Talking about mental health is hard. But mental health is everyone's business. By talking more openly we can help break the stigma.
Lisa is a senior manager in our People & Culture team here at Bendigo Bank.
Recently we spoke with Lisa to share some of her experiences as someone who knows all too well the ups and downs of managing your mental health.
Hi, I’m Lisa. I live in Adelaide. I am a massive soccer fan, I love listening to all types of music, and I'm a mother of three.
Something people might not know about me is that I have experienced postnatal depression and live with anxiety.
It’s not always easy to talk about but I like to share my story so that people don’t feel as alone with their own journey.
I’ve always been a positive and passionate person. People who know me say my glass is always half full and I see the good in anyone and anything. I lead with my heart. I love my work. And I enjoy being that person that brings a smile to others.
It’s important to me to be there for my family and loved ones, and I’ve often been that person people turn to for support.
So, when I first started to experience the signs of postnatal depression, I brushed it off as it was important to me to feel in control and to remain positive for others.
Throughout my life, like most people, I’ve experienced highs and lows. In 2015, when I had my third child, I remember feeling like life couldn’t possibly get any better.
I had a supportive partner and three happy, healthy children. We were planning our dream home and life was wonderful.
One in seven women are affected by postnatal depression. And one in five Australians experience mental illness each year.
But when I first experienced it, I didn't see the signs.
The first signs
I remember feeling rundown and tired. My partner was working two jobs, so I was often managing the children on my own.
I would tell myself, “you’ve got so much to be thankful for”, and “people juggle this and more every day.”
But I started to feel like I was failing at the simplest of things. I felt guilty for not getting things right and I would often be in tears.
At this stage, I hadn’t even gone back to work yet.
Ahead of school pick up, I would begin to feel incredibly anxious. The thought of getting through dinner, baths, and putting the kids to bed paralysed me. I remember feeling numb when I’d do things I used to really enjoy.
I now know that I was regularly experiencing panic attacks.
I realise now, the signs were all there. I started finding excuses to not catch up with friends and I isolated myself from people who might ask questions.
On one occasion, I went for a drive to clear my head. I remember, in that moment, thinking that my family would be better off without me.
When I got home, I did a mental health check online. I’d done this type of test before and had even recommended it to friends. But this time, sitting down and absorbing the questions, I started to understand just how serious things had become.
Learning to manage your mental health
I’d helped others through similar issues and I’d even done some mental health training through work. So, while making the choice to see a doctor wasn’t easy, it was certainly the right decision.
I started to see a psychologist and I remember feeling a huge sense of relief that I was taking control back.
My psychologist introduced me to meditation and helped me start conversations with my family and friends about what I needed to feel supported.
It was a real aha moment.
Parents often put everyone else’s priorities before their own. I’d always felt as if putting myself first was a selfish thing to do. However, it’s the best thing a parent can do. And by prioritising my own health and wellbeing, I can be there for the people I love.
We are often proactive about our physical health and I’ve come to realise our mental health should be no different.
On returning to work
I began to really value my counselling sessions, and they helped me realise I’d been missing the sense of purpose and achievement my career had previously offered.
I knew returning to work would form part of my recovery, but my self-esteem had taken a knock. It soon became apparent that some things I’d taken for granted weren’t just going to come back to me. I needed support. And I needed time.
When I returned from parental leave, I was fortunate to have a supportive leader who had also completed mental health first aid training.
I felt comfortable to share where I was at and together, we tailored my return to work to ensure a smooth and comfortable transition both for me and my team.
It was the small things that made the biggest difference. My leader played to my strengths, which in turn, boosted my confidence and made me feel valued at home and in the workplace.
Soon after, I felt capable of having honest conversations with those around me. And today, I firmly believe that through dialogue and listening we can all help to break the stigma of mental health and normalise something so many of us experience.
Recovery in mental health is not a destination – it’s a journey
I’ve learned to look for signs and be proactive. Sometimes, it can be as simple as adjusting my day to make sure I have time for a break, get out for a walk, or do a ten-minute meditation.
It’s also important to understand that not every day is going to be perfect and you need to be open to work through it.
For me, meditation, music, the right amount of sleep, and a good balance of work and play are really important.
It’s clear to me now just how much support I’ve always had around me. I just didn’t know how to access it.
If you know someone who seems isolated, reach out and check in on them. Make it known to them that you’re there.
I have always believed that our differences, our backgrounds, our skills, our personalities, and our lived experiences bring us together and make us stronger.
Ultimately, my experience with mental health has made me a better leader, a better friend, and a better parent. I now have more empathy for what others might be feeling and I allow the space for meaningful conversations at home and at work. Now more than ever, it’s important to have a space where it’s okay to not be okay.
This story was published with permission.
Where to get help
Your GP (doctor)
Your maternity or local hospital – many offer support for women (and their families) affected by PND
Maternal and child health nurse