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  • Gareth Ellis

It’s OK not to be OK

Mental health is a serious issue.

Often treated as a taboo subject, it can crop up in so many forms including anxiety, depression, stress and so many more.

When I was growing up if someone was suffering from mental health problems you immediately thought of someone in a straight jacket, sitting in a padded cell.

The truth is that a lot of people who are suffering from a mental health problem are sitting next to you at work, walking past you in a shopping centre or even sat around a dinner table with you as a part of your family.

I have made no secret of the fact that I have had counselling before for an anger issue. I wasn’t violent, but, I would be snappy, and fly off the handle at stupid things. It transpired that my fear of confrontation led me to often say the worst thing I could so that people would be so offended that the conversation, and therefore the confrontation, was over. It was no way to live.

Before J and I got married I went to counselling because I knew that after the wedding, the next step was for us to have children. A snappy, angry Daddy was not something I wanted to be so I spoke to someone and now I’m a changed man.

However, mental health problems among parents are probably more common than people imagine. Before Rupert arrived, I had a real fear of death and dying. I was scared by the inevitability that one day he would have to face the world without me. I soon found out it was a normal thought amongst the Daddy community.

Being a parent is honestly one of the most stressful jobs I’ve had. Don’t get me wrong, I love Rupert so much and he fills my heart with so much joy on a daily basis, but so much of looking after him can be stressful.

You stress about whether or not you’re giving him a nutritious diet, you worry about whether he is happy enough, is he too warm? Too cold? So many things. And this is without the comments from other parents judging you for the job you’re doing. I’m sorry, but parents should be supporting each other through this journey, not making snide comments about us and especially our son.

This year has been one of the toughest I’ve had. In July we lost Mum to cancer, and with it, we lost not only Rupert’s Nana but a strong piece of our support network.

With losing a family member comes the obvious emotions – heartbreak, confusion, anger (at cancer more than anything) and stress.

As well as all of these emotions we had to arrange Mum’s funeral, clear her house and sort out all of her various accounts. Even now we’re still paying bills and trying to sell her house.

I’m lucky. I have such a strong support network of family and friends around me and of course I have little Rupert beaming at me every day.

But sometimes other stresses, at work or at home, can be multiplied and those who don’t know me so well may think I’m just being miserable or snappy.

The point is, we need to support each other. Social media gives people a skewed view of how ‘well’ you’re doing, both in life and as a parent, but no-one really knows what goes on when the cameras are off. Don’t always assume that people are doing fantastically because they may be suffering on the inside.

As World Mental Health Day approaches remember to be nice to people. You don’t know how much your comments can upset them and how much they may need your support.

Some conditions are invisible – so make sure your support isn’t.

Cuddles with Ru
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