How postnatal depression inspired one Mum to help others

Interview with Josephine Smyth

What inspired you to create Smiling after PND?

After my recovery from postnatal depression, I decided I wanted to use my experience to help others. I reached out to Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) and signed up to be a community educator. As part of my training, we wrote down our experience with postnatal depression which included our darkest moments, to the joy of recovery. I then shared my story as part of the volunteer role. When I read out my story, I noticed the hope for recovery I was giving to others. A few months into volunteering, I decided to create a blog and called it Smiling after PND. It just snowballed from there in some really positive ways. Postnatal depression can be quite isolating and debilitating, I hope that my story can help people feel less alone in their experience.

How has your own experience with PND shaped how you are able to help others?

To see somebody who has come out the other side is really inspiring, and it instils a sense of hope that recovery is possible. I am still managing my own mental health and so I have a level of acceptance and understanding that is free from judgement, and without power dynamics that may get in the way when working with medical health professionals. I am honest about my struggles in an attempt to break shame and stigma and encourage help-seeking. I advise on how practices and policies may be improved, particularly mental health systems where oppression and discrimination can present barriers to recovery for many people. I also organise events, support groups and offer one-hour workshops in an effort to create community connection, and to educate and inform. My aim is to provide a different kind of hope.

What are your three top tips to help manage motherhood overwhelm?

  • Let go of expectations. I am a bit of a perfectionist. So, if my expectations are not met, I am left feeling like a failure. When I let go, I notice I am more present with my children and I am happier. The household chores can wait.
  • Accept the help that is offered. Motherhood isn’t easy and getting help from time to time is not only support for you but support for your baby as well. I am so grateful for my friends and family who supported me, I could not have done it without them.
  • It’s OK to not be OK. Sometimes the feeling of overwhelm doesn’t lift and this is when professional help is needed. In Australia, 1 in 6 women will experience perinatal anxiety and depression. Your GP is your referral pathway for mental health treatment and will help you recover sooner.

You’ve recently collaborated with Melbourne-based tea-blending company Impala and Peacock to create a tea blend. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Throughout my experience with postnatal depression, I was fortunate enough to have the love and support of my family and friends. I always remember the sound of the kettle boiling and the conversations we would have over a cup of tea; the sense of connection it encouraged. Since recovering, it is not just drinking the tea that is special. It is the mindfulness that goes into the process, and then sitting down to enjoy it. Choosing the blend, finding the right teapot, measuring, brewing, and holding the teacup and feeling the warming effect on my hands. All of these elements are an important part of the process. I am thrilled to have collaborated with Impala and Peacock. One of the co-owners, Sarah De Witt, is an accredited tea sommelier with the Australian Tea Masters Association. Together, we bring you top-quality blends that have been carefully created to bring you a delicious cup to be enjoyed in your own home. We hope our blend will evoke conversations around mental health and encourage self- care.

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