Mental Health Day Off
So a couple of years ago, I was invited to speak at a mental health awareness community festival called W.A.N.A (We Are Not Alone), organised (with the help of a great team) by an old friend, Francis Heke Yates (Franko). This is where I met Ms. Sergeant Calm herself, Angela.
I often touched on my experiences with Mental Illness (Depression and Anxiety) on social media and talked openly with friends and acquaintances but had never publicly spoken of them, particularly to an audience of strangers. Now, I have no issues with public speaking, in fact, I actually love being in front of an audience but I was (funnily enough), extremely anxious the entire morning of my talk. I had written a few notes but being an avid, speak from the heart and wing it type person, I wasn't quite sure where it would take me, what would come out and what the crowd reaction would be.
My history with mental illness had been a long one, stemming back to my teenage years.. Lots of teen angst, Depression and now I know, Anxiety... Back then though, there wasn't as much awareness about it, or any 'names and symptoms' that you could relate to. Extreme pressures to do well at school, social peer pressure and bullying had me struggling. I was so overwhelmed at times that I started to cut myself (my wrists). I cut myself, not necessarily to try and take my own life (though I did try once or twice), but just to FEEL. I was numb and lost. My on again, off again relationship with depression medication and counsellors started then.
Fast forward 20 odd years to the W.A.N.A Festival and my point of difference for this particular event talk was that I wanted to share what I went through after the birth of my (now 5 year old) daughter, Mila. Looking back to my life as a new mum, it's easy to see now that I was simply trying to do too much. I didn't want to rid of my 'Wonder Woman' cape. I've always been a 'If you want something done properly, do it yourself' kinda girl.. and that's all well and good sometimes, but when you have a newborn and are STILL trying to do everything yourself.. well.. the seams start to unravel.
Having worked till my due date, baby coming 11 days later, I juggled a newborn, cesarean recovery (not being able to drive or do anything physical for 6 weeks +), still working from 5 days post (freelance makeup artist) and starting a new business - (mum's fitness training, launched when Mila was 6 months old), doing all of the cooking and most of the cleaning, errands and still heading to social gatherings and post coffee groups.. plus trying to to keep a relationship together.
People offered to help more but I thought I could do it all. I was used to it. But then the sleepless nights, breastfeeding, trying to get into a routine and not knowing if I was 'doing the mum thing right'... it took it's toll. Every time Mila cried, I would break down. I couldn't handle not knowing what she wanted. I didn't know how to make her stop. I hated not having control. I started experiencing psychosis, followed by post-natal depression (not helped by my sleep deprivation). At one point, when Mila was screaming from her cot, I stood above her and hallucinated picking her up by the ankles and smashing her small body against the wall to shut her up. I burst into tears at absolute shock, fear and disgust with myself that I left the room and shut the door and just let her scream. I went through all the emotions of being a new mum.. Including guilt and helplessness. I didn't think I was fit to be a mum, I didn't think I was meant to be a mother. I didn't know what to do. I fell into deep depression. I struggled to get out of bed but I had no choice, every day, groundhog day. I didn't understand why no other mother (or parent) seemed to understand what I was experiencing (or admitting to it anyway). The ladies in my post natal group raved about how easy their babies were, how much they loved being a mum and how supportive and helpful their husbands were. I couldn't relate. I felt extremely isolated.
Luckily, I recognised the signs and took myself off to the GP and was diagnosed with post natal depression and put on medication (Citalopram) and free+ subsidised sessions with a counsellor. I started to put myself first as I knew that if I couldn't keep my shit together, I was no good to anyone...particularly my precious baby girl. Of course I didn't take any time 'out' or say 'yes' to any help, my daughters father and I broke up when she was 1.5years old and Mila didn't sleep through the night till she was 2.5 years old...but with the help of medication, counselling and getting into exercise and good nutrition, and time - I got there.
Now, medication free (for 2 years now), I'm helping others to combat their depression with exercise, nutrition and my 'Mindset Makeover' workshop. (Check out details on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/evanapatterson/, I am an advocate for mental health awareness... I started a support group on Facebook and am very open when sharing my experience with other people. The more we talk, the more others will talk, the more lives will be enriched, changed for the better and saved. I still have my off days with stress and anxiety and am working through my coping mechanisms - including taking the occasional 'Mental Health Day off' which I think are vital, and trying to remain as positive as possible, living for the day, life on life's terms. It's all you can do sometimes... one day at a time.
Please, if you are having a hard time, reach out.. tell someone.. me, Sergeant Calm, another friend, a stranger, one of the mental health helplines (below).. never feel ashamed about needing support and never think that you are a burden. You are not.
You matter, your life is worth living and there ARE people that care. <3
Check out a little group I run on Facebook: Mental Health Awareness/Support Group
Who is Evana and what does she do?
Mental Health Awareness/Suicide Prevention Advocate
Beauty Pageant Choreographer & Judge
Model scout & Coach
Womens Lifestyle Coach
These services exist and are readily available to call for free:
NEW ZEALAND National helplines:
*Lifeline – 24 hour counselling - 0800 543 354
*Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
*Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757
**Anxiety phone line – 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)
*Healthline – 0800 611 116
*Samaritans – 0800 726 666
*Capri Hospital 0800 227 741
Helplines for children and young people:
Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org – or email email@example.com or free text 5626
What's Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, 1pm–10pm and weekends, 3pm–10pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.
Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays
OTHER SPECIALIST HELPLINES:
*Relationship services 0800 735-283
*Alcohol & Drug Helpline - 0800 787 797
*Sexuality or gender identity helpline -OUTLine NZ – 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE)
*Are You OK – 0800 456 450 family violence helpline
*Gambling Helpline – 0800 654 655
*Shine – 0508 744 633 confidential domestic abuse helpline
*Quit Line – 0800 778 778 smoking cessation help
*Women's Refuge Crisisline – 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE) (for women living with violence, or in fear, in their relationship or family)
*Shakti Crisis Line – 0800 742 584 (for migrant or refugee women living with family violence
*Rape Crisis – 0800 883 300 (for support after rape or sexual assault)
*Men's Refuge -
24 hour Crisis Line 0800494734 and www.08004wiseguys.org