Why you should consider blogging – and how it improved my mental health - By Antonia from MumVoice
Antonia, the blogger behind www.mumvoice.com and Instagram blog @_mumvoice_ talks about what made her take up blogging and how it helped her heal and grow.
I started my blog because I needed an outlet for all the pain and confusion I was experiencing with the onset of parenthood. Initially I was very short sighted and quite selfish in my goal for the blog - I had pain and injustice and I needed somewhere to put it. My husband couldn’t cope with any more Oprah style heart to hearts and so one day, probably for the sake of my sanity and marriage I decided to start my blog.
What did you blog about in the beginning?
I was genuinely in shock for the first year of parenthood that quite literally everything could be so hard and I had no expectations of it being like this. I needed a way to try and communicate the isolation, the loneliness, the confusion and at times deep dark bottoms I reached. I wanted know I wasn’t alone, or weird.
Why did you blog?
Blogging was a really cathartic process for me because it made me verbalise my thoughts and feelings. The simple process of reading through the writing and thinking ‘no, no, no! That’s not what I’m trying to say at all’ was important. I would rewrite and rewrite until I could hear some of my authentic experience reflecting itself back at me in the writing. It was like a confession booth. Eventually the words would start to sing and paragraphs would come tumbling out. At the last full stop I’d feel full up, like I have given from the very bottom of my being and it was such relief to feel a little bit more complete than when I started.
As the paragraphs spill from one to another I would see that each paragraph was a realisation; about birth, society, my upbringing, my husband, my child, and most often a realisation about myself. I’d pay good money for that and in that respect my £10 a month blogging site fee is way less than therapy!
Pressing on a bruise
Part of blogging is to expose my flaws, because I don’t think enough of us do it and by hiding those parts of ourselves it can help breed this competitive culture around parenthood and unsustainable standards. I hoped to make others feel less alone. To connect with other humans at a very vulnerable and authentic level. Maybe even to sign post some resources to help others navigate it smoother than I did (in short; hire a doula, don’t beat yourself up, expect to hate your husband for 18 months and one day your kid will say ‘I love you’ and you’ll forget the rest) – ha!
When I’m wondering what to write about I dig around in my soul a little bit to find a bruise to press on. What’s upset me? What do I need to let go of? What did I learn the hard way? Those are the experiences I wish more people would share. If we need to be the change we want to see in the world then here I am. Bearing my very imperfect soul and life.
Surprising bits of blogging – no feeling is shameful
I started the blog to figure out why I had post-natal depression and how I can prevent that happening to other people. I wished above all else to take that experience away from others because it was so painful and seemingly shameful. But now 5 years later it is one of the experiences I value most in life. And, shush…at times I wish I were back there… because transformation is so intense and vivid, whilst it’s harsh there’s also no feeling like it.
So nowadays with my blog I’m no longer trying to prevent PND (there’s better therapists for that than me!) but now my blog is a space for others to read and express their own stories about parenthood. I want to do my small part to help make it ok to talk about all feelings. That all emotions – whether they’re about yourself, your partner or your kid are never too shameful to share. It’s the burying them down deep and saying, ‘I’m fine’ - that’s the problem.
Growth and change isn’t always easy and depending on your personality you might be like me and need to do battle with a two-headed dragon in a metaphorical Roman amphitheatre to find victory and peace in your head again. But there’s no feeling like rising victorious from it all. To realise you had been feeling utterly broken yet still you dug looking for a kernel of strength and hope deep inside of you, and you fostered it barely believing you can keep it safe and alive from day to day. But you do and it grows and one day you realise the dragon is slain and you’re standing tall. The sun starts to come through the blinds in the bedroom in the morning and whilst no one is clapping you realise that kernel is now a seedling of an oak in your core. It’s not going anywhere, you see buds on its’ branches and you’re certain they’re going to bloom one day. If you can survive that you can survive anything.
I remember vividly the first time my daughter smiled at me and when I first decided on her nickname and how transformative and blindingly beautiful those experiences were. The first time we walked a long way with the sling and my 6 month old daughter was so happy that kept looking up at me and with her eyes and I saw the trust and love and I didn’t feel I was failing in that moment. I wasn’t perfect but I was perfect to her. And you can meditate all you want at the top of a mountain (I’ve tried) but sometimes you have to walk through the snake pit and do battle with the dragon rather than sitting on your bottom trying not to think.
Transformations can be hard but it’s also so wonderful and there are so many rich layers to it all. We all crave growth and I’ve never grown so much as when I had my first child. There really is no such thing as failing. I’ll say that again, but louder, THERE’S NO SUCH THINGS AS FAILING.
Practicalities of setting up a blog
I set up my Instagram account @-mumvoice_ and started blogging there. I didn’t follow everyone on Instagram. I followed accounts that genuinely resonated with me. I enjoyed the word limit and the push to write something every day. To bear a little more of my story.
I then found someone who would build me a Wordpress site for blogging. She charged me something like £150 because I didn’t want anything fancy. Just somewhere to upload blogs and words. It’s grown with added pages over the months and years because that’s the beauty of having your own blog, you can add, edit or delete all you want.
And that’s it. I was off.
The biggest challenge of blogging
Surprisingly the biggest difficultly of blogging is revealing the truth of me to those closest to me; to my husband, my parents and best friends. Will they judge me? I care deeply about their opinion so it’s hard to put some of the more raw journey’s out there for them to read. But life is about being brave, and being honest takes bravery, so that’s my challenge. I make sure never to criticise other people in my blog. It’s not for me to tell other people’s stories. I make sure to tell everything from my perspective. Everyone’ story of the same event will vary and that’s ok.
Unexpected benefits of blogging?
Wow!! So many benefits.
Learning about myself, becoming more courageous and authentic. Understanding why I behave in certain ways. What my strengths and weaknesses are.
Meeting genuinely amazing people and connecting to people I otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to.
Getting random and amazing emails from people all over the world telling me how much a piece of writing resonates with them, how it’s helped them or just made them laugh for a few moments.
It’s given me renewed belief in the power of people and groups, and that there are many wonderful people out there. The world isn’t there to embarrass and mock me. If I open up, most often people respect that and that’s so beautiful.
Things I’ve learnt as a blogger
Don’t count the numbers (unless you’re trying to make money from blogging). It’s a black hole to fall down which can start to make you doubt yourself. The amount of ‘likes’ are not indicative of how good a piece of writing is. It’s just a random algorithms. You have to be your own judge. This is hard.
Be careful about trying to monetise your blog. Having a blog which is authentic and important for spiritual growth has very different goals at its heart than a blog that is trying to pay for your kid’s education or a holiday. They both have their place but make conscious choices around this.
What do you blog about now?
I used to blog a lot about birth and post natal depression – and those blogs are still up there for people to read. But as I carry on my parenting journey of course the things I want to moan about change. Now it’s about how to keep my romantic relationship in check, how not to harbour resentments to my partner and how we parent in very different ways. I also talk a lot about perfect parenting and how parenting is a marathon. Five years in and I realise I need to play the long game. I can’t keep getting hung up on every little thing, every food fad or counting how many hours sleep they’ve had. I need to aim for the middle ground - with discipline, food, bed time routines, sex, nights out. I need to prep myself for the years ahead. It’s a different way of looking at things.
I’ve also been thinking about how I can enjoy parenthood more, and how as parents my husband and I need to now shift from ‘surviving’ parenthood to really enjoying many of the beautiful moments more. It’s quite a shift to make! I also talk a lot about my anxiety battles and what worked for me. Parenthood seems to be a big catalyst for stress and anxiety and so I like to share what worked for me because I have a come a long way on that journey too.
I hope my little bit here will inspire more of you to share your journeys more. The minutiae of the day to day existence is where the gold dust is. How we deal with untidy partners, how we find positivity in our body image, how we find hope for the future and inspiration for the now.
Nothing makes you think more about the future than having kids. I hope, as so many of us do, to do my bit to help pave the way to create healthier mindsets for our culture. To help change the cultural norm towards more realistic standards for our kids and parents. To create better access and appreciation for techniques that help tremendously with anxiety and better mental health. These are lofty goals but it has to start at grass roots and micro blogging is a powerful place to start. If we can believe when we hit ‘post’ or ‘publish’ that our stories will land in the iphones of those who need to read them then it is a true act of courage, faith and hope.