'I've never cried so much in my life': Mum's mental health struggle while isolated from her daughter

anxiety relief Sep 05, 2022

Mental health struggles can sneak up on you, lurking behind a busy life filled with responsibilities.

NSW Central Coast mum Tammy Hewitt was emmeshed in the corporate world when she began to feel the "crazy" lifestyle wasn't making her happy.

"I'd spent almost 20 years working my way up the corporate ladder. I was on call 24/7," Hewitt, 38, tells 9Honey.

It was during this time she and her partner Kelvin discovered they were expecting their first child. While Hewitt expected new parenthood to impact how she was living, she underestimated how life-changing it would be.

Hewitt's first memory of her own childhood was when she was four-and-a-half and her baby brother died.

"He was only 28 weeks old," she tells 9Honey. "It was just a big thing and I didn't understand my grief. I was in pieces, and I didn't know how to share what I was going through, as it was a difficult time for my family.

"I remember I couldn't bring myself to say goodbye to him and I ran out of the hospital and my nan and my aunty were chasing me," she continued. "That's pretty much a pattern I have kept up my whole life, so crippled by fear and running away."

Still, life has a way of moving on. Hewitt worked her way through school and then entered the work force, when corporate life became a blur.

"I kept suppressing it because I didn't want to acknowledge that I was unhappy and my mental health was really suffering, and because I was on a high salary, earning over $200,000 a year," she explains.

"Everyone was in awe of me because I had money and was successful and travelled around the world. Holding onto a job that made me so unhappy led me to lose sight of who I was as a person."

In 2018 Hewitt had recently ended a toxic relationship when she met Kelvin. They welcomed daughter Indie, now 22 months.

"I kept suppressing it because I didn't want to acknowledge that I was unhappy and my mental health was really suffering."

"It was only once I had Indie that I hit rock bottom. When I went back to work from maternity leave I was there for two hours, then I walked out," she says.

During her maternity leave, Hewitt came down with a severe case of shingles, which kept her bedbound and affected her eyes.

"The worst part of it was that I was separated from Indie because of the risk of giving her the virus," she says.

"I stayed in the spare bedroom in the house and I could hear Indie, but I couldn't hold her. At first we would get her to stand at the door so she and I could talk but we agreed to stop doing that because she would get so distraught."

Hewitt says she was in no condition to help care for her daughter.

"I couldn't swallow and my anxiety was so intense. I was having constant panic attacks some days and I'd have to take a sleeping tablet at night to get a little bit of sleep."

After two days confined to the spare bedroom, Hewitt says she cracked, spending the next three days crying in despair.

"That's when the anger and the sadness hit me and the anxiety and I've never cried so much in my life," she says. "Then 8 days later (on day 10 of confinement), I literally woke up and thought, I want to kick this fear in the butt and the movement was born.

She finally had a chance to stop and think about her life.

"I've always been a very strong person and I've been through quite a lot in my life and I just needed a different perspective," she says.

"It took those 10 days for it to come out of me. It sort of felt almost like an out-of-body experience and I thought, 'Wait a second. This happened for me, not to me'. Before that I was in victim mode."

Reunited with her daughter and well on her way to recovery, Hewitt began to plan out her future, which would involve helping others regain control of their mental health.

"When something like my illness happens, you need to acknowledge what happened and for what reason. Just know it is happening for a reason and you may not know why, but it will come out," she says.

"Our bodies will sometimes force us into having the time and space for this."

"When something like my illness happens, you need to acknowledge what happened and for what reason."

Hewitt also sought the support of medical professionals who helped her with her recovery, although the pandemic delayed this part of the process.

"So I thought 'Okay, I'm going to take this upon myself'. Even in that really vulnerable state of depression and anxiety I felt emotional freedom."

While Hewitt embarked on her own recovery, she says her daughter struggled with being separated from her after that short time at the height of her mother's illness.

"She would co-sleep with me from that moment and didn't leave my side for ten months," Hewitt says of daughter Indie, who is almost two.

"She moved into her own cot two months ago, but she is still in our bedroom. Next we will move her into her own bedroom. It's a bit of a process."

Today, Hewitt's health is better than it has been for a long time. She trained to become a certified life coach, human design specialist, mental health first aider, has run various online events for mental health, set up various free support groups and founded the National Inaugural campaign 'Kick Fear in the Butt,' as part of her advocacy organisation 'Mumma Life Is Now.'

The 'Kick Fear in the Butt' campaign aims to raise awareness and donations for five national charities - Bears of HopeFriends with DignityFriend in MeGidget Foundation and RUOK?

She is also inviting thousands of Australians to join her in '100 days of kicking fear in the butt' by increasing social connections to improve mental wellness, reduce social isolation and disconnection and most importantly, widespread fear.

"I still have my moments, but to be honest I feel pretty good. I know I have so many different tools up my belt," she explains.

The family moved from Sydney to the Central Coast three years ago, and Hewitt finds meditating and spending time in nature have helped aid her recovery.

"We live near the bush and the beach, overlooking the water,. We don't even have proper phone reception. I feel blessed now because despite being terminated from my job, I now know I'm doing what it is that I want to do each day," she says.

"I had my car done in bright yellow and branding. That way I can't hide. I literally need to completely embody this and show others feeling the fear is good and it can propel you forward.

"It's important to be so visible to help break the stigma, to promote conversations around mental health."

Tammy Hewitt of Mumma Life Is Now has been named as a finalist for the 2022 AusMumpreneur Awards in the 'One to Watch' category. This award category recognizes individuals that are pre-launch or in their first 12 months but have a creative, scalable, interesting or innovative business idea innovation or concept.

And she continues to set her sights high. Hewitt hopes her movement can reach over four million women by the end of 2025 and she is well on her way.

 If you or someone you know is in need of support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or in the event of an emergency contact Triple Zero (000). For help with post-partum depression contact PANDA on 1300 726 306.

This article is republished from Honey Nine. Read the original article here