On discovering Yoga

I first came across Yoga after recovering from postnatal depression with Leo back in 2015. I needed to find something to ground myself as I was still living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder.  So, I joined a basic yoga class through the local community centre and attended weekly.  Yoga ticked all the boxes – it improved my flexibility, increased my muscle tone and helped bring my anxiety to manageable levels.

We then moved suburbs and I stopped going for a while until I found a yoga studio that was close to home and offered a variety of classes including Hot, Slow Flow, Power and Yin.  I’d never heard of Yin Yoga before and wanted to know more.  Well, since my first Yin Yoga class, I haven’t looked back.

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I always get excited before going Yin Yoga, because I know how much it will benefit me.  I like to arrive 10 minutes before the class starts, to put my stuff in a locker, pick a bolster, make a cup of tea and settle into my spot.  Once I am in my spot, I take 3 deep breaths and then I put the bolster behind my knees and lie down on my back. I almost always fall asleep as the room is peaceful, and, there is gentle meditative music playing in the background.  The teacher will come into the room and welcome us by saying something like “Today, honour your body and your mind.  However you are feeling, and, whatever you are thinking is exactly as it should be.”  We then set the intention for the practice.

 

So, what exactly is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is a quiet, contemplative practice.  The class usually consists of a series of long-held, passive floor poses intended to help you dig into the connective tissues that surround the joints and release tension.  For those who experience anxiety, it also helps free up emotional energy by holding each pose a little longer than you might be used to. Yin yoga is basically like taking deep breaths for your body.  The poses can also be meditative, helping you to become more present and bringing your nervous system into a calm and restful state.  Energetically, Yin yoga improves the energy flow, enhancing the flow of chi (vital energy) in the organs. To be healthy, we need healthy organs as well as healthy muscles.

Who is Yin yoga for?

Yin yoga is for everyone, however, it is especially beneficial if you are feeling over-stimulated and have too much energy.  In the current world we live in – we seem to be bombarded with stimuli 24/7.  Our minds are kept busy processing all the information that’s thrown at it.  Yin Yoga forces us – in a gentle way – to slow down and go inward.  It is an intimate practice, so get ready to get intimate with yourself, feelings, sensations & emotions.  Yin Yoga offers the chance to be still, be present, and work within, while you breathe and stretch deeply.  The practice also helps to create more space in the mind and body. Once we manage to achieve this beautiful state, and we learn to put those anxious thoughts aside for an hour, we give our minds a break from the busy world.  We find deeper relaxation, and we experience how it feels not to have that constant anxiety. If you are able to get to yoga once a week, hopefully the calming effects felt during the class will spill into the rest of the day and beyond the yoga mat.

josie yoga

On October 12, I am thrilled to be hosting a Yin Yoga and Meditation class at Kula Yoga in Hawthorn.  Stephanie Williams one of Kula Yoga’s Certified Yoga Instructor’s will guide us through the practice.  At the completion of the practice you will receive a touch of peppermint oil behind the ears to refresh your senses. We will also finish off the class with some Smiling after PND Comfort tea.

I look forward to sharing this beautiful afternoon with you all.

Namaste 

Josie xx

Further reading:

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/smiling-after-pnd-hosts-an-afternoon-of-yin-yoga-and-meditation-tickets-70428725213

https://kulayoga.com.au

https://ashtangayogagirl.com/yin-yoga-anxiety/ 

https://www.aurawellnesscenter.com/2011/12/19/yin-yoga-poses-to-relieve-anxiety/

https://inspireyoga.com/yin-yoga-for-anxiety

https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/10-reasons-make-time-yin-yoga

https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/practice/the-benefits-of-yin-yoga

 

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On having another baby after PND – Lily (PART ONE)

When Leo was about two years old, Hugh and I started chatting about having another baby.  We always thought we would have two (me, three) children.  However, after having gone through postnatal depression (PND), we were both fearful of trying.  I was terrified about getting PND again, particularly after working so hard to overcome it […]

When Leo was about two years old, Hugh and I started chatting about having another baby.  We always thought we would have two (me, three) children.  However, after having gone through postnatal depression (PND), we were both fearful of trying.  I was terrified about getting PND again, particularly after working so hard to overcome it and, Hugh was concerned he wouldn’t be able to see me go through it again.   In the back of my mind, I didn’t think I could survive it again.

However, as time went on the desire, to grow our family grew stronger.  So, together, we started the process of putting measures in place to lower the chances of PND reoccurring, given I was living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).  One measure was the increase of therapy sessions.  At my therapy sessions, we started to work towards what life might be like if we did get pregnant again, and, then the challenges of being a mum to two children whilst living with GAD.  We also explored what would happen if PND reared its ugly head again.

We also met with an outstanding Perinatal Psychiatrist who provided us with written advice on the risks of the reoccurrence of PND, what may occur if left untreated, implications of GAD and treatment pathways.  Hugh and I went away after that meeting feeling very well informed and for a time, we weighed up our options.  In the end, we felt supported enough to start the path of having another baby.

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In the middle of 2017, we were ecstatic to find out we were pregnant with a little baby girl.  My pregnancy was uneventful which was a blessing.  As a preventative, given the risks of developing PND again, I increased my therapy sessions, I regularly saw my GP who was always so supportive and encouraging, and, my OB checked in on mental health at every appointment.  There were points throughout my pregnancy whereby I had feelings of impending doom which I explicitly told my OB at one appointment to which he wrote to my therapist and GP with my approval.  It was so comforting to know that lines of communication were open with all medical professionals.

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The birth of Lily was everything I had of hoped for.  I was supported by two midwives from the moment I walked into the labour ward and then a third in my later stages of labour.  My OB kept checking in on me periodically and when I became too anxious, I asked him stay and he did until I gave birth.  I had a few days in the hospital setting and then was transferred to a hotel for the remainder of the stay – AMAZING!

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Unfortunately, I experienced postnatal depression again and in my next post, I will tell you all about that and about life with exuberant baby Lily.  Stay tuned for PART TWO where it gets a little bit tricky but it has a lot of hope.    Love and Smiles xxx

Smiling after PND hosts a workshop on Mindfulness and Meditation.

I live with Generalised Anxiety Disorder which means I’m anxious, worried and have a feeling that something terrible will happen most of the time.  I’ve had anxiety for most of my life, it’s all I know.  This year I decided to go back to Uni to do a Masters degree, and, I turned Smiling after PND into a business.  As soon as I do something new, feel a bit vulnerable and uncertain – in comes my little friend anxiety at peak levels.  It is exhausting. It questions everything I do, fills me with doubt and can be overwhelming at times. I have professional help to manage my anxiety, however, when it is at peak levels, I need to access other tools in my tool box to keep my little friend at a manageable level.  If I don’t, I know I will get depressed.  One of the tools I recently learned about is mindfulness.

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Once I had done a bit of research on the topic, I thought to myself, I would love to share this with you all, and, so began my first workshop on mindfulness and meditation.  I engaged Suzanne and Amanda from Present Mindfulness Academy to talk us through how we can achieve mindfulness and meditation in our daily lives.

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In the two hour workshop, we learnt about what it means to be mindful, the benefits of being mindful, the importance of self care, and, how easy it is to incorporate self care and mindfulness in our every day lives.  We enjoyed morning tea and a massage from Jayne from Mama’s Angels.

Overall, it was a great learning experience and I was chuffed to have those who attended the workshop, report back to me that they are now more mindful in their lives and happier for it.  Since the workshop, I now put a buzzer on my phone to remind me to breathe, I start the day more positively, my husband and children are better for it and I am happier and more present.  I’ve also re-engaged with Yoga which I gave up when I was depressed.  More on that in another post very soon!

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Finally, I am so pleased to announce that we also raised $200 towards PANDA from ticket prices.  The donation will enable PANDA to train community champions volunteers, to share their stories in local communities so people understand perinatal mental illness and expecting and new mums and dads aren’t left to suffer alone.  Stay tuned for the next one…….

Much love and smiles xxx

For more information, please visit

http://pmacademy.com.au/

https://www.mamasangels.co

https://www.instagram.com/cafeblac/

On returning back to blogging

Hi everyone,

Hope all is well with you.  It’s great to be back, writing again.  I just had at a look at the last post I had written, in August 2016, which was on self care, and, thought I would bring you up to speed about what has been happening since that last post.  I remember I had sat at my computer many times over the past three years, but, I just couldn’t bring myself to write.  So, I closed my laptop and put it to the side while I worked on myself.

I have to say, my mental health over those last three years was not great.  I was functioning in the world and being a good mum to Leo, but, there were times when I felt pangs of pain and sadness.  I had been in therapy after being diagnosed with post natal depression, for about a year, but I couldn’t go anywhere near talking about Tony in those sessions.  After much deliberation, I decided to stop therapy as I knew we were nearing uncovering that pain and I was not prepared to talk.

Jo and Leo

In hindsight, that was an error of judgement on my behalf.  As time went on, the pain and sadness grew bigger than me and after chatting to Hugh, I decided it was time to go back to therapy.  This time I knew I needed to talk.  As luck would have it, I found an incredible psychologist and quite quickly, I’d say after about 2 or 3 sessions, Tony came up in discussion and I just howled.  I cried all the tears I didn’t shed at his funeral, I cried for my mum who was missing her son, I cried for my sisters missing their brother, and, I cried for myself for coming to the realisation that Tony was never coming back.Tony

During this time, it also became evident that I longed for another baby.  So, throughout the therapy sessions we spoke about what that would like, the fears that I had of experiencing PND again and the challenges of being a mum to two children whilst living with anxiety.  It took another 12 months before I felt robust enough to begin the process of trying for another baby.

 

My next post will be all about Lily (another baby after PND).  Yes, Lily deserves a whole post about herself and you will see why in a little while.

Love and hugs to you all.

Josie Smyth xx

If you or someone you know is struggling from perinatal anxiety or depression please contact PANDA’s national helpline on 1300 726 306 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Josie Smyth is a Melbourne mum of two.  Three months after giving birth in 2014, Josie suffered severe anxiety and depression and was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Post Natal Depression.  Then in 2018, four months after the birth of her second child, Lily, PND reared its ugly head again.  Since those experiences, a healthier, happier and a better person emerged.  Through recovery, Josie wanted to give back.  Josie is currently volunteering with Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) as a community educator.  Josie is a mental health advocate and, is inspired to give hope to parents facing the same challenges that, even in the darkest days, recovery from PND can be possible.

Guest blog post for “that awkward conversation”

I recently came across Whitney from That Awkward Conversation.  The awkward conversations around depression and anxiety.  I am so pleased Whitney shared my experience of perinatal anxiety and depression with both Leo and Lily.  Here it is below:

I am proud to be talking about my journey through anxiety and postnatal depression.  It was an incredibly challenging time having experienced it with both of my children, but, after having gone through it, I am now a better, healthier and happier person and for that, I am grateful.  I hope that by sharing my story it will give hope to parents facing the same challenges that, even in the darkest days, recovery is possible.

I clearly remember the home visit by my Maternal Child and Health Nurse, Katie, three days after coming home from hospital. I was instantly drawn to her warm smile and knowing eyes.  Katie sat next to me on the couch as I attempted to breastfeed.  She helped me relax, which helped me attach Leo, and she gave me some great tips.  Before long, we began chatting about how my husband Hugh and I had set up Leo’s room, and about my labour and the birth.

At the time, I was quite a private person, yet Katie made me feel comfortable enough to also share that my eldest sister Mary, has bipolar disorder, and that my elder brother Tony, suicided at the age of 24, after a long battle with schizophrenia.

She gave me a big cuddle and said she would stick a PANDA sticker next to my name in my son’s little green Health and Development Record book.  This would remind her to take extra care of me at my MCH visits, as given my family history; I was predisposed to postnatal depression.  I shrugged it off, little knowing how right she would be.

Not long after, my mental state started to go downhill.  I was exhausted, yet had trouble sleeping.  “Sleep when baby sleeps” was just not happening.  I was kept awake by night sweats and terrible racing thoughts.

“Could something fall into my baby’s bassinet and suffocate him?”, “Maybe his nappy is on too tight and could cut off his circulation”, “Maybe someone could break in to the house and kidnap him”, “Maybe he’s too hot, maybe he’s too cold”.

These thoughts would play over and over in my mind.

I had a constant sick feeling, which put me off eating, and I lost a lot of weight.  I was irritable and angry, snapping at the smallest things.  I felt hopeless and dead inside.  I began to isolate myself from family and friends.  I would often close all the blinds, after my husband left for work.

As my mental state deteriorated, I had trouble bonding with Leo.  Some days I couldn’t even bear to look at him. I felt like he was not my son.  Other days I would just wish that someone would take my son away from me, and that I’d be rid of all my internal pain.

Yet I constantly worried about him.  I wouldn’t let anyone outside my immediate family touch or hold him, and I’d check his temperature almost every hour.  I became so overwhelmed and exhausted that I started to plan my escape.  I just wanted it to all end.

My husband and the rest of my family noticed things didn’t seem right, and urged me to speak to my Maternal Child Health Nurse or my GP. Yet I was too afraid that I would lose my son. That my horrid thoughts would send me to a mental ward – or worse yet, prison – and that I’d never see my son again.  I’d have panic attacks, or go silent as my thoughts took over. My sister would call me daily and calm me down. I felt comforted knowing she was on the line.  My mum lived next door, and most days would come and just sit with me.  I was afraid to be alone with my thoughts.

My husband would secretly call my friends and ask them to visit. They’d bring me lunch, make me tea, and even helped me start my son on solids.  They knew something wasn’t right, but I think they were too afraid to say something that might “tip me over the edge”.

Then one day, I explicitly told mum that I was contemplating suicide.  She knew I was serious, and she was determined not to lose another child that way.  She immediately phoned my GP, and luckily I got in to see her that day.  Yet I was still afraid that the GP would have me locked up, and my son taken from me.  So, I went under the guise of him being unwell.

Luckily, my GP saw through this. She asked my mum to leave the room and began asking me questions. I finally broke down and told her everything.  She wrote me out a Mental Health Care Plan, a script for antidepressants and a referral to a psychiatrist.

When the psychiatrist diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Postnatal Depression, things started to get better. I was put on medication to help with my anxiety.  For the first two weeks it exacerbated my suicidal thoughts, which is a common side effect.  My mum monitored me while my husband was at work, and then it started to really help.

I also saw a psychologist at Tweddle Child and Family Health, with support under the Mental Health Care Plan.  At first, I resisted this treatment. I was still too afraid to speak up about my horrid thoughts.

But as I began to trust the psychologist, I realised the therapy was helping me work through my issues, including my brother’s death.  I was very lucky that my husband came with me to my initial visits, and still loved me in spite of the person I had become.

I know now that this treatment played an important role in my recovery – not to mention the love and support of my GP, my family and close friends.  I only wish that I had spoken up sooner.

I really want to get the message across to anyone who is struggling: please get help as quickly as possible, so that recovery is not delayed.

I can’t tell you the exact day that things started to shift for me, but, I can tell you what I started to notice.  For one, I began opening the blinds, one by one.  I felt the fog lift, and I began socialising and making friends with new mums in my area.

Most importantly, I saw my beautiful baby boy wanting his mummy so much.  I realised how precious he is to me, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness that I longed for, and had so missed.

Fast forward four years and I felt I had recovered enough to want another baby.  I was still having therapy but ceased my medication.  The first four months after Lily’s birth was a very different experience to Leo, I felt bonded to her, I was getting out of the house, I was resting and I was practising self care.

However, Lily was never a good sleeper and after about 4 months, it got to a point that she was up every hour and I was getting no sleep.  I was a zombie. I began to have those feelings that I had when I had PND with Leo and I started to worry that I might have PND again.  Some of the symptoms I experienced were, heightened anxiety, not showering, scary thoughts, I lost my appetite, feeling flat, inability to laugh at things I used to find funny, feeling very panicky, dreading the day, not able to experience any joy, unable to sleep.

I knew I did not want to get as unwell as I had with Leo, and, I remembered that the earlier I sought help, the quicker the recovery.  So, I made an appointment to visit my GP.  The first time I had PND I resisted going to GP as I feared I would lose my son.  This time I had learnt that that is not the case, in fact it is encouraged that mum and bub stay together.  At the GP, I filled out a questionnaire which came back high and immediately commenced medication to help with my symptoms.

I also increased my appointments with my psychologist, checked in with my GP weekly and began seeing a psychiatrist to manage my medication.  I would always call someone I trusted and felt safe with and tell them I was struggling – I would say “I am feeling wobbly today” and they would just listen to my struggles.  Family and friends would come over for lunch or a cup of tea, we would walk to the park, get a coffee, play in the park with both Leo and Lily, read stories together and put on silly music to dance with them in the loungeroom.

I also attended a support program run by the local council which was organised by MCHN.  I increased my appointments with MCHN – so rather than meet at every milestone, I would meet with them in between.  I would also read stories by community champions on PANDA’s website about their journey through PND.  It didn’t take too long before I was feeling my self again and, not to mention with the help of a sleep and settling consultant who came to our house to help Lily sleep better was lifechanging.

In 2015, after recovering from perinatal anxiety and depression, and, still managing my anxiety I decided to become a PANDA volunteer.  I hope to share my message far and wide that recovery from perinatal mental illness is possible.  I also have my own blog Smiling after PND, journaling my experience as a mother who has recovered from PND and to instil hope that even in the darkest day, recovery is possible.   I love being a mum and I am so thankful for my children who gave me the gift of being their mother.  I am also so thankful for my experience as it has given me a purpose to give back to the community.  I know my journey is ongoing, however, with this new knowledge and experience, I feel better equipped to face any challenge that is ahead of me.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please call PANDA on 1300 276 306.

Love and hugs Josie xx

 

 

PANDA now have mental health checklists.

Hello everyone,

After quite a hiatus – I am back.  I have lots to tell you but this will occur in a series of posts coming soon.  In the meantime, I have attached checklists I found on PANDA’s website.  Did you know you can fill them out, print them and take them along to your next MCHN or doctor’s appointment as a gentle way to start conversation? I think this is a fabulous initiative.

In the meantime, if you or someone you know is struggling, please call PANDA’s national hotline on 1300 726 306.

https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/checklists

Love and smiles

Josie

Self-care

empty cupSELF-CARE – the things you do to replenish your mental, physical and emotional health or “filling up your cup”.

When I first became a mum, all I could think of was my baby and his wellbeing. I also felt guilty if I was not 100% focussed on him. Ultimately, I forgot to take care of myself. Part of my recovery from postnatal depression was to think of self-care strategies that I could use, particularly when my “cup” was starting to empty. Here are a few that I turn to:

Sleep – I love it. Who doesn’t? Babies and toddlers – that’s who! My son, Leo seems to wake often and early. When I don’t get enough sleep I start to feel really anxious. When I am anxious, I struggle to fall sleep. Some strategies I use to help me relax and unwind before bed are to make myself a cup of camomile tea with a teaspoon of honey, or, a mug of hot chocolate. I use hot milk instead of boiling water and a stick of cinnamon. The smell of cinnamon and something about hot milk makes me sleepy. Other times, I will pull out my mindfulness colouring in book and do some colouring.

Hot chocolate    colouring in

Eat – When I was really unwell with postnatal depression, I was hardly eating. I was lucky though, that family and friends noticed and helped with cooking meals or brought lunch over and made sure I was eating. Since recovering, I have now found a new love for cooking and eating. At the moment, I love to cook up a big batch of soup, which lasts a few days in the fridge. My favourite at the moment is Karen Martini’s chicken and corn soup. I also cook a whole pot of bolognaise sauce which I freeze in batches. Sometimes, pretty rarely actually, we will organise a babysitter for Leo and hubby and I will enjoy a meal at one of our favourite restaurants – I wish we did this more often!

Exercise – I am not a fan of exercise; however, I do enjoy taking our dog for a walk to the local park. We usually meet other dog walkers there and it makes me happy seeing him play and run around with the other doggies. Another thing I do which I never thought I would enjoy is yoga. I find the breathing exercises and different poses help me to stay focussed and quiet my mind. My favourite classes at the moment are power flow and yin.

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Other strategies I use for self-care:

Shower time – In the past, I would never leave Leo out of my sight – this meant putting him in a bouncer and bringing him into the bathroom with me while I showered. As I started to recover I really started to enjoy showering alone. Having that space to myself allows me to switch off.

Music – Those who know me well, know that I love my RnB – hello Fox FM’s RnB Fridays! I make any excuse to get in the car with Leo and we (mainly me) bop along to the music. I am also a closet Taylor Swift fan and will put her music on when I am doing mundane tasks like folding the washing. In fact, Taylor Swift’s Shake it off was one of the first songs I really enjoyed when I started to feel better.

Asking for help – I still find this difficult, but I am definitely so much better at it than I was in the past. I get help with the cooking, whereby, family will cook us lunch or dinner. I also get help with babysitting so that I can go to my appointments or go out for dinner. I also find calling my family and friends and having a good chat over the phone, particularly when I am having bad day, really helps. I do believe in the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” and I only wish I had asked for help sooner!

Speaking to a professional – For me, this means once a month, or, sometimes once a fortnight; I will meet with my psychologist for an hour. Having that hour to talk to my psychologist helps me make meaning of all my thoughts and feelings. I am usually reluctant to go prior to the session, but afterwards I am grateful I went.

So there you have it, these are just a few self-care strategies I use to look after myself and they work for me. What are some of yours?

Love and smiles Josie xx

If you or someone you know has been touched by perinatal anxiety or depression please contact PANDA’s national helpline on 1300 726 306.

Links:

http://cookingwithawallflower.com/2015/12/16/cinnamon-hot-chocolate/

 https://www.bookdepository.com/Mindfulness-Colouring-Book-Emma-Farrarons/9780752265629

 http://www.karenmartini.com/cook/recipes/chicken-corn-noodle-soup-polpette

http://karenmartini.com/cook/recipes/sneaky-spaghetti-bolognese

http://www.yogatogrow.com.au/

 http://www.fox.com.au/scoopla/music/blog/2015/6/foxs-ultimate-rnb-playlist/