Jess’s story: parenting and fear of lost identity

Jet Setting Jess: Journey to the East 

Where it all began

Have you ever had that dream where you’re falling? You awake with a start and a feeling of unease in the pit of your stomach.

Most people just shake it off and dismiss the feeling, putting it down to eating too much cheese before bed or some other minor ailment.

After the birth of my second child, I awoke like this every night for a number of months. However, I could never shake the feeling of unease. It stayed with me through every moment that society told me I should have been enjoying in those first few months with my new baby.

Every time he looked up at me with his slow blue eyes I felt… afraid. Not for fear that I couldn’t take care of him but for fear that I had lost my identity and I was not worthy. I questioned how I could successfully raise my children when I had no idea who I was anymore or where I was going in life.

With those thoughts came feelings of shame and guilt. I knew how lucky I was to have two beautiful and healthy children but I struggled to appreciate it.

How the Mental Health Foundation's Young Parents Together programme helped build Jess's confidence

Enter the Mental Health Foundation. I started attending the Young Parent’s Together programme run by the Mental Health Foundation for mums, dads and their children. These classes helped me immeasurably. They furthered my understanding of the difference between surviving and thriving. Most importantly, I was able to reach a place where I started enjoying the journey again and stopped worrying about the destination.

Through the Young Parents Together Group on Facebook I was offered the chance to receive two free tickets to a 'make your own baby clothes' workshop hosted by Mini Magpie at the Round Chapel. This workshop would normally have been too expensive for me to be able to attend as our budget is very tight. However, this event was free, provided refreshments, children were welcomed (toys/entertainment provided) and it taught me how to turn old jumpers into clothes for my children. I felt very welcomed and not judged (I've often felt judged as a young parent). I also learnt a really valuable skill that I have used to make many items of clothing for my children, saving me a lot of money! As a parent of any age, it is easy to lose your identity in the new role of 'mum', I found that partaking in an activity that was focused on improving me as an adult really helped me to feel more like 'me' again. Perhaps it was only a small achievement, but one I am very proud of. 

I had the opportunity to attend the Young Parents Together volunteer training sessions held in a Children's Centre in Tottenham. These sessions serve as a really good example of how far I have come since attending my first group a number of years ago. When I first attended a YPT group, I was unsure what to expect, I was nervous and I felt out of place. Having attended numerous groups and sessions since then and having improved my understanding of how mental health plays a role in effective parenting and self care, I can honestly say that I did not feel out of place in the training sessions. I felt much more able to understand how and where to get help and in turn I felt confident in signposting this to others. What is more, I wanted to use my experience to let others in a similar situation know that they were not alone in what they might be feeling.

Attending the group at Skyway was without a doubt the best group that I attended whilst involved with YPT. Tanya, the facilitator, was a real pro - especially at peer support - which is a super tricky concept to understand in its entirety. Sessions always involved crafty activities for parents pretty much separate from the children (who were provided with toys). This craft helped me feel like I was an actual person worthy of taking part in an activity rather than a babysitter drafted to attend never ending soft play, romp and roll and music classes. It was this class that actually awoke my interest in taking part in the Great Wall of China Trek. I had long had all those feelings of inadequacy, but when I heard about the Great Wall of China trek, I thought that it could be something that I could achieve for just me. Something to make me proud of me, and even just taking a step towards that goal was significant. Just having had the guts to take part means I'm a world away from that mum who sat at a bus stop with her two year old and her newborn and sobbed because I felt I was a failure and that was all I'd ever be.

Great Wall of China Trek and Jess

So… drum roll please…

I will be taking part in a trek along the Great Wall of China in October 2018 in order to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation.

This will enable them to continue the great work that they do through various projects in the community. With a hope that one of their projects will reach someone like me, who right at this moment needs someone like them.

I will be running various fundraising activities over the coming year and hope to see you there, so watch this space! In the meantime, please sponsor me if you can!

I want to end by saying that I still fear the unknown but now I know that I must take courage.

Join Jess on the Great Wall of China

Do you want to be part of our amazing team all trekking for good mental health for all? You can join Jess on the Great Wall!

Find out more and sign up