I've always felt like talking about mental health wasn't an issue for me, there was no shame or stigma around it for me. I've been a proud LIVIN supporter for a few years now, I love what they stand for and the work they're doing but it wasn't until they gave me the opportunity to jump onboard the Collective Minds initiative last year and I started talking to others during that time, that I realized; maybe the stigma is still there for me...?
To the few people that are genuinely interested and would ask me how I'm doing, I wasn't ashamed to open up and admit that I needed help. But to the rest of the world, I feel like it would come across as "being a burden", "attention seeking", "feeling sorry for myself" if I would speak up (something I've been wanting to do for a long time!).
The other thing that would get in my way is my self worth and self esteem. That little voice inside my head that would say: "I know you've got a lot to say, but who would want to hear that? How is your story going to help others? There are people out there that have gone through way worse than you. You and your story don't really matter. What would people think of me?”, but life isn’t yours if you always care what other people think. I am taking control now!
Thinking back, I've struggled with mental health from a young age due to life and the things you have no control over as a kid, but there are 3 significant times that changed my life completely.
The first one was back in 2011 at age 23. I was going through really bad depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I felt so suck in this vicious cycle I was in, not sure how to get out or what to do. It got so bad that taking my own life seemed like the only way out…
One day, someone said to me: “You need to do something that you are scared of, something to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone”.
That’s when I decided to leave The Netherlands and move to Australia, alone, and start living for myself. I quit my job, quit school, packed one suitcase and within three months of making that decision, I left. I never thought I would have the strength to do something like that!
At the time, I think I just ran away from my problems as far as I possibly could but I needed to face them head on and alone to find my inner strength. It was scary and very hard at times to have no one to fall back on but myself but it turned out to be the best decision of my life, one that actually saved my life.
The second and third time kind of overlapped and has turned into one big battle that’s been going on for almost 5 years now. It started early 2015 after I suffered severe head and neck injury from a work accident that had left me 65% permanent impairment, PTSD and chronic head and neck pain. Not only did I have to deal with the physical injuries, I also had to answer to a system that is supposed to support injured workers but instead put me trough hell!
I turned from a healthy 27 year old into a shadow of myself. Impaired speech, impaired memory, not being heard, doctors not taking me seriously, the pressure from my employer and Work Cover, completely dependent on my husband to leave the house and the never ending muscle and nerve pain made me extremely anxious, depressed and suicidal.
I knew exactly how I wanted to end my life and it would not have been very had to do so…all I had to do was take every single prescription drug that was just sitting in my cupboard. It would’ve been so much easier for me to end my life so I wouldn't feel the pain anymore but what about the pain it was going to cause my loved ones? That was all I could think about so I didn’t…The following two years, every day I was trying to keep my head above the water, trying to survive.
In February 2017, I fell pregnant. I wanted to be clean from all the meds before we would start trying so a few months before, I went cold turkey and stopped taking all my medication, they weren’t helping my pain anyway, they were just poisoning my body. One piece of advise on that: don’t do it!
The pain and feelings of withdrawal were excruciating but once again, I got through it and fell pregnant straight away.
After a very high risk and traumatic pregnancy and birth with the possibility that I could lose my own life and my baby’s life, they were able to deliver a premature but healthy and beautiful baby girl via elective caesarean. Laying on that theatre table, ready to have a baby, I’ve never been so scared in my life! They put her on my chest for a few minutes before taking her into special care. It was about 7hrs after delivery that I got to hold her properly for the first time.
Along with her birth came Postnatal Depression.
Holy shit, that hit me hard!
The hospital meds kept me numb and drowsy for the first couple of days so I don’t remember too much but I do remember that that “pink cloud” or that “mummy bubble” that women talk about, that wasn’t there and unfortunately never came…All I remember from that new born stage is how much I hated being a mum. I felt like I failed her during my pregnancy, at birth and that I was terrible at being a mum because I didn’t have “all the feeling”.
I also didn't had enough milk so there I was, desperately trying to breast feed my premature baby (who didn’t even have the strength to breast feed and couldn’t stay awake for 5min), staring at the wall, bawling my eyes out thinking how much I hated it and just wanted to disappear. You hear about PND when you are pregnant but you can’t really comprehend what that feels like and what it does to your body. It is horrible, you have absolutely no control over it and I had no idea what was happening to me.
I was ready to walk out the door and not come back...everything was just so overwhelming and too much to handle.
Society expects you to be happy and over the moon as a (new) mum because you've been given the beautiful gift of life but truth be told, it's not like that for every mum and you shouldn't be judged or feel guilty for that. You don't have to put on that mask and pretend it's all rainbows and unicorns. It wasn't until she was about 10 months old that I thought, I'm starting to get the hang of this parenting thing.
I feel like I’ve lost myself completely after all the events of the past five years. All the situations that I had no control over and weren’t my decisions, I just had to suck it up and deal with it somehow. I lost my identity and the sense of being my own person. I love my little family more than anything in the world but it’s not enough for me to just be a supporting wife and a devoted mum.
There should also be room for me, Jaynie.
I can’t be a good wife and a good mother if I’m not doing good myself. So that’s what I am working on right now, getting myself back on track, find ME again, taking control of my life again! I don’t have it all figured out yet. The chronic pain and physical limitations are still holding me back and literally sucks the life out of me some days, which makes it challenging to move forward but I've been given a lot of tools over the years to learn how to manage my metal heath. I am much more self aware, I know my limits, I am strong, resilient and I recognize and accept the darker days but don't dwell on them for too long.
I am taking every day as it comes. Writing this, speaking up and sharing my story is a huge step for me but I feel so much lighter already!
This is my first step to self healing and hopefully it will help other too, even if it’s just one person but knowing that they are not alone and encourage them to speak up too, because #itaintweaktospeak