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The SANE Blog

A work in progress – like poetry in motion 

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Tanya is a SANE Peer Ambassador. She recently reflected on how getting involved in lived experience work gave her tools for coping with distress. 

I’m always working to be as healthy as I can – which is a very strange transition considering there was a long time where I did not care about what happened to my body, where I did not want to be alive! I'm conscious about what food fuels my body, and am trying to think about food in more of a neutral way. Not good or bad, but different sorts of fuel that my body needs at different moments. Whilst I used to love sport, including playing soccer, gaelic and Aussie rules, since having my son I mostly stick to walking. At the moment I am doing a challenge where I hope to walk 100km in a month.  

Since becoming a Peer Ambassador in 2018 Tanya, who is now 36 years old, has managed post-partum anxiety and new intrusive thoughts relating to being a mother. Staying active, and mindful of her emotions, allows Tanya to welcome a range of good and bad times that make up busy family life. 

I live with my partner, our son, our cat Sebastian and our dog Albie. I am a work in progress, day by day – I feel that recovery is a lifelong process, and my focus now is on improving my quality of life, rather than measuring success in terms of money or my career. Getting involved with SANE was the start of my lived experience work, and the start of sharing parts of my wisdom to help others I share my story so others might feel a little less alone. I know there were times in the past where I felt suicidal, or had horrible intrusive thoughts, where I felt isolated and alone. I thought I was the only one to ever feel or think like that. It’s so important to me now that others can find the community that I have, whether it is through getting involved in advocacy like I did or just by people being vulnerable and creating that connection. 

Whilst peers have been a big part of my recovery, the most important thing I learnt through therapy was to recognise what an intrusive thought is. What anxiety is too. Whenever I can name the feeling, it helps me move on.  

Tanya says that when she began working with SANE the lived experience lead Nat, at the time was a great mentor in being mindful around her emotions. The poem “The Guest House” by Rumi Was a poem Nat recommended to Tanya, which brings her comfort and serves as a reminder for wellbeing. 

This poem taught me more about my least favorite “guests” in terms of my emotions. 

There are obviously some emotions that I would prefer to hang around longer, like joy or love. But anxiety and sadness, anger, even suicidal thoughts, these all play a role too. Usually for me it's a protective one. I have recently reflected on how some big feelings like grief, only occur because I loved to begin with. And that is all pretty magical. 

Along her mental health journey Tanya maintained regular therapy to help manage returning intrusive thoughts and compulsions. 

When I experienced more intrusive thoughts after having my son, I felt lucky as I already knew how to deal with them from previous therapy and years of living with similar symptoms and anxiety.  

Informed consent makes up a huge part of why I am passionate about advocacy. I think sometimes as women are socialised in a way that makes it more difficult to be assertive. It’s hard if a power imbalance exists to question authority. Like with a patient and doctor. Learning self advocacy skills has been a crucial part of my recovery, and a big reason that lived experience work has been so transformational in my life. 

From the beginning of her fertility journey Tanya and her partner both had big emotions. 

When our son was born via IVF I had hoped my anxiety would go away. The goal was to have a baby and we achieved that. But holding him in hospital I realised the depth of responsibility I was now faced with. And that anxiety just got stronger. When he was two weeks old my partner returned to work and I remember having intrusive thoughts.  

With support from her partner, doctor and psychologist Tanya recognised her intrusive thoughts. 

Overtime I was able to leave my headspace to make room for joy and laughter.  

I am proud of myself for the work I put into my mental health before becoming a parent because I think it makes me a better one. But that work never ends. I see myself differently now - working on myself is not negative or a weakness. Working on myself is being a good role model to my son. He sees me taking self-care, being vulnerable, asking for help, naming my emotions and sitting with distress. These are all valuable skills to be learning.   

The Guest House by Rumi 

This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honorably. 
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice. 
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whatever comes. 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond. 

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