Last week while I was driving home from taking Dil to school I was thinking over a few things. When I got in I posted my barely coherent thoughts on my Instagram stories and I was delighted and overwhelmed by how many of you agreed and jumped on board with what I was saying. The amount of responses I got then, and for days after, was phenomenal. At first I panicked a bit that I had started something big without giving it a huge amount of thought, but I was so comforted by how many people said “thank you, this has made me feel so much better”. Because stories only last 24 hours, and due to how many people felt what I said resonated with them, I wanted to put my thoughts down here so they’d be a little more permanent.
What started my off was having a casual little whinge about silly every day stuff with the school mums. Not huge problems, not things that really “mattered” in the grand scheme of things, but just things were a bit shit that I probably couldn’t say to anyone else. Little stuff that was irritating us, and I think we all felt a lot better simply for getting it out. Little worries and niggles and things that pissed us off – and we weren’t looking for solutions or answers, just saying it out loud was enough.
Then I started thinking about the negative press attention social media often gets, and how we attribute a rise in mental health problems to our ever increasing use of social media. Although I’ve never really experienced it myself, I know that lots of people’s feeds are full of ‘perfect moments’, which can make you feel really inferior when your life has a lot less of those. The truth is that of course no one has a perfect life, regardless of what their social media portrays. What they are posting and displaying on their feed is their highlight reel, and you’re comparing it to your behind the scenes so no wonder you feel bad. I think that as viewers we have to have that at the forefront of our minds when we are consuming content and scrolling through our Instagram feeds.
It Could Be Worse
A while ago when I broke my arm I had a bit of a whinge online. I was scared about how I was going to cope over the next 6 weeks – completely trapped in the middle of no where, unable to drive my kid to school, unable to give him a bath, unable to do so many of those ‘normal’ things. I took to my Instagram stories to have a bit of a woo is me moment, then I put on my big girl pants and got on with it. Unfortunately for me, one of my followers decided to message me, letting me know that I shouldn’t be feeling sad because ‘it could be worse’ (duh, I know this) and that she was ‘disappointed in me’ for having a whinge.
As someone who is again going through a bad time, I can’t tell you how insensitive I find it when someone has this kind of reaction. Of course it could be worse, and of course I do have plenty of things to be grateful for. I have a roof over my head, I have oil in the tank, I have food in the fridge. I have people who care about me and my son, and I know how valuable all of that is. But despite all of that, I’m still entitled to say ‘well this is shit’ from time to time, because it probably is.
We spend so much time now talking about mental health and the impact that it has. We say to people ‘reach out if you need to’, ‘I’m here if you want to talk’. We encourage people to use whatever platform they have to normalise their imperfect life. But how many of us are ready to listen? How many of us truly know how to say ‘I hear you’, without saying ‘yeah but…. it could be worse’. ‘Yeah but…. at least you have xyz’, ‘yeah but… you’ll be okay’. I can only speak for myself here – but I do know I’ll be okay. I know it could be worse, and I know I’m lucky to have the things I do have. None of that takes away from my feelings of sadness/disappointment/anger at the shit day I’m having, and I should be able to voice those valid feelings without someone negating it in some way.
5 Shit Things
There is absolutely a time and a place for practising gratitude, and I had a few messages from people who felt like I was criticising a method that they’ve found has really helped them which was never my intention. If you find listing things that you’re grateful for helping then please do carry on doing that. What I wanted to do was shine a light on normal lives, which do in fact all include some pretty shit bits, and give people the chance to just have an uninterrupted whinge.
The way that is snowballed showed me that people are so in need of an outlet on this, and it showed people following along that all of us have a pretty messy behind the scenes. People shared a huge variety of things; from being irritated about their broken toilet seats and feeling weighed down by their cluttered houses, to experiencing some testing times in their relationships and feeling isolated and lonely stuck at home. No one was told ‘at least you have a roof over your head’ or some other bull, and I think everyone felt a bit better for just getting it off their chest. The messages that followed were from people who were so glad they weren’t alone in feeling that way, or they weren’t the only one going through that particular thing. That they weren’t the only one with a life that wasn’t insta-perfect.
By doing this, these are the things that I really want to get across to people.
- Your feelings are valid. If you feel shit, you’re having a bad day, you’re irritated by something that might be considered ‘silly’ or trivial, you are entitled to feel that way and those feelings are valid. Anyone that makes you feel otherwise, anyone who tells you that you should be grateful for what you do have or negates those feelings – they are cock wombles and should be totally ignored (don’t be that guy!).
- Social media is a highlight reel for most people, so remember that when scrolling through it. People don’t have to share their shit times – sometimes it takes a lot to share personal stuff. But as viewers we have to always remember that they absolutely do have bad stuff going on, just like the rest of us.
- You are in charge of the content you consume. You can curate your news feed to make sure it doesn’t leave you feeling crap about your own life. Unfollow people who make you feel badly, create a news feed that brings you joy and not feelings of inferiority or that you are not enough.
- All of us have shit stuff in our lives, every single one of us. So whenever you are having a bad time, you’re in good company.
- Moaning is good for the soul. Proven fact. Holding it all in, telling yourself you’re not entitled to feel badly about these issues because someone somewhere is worse off – this is not good for you. Let it out which ever way you can. Confide in a friend over tea/gin/wine. Talk to your partner and let them know before you start that you just need someone to listen. Share it on your social media if you feel that you can. Write it down in a diary, or as a letter to yourself, and then burn it/bin it/keep it and read it another day to remind yourself of everything you survived. Let it out.
I know that many of us just need to let it out from time to time, and usually we aren’t looking for solutions, but I wanted to share a few resources just in case it does help someone.
Lots of people mentioned feeling isolated and alone, and that is such a relatable thing for a lot of parents I think. When you’re young you make friends at school, once you start a job you make friends there. So how do you make friends when you’re spending all your time wiping the bums and noses of your little people?! Personally this is one of the positives I see to social media, because if you mention online that you’re feeling alone (whether on your own profile or maybe in a parenting group if you feel able) you’ll most likely get plenty of replies letting you know you aren’t alone, and a few invites for soft play and a cup of tea. There are also apps for this kind of thing now (yes a bit like Tinder) – Mummy Social was recommended yesterday and there is also Mush and Peanut. Definitely worth a try if you wish you had a few more friends.
I hate house work, honestly I can’t stand it. I’m not good at it, I don’t have a ‘schedule’ or a ‘system’, I have no idea how to do some really basic tasks like ironing or cleaning a sink. Actually I recently learnt the sink thing thanks to Mrs Hinch – and I would highly recommend her account if you would be helped by that kind of thing. Cleaning accounts on social media are super popular right now, so you should be able to find someone who’s vibe you enjoy and you might pick up some inspiration or motivation while you check them out. Little Miss Mops is another favourite for lots of people.
If you need a bit more help like that, or you feel some serious overwhelm and need help getting it under control then Team TOMM is what you need. The Organised Mum has devised TOMM (The Organised Mum Method) to help parents keep on top of the housework without spending more than 30 minutes a day on cleaning your home. Each day has a different task, as well as a short list of every day stuff and it’s very helpful if you (like me) have no idea how to get organised and actually get stuff done.
Also if your method of cleaning is letting the house get messy, having a little whinge about it then blitzing the whole thing in a few days or whatever you do – that’s totally fine too. Or if you’d rather stick a duster in your eye than watch someone clean on Instagram – totally get it. I just wanted to put these here for anyone that would find them beneficial.
A few people shared difficulties they were having within their relationships and/or with their own mental health. Having a whinge or a rant about your partner is totally normal – healthy even! But if it is more serious, if you feel that you are being made to feel worthless or controlled, if your partner is verbally or psychically abusive towards you then please seek help. Confide in someone you trust, and make a plan to leave and get to safety. No one deserves to be treated badly, and people who love you should not treat you that way. Reach out to trusted family and friends, speak to your health visitor or GP if you can, and they will be able to put you in touch with local organisations who can help you. Within Norfolk you can contact Leeway who will provide all the support you need to get to a better place.
If you feel that your relationship needs work but is salvageable, and you are not at risk of domestic violence then you might like to consider some relationship counselling. Organisations like Relate offer some amazing services to help with relationships of all kinds, and they also have a live chat feature if you need some advice or support. Your local children’s centre should also be a great resource, and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction as well as providing a safe space for you to share your thoughts (thanks Kate from Counting To Ten for reminding me of this!).
Money Related Troubles
A lot of people shared worries about money, and I’m so aware of how many of us are living hand to mouth. It’s really difficult to see a way out of that kind of situation, I know that first hand. I will be posting about my experiences of moving over to Universal Credit soon too, from my perspective as someone who is self employed with an income that really varies each month so I hope that that will be helpful for some of you.
If you find yourself in a position where you need help from a local food bank then don’t hesitate to reach out – this is exactly what it is there for. The Trussell Trust has a great post about how to access your local food bank and get emergency provisions. You will need a voucher which can be issued by several local organisations like a GP, HV or school.
Katy from KatyKicker suggests speaking to Stepchange if you are struggling with debt. They are a debt charity than can help you to make your repayments more manageable, and they have an online tool which helps you get tailored debt advice quickly. She also has some great tips for making money online, and starting to save a few pennies too to help you get into a better position financially.