Faith, Mental Health, Parenting

When what now becomes what if

Hardships aren’t easy. (The clue is in the name). But I’ve seen great purpose come from great pain.

When I struggled with maternal mental health for a second time, and sank to such depths from which I thought my marriage and my family would never recover, I couldn’t see a way out. I remember crying out ‘what now?’ not understanding why a God I loved and served would let me suffer like this. I couldn’t understand why I was being broken all over again, even more deeply than the first time.

Sometimes it is only when we are fully broken that we can be fully rebuilt.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Now I can see that God turned my ‘what now?’ into a ‘what if?’. What if I stuck my head above the sand and shared my story? What if I spoke of my struffles and helped break the stigma? What if?

It is because of some of the darkest days in my life that I began to share my experiences. This led me to blogging, setting up a moms on mental health group and more recently becoming a mental health swim host.

Since my second mental health diagnosis three years ago, God has traded my shame into sharing and exchanged my isolation for community. Rather than prevent my pain, He used it to help me direct my focus on Him so that He could help me encourage others.

If I hadn’t endured mental health battles of my own, I would never have empathised and understood those who did. I certainly wouldn’t have been so proactive in supporting them. Yet here I am doing just that and I have never felt happier.

All we need is a seed of faith to grow a tree of fruit

Please know that I am no superhero. I am no saint. I am simply someone who struggled and saw a need. Someone who was willing to put her hand up and say I am hurting, this sucks, does anyone else feel the same? One thing that I have learned since walking my mental health journey is that it is a much easier road to travel when you don’t walk alone.

Pain can produce purpose

Pain can produce purpose. Do you believe that? It’s a hard pill to swallow when you are in depths, believe me. But if you are struggling and asking the same question – ‘what now?’ can I encourage you to turn the question on its head and ask ‘what if?’

What if your health doesn’t decline? Your business doesn’t go under? Your marriage doesn’t fail? What if it does but you make it through, battered and bruised? What if our ‘what nows’ are training grounds for where God is calling us to be?

What if our ‘what nows’ are training grounds for where God is calling us to be?

It is incredibly difficult to see how hardships are anything but that – hard. If you are facing hard times today, please be encourgaed; maybe, just maybe you are in training to find a purpose of your own.

R x

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Lifestyle, Mental Health, wellness

Why swim in cold water?

Swimming in cold water may not appeal to many, but it could be the key to your physical and mental health this season.

I have always loved the ocean, and will happily swim in any weather, but it wasn’t until recently that I realised the tremendous health benefits it offers. Here I share some of the many reasons why we swim in cold water and why you should too.

It can boost your immune system

When we swim in cold water our body is forced to react to the changing condition and it fires up our sympathetic nervous system to protect us. This voluntary action can, when repeated over time, help our body to activate its defences faster.

It can improve circulation

When we swim in cold water our heart has to work harder to force the blood to our extremities to keep us moving and keep us warm. As it does this, it flushes your veins, arteries, and capillaries and aids the lymphatic system in expelling toxins from our body.

It can reduce inflammation

Swimming has long be known as a superb low impact exercise for our joints, but cold water swimming can go one step further. As adrenaline and endorphins are released, this can soothe or even stop joint pain and reduce inflammation over time.

It can support and sustain mental health

Cold water swimming is by no means a cure for any condition, however our body released endorphins when in the water which gives us a natural high. This study in the British Medical Journal on a 24-year-old woman shows its effects. She had been treated for symptoms of a major depressive disorder and anxiety since the age of 17, but wanted to live medication and symptom free after the birth of her daughter. She began open water swimming each week and this led to an immediate improvement in mood following each swim and gradual reduction in symptoms of depression. A year later she was medication free.

How to swim safe

Cold water swimming is a euphoric experience, but it can be dangerous too. These are some important safety tips from the Outdoor Swimming Society:

  • Never swim alone
  • Never go out of your depth
  • Keep immersions brief – a few minutes is all you need
  • Warm up when you get out with layers, hats, gloves and a warm drink
  • Have something to eat to rasie your blood sugar
  • Walk around to raise your body temperature
  • Never have a hot shower straight after as the sudden change in blood flow can cause you to pass out.

As with any exercise, cold water immersion affects your blood pressure, heart rate, and circulation, which means it can cause serious cardiac stress. If you have a heart condition or any underlying health condition, please discuss the risks with your doctor first.

Join a cold water swim

Each month Mental Health Swims hosts cold water swim meets up and down the country. I host one here in Aberavon, Port Talbot and you would be so welcome to join us! Details can be found here. Alternatively, check out the Outdoor Swimming Society for other meets.

Happy swimming!

R x

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Essential Oils, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Parenting

Too good not to share

Ever been in love? If so you know what it feels like to be head over heels, completely consumed by someone or something. This is how I feel about essential oils. Sound extreme? Think again.

If you knew that you had a way to help a friend feel good, help her baby sleep, or support her skin, you would share it right? I mean, we don’t think twice about texting a pal to say that the Zara sale is EPIC, so why would you hesitate if you could share more than just great wardrobe suggestions?

I am passionate about sharing how we can live happier, healthier lives. Essential oils were key in my recovery from maternal mental health. They helped me feel positive, confident and courageous (find out more about essential oils and emotions here). Their impact on me was so huge that I couldn’t not share. Medication didn’t work for me this time around, but I found a natural alternative that supported my emotions and my mental health so well.

Since that first huff in the summer of 2017, I was hooked and have been on an oily journey ever since. The phrase ‘once you know better, do better’ rung true on a whole new level for me as I explored how and why we use essential oils. As a family, we are now well on the way to eliminating as many chemicals as possible from our home, filling our air with life-giving plant oils not putrid perfume and petrochemicals.

Our kids don’t cough like they used to. My skin doesn’t itch like it used to. We don’t get sick like we used to. Coincidence? I think not.

Since we ditched the chemicals and switched to plant based, natural products we have been the healthiest we have ever been. Coughs and colds have been few and far between, illnesses rare and rapidly recovered from. Teething smoother, tantrums shorter (mostly!), periods easier. You name it, every system in our body has benefited. And you can too.

I am on a mission to empower YOU to make a difference in your family health. You are the gatekeeper to your home. You control what comes in through your doors and goes on to and in to your body. Start turning over the products in your bathroom cabinets and kitchen cupboards. Read the ingredients on the labels in the brightly coloured sprays that you use on your babies highchair and on your body. Many of these products contain known carcinogens, known toxins that pollute your atmosphere and damage your organs. When you know better, you do better, and I would love to help you on your journey to a healthier, happier you.

Want to know more? Grab your oils, grab my hand and lets learn together.

R x

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Faith, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Just Another Manic Monday?

Monday’s are the toughest day of the week for many. Statistically, it is the day with the highest number of heart attacks and suicides. At some point our mind or our bodies gives way to mounting pressure, at work, at home, at school, at university.

I used to dread Monday because that was the day Dave went back to work and I was left all alone with three kids. It was a time when I was struggling to love myself much less anyone else, and my mental health left me reeling, afraid and anxious. If you had told me two years ago that I would be healthy, happy and homeschooling I would have laughed in your face.

But God. 🙌🏻

He never left me and I know He won’t leave you. Even when I felt like I was crawling through Monday on my hands and knees, even when I felt alone, even when I wanted it all to end, to run away and start again, when I look back now I know that He was with me.

No matter what has happened, no matter what you are facing, know this: you are loved by a creator who finds such joy every time He lays eyes on you. And friend, He never takes His eyes off you. Not for a minute.

Progress can be painful, change takes time, and life can seem like a struggle. But I want to encourage anyone who is gong through something that you are also growing through something. God doesn’t leave us foundering, He can make a miracle out a mess. I can say this because I was there, and He has brought me here today.

Write down where you have come from and what you have been through. I promise you, the seeds you have sown, the toil that you out in, and the tears that have watered it, will bring forth growth. It may be slow and steady but it will happen. Shoots will spring up and buds will form. Even if you can’t see the growth right now, rest assured that just like a spring bulb wrestling in the dirt to find the light, there is movement happening in the darkness.

One day you will read your story again and see God’s love, grace and provision woven through every page. There is a plan and a purpose on your life, just sit still in the Son and trust God to get you there.

R x

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Faith

Sitting in the Son

Sitting in the Son. Yes the spelling is intentional. Because God knows I need His presence today. I didn’t make it through ten minutes of church because my two year old had other ideas. My ten year olds behaviour has been disgraceful on and off all week. Our belongings are scattered between about sixteen different bags that are rammed into every available space in our car. Tempers are rising as fast as the temperature. It’s safe to say we are ready to go home.

I hate leaving Wales because the mountains and the ocean soothe my soul like nothing else on earth. But I also hate the temporality of holidays, and by the end of the week away I find myself craving the comfort and familiarity of home.

But where is home? It doesn’t feel like Birmingham. With its rising crime and pollution filled air. It doesn’t feel like the hustle and bustle, the traffic, the sirens. But it is where God called us all those years ago. He asked us to serve and serve we have. Through redundancies, depression, anxiety and adoption, we have served. After a much needed year of selah, where we have leaned on God like never before, we are finally steady on our feet. As I start to feel my strength returning and as we get ready to start a new adventure, it should come as no surprise that the devil starts knocking.

You can’t do this. You won’t do this. You are going to fall again. You are going to mess up.

His whispers mix with my thoughts and mess with my mind. But Jesus. Oh Jesus.

When He was nailed to the cross, my fears and failures were nailed with Him. When He rose from the grave victorious, I too rose with Him. He won the battle for my life so I could win the battles in life.

Jesus said I am with you today and always. You are not alone. I’ve got you and we’ve got this. You are loved, you are precious, you are a child of God.

Oh Jesus.

Don’t listen to the lies of the enemy of your soul. He will do everything He possibly can to derail your destiny. Listen to the one who defeated hell and holds the keys to hades in His hands. Listen to the one who loves you so completely and unconditionally, just as you are. His words in the Bible and His actions on the cross shout louder than any of the devils whispers.

Today I am sitting in the Son. Because His presence calms the storm in my heart, soothes the troubles in my mind and restores my soul.

R x

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Adoption, Faith, Lifestyle, Parenting

Everything I never wanted

It is Mothers Day, and this is the first one as a mom of three that I am actually looking forward to. Last year I was dreading the emotions (or lack thereof), that I would feel when my children bundled into bed with me.

I consider myself crazy blessed as a mom of three, but I wouldn’t wish my motherhood journey on anyone. Before I had my first child I knew a little about postnatal depression and knew of people who experienced it, but I learned so much more when I actually experienced it. I had moderate postnatal depression after my second son was born.

I put my tiredness down to juggling two, I put my desolation down to long days and sleepless night. It took me five excruciating months to get professional help with my maternal mental health and medication and conversation helped me through one of the darkest times. Fast forward a few years to the adoption of our daughter. A perfect princess to complete our family, yet when she arrived, my world came crashing down once again.

Motherhood seemed to be everything I never wanted

It seemed so unfair. I wanted to feel happy and proud but I felt terrified and trapped. I wanted to cherish and treasure my babies but I was angry and ashamed. All I had ever wanted was to be a mom, yet not once, but twice my mental health suffered as a result. I had done everything ‘right’, prepared, planner and prayed, yet postnatal and post adoption depression and anxiety tried to crush me.

But it failed.

Because my God is greater.

If you are facing tough times please know that you are not alone.

God will never leave you nor forsake you, even if you feel like He has.

I spent hours, literally hours on my knees crying and screaming out to God to fix the mess I was in, to take away the pain. I didn’t feel Him but I know He was there. And now as I look at my babies, I look back and see that while I was holding on to hope, God was holding onto them.

He cradled my baby when I couldn’t.

He soothed troubled hearts while mine was overwhelmed.

He did what I wouldn’t, then when I was ready He gently handed them back to me.

Mama, if you are reading this in the wee hours of the night because you cannot sleep, or with tears rolling down your cheeks because you know how it feels to want to just run away from everyone, everything, please know you are not alone. I was there, twice. I made it through and you will too.

Check out our Facebook group Moms on Mental Health for friendship and support with other mamas who have overcome depression or are still battling through it. We are stronger together and we would love to cheer you through the dark days.

R x

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Essential Oils, Lifestyle, Parenting

How to cope this Christmas

So the Big Day is just weeks away, but it is not an exciting time for all. Christmas can actually be an incredible stressful and anxious time for many people. Perhaps you feel completely overwhelmed with juggling overexcited kids, Christmas shopping, organising nativity costumes and all the things. Perhaps you were made redundant and this year you simply cannot afford a Christmas like the year before. Perhaps this is the first Christmas since a loved one died or your marriage separated. Perhaps this season marks the anniversary of a child in your care being removed from their family.

There are a whole host of reasons why we can feel anxious and overwhelmed during the festive season, and our emotions are incredibly powerful. So much so, that they actually affect our physical wellbeing. What we say and what we think can be as damaging as a physical injury, and by continuing to brush our feelings under the carpet we are causing more harm than good. If Christmas is a time that you dread, fear or avoid altogether, then maybe it is time to explore why that is with a therapist. In the meantime I would love to share a few tips on how we use essential oils to support emotions over the festive period.

What are essential oils?

Essential Oils can support our emotional health as they effect our emotional state. They can help us to feel more balanced and calm, and their use is referred to as ‘aromatherapy’.

Essential oils are the lifeblood of the plant, compounds which work to repair, restore and regulate the plant, and they can massively benefit us too. Essential oils are ‘volatile’ which means they quickly evaporate and are easy to inhale them either from a bottle, on fabric or on the skin. When inhaled, these minute essential oils molecule travel past our olfactory system, cross the blood/brain barrier (something very few medicines can do) and enter the limbic system of the brain. This is the area of the brain that controls our emotional response.

How do they work?

Smells are so important when it comes to considering emotional health. Our brain uses smells within our memory bank, and certain smells will trigger a response and take you right back to the memory of a time or place in your past. These can be both positive and negative.

Emotions are stored in our cells, and because essential oils are so tiny, they can enter our cells and help us process emotions on a cellular level. There are approximately 40 million trillion molecules in one drop of essential oil, which is approximately 40,000 molecules for each cell in the human body. So a little goes a long way!

Here are my top five essential oils for emotional support this season:

Valor

This is my go to oil when I feeling anxious or overwhelmed. This is a blend of Black Spruce, Blue Tansy, Camphor Wood, Geranium, and Frankincense and smells quite woodsy. I mainly use it topically to help with feelings of strength, courage and security, particularly if I am facing a tough day. It is also great if you are feeling alone or abandoned.

Stress Away

This exotic blend was created to combat normal stresses that creep into everyday life. Stress Away contains Lime, Copaiba, Lavender and Cedarwood and Ocotea essential oils and vanilla essence. We roll this blend on every day before school to uplift our mood and calm the mind, especially before a busy day or school tests. It also helps calm small people in new environments, or those who may be struggling with being away from home.

Bergamot

This is a sweet citrus scent that lifts the mood and helps with feelings of confidence. Bergamot is also widely known to help support those who are grieving or processing loss. I would diffuse this oil with Stress Away or apply topically to my skin with carrier oil.

Orange

We call this sunshine in a bottle and it is one of my all time favourite oils because, like other citrus oils, it is so uplifting.  I pair Orange oil with Joy or Valor for a gorgeous perfume that I can roll on throughout the day.  It is perfect for use on grey days, when you are feeling a bit down or sad, and it also supports your immune system too!

Frankincense

Thank Frank. Not only is this oil already famous because of baby Jesus, it is also incredibly grounding. It is a high frequency oil which supports your whole body physically, emotionally and spiritually. If you are looking for an oil to aid prayer and meditation or something to help the kiddos calm down in the chaos of Christmas, diffuse this with Lavender and Orange.

If you want to know more about essential oils and emotions then check out my video on YouTube or message with your questions. You can order any of these by creating a free account with Young Living. Simply click here!

R x

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Faith

Finding me

All I have ever wanted is to belong. Isn’t that what we all want?

I grew up surrounded by abusive relationships, marriage breakdowns and bitter individuals. I have seen families torn apart by anger that was incited decades ago. I was fought over in the courts. I have never known, nor perhaps ever will know the full story behind the turbulent childhood I had. But what I do know, is that I have always sought to belong, to be accepted, to be approved of.

Thinking I could rectify the past with good works, I have always strived to be good – good at school, good at horse riding, good at art. I was always in the top sets and always pushing myself but this was never enough to gain the love and acceptance that I craved.

I went to university to study, one of the first in my family to do so, and I thought would impress, but it didn’t and I left without graduating.

I felt like a failure. But God.

He didn’t need me to do anything to impress Him or make Him take notice of me. God had watched me all along, He never took His eyes off me. He knew me inside and out, and He was insanely jealous for my affection. When I turned to Him, aged 21, He became the Cornerstone in my life, the anchor for my soul.

But I still strived. It’s all I knew to do.

I thought I could make up for the past by creating the perfect family. I pinned my hopes and dreams on creating the perfect home, the perfect family. I married an incredible man and we begin to build our family, but even so things began to unravel.

Sometimes it’s only when we are on our knees that we remember to look up

I found myself spiralling in anxiety and depression wondering where it had all gone so horribly wrong. I found myself floundering, utterly lost and asking Who am I? What am I here for? Do I need to be a Wife? Mother? Speaker? Writer?

I cried out to God and His reply was simple; You are my daughter.

Ever impatient, I asked, so what am I supposed to do?

His reply; Do what you love.

I sat back reeling, because I didn’t know the answer. What did I love? Jesus, family, friends? No the answer to finding me wasn’t in who I loved but what. And slowly over the last five years God has been peeling me back later by later, to rediscover my loves.

Do what you love ~ Father God

When we bought our first house, God whispered into my heart to get a piano. I found a beautiful vintage one on FreeCycle and arranged to collect it. My husband thought I had gone insane and that it was a fad that I would get bored with, but three years on I still play my piano almost every single day.

Our house is in a busy area and it wasn’t until we lived somewhere so urban that I realised how much I craved the great outdoors. We make an effort to get the children outside the city and into the woods, fields and mountains as often as possible. Both Dave and I grew up in the countryside and we continue to feel such a pull towards a simpler, rural way of life.

And then there is my writing. I have written as long as I can remember. Poetry, stories, songs and later blogs. But only in recent years have I realised the power in sharing my musings. I have always searched for a niche, not feeling that I fit into the usual parent blogger or lifestyle blogger categories. God gave me incredible tools in essential oils to support my emotional and physical health, and lately I have used this platform to share more about my wellness journey with others.

So what have I learned in all this? That God has given me gifts and talents. He has given me hopes and dreams. And He doesn’t need me to ‘be’ anyone or ‘do’ anything. In the same way that I take delight in seeing my children come alive in their giftings, so too does God delight in me. I don’t need a label, or a category. I just need to rest in the knowledge that I am a child of God and do what I love.

I am still finding ‘me’. But there are less layers to peel back and she is starting to peek through.

R x

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Faith

Finding your voice

When you have been in a fight you walk differently. Your overstretched muscles are sore, your hands and face are bruised, your mind reeling and your body exhausted. The relentless onslaught all but took you out, and you hold on to the very walls you were thrown against just to steady yourself.

Being pushed and losing your balance is one thing, but when you are knocked flat out you have to regain composure. When you are on your feet you can dodge, duck, you can see the blows coming and you are more nimble to escape them. When you are flat on your face you can’t see anything but the cold ground inches away from your nose, and you have to concentrate all your energy on just getting back up.

I recently got back up.

I experienced one of the biggest fights of my life and it left me breathless and scared, staring at the cold, hard floor. We are told to speak out, to claim God’s promises, to stand on His victory.  On the darkest days, I didn’t have the words to cry out to the God I thought had forsaken me.

But I could worship.

I couldn’t utter a single note from my vocal chords, but I found my fingers playing chords on the piano or the guitar. Haunting melodies washed over me, and as I sat wondering how in the world I had found myself in this situation, the Holy Spirit kept stirring my heart and soothing my soul.

When you can’t lift your head, lift your voice.

Worship is a weapon. I was reminded of this at Cherish Conference last month. When you can’t lift your head, lift your voice. When you have no words, worship. When you cannot pray, praise. Whether you worship in a song, a dance, or in other creative expressions, open your bruised, battered heart to heaven and let God heal it.

Anger, disbelief, disappointment, devastation, grief, sadness, bitterness. A torrent of emotions that whipped around me and threatened to take me out. There was nothing left of me, all I had was Jesus. I shut my eyes against the raging seas that smashed against me and clung desperately to the rock, waiting for Him to pull me out.

When you are at your end, that’s when Jesus begins.

When I was face down, staring at the floor, broken and bleeding, that’s when Jesus did what I could not.

There is power in a prostrate posture. Sure laying out on the floor isn’t the least bit dignified, but it is powerful nonetheless. You may think that a broken heart is no use to a perfect God, but a submissive spirit is. By laying at His feet and saying “Lord I’m all out, I’m done in”, we are giving God permission to take our brokenness and make something beautiful, by His strength and power, not our own.

Perhaps you find yourself in a storm too, perhaps you are watching the clouds roll in ominously, maybe you are already in the waves, clinging to the rock by your fingernails, or maybe you are picking up the pieces of the chaos left in its wake.

We all have a story, a storm that we have battled through or are currently facing. But the beauty of storms is that even they have to obey Jesus. The winds and waves were created by Him, so when He speaks the storms stop. When He commands, the chaos ceases.

When He speaks the storms stop. When He commands, the chaos ceases.

And as children of God, heirs in Christ we too have the authority to speak to our storm. We can end our exhaustion, defy our desperation, by allowing Jesus to fill us with His strength; renew us, restore us and reshape us.

Wherever this finds you today, I want to encourage you that you are not alone. The One who flung the stars into space is right beside you. The One who rose from the dead will not let you sink. He will pull you out of the waves, He will call the waters to calm and He will walk you right through them.

You just need

R x

 

 

 

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Faith

Running with others

“Oh, I don’t run with others.”

This was my response to friends who had done Couch to 5k and wanted to join me on some of my regular runs. It makes me cringe now, looking back but there was a reason behind it.

Running for me is more than just getting fit. It is my headspace, my self-care, my therapy. It is my place to run away from my worries, to run through my frustrations. It’s often pretty messy and it wasn’t a process that I wanted others to witness.

When you run with others, there is an assumption that you are going to talk. Talking wasn’t always something that I was comfortable with, so it was easier to put my earbuds in, get my head down and keep going. I joined a running club last January and was the slowest runner there. I hated watching others overtake me, but what I hated even more was when people hung back for me.

Crazy, right?

But the kinder and more encouraging people were to me, the angrier and more embarrassed I felt. I have been conditioned to independence. Much to my poor husband’s dismay, I am fiercely stubborn and determined to things my way, on my own, in my time. (Our eldest son has sadly inherited this same fierce independence!)

If things get tough? Its okay, I’m tough enough to cope.

If things get messy? Its okay, I’ve got it under control.

If things get sad? It’s okay, I can paint on a smile.

Just run with it. Run through it. Run from it.

This philosophy is okay for a while, but running alone gets lonely. Running uphill gets hard. Running on empty is draining.

This is why God put people in our paths, to encourage us, to equip us, to energise us, to excite us. Those people who encouraged me are now seeing me keep up with them, hold a conversation with them. Over the past 12-18 months, I have entered races, run distances I could only dream of and smashed personal bests. All because I am running with others who propel me forward, running in a club that cheers me on.

We were never designed to live alone.

It is no surprise that we were never designed to live alone. We are made in God’s image, and even He doesn’t live alone. He exists as part of the Trinity; Father, Spirit, Son. The Bible is packed with men and women who needed relationship; with Jesus and with other people. God created us to live in community with others, and regardless of whether we are living the dream or lying at our lowest, we need people around us.

This week is maternal mental health awareness week. I have walked (and ran) through postnatal depression and anxiety twice in the last five years. I know first hand that despite all the treatment and all the therapy in the world, it was my community and my church that got me through. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, but I believe it takes a village to raise a mother.

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child,
but I believe it takes a village to raise a mother.

Wherever this finds you today, whether you are a mama who is walking a rocky road alone, or running with others, know that you are not alone. God never left you and He never will. He sent Jesus to crawl, walk and run alongside you. He sent His Holy Spirit to guide you. Even on your darkest day, He will be your brightest light.

God never left you and He never will.

When running, especially uphill, you need to keep your head up and fix your eyes on a focal point ahead. This is the best way to keep going, keep moving and get to the top. Running the race of life is no different. We need to keep our heads up, fix our eyes on Jesus and run towards Him. And He will take you through the deepest valley and over the tallest mountain out to the other side.

R x

Photo Credit: FreePik
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