Start from the beginning here. Before children I was often described as easy going; relaxed; grounded – and some may even go as far as to say a little bit hilarious! Mental illness was not something that I had ever dealt with on a personal level, I was aware and thankfully educated on the signs of mental illness, but never thought it was something that would ever affect me. To be honest, I knew logically that depression doesn’t discriminate, but I think on some level I silently judged and had a preconceived notion of what someone with mental illness or depression might look like. And that person definitely wasn’t me.
When I started having thoughts of escapism and when I started having panic attacks I knew that I had to seek help. Opening up to Mat and admitting that I wasn’t coping was hard to do. I’m so thankful that Mat never once judged me or made me feel guilty for expressing such confronting emotions. Together with my GP we developed a mental health care plan, I began seeing a counsellor and was prescribed antidepressants. I was apprehensive about taking medication, not only the stigma attached to antidepressants but I was worried about their side effects, and how they might affect me, like headaches and nausea. so I decided not to take them. After 3 months of intense cognitive behaviour therapy I was then assessed by the psychologist, my mood wasn’t really improving and I still felt overwhelmingly sad, unhappy and exhausted. At this point Vinnie was still unsettled and waking every 1-2 hours, so sleep deprivation was well and truly ruling my life. We decided that I would give the medication a try (like actually take the tablets this time). After a month or so I began to feel as though the dark clouds were starting to lift, and even though I was still very sleep deprived, I felt I was now able to focus and utilise some of the tools that my counsellor had been discussing with me. The medication also gave me the motivation that I couldn’t find to begin making small changes to my lifestyle. It began with simple mindfulness techniques, basic exercise and reassessing my diet.
The connection between mind and body is very real, and in order to heal the mind we need to look at how we can heal the body, and optimal nutrition is the foundation to a healthy body. Read more about repairing your gut health here.
I soon realised that a lot of my anxiety was not just about adjusting to motherhood, but the fact that I didn’t want to be in my job any more. I had lost the passion and resented myself for continuing to show up to work each day knowing that I wasn’t being true to myself. But most of all, I felt stuck. I now had children and responsibilities, and without a stable income then what kind of pressure would this put on my family? The worry and anxiety made it difficult, almost impossible to enjoy my time with my new family.
Through all of this I discovered that even someone like me, someone who had goals, direction and generally had their shit together before having children, can still get completely and utterly lost in life after children, mentally, physically and emotionally. Even with access to all the support in the world from friends and family, I still struggled, big time! I’m not the first mum, and I’m pretty confident that I won’t be the last.
For me though, the most important part of my healing has been to talk about it, unashamedly. I have an unreal tribe of incredible, strong, beautiful women around me that foster a sense of comradery, where we can vent about our frustrations and triumphs, without being judged, or feeling guilty for ‘complaining’. It’s important that mums can openly discuss the hard times, the shitty times, the bone achingly tired and just plain mind numbing moments of parenting. It’s important to talk about how it makes us feel emotionally and mentally, how it has changed us for the good and the bad. To talk about the fact that we will never love every single minute of being a mother, and that it’s OK! It doesn’t mean we are weak, and it definitely doesn’t mean that we don’t love our children. It’s important to talk about the grief and loss of our former selves and our former lives, to talk about how much it sucks to be a woman wanting a career AND a family, or how much it sucks to NEED to be working but also needing to be at home caring for children.
If you’re not happy with your life, then change it. These words have stuck with me for a number of years now, It sounds quite simple, doesn’t it? But I had to really consciously stop thinking as though I had no choice. I had to retrain my brain, and shift my thinking. If there was absolutely no chance of me failing, then what is it that I would do?
I analysed my skills, my interests and thought back to all of the leadership training, the personality profiling and the coaching I have done throughout my education and employment and really reflected, what was all of this telling me? I had lost my control and I needed to take it back.
So, I started to look toward some of the inspiring women around me and in my ‘tribe’, these are women that come from all walks of life. Some of these women aren’t mums and some I have never even met in real life! Some have it much harder than I do, yet they manage, even with more children! Some are stay at home mums, others work full time. Some work from home, others work away from their family.
All of these women have such a diverse home and family life, yet at the end of the day we all face similar struggles and challenges throughout motherhood. Having such a close relationship with these amazing and empowering women, whether it be friends and family or a group of complete strangers that I met on Facebook that have come together to support each other has seen me through my darkest days. It’s because of these women that I have found my passion, and found my happiness once again.