Mother’s Day is almost upon us bringing with it all sorts of thoughts and feelings as big days often do. I am delighted to share an guest post with you today from Hannah Chamberlain, Mental Health Expert by Experience & Founder of Mental Snapp
“In the run up to Mother’s Day I’ve been delighted to see that a gem of a comedy has come back to the BBC for its second series. Stefan Golaszewski’s funny, tender sitcom Mum stars Lesley Manville and Peter Mullan in a masterpiece of understatement. Each time I watch Mum I’m in awe at the range of emotions that pass over Lesley Manville’s face as she plays the leading role of the eponymous Mum. What is striking is the depth and subtlety of what she thinks – and of how she almost never voices the conclusions she reaches. The supporting cast are brilliant in their self absorption, and they all circle round Mum, who is a miracle of self restraint. As I watch, I’m itching to speak for her, but I don’t need to, her face says it all.
It makes me think about Mother’s Day and storytelling. It makes me think about the importance of what we say and what we don’t say. I’m thinking about Mother’s Day in the context of mental health as I’ve been making videos about mental health and helping people tell their stories on film for the last twenty years. My startup, Mental Snapp, also enables people to actively manage their mental health using private video diaries. Mental health and Mother’s Day are a potent combination, and it’s a day on which emotions can run high, as I know only too well myself.
I have a story from Mother’s Day. On the first Mother’s Day after I became a mother, I wrote my mum a card. In it, I put what I’d realised after nearly a year of being a mum – not for me, but for her. I put that this wouldn’t be a perfect message, that this wouldn’t be a perfect card, that she would get again, as she had done for many years – what I could see I would receive myself now from my son throughout his childhood and maybe throughout his lifetime. What she would get is a botch of smeary words, a tangle of sellotape at the edges of the card, a thumbprint in the corner of the envelope and if she was lucky – and I hoped to be so lucky – a cake that had just about escaped being burnt. What I wrote to her was about the perfectly imperfect – or the imperfectly perfect. I cried as I wrote the card, imagining my botches of Mother’s Days to come and how I would treasure them, and hope to hold back my words as well as my tears.
Mother’s Day isn’t perfect. Kids aren’t perfect. Mother’s Day can take a toll on mental health, perhaps in some ways even more poignantly than Christmas or Valentines. There are mothers and not mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, up and down the country and around the world who have their hearts pricked to tenderness at this time of year when a single bent daffodil with a bit of ribbon around it might be given to them at a community event. It can hurt, it hurts me, mother of one, sister of one, daughter of one. No, Mother’s Day isn’t perfect.
What I’ve reflected on this year however, is a different type of storytelling. There are ways to tell stories that can feed us and some of that is to do with the kind of self restraint that Lesley Manville brilliantly portrays. As you would imagine, as the creator of Mental Snapp, I am a keen diarist, believing in the power of telling stories. This year my resolution was to do it in a slightly different way. My mother gave me a five year diary for Christmas, which has just enough lines in it for a bit of detail each day, but not too much. Since January 1st, I have used it to keep a gratitude diary. Some days it is easy to be grateful, some days it is hard. Each morning I describe what has happened the day before that I am grateful for. On hard days, sometimes I slip and something creeps in there that I am annoyed about or stressed with. I still surround it with gratefulness, but I have noticed on those days my gratitude is marred and I don’t start the day as well.
There are many ways of telling stories. There are ways to tell stories that nurture you and ways that don’t. Sometimes you have to be a wise editor. After all, you know yourself what is in the gaps. Perhaps you don’t need to say it. It is what I don’t say in the gratitude diary that is a major part of the story too. The good thing is that when I read the diary back, following each day I’ve completed this year with next year’s entry underneath, I won’t remember all the gaps, or maybe I will. Maybe I’ll decide that they didn’t matter so much after all.
I want my Mother’s Day to nurture me, so it can nurture those around me. So if I receive a card with a thumbprint, perform a botch myself, or if I know someone near to me is hurting that day, it will be what I don’t say as well as what I do that will be the making of the day. I hope to make those choices in a mentally healthy way, assuming generously, editing judiciously and carefully creating my stories of Mother’s Day. Stories are what we tell ourselves, they are about living artfully. Much like the ripples of emotion over the face of the kind of wise mum that Lesley Manville plays, they are more than words can say.
If you’d like to tell your Mother’s Day story to yourself, do download Mental Snapp, press record, enjoy telling your story – and most of all, choose the words that feed you. Happy Mother’s Day. “
Hannah Chamberlain is the founder of Mental Snapp, a free to download app that helps you actively manage your mental health using private video diaries and mood monitoring.
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