“Sometimes Stressed and Depressed, Always Blessed”: Mama Sumaiyah Mohamed reflects on mental health challenges, motherhood, and the power of positive thinking
Throughout the month of May in honor of Mother’s Day, mamas in Singapore will reflect on unique aspects of their motherhood journeys. Today we hear from Singaporean mama Sumaiyah Mohamed, who has bravely shared her own struggles with mental illness to combat social stigmas. Sumaiyah now works as programme coordinator for Club HEAL, a charity that helps people with mental health challenges improve their lives. She is also the mother to a beautiful 2-year-old daughter, and talks about how motherhood has given her new reason to live and fight, even while presenting new challenges.
Laila – Light of My Life
Our daughter, Laila Nusayba, is the light of our lives, as my husband beautifully puts it, and she is. She certainly brightens up any room with her adorable smile. Her laugh makes my heart sing and is my favourite sound. The thought of snuggling with her in bed at home keeps me going through a long day at work. Being a mother to Laila is truly a dream.
Mental Health Challenges & Me
Life has not always been a bed of roses. I struggle with mental health challenges, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression at the age of nineteen. I have been well for the most part, after getting through that terrible first episode of psychosis, much thanks to the love from my parents, and later husband, and other big pillars of support in my family and friends, and also through connecting to a Higher Power.
However, I consider myself ‘in recovery’ rather than ‘recovered’, as I still experience bouts of low mood, low self-esteem, crying spells, and other unpleasant symptoms. The person I am has irrevocably changed. While I may not be the confident, gung-ho go-getter I once was, I am softer, and I really try to take time to appreciate my loved ones. There is a rediscovery of the person I am now, one more authentic, more attuned to the people I care about around me. I’m excited about the path that I am now on, as a certified peer support specialist; that is, someone who walks with others on their journey to recovery from mental health challenges. I feel there are wisdom and blessings behind the challenges.
Count Blessings… and Never Compare!
As a full-time working mother, I receive guidance from my own loving mother, who delights in her granddaughter; a hands-on, loving husband excited to be a father; my own father — ever-ready to play with his granddaughter and feed her healthy fruits; lots of help from my domestic helper; and the assistance of my brothers, who are fun uncles.
We have our whole kampung that is bringing Laila up together, and I am so very grateful for this. This makes motherhood easier for me, but sometimes I feel bad that I am not the Super Mom that does everything herself, like some mothers I see on social media – who manage to work, clean, cook, and also raise beautiful kids — WOW!
An important lesson I have learned from a mentor at work that I have kept close to me is to Avoid the 3 Coms!:
Never complain, never compare and never compete! Thus, I remind myself that while these wonderful mothers are certainly doing great, I have to be content and grateful for my own strengths as a person and as a mother, yet also still strive to better myself in ways I can.
SHOO ANTs Away!
“I am not a good mother.”
“I am a boring mother.”
“I am a useless mother.”
These are some of the painful thoughts that plague me. I have confided this to a good friend of mine, a true sister, and she tells me, “They sound like “ANTs”! Let’s shoo them away!” ANTs are Automatic Negative Thoughts – the best thing to do is to take deep breaths, identify the negative thoughts and replace them with positive, more accurate statements.
For example, from the three statements above, I am labelling myself (bad, boring and useless) and I am using all-or-nothing thinking (I am a totally useless and bad mother). I have to channel my energy into using positive self-talk to tell myself that these statements are not true at all. I have to find evidence to fight these thoughts. An example would be, “There is no such thing as a bad mother. All mothers love their children and want the best for them. They try their best in their own ways.”
This includes me too! I have my own strengths as a mother. I spend time with Laila when I get home from work and I put her to bed. On the weekends, I will try my best to bring her out for a walk or play. I am the best mother I can be for Laila. This is done through journaling. I feel much better after getting these thoughts out of my system and then countering them with positivity.
I Choose Hope
Ultimately, being a mother is something I deeply treasure, and while some days I don’t feel as good as I wish to be… I choose to trust in God, I choose to have hope in my strengths, and I choose the love for my daughter and my life.