From Anxiety to Multi Award Winner
I want to share my story of how I overcame some very severe mental health issues to create a business that helps other with mental health and supports the community.
I’m Maddy 36 from Southampton, I’m a normal mum now, but at the start of my parenting journey I didn’t feel very normal.
In fact I felt like no one would want to even be friends with a mum like me, they would think I was crazy, They would judge me, Mums don’t want to kill their children!
Or so I thought.
It turns out more mums have problems with mental health than is openly spoken about.
And my journey has helped to make it less of a stigma, and I continue to fight to make mental health something that people can talk about more openly.
Here is my story…..
After the birth of my first child Ben I suffered with post – natal psychosis which is a very serious and horrible condition where you think and sometimes want to kill your child.
I was too scared to leave the house in case I dropped him, but through sleep deprivation I also had visions of actually killing him, dropping him down the stairs, throwing him out of windows, or even stabbing him.
Genuinely the most horrific thing I have been through, and it took lots of counselling and mental health support to get me back on the right path.
My counsellor suggested that I started to connect with my community more and meet some mummy friends, which was in my mind hell. How could I tell a group of mums that I have visions of killing my son, and sometimes myself?
I really didn’t want to put myself through the thought of people laughing at me, or feeling like I wasn’t a good mum, I felt like a terrible one at the time.
BUT I forced myself to go to a baby group, and I was actually met with love and support, and people who understood, not fully because they couldn’t without being there, but I met mums who suffered with post natal depression, anxiety, ocd and PTSD and I started to feel better
I set up a support group on Facebook for parents who suffer with mental health problems, it was a safe space for parents to connect and arrange meet ups etc.
Connecting with my community saved my life, and the more I went out with these mums the more I knew I needed to help more people, I started to connect with shop owners who would tell me of their struggles to find customers,
I now had about 500 people in my Facebook group and I had the idea to create a discount scheme for mums to help them to save money when they support local, this would also in turn help mums to be out of the house more, which I knew helped with my mental health.
People often think supporting local is more expensive, so this way I was helping two sets of people, shops to get more customers and mums to save money on their shopping
The more I worked towards it, the more I loved helping small businesses and it actually became what I am all about.
I still suffer quite badly with anxiety but I get hypnotherapy regularly to help me with controlling my thoughts.
Since I started My VIP card I have had another baby, I suffered with pre and post natal depression and anxiety, luckily I didn’t have post natal psychosis again second time around, I used the business as a crutch and I just worked solidly, I found working took my mind off my mental health problems.
BUT I tried to hard to fight it and before Christmas I had a bit of a breakdown, I was just exhausted , I wasn’t sleeping because my little one was a bit of a night owl. Sleep deprivation is a killer for me , it manifests itself in so many different forms, irritability, Sadness, being withdrawn, not wanting to see my friends. And that is when I know I need help.
I knew I needed a holiday, so we booked some time away with my mum which did me the world of good.
We came back I felt refreshed and ready to take on the world, then ………
I instantly knew it would be hard. I am not one for staying home with the kids,
We are always out and about doing stuff and getting discounts, I only ever go to places that offer My VIP Card discount, but there are so many we are never stuck.
But for me it’s about showing I am there for the small businesses I work with.
I only use My VIP Card businesses for my services, or people who use My VIP rewards for their employee or member benefit. I want to support all my people.
So when I realised that I wasn’t going to have an income from card sales anymore and no way to support my businesses I work with and pay my bills I panicked , I became very low and like a lot of others started to feel lockdown depression.
What the hell was I going to do? I called the bank, they turned me down for a loan flat out! And said I would need to apply for the corona virus interruption loan.
4 weeks went past , and despite chasing several times, still nothing. I started wracking my brain as to how I could raise the money to pay my businesses, and nothing! Serious stress!
All of the businesses I work with! How would I pay them? They have children too, I felt horrific, I just didn’t know what to do. I seriously thought this was the end. The business I had worked so hard for , the business that I had been through some severe mental health issues and come out the other side for was going to crumble and go down the drain.
I had a crazy idea to crowdfund and sell My VIP Cards in advance so people could use them once lockdown was over.
Having a project to focus my time and energy on was just amazing, and even just having a goal helped my mental health. The kids were around me all day, and with my husnad out working a key worker I was on my own.
I somehow found some inner strength and with all my power I dedicated a whole month of my life to fighting for my business, and I fought hard. I raised over 9.5k from my network, from people who wanted to help me, from the businesses that I work with and from the people who love what I had created.
Crowdfunding in itself made me battle with my mental health, I received horrible messages asking me why I was special, I even had one person telling me that I should donate it all to charity ( I actually did donate quite a bit)
I then went on to help some of the businesses that I work with to crowdfund.
I bought rewards from them to auction off as raffle prizes to help them to raise more money.
It all went back into My VIP Card to pay the small businesses we work with and help to make sure we continued to keep the advertising and all of the services we offer free for.
The range of emotions through lockdown have been mental. I have been happy, sad, angry, scared, elated , joyful, thankful, grateful , jealous , loved , mental (not sure if that is an emotion but throwing it in)!
Life as a working mum is hard enough but throwing lockdown into the mix has been super tough. I have been on my own with only a 16 month old and a 4 year old to talk to, the Peppa Pig theme tune going round in my head, covered in beans, wondering when I will crack.
Taking it out on my husband when he came home.
It made me realise that I needed to do more to help people so I am now doing a mental health first aid qualification so that I can help people with their mental health problems , there will be a lot of suffering and I want people to feel they can talk about it.
My business saved my life. I was in such a horrendous place before I started it and it gave me purpose I wanted to share this story with you, so you know there is hope.
Since starting My VIP Card I have won 12 awards, been featured in national press, grown to a UK wide business and even started to grow in Australia. We are now speaking to investors to help us grow even further , we have franchised so that we can help to empower mums to run their own business to help even more mums to get out and save money.