MY JOURNEY WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

Until recently I have never been fully vocal about my personal life across my social media platforms. I have always contemplated it afraid of the response I would receive. Since becoming a mother I have become so much stronger within myself and worried less about what people think and say about me. So I have decided that Im going to go ahead and share my journey with you. If sharing my story helps just one person, then as far as I'm concerned my job is done. I want to raise awareness.


Since the age of 14 I have battled depression as well as a severe eating disorder, both Bulimia, Body Mysmophia and Compulsive Overeating. Unfortunately I was a victim to horrific online bullying, that still haunts me to this day. The last 14 years have been a blur, an emotional roller coaster, I have had so many highs and lows and my weight has fluctuated so much in this time. I've had panic attacks so bad I would throw up, weeks where I never left my bed, days and days where Ive gone without showering along with two stints in rehabilitation facilities to get a handle on my bulimia, depression and self harming.


Despite many luxuries and all the love and support from family and friends growing up. I still felt unfulfilled. After 10 years of medication, treatment facilities, and numerous therapy sessions I didn’t feel like I was getting any better. There had definitely been moments where I found temporary relief, but each day was beyond challenging. Yes there were times I wanted to give up. I was physically and mentally exhausted and felt that I had tried everything. Between the fad dieting, constant purging, anxiety attacks and constant mood swings I felt like I could barely breathe. I had no fight left in me. I had horrific thoughts. My bulimia was horrific. One minute I was starving and purging. The next I was hiding food and stopping at every 7/11 down the Gold Coast highway to eat my feelings. I had two extremes and thats what made my situation so challenging.


Though my first pregnancy was unexpected it was the greatest blessing in disguise. My life completely changed. To this day I truly believed falling pregnant with Cruz saved my life. I had this tiny human that was depending on me and I promised him that I would do everything in my power to protect and nourish him. He had given me a new lease of life, a purpose “motherhood”. However during both my pregnancies I continued to be challenged both mentally and physically. With both my pregnancies I struggled with a lot of guilt. I was worried that I wasn’t nurturing and nourishing my body, due to suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) full term with both my children. I know ironic right? 9 months of vomiting and horrific nausea after 10 years of bulimia? I didn't go one day in either pregnancy without vomiting, this did my depression no favours. My diet was not stable. Unfortunately I found relief in drinking Coca-Cola to get though the days. My doctor advised me that this was far better then being dehydrated and on a drip in hospital. The guilt consumed me. Were my babies going to be malnourished from all the vomiting? Was the lack of a balanced diet going to do permanent damage to my unborn children? Unless you have personally experienced HG and its severity it is nearly impossible to understand my daily struggle. Especially through my second pregnancy when I had a toddler relying on me to look after and nurture him while at the same time having moments where I could not lift myself off the floor. Times where I was in hospital on drips for dehydration. Away from my son that needed me. Feeling guilt for not being with my son at home but then feeling as though my body wasn't been nourished properly for the growing baby inside of me. I was so torn. Despite all the guilt I felt I realise now that I did the best I could given the circumstances. I can't change what I ate, or how much blood I threw up, so why worry now? I now have two perfectly healthy beautiful sons.


I have battled depression for most of my life so I was anticipating that I may experience postnatal depression, which I experienced after the birth of my first son. Having a baby takes a toll on your body both physically and mentally. Stretch marks, fluctuating hormones, mood swings, back pain and vomiting are just a few of the symptoms I experienced. Most women assume that when your baby arrives its all smooth sailing from there however that is not the case for all women. I want to talk about Postnatal Depression (PND). PND is when a woman experiences depression that develops between one month and one year after the birth of their baby. Horrifyingly it affects 1 in 7 Australian women. PND is not to be confused with “the baby blues”, most women quickly overcome this short period of emotional sensitivity that is caused by extreme hormone shifts in the body. The exact cause of PND is still unknown though it is believed that the combination of the physical changes, emotional changes and social changes are all contributing factors.  


I immediately bonded with my baby boy, falling head over heels in love. But following his birth I continued to struggle with excessive worry and fear for my baby’s safety, I was terrified of him falling victim to SIDS. I would stay awake all night ensuring he was breathing properly, occasionally holding a mirror under his nose to see his breath. I became a germaphobe, I had antibacterial wipes and Glen 20 throughout my house. I found myself sterilising then re-sterilising bottles and dummies. I would shake with anxiety if someone touched Cruz without first washing their hands.  I was obsessed with being the “perfect mum”, in my mind this required me to be clean, tidy and organised 24/7. Instead of sleeping when Cruz did I would obsessively clean the house, do the washing and prepare meals.


There is no such thing as the perfect mum, we live and we learn. I remember the first time I clipped Cruz’s nails, I accidentally clipped his skin and he screamed. I cried, he cried, I was heart broken. The guilt I felt for accidentally inflicting pain on my baby traumatised me. It took me a while to attempt clipping Cruz’s nails again, now I am a pro nail clipper, quickly and efficiently getting the job done.


I have finally found my purpose something I was longing for, for a long time. And that is to be a mum. That is not to say I don't still struggle every day. Yes been a mum has made me stronger and put a lot of things in perspective. But I am still battling the same demons in my mind. Life will always throw you all sorts of shit, but the secret is how you deal with it. We live and we learn, that is my new motto especially when raising children. When Cruz was born I wanted to be a perfect mother and everything needed to be perfect. It took me time to realise there is no such thing as been "a perfect mum" and now with Hudson I am so much more relaxed and much less hard on myself. We all do our best but sometimes we don’t have the answers and certain things will remain out of our control. I am not ashamed to admit I have been on anti depressants and anxiety medications for 14 years. They are what I need to function. Will I be on them forever? I don't know. But I need to do whatever it takes to be the functioning loving mother my boys need and deserve.


I will never be 100% happy with my body, I will always have eating issues in the back of my mind. But its how I deal with them thats important. I want to set a good example for my sons and for them to have a healthy relationship with food. I need to lead by example and be the role model they deserve. The last few months have been beyond challenging for me I have had some very difficult times. Times where daily I was sneaking away to cry in my laundry so my kids didn't see me. I was getting sick regularly as my immune system was shot, from not looking after myself. My entire body broke out in eczema for the first time in 18 years! (stress elated) and living in a different state to my family, whom I am so close to didn't help either. To top it off I wrote off my car with my two babies in it. To be honest, I thought I was heading in the direction of a nervous breakdown. I experienced some extremely low moments. But do you know what? No matter how tough it was, I got through it. And I will be stronger for it.


I am slowly beginning to realise that I am only human and I too require sleep and nourishment. How can I possibly be the mother and loving partner I set out to be when I have been burning the candle at both ends. I am slowly beginning to nurture my body and mind, taking the time out I needed to feel balanced. No more neglecting myself. I spend a fortune on organic produce for my kids and preparing super healthy meals then I binge on Pepsi max and crap! How hypocritical am I? This isn't the example I want to set for my boys, and its never too late to change. I have a responsibility, one of the greatest a woman will ever have and because of this responsibility I will no longer allow myself to indulge in my bad habits. Every day with my sons is a gift from God and I cherish every moment.


There are lots of people who don't understand mental illness and the severity of it. Depression is a real illness and needs to be treated accordingly. Awareness needs to be made. To anyone out there who is suffering, let me assure you there is hope. You are not alone. Don't be ashamed to ask for help we all have our demons. If you need help or advice feel free to contact me. I’d love to talk to you and help if I can, even if it is just by assuring you that you are not alone. And no matter how hard things get or whatever happens you will be okay, you will overcome it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

This is my story. I have talked a lot about how being a mother has completely changed my life. This is not to say rush out and have kids and you will be cured. We all have our own journey this is just mine. And please remember the most important thing is that true beauty comes from within. You are all beautiful.


Tash x



Below are sites that you can learn and get the help you need if you are struggling. Help is available.


www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

www.beyondblue.org.au

www.lifeline.org.au

www.nedc.com.au