Worth Living Ambassador Ashlee Johnson
Hi I’m Ashlee, the face behind ‘The Tattooed Mumma ( Instagram @thetattooedmumma). A first time mum and struggling with mental illness. I share my stories and inspiration on my page, my goal is to raise awareness for postnatal depression. It’s ok not to be ok.
Battling with the New Me
Today (4/07/17) marked one year since finally speaking up and admitting that I wasn’t ok….
You would have thought that I would be in a state of bliss and happiness with the arrival of my daughter a few weeks before. We had numerous visitors coming to congratulate us, bringing food and well wishes. That fake smile (that anyone with anxiety knows all too well) was plastered on my face and the usual response that I’m doing ok when people asked how I was, was being thrown around left right and center.
At first I thought it must have been hormones as well as adjusting to minimal sleep and this insane thing they call motherhood.
As the weeks went on, I found myself getting progressively worse. I started to feel dazed and I was losing memory of what I’d done that day. I would lose my temper over tiny things. I’d yell and scream, my mind would race and I would literally lose control of what I’d say and do. After a while my brain went into complete autopilot and my mental state just completely shut down. I dreaded having to see friends and family and the thought of their asking how I was left me in an absolute mess.
The anxiety eventually got worse and worse to the point where I couldn’t even put our daughter to bed because I’d be convinced that she wouldn’t go to sleep and that I’d be up all night. When it was my turn to do the bedtime routine, I would end up having huge panic attacks where I couldn’t breathe, I’d end up in tears and hyperventilating or yelling.
My breaking point was one year ago today; the thought of it makes me feel sick.
It was my turn to do the bedtime routine, and I had a pretty good day. I felt good in myself and I felt confident in putting the baby to bed. All was going well until my daughter didn’t go to sleep, she was wide-awake and panic just took over…. I started to panic, I don’t know why? I had done this numerous times before but I felt my body getting tenser and tenser and them BAM! I exploded… I screamed as loud as I could, so loud that it woke my sleeping fiancé, scared the shit out of our daughter and left me completely stunned and frazzled. It was one of those moments that as much as I wanted to stop myself I couldn’t, my fiancé came and took her from me and got her to sleep while I sat on my bathroom floor (basically in foetal position) absolutely in hysterics.
I didn’t sleep much that night, I felt truly horrible. I couldn’t work out how in such a short time I had gotten so bad. This little human who is my entire world had managed to completely break me. By this stage my fiancé was back at work so the next day it was just me and my daughter. We sat in the chair and she had a bottle and it finally hit me that I am in fact not ok. I booked into my Doctor and she was very quick to diagnose me with Post Natal Depression. We made a mental health plan and I was referred to a psychologist. After a few sessions with the psychologist, I still felt like I was struggling to pull myself out of the darkness. I would leave my appointments in a really bad headspace and struggling to snap out of it and get on with my day. So I was then referred onto a psychiatrist for a second opinion. It was then that I was also diagnosed with ADHD and PTSD as well as my postnatal depression. At first I was a little shocked and in denial as to how it didn’t get picked up when I was much younger? I was hesitant to go on medication because it seemed whatever they gave me for PND would not work with my ADHD or vice versa. Finally with the help of my GP, I was able to find a medication that was able to treat all my conditions, and I have been taking them since February this year and having a lot better time coping.
Late February I decided that I needed to find something that I could do to help me get my feelings out of my head and express myself a bit better so I launched a Instagram / blog page called ‘The Tattooed Mumma’ at first it was just for myself but I quickly gained followers and received emails from other mums in the same situation. I decided instead of just being my little outlet it can be a place for support, a place for stories, advice, inspiration and anything else that I find that may be beneficial at the time. Since launching, I have collaborated with numerous small businesses to promote awareness for mental health for mums. I have participated in fundraisers for numerous charities and also released a small line of merchandise to raise funds for mental health charities.
I still have bad days, but since being on my medication I have become a whole new person. I can think about things clearly, I am able to recognize triggers for my anxiety and remove myself from the situation before I get bad. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed, but my now 1-year-old daughter makes sure I’m up and going. She is my motivation to share my story with as many people as I can so that more mums feel like they can speak up without any judgements and get the help they need or even just talk to someone.
My daughter has been a blessing in disguise for me. She has taught me that it is ok to not be ok, to embrace my mental illness and accept that it is part of who I am. A year on and it has been an absolute rollercoaster of ups and downs but I am now healthy and looking after myself and am truly happy
You can follow me on Instagram @thetattooedmumma