It’s normal to feel down in the dumps occasionally. Feeling lower than usual for a really long time can be something to take notice of though. This isn't a feeling you should just have to 'put up with' or 'push through'.
As part of our New Year Same You campaign, we are exploring various topics of mental health, to make sure we enter 2022 with a strong focus on self care and looking after our minds! As our last topic in the series, we wanted to focus on depression. A super common problem facing many young Australians. And who better to talk to than mindfulness coach, breath work teacher, student psychologist and post natal depression survivor herself, Chelsea Pottinger.
Chelsea has an absolutely incredible story, and we can learn so much from the amazing insights she shares with us during this chat.
If you wish to listen to our conversation with Chelsea, visit our podcast episode here, or if reading is more your jam, you can check out our conversation with her below.
Where did your personal experience with depression and mental health in general start?
My mental health journey began almost ten years ago. I was skiing with my husband in the snow (back when you didn't wear helmets) when I was knocked out by a snowboarder. I broke two ribs and was concussed. That was the first time I suffered a head injury, and my anxiety began to develop after that.
I hit my head again while walking down the stairs a few years later, and was rushed to the hospital. Similar to that of the skiing event, I developed anxiety following the injury so bad that it got to the point one day where I had to pull over in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel because I was experiencing a panic attack.
A little while after that I became pregnant, and after giving birth, I began to have severe anxiety and negative thoughts. My depression was so severe that I felt suicidal when my daughter was just 9 weeks old, and I ended up in a psychiatric ‘mother and bubs’ unit.
If you had asked me in my early twenties whether I would have a mental condition, I would have responded "no way." That's why it's so fascinating to me and provides me insight into what it's like to suffer from mental illness, since I know from my personal experience that it can affect anyone, it is not something that discriminates.
How did you go about seeking help? When did things start to turn around for you?
When I told my husband that I wanted to end my life, he insisted that I seek medical care right away. I was really fortunate to have not just an incredible and supportive husband, but also a cousin who is a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, there are only 12 beds, and this affects 100,000 women and 10,000 men in NSW alone. The fact that you're in there with other individuals who are just like you makes you feel normal in an abnormal situation and was why the hospital was so wonderful for me in terms of recovery. The thing about entering into a unit is that you get to see recovered individuals at the end of their five-week stay who have been in your exact shoes.
Since you first sought help for this, what has the road to recovery been like? Has it been an ongoing challenge for you since then?
Mental health is a lifelong journey, and having gone through such an experience has provided me with the confidence and tools that I need to recover if I relapse. Medication also plays an important role in my life because it allows me to function like any other human being and brings me up to the same level playing field in a sense.
Are there certain warning signs that you look out for now as to when you might need a self check-in or maybe a reset?
For me personally, it falls into three categories:
What are they saying: are they saying words involving ‘loneliness’, ‘burden’ or ‘helplessness’.
How are they behaving: have they been withdrawn? Are they isolating themselves? Are they neglecting their appearance? Are they acting hyper productive?
What's going on in their life: it can not only happen when someone loses a job or someone they love but it can also happen at the joyous of times such as having a baby, or signing a book deal which in my case is what tipped me over the edge for example.
I look out for insomnia because I know how bad it can spiral from there. I am also very quick to act and will resume my medication, consult with my psychiatrist, double down on self care and take time off work.
What is your advice to people who are suffering with a similar problem? What would be the one thing you would tell them?
If you are suffering, my advice would be …. Be brave to ask for help. Reaching out and asking for help is the bravest thing you can ever do. Reach out to the right person, whether it's your doctor or a friend/family member who loves and supports you. It is not a sign of weakness, and it's okay to not be okay. You will and can get through it. I promise.
If you want to hear more from Chelsea make sure you check out our interview with her here on After 20. You can follow Chelsea at @eqminds for more helpful tips and tricks on mindfulness and maintaining your mental health.
And don’t forget, for the entire month of January, tbh Skincare is donating 10% of all revenue to ReachOut Australia to support the mental health of young Australians.