Category: mental health

It’s time to talk about Mental Health | Guest Writer Kym Woolcott

Looking at these two photos side by side is really an eye opener! The left photo was taken in September, 2012, and the right was taken a few weeks ago, so approximately 5.5 years difference, but that’s not all. The girl on the left and the girl on the right are 35 kilos and four dress sizes apart. The left was a smoking, regular drinking, anti-depressant taking, confident, outgoing, happy person, even though she’d only lost her brother a couple of months prior. The right is a non-smoker, occasional drinker, medication free, often quiet, withdrawn, anxious mum, even though she physically looks her best ever. This is Mental Health!

Mental Health Does Not Discriminate

This is what mental health has done to me and my body. I am EXTREMELY proud of my body and it’s capabilities, and I’m certainly trying my best to be the most positive person I can be, not to mention I couldn’t be happier that I kicked my cigarette smoking habit, BUT I wouldn’t be this size if my mind was healthy. I get many, many compliments regarding my weight loss, which I love and appreciate, and without them I wouldn’t be able to share this with such ease, because its important, and everyone should read it.

Last year was probably the rockiest year for me. In July, a young man was killed not far from my home. He and I were friends years ago, and spent considerable time together, before drifting apart when I moved out of Mandurah in 2008. He was an incredible person, and my heart aches when I think of the love he left behind.

This man’s death was a major trigger for me. He passed away on the 8th July, two days before the anniversary of my late brother, Ben’s death on the 10th July. I distinctly remember walking past the TV set on my way out to a family dinner when his face appeared and stopped me in my tracks. I’m generally very open about the fact that my brother took his own life, but I rarely go into details, and I’m not going to now, however I will be as honest as I can about this, because, as I said, it’s important.

When I learned of my friend’s death, I began experiencing all the stages of grief for Ben’s death from the beginning, some I hadn’t yet experienced. It began with denial. Did he really mean to do it? What if it was an accident?

Then, pain and guilt. Why did he do this? Was there something I could have done differently? Did I contribute to his death? And, my lowest point, anger. This one took me a long time to come to terms with, and it took a heart to heart with my mum, with lots of tears, to verbalise WHY I was so angry, which was something I couldn’t put together in my head until that moment.

Ben and my friend were the same age, well had Ben still been alive they would have been. My friend left behind two children, and had his life taken. Ben took his own. It was so hard to come to terms with, and even admit to myself that this is what I was angry about. I thought I was angry at everyone else, and I took it out on them regularly, but I was angry at Ben. And it was literally eating me up.

Did I think Ben was selfish? Absolutely not. I never would. He was dealing with inner demons that, to this day, I will never understand. But for him to do what he did to himself has always shown tremendous strength. Do I wish he was still here? Absolutely, but I would never wish someone stay alive for my benefit. I miss him. Every. Single. Day. And will continue to for the rest of my life, but I WILL make him proud.

Some of the Effects of Mental Health

The three weeks following my friend’s death were the worst of it all. I hardly ate and lost 13kgs, almost broke up my family and experienced many disgusting thoughts. I experienced a mixture of both the anger and depression stages of grief for many months following.

My mental health was, is, affected by the changes my body has experienced. I have loose skin where I’ve never had it before. I was starting to hate the person I saw in my reflection. She was like a stranger. And for a long time I felt like she was a shell of who I once was; a carefree, happy person.

So, not only was my mental health affecting my appearance, my appearance was affecting my mental health, and I was literally going around in circles. Where I once stood on the scales and hated watching the numbers continue to go up out of my control, I was now watching the numbers drop, and I felt like there was nothing I could do to stop it. I wasn’t hungry, so I couldn’t force myself to eat, as much as everyone around me tried to make me feel like I should (which actually made me want to eat even less). It was something that had to be adjusted to in my own time.

I received comments like “you’re being silly”, “you’ve become obsessed” and “you’re loosing too much weight” – none of which were helpful in the slightest. What would have been helpful would have been to have someone sit next to me, and truly listen to what was going on in my head. I felt that the people who were supposed to love me the most in the world were making no effort to comfort oeven understand me, so why should I burden anyone else with the information? I closed up, and put on a front so noone could figure out what was going on. I put my weight loss down to clean eating, and people believed me.

I was angry, stubborn, and hard. I hardly smiled, or laughed. Or, when I did, it was faked. Hardly anyone knew the truth regarding what I was dealing with internally, and some who did know treated me like my feelings weren’t justified or valued. I knew this was something I was going to have to want and push myself to get through on my own, so I decided 2018 was the time to do that.

Now is the time to discuss it!

I started to love my body, and remind myself everything my body had achieved. My body had carried my child for 41 weeks. My body recovered from a c-section that birthed that child. It has produced breast milk to nourish that child for two years and three months, and counting. It has recovered from illnesses, surgeries, injuries and beatings. It has stood back up every time life has knocked it down, and I knew now wasn’t going to be the time it held me there. I had a daughter and a boyfriend, my own little family, that I needed to make myself healthy again for – beginning with my mind, and following through with my body.

Now, I’m going through what is called the upward turn stage of grief, and boy I’m so glad I’ve made it to this one. I wasn’t too sure I’d get through those months, but I did thanks to the amazing people I surround myself with daily. I spent way too long receiving comments like “you look great” and responding with an ungrateful “thanks”, because I knew in myself that I didn’t deserve praise. I decided, when I was ready, that I needed to be honest about this.

While my diet is a hell of a lot better than it was 8 months ago, my mind isn’t, so it’s not fair to put my weight loss down to a change of diet, which is what I was palming it off as previously. But if you’ve read this far, now you know the truth, too. It’s important to look after our vessel, but let’s not forget to cherish the mind and soul inside it. I will never stop thanking the amazing people who stood by me during my lowest moments, who listened to me dribble, watched me stumble and fall, and who were always there to pick me up. You know who you are.

Please, please, look after you. You are important. You are incredible. And the world deserves you. Please know there is always someone who will listen, even if you don’t make any sense – trust me, I know. And regardless of what size is stated on the tag of your clothes, it does not equal your worth. You are beautiful, and perfect, just the way you are.

Kym xx

We are the Face of Motherhood: My Story on Postpartum Anxiety

Generally when people think of Mental Health, they think of the stigma that’s attached to it. “Insane, Incompetent, Pity.”   So, I reckon it is fair to say that Mental Health is something that you never like to admit to having.

“Living with Anxiety is like being followed by a voice. It knows all your insecurities and uses them against you. It gets to the point when it’s the loudest voice in the room and the only one you can hear.”

I have always battled some level of anxiety, even from a very young age, that was caused by a situation that was out of my control. Growing up, it’s safe to say that I had a terrible dysfunctional family who exposed me to terrible things like alcoholism and violence. So typically with any form of family violence, it would come in waves of good and bad periods. But what always remained the same was the continuation of the cycle. Looking back, I never really thought that I had anxiety. I was just conditioned to feel that what I experienced was normal. I never approached a general practitioner or psychologist, and my parent’s probably just thought I was an oversensitive child.

So when I found out that I was pregnant with Lucas, the thought of having a child terrified me. I was 27 years old when the pregnancy was confirmed, so I thought I was mature enough to be able to manage becoming a Mother. I was in a stable and solid relationship, content with where my career was heading, and I considered myself a responsible person. But for some reason it did not sit right with me. I remember being told by my Dad to never have children, so there was always this self doubt. Also, I had never been around babies, never changed a nappy, never burped a baby, never taught how to hold them the correct way. So I felt out of my depth!

“More than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression each year in Australia.” ~ Panda

By the time Lucas was born, he absolutely without a doubt terrified me. I didn’t know what to do with him. I kept asking myself, “when am I going to love him?”, “why am I struggling?”, and “what is wrong with me?” In all honestly, I just didn’t know how to be his Mum. I was living day to day, with the hope that something might just click. Around ten days postpartum, I developed an extremely high fever, body aches and heavy bleeding; so I instinctively knew that I had developed an infection. I ended up being readmitted into hospital with a bad case of endometritis, which is an infection or inflammation of the inner lining of the uterus. Plus to top things off I had a bladder infection and mastitis. After a consultation with the ED gynaecologist, I was going to be administered a high dose of IV antibiotics and was advised not to breastfeed Lucas. I was told that it would be unsafe and harmful for the him. I was devastated!

My husband remained brave through it all. Even though I was struggling,  Chris was amazing. He just got stuck into parenthood, and kind of carried the load. He managed the task of nursing a ten day old baby on his own whilst I was recovering in the hospital. I remained there for about three days recuperating, and once I finished my course of antibiotics I could start breastfeeding him again. So for about a two weeks I was pumping and dumping and it had a huge effect on my supply, and this caused my anxiety to spiral. In the end anxiety drove me to quit breastfeeding, which is my biggest regret because breastfeeding is something I have such passion for now. A part of me was crushed and I accepted that I had failed as a Mother.

“When you find yourself locked in the bathroom, sobbing on the floor because you’ve just had enough, that does not mean that you have failed as a mother. Being a mother is hard. That is not failure. This is fact. Remind yourself of that.”

When I returned to work, Lucas was about 6 months old, I was unable to fulfil my role. I would spend the morning crying when it was time to drop him off. I remember when I was having buddy training, I ended up bursting into tears because of my inability to cope with the changes. It was pretty embarrassing! Things began to calm down when Lucas became a toddler, but I was still a helicopter parent. Forever holding him back for fear of him hurting himself. Whenever he got sick I mollycoddled him. I was taking him to the doctors for the smallest things. I was just constantly under duress, my poor brain must be fried by the constant arousal of neurons. I constantly doubted myself as a Mum.. But.. I need to remind myself that there was a few challenging factors that most (term used loosely) families don’t face. My husband was away.. ALOT! Most of Lucas life he was absent, which at the time was awful but we had to create a means to an end. We also live in a state which is thousands of kilometres away from family, so being able to reach out for support was impossible.

But it was only within the last 18 months where I have been formally diagnosed by my GP. There were days where I was barely able to function. My worst symptoms were heart palpitations and panic attacks. Honestly, it would literally stop me in my tracks. It was truly an awful experience, but I am so thankful that my husband came with me as support to speak with my GP. These days I manage my anxiety with medication, and blogging has helped ease my stress. It can be very healing.

“Recognising the signs of anxiety is not always easy, as you can have anxiety without the symptoms of having depression. Some symptoms that stood out to me was. Heart palpitations, irritated easily, nausea, difficulty sleeping, dizzy spells, trembling, dry mouth, sweating, feelings of dread.”

So.. let’s stop the stigma of mental health and start supporting each other. If you recognise these signs of a friend or loved one, talk to them about it. Make it apart of conversation, because you never know.. they may have been reaching out to you but never had the courage to start the conservation.

Much love

Melanie xoxo

{Do you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your obstetrician or family doctor. Need more information? Visit PANDA for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear that yourself or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 and/0r visit your nearest emergency department.}

We Are the Face of Motherhood: a Series on Postpartum Depression by Mommy in Flats

Lion Fox & Co are privileged to welcome Jamie aka Mommy in Flats. Jamie is from the USA, the youngest of five, mother to four, and wife to one (although some aspects of the idea of a sister wife are appealing). Growing up, she was a quiet introvert who much preferred reading to running around outside or going places with lots of people. Not much has changed…oh wait four kids later and she doesn’t have time to sit still much less concentrate on a whole book. Jamie can be found, running around her house after a crazy two year old, snuggling a sleepy infant, or feeding two (always) hungry growing girls.

In honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness month, I am kicking off a series on real women’s experiences with mental health and motherhood. Every week day in May, a blogger or guest blogger will share her experience struggling with mental health and motherhood. Check in here to read their stories and for warning signs and advice on how to spot PPD, PPA, and other mental disorders. Please consider buying a PPD Awareness t-shirt, all proceeds go to help mothers in need. Have questions or need support please join the discussion on Facebook.

Did you know that Postpartum Depression affects more American women than breast cancer, than sexual assault, than eating disorders? Sure, you hear about the random woman who shows zero interest in her baby or maybe a woman who can’t get out of bed and thinks of self harm. But, what about the rest of us? What about the ones who continue to put their feet on the floor and carry on day after day. We’re here to tell you that the face of PPD is varied. A smile can mask symptoms of sadness, fear, and anxiety.

In the USA, Postpartum mental disorders affect roughly 20% of new mothers (the statistics are hard to pin down because many women go untreated or unreported- this also doesn’t take into account those suffering with general anxiety, bipolar, and other mood disorders). That’s approximately 4% more than women who will experience physical assault, 8% more than women who will experience breast cancer, and 10% more than women who will face an eating disorder each year. Yet, there is no ribbon for mental health disorders. No fundraisers. No one is walking to end depression or anxiety associated with motherhood. In fact, we’re afraid. Afraid to speak up and admit that our mental health is affected. Afraid how outsiders will perceive us. Afraid what our friends and family will think of us. Afraid of how our status as a good mother will change if we admit just how much we struggle to get through each day.

When someone has a physical ailment, a doctor examines her. She is diagnosed through a series of tests that can (hopefully) accurately pinpoint the cause of her distress. At that point, she can begin to treat it with traditional or alternative medicine.

When you have a mental disorder, there is no definitive diagnosis. Anxiety looks very much like mania or ADD. Depression can mean days spent in bed or it can simply be the inability to focus, irritability, and impatience. A lot of times, these disorders not only mimic each other but coincide. So, the person with bipolar may also suffer from anxiety. Or someone with OCD may also struggle with depression. This further confuses the diagnosis. Often, even when there is a history of episodes, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what one is struggling with. Is it bipolar or anxiety coupled with seasonal depression? Is it ADD or a mix of perfectionism and compulsivety?

If you can get a concrete diagnosis, that is only half the battle. Next, what do you do? There is no magic pill to fix depression or anxiety or even bipolar. It’s all a mix of trial and error. This may be why so many women go undiagnosed or untreated. The road to help is too hard.

I have had four babies. I have had at the very least heavy baby blues with four babies. I have sought help at least two times. Yet, it took a severe series of never ending panic attacks (if I had to describe hell on earth that would be a close description) for me to get real, reliable, steady professional help.

Why? I mentioned to my doctors my second time around that I was struggling badly. I was prescribed estrogen (which I never took since my mom had breast cancer, which puts me at risk) and an antidepressant that didn’t work along with some anti-anxiety pills. I don’t know how many times I visited my family doctor those first few months. Not once did she refer me to or suggest I might want to see a psychiatrist. I chugged on and got over it. Why didn’t she see my pain (pain I was desperately expressing to her time and again) and really treat it? She did (at my request) give me a list of therapists. I thought about calling one of them. In the end, I made it through without any successful treatment (I will be talking more about my experience next week). It makes me wonder why we don’t have more thorough mental care for new mothers (first time or sixth)?

Our goal with this campaign is to show you the many faces of motherhood, to raise awareness, and remove the stigma associated with post (and pre) partum mental health struggles. There is no one experience, no one sign, no one symptom that encompasses all women. We are the face of motherhood and we are here to share. We are here to support. And, we are here to show you that you are not alone. One in five new mothers in the USA will experience some sort of Postpartum mental health issue this year, and here are our faces.

{Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit PANDA for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear that yourself or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 and/0r visit your nearest emergency department.}