“I was sitting in the loungeroom common area of Manning Psychiatric Ward within Concord Centre for Mental Health some years ago when I made a decision and a ‘pact with myself’. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go back to my old way of life after my experiences in mental health facilities. You see becoming mentally unwell gave me insights that I never would have otherwise had. I now knew what it was like to be ‘on the other side’.”
A Mother’s Mind – A Story of Post Natal Psychosis, Depression and Anxiety, a recollection of the lifechanging experience of author, teacher and mental health advocate Amanda Thomas Walsh will be launching on the 14th of August 2022 in association with Dr Caroline Webber from Green Olive Press. Like many women with postnatal psychosis Amanda wishes to get the message out about this illness so other women can recognise if this happens to them and get help early.
Post-partum psychosis is a mental illness that begins after childbirth, according to Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA), the illness affects one to two in every thousand women and is a serious condition that often requires patient hospitalisation. Dr Diana Jefferies, a colleague of Amanda, and author of the preface to A Mother’s Mind sheds some light on the greater impact of Amanda’s story. She is a senior lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University with a background of 27 years of clinical experience in mental health, drug and alcohol nursing and HIV.
“Although the birth of a child is supposed to be one of the happiest times of a woman’s life, it is also a time when they are most vulnerable to the onset of mental illness. In fact, up 20% of mothers will experience mental distress in the first six months after childbirth. In her recent book, A mother’s mind, Amanda Walsh Thomas tells the story of her deeply personal journey through mental illness after the birth of her second child. Often based on her diaries, this is an engaging story that helps the reader understand exactly how a person recognises that they are experiencing a mental illness and how they recover. Amanda also extends her story to her family who also share their experience of living with mental ill health in a loved one. But it is a book of hope. Even in her darkest times, Amanda and her family strive for recovery and never lose hope that they can get through this together. Amanda’s story is a must read for anyone interested in mental health, especially after childbirth.”
In line with the honest vulnerability featured in A Mothers Mind, Amanda gives us a brief insight into the process behind her sharing her story:
“I was sitting in the loungeroom common area of Manning Psychiatric Ward within Concord Centre for Mental Health some years ago when I made a decision and a ‘pact with myself’. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go back to my old way of life after my experiences in mental health facilities. You see becoming mentally unwell gave me insights that I never would have otherwise had. I now knew what it was like to be ‘on the other side’, I now knew the disparities that existed between some public and private mental health facilities and I now knew what it was like to feel utterly and completely vulnerable, frightened, and detained within a locked psychiatric unit. I knew I had to tell this story for many reasons. I guess you could say that this was the moment I decided I would ‘fight’ to have my story told. You see this wasn’t just my story, it was the story of many, I now felt a sense of responsibility. I needed to speak up for those who couldn’t. This was the moment when I decided I would need to create a book or some type of narrative to tell this story. What I didn’t realise was that it would take over eleven years to get my story out there. I endured many, many rejections from publishers over many years.
The story itself was created over many years (it morphed and changed over this time) and was later to become a book called “A Mother’s Mind – A Story of Post Natal Psychosis, Depression and Anxiety’. It slowly started to form as I pulled together parts of my handmade posters that I made in art class (in St John of God Psychiatric Hospital) which adorned my room that read things like ‘I was well before and I will be well again’. I also pulled together notes I had written in preparation for my psychiatrist appointments (back when I would prepare for a psychiatrist appointment like I was going to a job interview!). I also pulled together the thoughts that would constantly enter and re-enter my mind like the time I saw a girl being put into a seclusion room in psychiatric care. This is how ‘A Mother’s Mind’ was born and established.
I hope that this personal narrative is twofold, that this lived experience story will have power to smash stigma for those that have and will have maternal mental illness but that it will also provide a human or ‘lay’ education for medical professionals. I think illness narratives possess huge power as they are often told by everyday people such as myself and it is certainly less threatening to pick up a narrative than it may be to pick up a complex textbook or the like.
I thank the power of story writing for many things, firstly for giving me a platform to pour out my inner most feelings and highly frightening and traumatic experiences. Writing the story was powerful and helpful in my recovery. It was difficult however to constantly re-visit this story in the editing phase. I am hugely thankful to Dr Caroline Webber from Green Olive Press for believing in my story telling when no one else would. It was and is because of her that I now have a voice not just for myself, but for others too.”
The official book launch of A Mother’s Mind – A Story of Post Natal Psychosis, Depression and Anxiety will take place on Sunday the 14th of August from 2 to 3:30pm at Concord Library Function Room, 60 Flavelle St Concord NSW. RSVP before the 30th of July or reach out to Amanda via email email@example.com, or phone 0410 583 338. Refreshments and nibbles will be provided, and children are welcome to attend.
Amanda will also be presenting at the Winter Words Writers’ Festival taking place on Thursday the 28th of July. She will be interviewed by Amelia Walker from Gidget Foundation Australia. More information about the event can be found here.
In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about Amanda’s story, in 2018 she was interviewed as part of SBS The Feed, the video can be found below.