Empathy

1.24am (sat on the sofa)

Its the middle of the night. Not today, yesterday or tomorrow. I am awake and its the early morning. Are you confused? I am.

I spent the day at The Healthy Minds Parenting and Mental Health Conference in Halifax. I listened and learned lots and sat with friends and drank too much instant coffee from little sachets. I struggled to read a schedule. I placed leaflets and postcards on a table that were largely ignored. One was used as a fan. I felt frustrated that I had offered to talk but my offer was refused. I felt that my voice had been curtailed. I was glad to be a part of the day but it was a lost opportunity to communicate and disseminate my knowledge to others. There were not any opportunities for formal networking. This critical approach perhaps will backfire. I was very glad to be a part of the day, but I would have loved to have been able to give more and articulate my thoughts to the audience. See how I focus on the negative and struggle to find the positive. See how I probably mess things ups for myself. I am thankful, I am grateful. I just want to be HEARD as well as doing the listening, the politeness.

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I enjoyed most of the talks. One was very patronising which talked about cultural difference. The white middle class woman wore asian clothes, the asian woman wore western clothes. The middle class woman had a platform and spoke but the asian woman was not allowed to speak. She was a silent witness to the middle class womans lecture. The middle class woman talked about blame and then blamed the whole room for not engaging with hard to reach audiences. This was all very irritating and at times distressing. I learnt how not to present a presentation. How a message needs to be clear and concise.

Mum is here to visit. I feel bad as I collapsed t sleep in bed with Naoise around nine. I was simply exhausted. I had struggled to follow the schedule of the conference and had spent a long lunch hour sat on a bench in the sunshine in the peoples park . I watched an asian woman with her daughter chasing the leaves and the path. I sat on one bench amongst many empty ones, watching the colour in the trees and observing the gentle autumn light. I spoke to a friend on the phone and we talked about life and work. I spoke to P on the phone and I told him about the conference.

Mum is sleeping in the middle bedroom. Its good to have her here in my home. I drank wine with mum. I was naughty and perhaps began drinking wine with mum too early in the evening which was why I read myself to sleep reading the sleep book in bed to Naoise.

I enjoyed lying in Syds bunk bed listening to him playing guitar. I was proud to hear him explaining world war one history to me and taking great pride in his work. He loved showing us what he had been doing and achieving. Naoise tried to spoil his spotlight by continuously throwing an empty toothpaste packet up in the air.

Mum is sleeping in the middle bedroom and I am awake. I needed to write M(other) Stories. Mum is looking after the children for a night so that me and P can have some time together today. We are going to spend a night in a YHA in the lakes. Its a bargin of a get away. Its been three and a half years since we had a night away together and one and a half years since we spent a day together. Its my mums gift to me for my birthday. I have the gift of time. She has the gift of time with my children.

Listening. Empathising. Listening. Talking. Asking questions. Giving back. Its not all about me.

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The conference was predominately female. Women dominate the caring professions, so this was no surprise. There are always counter stories that remain until. There is always the (other). Mens mental health issues were largely untouched. I would have loved to hear a dads story. Dads surely suffer from mental health problems too?

The talk about PND and dopomine and oxytocin and how to help levels of these hormones to be released through appropriate care and CBT was interesting. I prefer the anecdotal to the science. There was a good talk by the Mental Health Foundation and they touched on a project called Young mums together. It was good to hear about the effectiveness of peer support groups and self help.

This project is about self help. Its about locating coping strategies, its about targeting my progress throughout the year, its about watching the seasons change, my children grow, its about not loosing site of the value of mothering and maintenance and care. Its about finding me within the mother. Its about mental health and parenting. Its about unpicking the I between the sludge and the drudge of domesticity and parenting. Its about seeing how my experiences can be used to empathise with others, to be creative, to find solutions to living a more joyous life. Its about acknowledging that there are too many ideals and social pressures placed on parents. That parents need support and the right kind of help so that they can manage and enjoy their children.  I see in all of this research that there is room for a mental health project around journaling and M(other) Stories. I need to articulate the project that I see.  I need to make M(other) Stories a clear and assessable participatory projects for the others.

Mum is sleeping above me as I write. I need to go back to sleep. This emptying of thoughts will hopefully help. Its not all about me. first hand experience is important but it is possible to empathise with others over situations that you have no prior life experience of. Is this possible? How far does empathy stretch? What are the parameters of compassion, kindness and understanding? How do we decrease stigma in relation to mental health? How do we reduce feelings and shame and anxiety? How do we stop hiding and start talking openly? What are the problems with being open?

Need to sleep so that I can enjoy my time with P and get up in a few hours time. I hope that I can sleep now!  This is not all about me. Honest.

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