I’ve managed to get my hands on some words of wisdom from the lovely Jo Love of Lobella Loves (and by that I mean she generously answered some of my questions), but first I want to talk a bit about resilience. Resilience refers to our ability to stay well throughout the inevitable ups and downs of everyday life. Basically, it’s our ability to cope with stress or adversity and adapt to challenging circumstances. It isn’t a personality trait but rather a collection of protective factors (assets, if you will) which lower one’s risk for becoming mentally unwell; such as an individual’s self-esteem or sociability, having a warm and supportive family with high – but crucially, not unrealistic – expectations, as well as a sense of connectedness and participation within a wider community. Mental wellbeing is a continuum, it ebbs and flows throughout life, and luckily for us, resilience can also continuously be developed and built upon.
One aspect of resilience (a sense of community connectedness and the ability to contribute to society) is very personally significant to me and perhaps one of the reasons why I admire Jo as much as I do. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I struggled greatly with anxiety and panic after the birth of my first child, Poppy. I can attribute many factors to my recovery, such as strong support from my partner, self-directed therapeutic treatments to challenge my anxious thoughts, and mindful activities; I began journaling, which served as a release but also helped me to process my troubling, complicated and chaotic thoughts. Throughout this entire experience I also struggled with my lack of contact with anyone whom was going through the same thing, although in all likelihood I probably had a great deal of contact with other women who were feeling similarly, it was just that we weren’t talking about it! All of this formed the basis for why I decided to retrain as a mental health nurse, and why I care so deeply about this space and the community I’ve found online (mainly via @luella.and.rose). Not only do these outlets and this vocation allow me to positively contribute in an area which I feel passionately about, but it also, selfishly, feeds my own sense of self as well as contributes to strengthening my resilience.
Back to the lovely Jo. This is a woman whom, if you aren’t already familiar, has experienced great personal hardship (she’ll tell you a bit more about it below). She is a relative open book, in the hopes of supporting other women who are also struggling with their mental health – her “Therapy Thursday” stories are well worth a watch (although, disclaimer: I think she may be having a bit of a revamp and so there isn’t much saved there at the moment, but keep an eye out)! She has also taken her dream of creating an online marketplace and fused it together with the admirable decision to donate a portion of each sale to Cocoon Family Support. It is this inspiring gesture of kindness and empathy which first drew me to Jo, and it is her immense relatability online which leaves me feeling as though I wish I had known her four years ago when my anxiety was at it’s peak.
Would you give us a little overview of your personal experiences with mental health?
I was diagnosed with PND (postnatal depression) 8 months after my little girl was born. But it all started the day she was born. It had been a traumatic birth and I just couldn’t bond with her in the weeks that followed. I felt like I was just going through the motions. For a long time I didn’t feel much of anything except flatness, numbness and exhaustion, and there was certainly no joy. Seeing my husband and family light up over the baby made me feel even worse, I couldn’t understand how this was supposed to be the happiest time of my life. I tried to rationalise it, as I knew that motherhood would be tough and most people at some point feel scared and alone. So I did my best to ignore it and assume it would pass, except it didn’t. Slowly, with help (counselling, weekly medication, and lots and lots of self care) I got better. But then I ended up getting diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) associated with the PND trauma. So the cycle of treatment and recovery continues to this day.
You’ve created Lobella Loves, a beautifully curated online marketplace that donates a percentage of all sales to Cocoon Family Support, a charity which supports mothers suffering with perinatal mental health issues. Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration behind this?
With Lobella Loves, I wanted to create a space online that took the stress out of finding beautiful things. There are so many fantastic independent retailers and entrepreneurs creating gorgeous clothing, accessories and toys, but I realised (after many sleep deprived nights desperately trying to relocate items that I’d seen on Instagram), that there was nowhere bringing these wonderful stockists together. That’s when I had the idea to create my own online marketplace especially for mums, babies and little ones.
Anyone will tell you that mums are seriously time-poor, so by bringing together the incredible businesses I’d been hearting on social media, I could not only help mums save time with their shopping but I also realised that I also had a chance to help mums on a more fundamental level by donating to PND charity, Cocoon Family Support. “It’s cool to be kind” has become a bit of a business mantra for us at LLHQ. In particular, our charity element is incredibly important to the company, as a sufferer of postnatal depression myself. Giving back, helping to fight the stigma and helping other mums has become part of the DNA of our company. Money from every single sale goes to charities helping to support mothers with perinatal mental illness.
You’ve also created #notesofhope – will you share with us your favourite?
There are so many, but this is one of my favourites as it’s so beautifully written but also aesthetically gorgeous. See the photo below.
Many mothers aren’t prepared for the emotional and mental upheaval that happens during pregnancy and afterwards, if you could offer them some advice what would it be?
I would say, if they find themselves suffering or having more bad days than good, then this is my key advice:
- You haven’t failed – I cannot emphasize this one enough, so I’ll say it again – YOU HAVE NOT FAILED!
- Do whatever you can to stay well, speak to your GP and get help. Also know that sometimes ‘me time’/meditation/exercise just isn’t enough. Don’t be ashamed if you need to go on medication.
- Banish the guilt – good ol’ ‘mum guilt’ gets to everyone at times, but don’t let it linger. Remember that being a good enough Mum is good enough.
- You are not alone. One thing that I’ve in my journey, more than anything else, is this is so prevalent. Whether people have suffered pre or post natal depression, anxiety, anger or whether their condition has been officially diagnosed or they have suffered in silence, there is an army of women out there who have walked in your shoes and have got your back. So start sharing, and as you do you will see that you are not alone and the support is out there.
If you had to attribute your recovery to any one thing, what would it be? Do you currently utilise and methods, tools or tricks to help you manage your wellbeing? If so, would you share them with us?
People often ask when the darkness lifted and its a very difficult question to answer; it happened very, very, very slowly. A combination of therapy, medication, self love and a lot of self forgiveness has inched me closer to happiness each day, allowing love (and myself) back in. I’ve gradually felt more myself – in fact, I think I’ve become a stronger, more compassionate, more patient and better version of me. But the truth is that I’m not “fixed” and what I’ve come to realise is that I never will be. Mental health is something that I will always have to work and keep an eye on. Plus sometimes this mothering business just really sucks, some days are still dark and times are tough. Sometimes it rips your heart out from your chest and stomps on it with a stiletto heel. But other times it’s funny, joyful and full of happiness and love.
How are you approaching the subject of mental health with your daughter, both personally and in general?
She’s three so she is still a little young to fully understand. However, I try and speak to her with openness and honesty as much as possible, including mental health. She pointed to my medication recently and asked if I was sick. I told her that sometimes Mummy is sad and she needs to take medicine to help her be happy, which she accepted in only the way a three year old can, totally and without judgement. It was simple but it was honest.
There is still a long way to go in terms of normalising mental health and enabling people to get the support that they need, and you took your experiences and turned them into something very positive. How would you suggest that someone else contribute to this cause, if they were so inclined?
There are so many ways someone could help normalise mental health conditions. They can speak more openly about their own mental health, whether that’s on social media or in real life. It’s hard but it helps the next person in opening up about theirs. They can donate, there are many wonderful charities helping support women; or they could buy something/anything from Lobella Loves, as we donate money on their behalf every time they shop.
I am a HUGE believer in supporting other women and mothers. There is nothing more powerful than a strong and compassionate woman who is surrounded by other strong and compassionate women.
You can find the links for Lobella Loves below, to support both Jo and Cocoon Family Support:
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences, Jo! xo