking to ……for god’s sake Cara you are a 40 something, strong, successful, resilient women get in there!!!! and you are quite a good mother who somehow has managed to raise 3 decent human beings, you have shit to share. Up the stairs I go and of course I immediately feel at home. A few familiar faces come to say hello and new faces introduce themselves like only women can in order to make other women feel welcomed. We all have each other’s back immediately. I know it sounds like a cliché, but this space is where women encourage other women, where candid discussions take place, where women can be vulnerable and show strength at the same time. And that certainly was the theme for this meeting.
The panel was certainly one not to miss, Jenny has pulled it out of the bag for this one. As I sat there waiting for the discussions to start, I wondered what back stories these ladies were going to share with us and how guarded would they be with such a large following watching their every move. Yet again I am proved wrong and as soon as Caroline Watson starts talking, I hear myself saying god how brave is she to give up her life pre-children to be fully present in her new life as a mother. To say Caroline’s work life was glamourous is an understatement, she was an incredible stylist working with one of the largest boy bands in the world, she travelled the word with them and experienced things that only I can dream of but one day made the brave decision to give it all up. Yep, she came off social media, left her 138k followers and after many years of dedicating her time to make others happy now was the time to make time for Caroline and her children. Make money or look after your mental health. Make money or spend time with the children at the beach. Make money or being present and engaged with the children. It’s a no brainer, right? Of course, this isn’t for everyone and some of us are not able to do this with the ever-increasing financial commitments that we work to pay each month and with total honesty Caroline emphasized that her financial pot did take quite a knock, but it was what she wanted to do and knew that the time was right for her. That decision making and bravery was quite empowering. Could I be that brave? Am I selfish for wanting the luxury’s that my salary gave me? If I asked my children, would they have preferred me to be around and present more, would they have wanted me to have attended every school event and been there every day for school pick up’s and drop off’s…maybe, probably. But the room continues to listen to Caroline and be motivated by her story of the digital switch off and how she now fills those gaps where they would have been filled with another hour lost by scrolling…we have all been there. Caroline reads, reflects, enjoys her own quiet time, spends time in her garden, watches her children paint and the reward of seeing their little faces at the school gates is enough for her to know that this breakup was the right thing to do. Caroline now has the head space to build her new business venture called the The Paperwork Club which quite frankly I want a job there if the culture is as refreshing as Caroline.
Next up on the panel is a lady that I have followed for some time on Instagram, Cat Simms aka @notsosmugnow. I am not sure what drew me to Cat a couple of years ago when at the time I thought we didn’t share that much in common but as I have followed her journey over the last 18months I feel like we are best friends who understand each other even though we have never met. Sounds ridiculous I know. Why, because again of this common theme I am realising today, bravery and self-awareness. As I sit and listen to Cat it comes to me that it doesn’t matter what job you do or industry you are in or if you are taking time out to be the best parent you can be at let’s face the toughest role you will ever take on, the strength that these ladies are sharing today is relevant to us all. Cat exudes real life, no BS honesty about her feelings when her little girl was born and how this led to post-natal depression to the experience of couples counselling with her husband Jimmy to her well documented path to sobriety. I find myself sitting absolutely fixated on Cat’s story nodding away as if I am one of those nodding dogs sitting on the mantelpiece. Cat has the ability to explain how her behaviour reflects the learned behaviour she has grown up with and how this shapes us as adults in a way that the whole room can relate to. Cat discusses how we are often scared to revisit trauma that has happened in our lives and how she defines trauma as simple as having a baby. Yes, at last! It is traumatic and not all bunny rabbits and rainbows and love at first sight. Its OK to admit that and to say you found it hard. But was does finally break the ice queen within me is her refection on her route to sobriety. The realisation that addiction isn’t the stereotypical image you have of some down and out who could have made better life choices. Addiction comes in all shapes, sizes and forms and takes over us in different ways but Cat showed us all that with a huge amount of vulnerability and self-awareness what the addiction was doing to her and the discipline and strength she somehow gathers every day, she is taking accountability and owning her shit without resentment. Her words not mine and God they are powerful words.
Finally, the floor was opened up to Holly Matthews aka @iamhollymatthews and all I knew about Holly was she started out in Byker Grove and did a few episodes of casualty. What I didn’t know was, Holly is now a life coach with a huge emphasis on being pragmatic and real. Total no nonsense stuff which is perfect for me. Holly let us into her life as a teenager and how her mental health experience started at a very early age of 14. Living her teenage years working in TV, Holly was taught to believe that being made up was the way she was to present herself she was routinely told that her appearance wasn’t good enough and this led to her mental health deteriorating. Holly described how she spent years pretending to be someone she wasn’t so people liked her and this was something that made me sad about my younger self as I was sitting listening and my mind again wondered to my own challenges. Thank God my daughter has the confidence to be her authentic self I thought. As Holly continued to talk suddenly with raw openness, she describes the bombshell news that her husband was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour. The strength at which she detailed this time in her life and the resilience it has given her was remarkable. Her words were inspirational, there she was with two small children and a husband fighting her his life and she still found time to be selfless. Holly wanted to share her experience with others who were going through the same fight. Holly shares a wonderful insight into how when you slow down and scale back your lives become richer. Holly’s experience and drive to help others find their way enabled her to start her own business ‘My Happy Me Project’. The ethos behind my Happy Me Project is self-development doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to be a certain kind of person to be happy and create a life you love – you can be a person who’s been through trauma, loss, sadness and grief and you can take all that hardship and still have a fabulous life. I hope that people who are in a similar position can see Holly as hope, as someone who wasn’t and isn’t willing for sadness to be her whole life. Thank you, Holly, for sharing your story. I feel very privileged to have been able to hear it.
I keep hearing the phrase ‘find your tribe’ and I am not sure I have found mine yet, but I do know that the women in the room at The Stratford Hotel were my people. They reminded me that I must be kind to me. Its ok to put yourself, your piece of mind and desires before others. We are all Human and we all make Human mistakes. The powerful thing is owning that mistake and who you are and moving on without guilt….isn’t that right girls x - Cara Morris