For those of you reading this who don’t know me, I’m Jo Smith. Wife and working mum to my two young children, Mason 6 and Violet, almost 4. A few months after Violet was born, I started to become really anxious. All sorts of bad-ass thoughts started entering my head about my ability as a mum and I couldn’t understand why I was thinking them and what they meant! I was affected physically – I lost my appetite and consequently lost a lot of weight in a short space of time (almost 2 stone in as many months) and whilst it’s one way of getting the baby weight off, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Outwardly, I did my best to carry on as normal, but inside my head was in a spin. My husband and some friends knew I was struggling and family members noticed the weight loss but I think I did a pretty good job of hiding exactly what was going on and made out I was ‘losing the baby weight,’ but actually my life was on auto-pilot. I was doing what I had to do to get through the day and as soon as the kids were in bed, I went to bed too as it was the only relief I had from my thinking.
I wasn’t depressed. I was edgy, overwhelmed and isolated. I just wanted to stay in bed, and yet day after day I continued to care for and look after my kids. I loved them more than anything and I never ever lost touch with that, but it was clouded so much but my thinking….and I hated myself for it. Why couldn’t I just be a ‘normal’ mum to my kids?
I desperately wanted out of my head… to know what was going on and to get back to my life with my beautiful kids. I walked the dog a lot, just to escape the house (I spent a lot of time without adult interaction), but I couldn’t escape the suffering, which I now know I was innocently doing to myself.
The feelings were so intense that there were even times when I actually felt like I was losing my mind – yet at the same time – in amidst this turmoil I was hanging on to ‘normality’ and there were even moments of calm, peacefulness and laughter. I remember thinking how strange it was that I was able to joke about how I was feeling and even laugh at myself, despite what was going on! I didn’t realise it then – but knowing what I know now, these were moments that proved my wellbeing – my natural state as a human and not just brief glimpses of light in my otherwise hazy life.
So in an attempt to find out what was going on with me, I did what everyone does when they think they have a problem…I turned to Google! I wanted to know why I was feeling so mentally crap and how I could get better. I can’t actually remember now what search terms I looked up, but whatever they were, at some point it led me to Dr Amy Johnson, psychologist and life coach. Something struck me about her….the way she described life and how she suffered and overcame an eating disorder with relative ease. I was drawn to find out more! I ordered her book, Being Human and I got stuck into it as soon as it arrived. I think it took me only a couple of days to read at most. I started to get my head around what she was saying, the crux of which was: but for our thinking, we are all innately psychologically well! Every single person on earth: all 7 billion of us- no exceptions – are made of the same stuff: wellbeing, love, confidence, resilience and everything else that is good. The only thing that separates us from each other is our own thinking, which is arbitrary, temporary and impersonal. We don’t know what’s gonna roll into our heads at any given moment. How could we? We don’t think our thoughts, we just notice them when they’re in our headspace. They mean nothing of themselves – they are neutral. The content is irrelevant. Holy Shit! So all that stuff I was thinking about my capabilities as a mum and wondering why I was thinking it, was just fleeting, invisible bursts of energy moving through me….it wasn’t a part of me. WTF? This shit felt sooo real – it had grown roots and it felt like a massive part of me – what a huge relief to discover that I wasn’t crazy after all and that the men in white coats wouldn’t be coming to get me. The truth was simple – I was just a human being experiencing a lot of anxious thinking that I was taking seriously. End of. Woah!
I Googled more and came across another book called The Inside Out Revolution by transformative coach Michael Neill which was written from the same understanding. I read that from cover to cover over a couple of days. I watched videos, listened to audios, ordered more books and over the following few months, as I learnt more about this inside out understanding and how the human mind operates, my thinking started to fall away naturally and I returned to my wellbeing once again. No need for professional support, no need for medication. Some of the old thoughts came back, but I saw them for what they were – just thoughts – and they didn’t stick around. Or rather I noticed them and let them pass by without attaching meaning. I started to see that all my thinking was just made up, temporary, surface level stuff and nothing more. It was meaningless and said nothing about who I really was.
One of the simplest metaphors I’ve heard to describe this understanding is that it’s like the weather. The true nature of every human being is like the sun…always there, always shining, but just as the sun gets covered up by clouds sometimes, so does our true nature with our own thinking, but just because we can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there anymore! In the same way that we don’t have to get involved in moving those clouds out of the way to reveal the sun (because the weather moves naturally all by itself), we don’t have to roll our sleeves up and get to work on fixing our thinking to feel better, because when we leave it alone it moves through us naturally and we’re back in our innate wellbeing. In short, our minds have a self correction system built into the design and when we don’t get involved, they return to their default state of clarity – it’s far simpler than we think!
When I really started to see that I was creating my own reality with my anxious thinking from the inside out, it just didn’t make sense to me to hold onto that habitual thinking anymore, just like it doesn’t make sense to stick your hand back in the fire after you’ve been burned. When I saw insightfully how the human system works and that I was bringing to life whatever thinking was going on for me in each and every moment, I just wasn’t afraid of it anymore.
Another way to look at it, is that it’s a bit like turbulence. When we understand that all that bumping around, no matter how bad it gets, is just the plane bouncing on pockets of air and nothing to do with the plane’s ability to fly, whilst we might still feel a bit uncomfortable, ultimately we know we’re safe and it will soon pass.
Knowing this stuff has been a real game-changer for me, not just in seeing through my anxiety, but in all areas of my life – particularly my parenting. I’ll admit, I’ve held back a bit from telling my story because of fear of judgement, but I don’t actually care about that anymore. Judgement is something created within the person judging and says nothing about the person being judged (am I getting too deep now? ). Plus, I bet that for every person who speaks out about anxiety, depression or any mental illness, there’s any number of people who haven’t, who are innocently and needlessly suffering. So that’s why I decided to share my own story. Having seen for myself first hand just how the human operating system REALLY works and what an impact it has had on my life, I’m on a mission to share this with others too!
I’m super keen to reach out to parents who might be going through something similar to what I went through or just to support them with all the challenges that come along with being a parent. There’s no doubt about it, parenting can be tough at the best of time, but if there was something that could help you stand firm in your wellbeing which enabled you to deal with the daily ups and downs of raising children with more ease and grace, wouldn’t you want to know about it?
So, I hope this has been useful as an intro to me and how I’ve come to be sharing the truth about how we operate. Humans fascinate me. I can easily while away the hours in a coffee shop just watching people go about their daily lives….but I can’t help wondering how many of them are smiling on the outside but suffering on the inside, just like I was. My guess is, more than we think.
If anything I write about resonates with you or makes you just a little bit curious to find out more, please follow this blog, join my parenting Facebook group, like my Facebook page or if you’re interested at all in personal coaching please drop me a line for a chat. I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time