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Life in lockdown as a parent with a mental illness

Louisa Rose is a social media consultant and a mum of two. She spoke to us about her experiences as a parent living with anxiety and depression during lockdown.

[Trigger warning: this post references suicide]

I have always suffered from depression and anxiety for as long as I remember. I was officially diagnosed at the age of 16. Over the years, I have been on and off antidepressants, and in and out of therapy. After my ex-husband and I broke up, I tried to take my own life. It was after this that I started to get better. It put a lot of stuff in perspective. I don’t say I that have recovered, but I have been on a journey to mental health maintenance - saying I have recovered is denying a part of myself.

As a parent living with a mental illness, going into lockdown felt daunting. I thought if I prepared as much as possible, it would be ok. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who felt like they bought every arts and craft material under the sun.

Before lockdown started, I was adamant that there should be some structure. Over the past couple of weeks, our structure has … evolved somewhat. I have let go of the need for it to be so strict. Every morning at 9am, we put on PE with Joe Wicks to start the day. My son rarely participates in but at least it is a signal to the start of the day. My three-year-old has lunch at midday, and he watches a film of his choice afterwards. Later in the afternoon, we do our one session of outdoor exercise. We have even tried exercise classes where he teaches me what to do, which have been fun. 

The thing with lockdown is it is so uncertain. People with mental health issues don’t like uncertainly. I wake up at three panicking. I have one three-year-old and one six-month year old, and the younger brother doesn’t sleep through the night. I don’t want him to wake up the other one, as they share a room. I am on high alert to the slightest noise. This has affected my mental health, as my anxiety and depression are triggered when I am sleep deprived. 

A big challenge for me has been not having a space to myself. Normally, my bedroom is a sanctuary. A space away from the children. My husband has been using our bedroom as an office, so my sanctuary has become an office. He uses our bedroom during the day, then comes down to spend time with the kids, so has some separation between work and home. But I don’t have that. I always have a child around my ankles. 

My husband noticed I wasn’t smiling at all for the first two weeks of lockdown. I didn’t have any me-time or quality time with my husband. Once the kids were in bed, it was simply a case of feeding ourselves and falling asleep with exhaustion. I have been struggling with not having time on my own. I am a bit all over the place in my head. I can’t organise my thoughts properly.

I am going to start therapy again to help me think straight. It took an argument with my husband for me to realise this. Together, we agreed it was important for me to have an hour to myself each day. 

Today I used my free hour to do an Instagram live dance class, and now I feel great. I’m able to see the positives of being in this lockdown. We have a small patio outside, so we have been sitting in the sun and painting. I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate that before.

Even though I am in a good headspace today, I am aware it is going to get crap again, but it will also be fine again. Each crap day will end, and there will be another day. Some parents seem to be far more capable. On social media, it appears that lots of parents are really capable. I don’t want someone reading this to think that I have it all together. I don’t. Today I am having a good day.

I’m particularly interested in mental health as a parent. There are lots of pressures on mothers, throughout pregnancy, and around issues such as breastfeeding. I started speaking out on Instagram, and people resonated with what I was saying. I work a lot on children’s mental health, mental health during pregnancy and parental mental health. I have experiences with each one.  I’m always observing the impact that social media has on mental health. It’s not always negative. There’s a lot of positive stuff out there that really helps people.

My hope from lockdown is that the stigma that usually exists around mental health is broken down. There is a phenomenal amount of invaluable mental health research happening every day. Research that saves lives. So let’s rid society of the stigma, so we can benefit fully from it. 

Last updated: 27 April 2020

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