“How I overcame post-natal depression by moving two minutes a day”

It took reaching rock bottom for Lizzy to make a change. 

Picture: Supplied. Lizzy Williamson.

Sitting on the floor in a corner of my apartment, listening to my baby and toddler crying upstairs in their beds, I didn’t move. There was nothing wrong with my body, but emotionally I was paralysed.

I felt unrecognisable to myself. I had forgotten the action-taking, capable, joyful woman I once was – the one who would dance on tables any chance she got. Over and over in my head I could hear the familiar words more forceful than that of the last six months, ‘I’m going to kill myself, I’m going to kill myself, I’m going to kill myself.’

What I thought would be an incredibly joyful time in my life – motherhood – had turned into one of the darkest. I was punching my brick walls with anger as I went up the stairs of our home to settle one of the kids. I’ll never forget my oldest daughter’s look of terror at one of my fits of rage. I could never have imagined my own child being scared of me. In the girls’ top-floor bedroom I would look out of the window and think about throwing my baby out of it as I was holding her.

But no matter how many times I told myself to, ‘Just get over it’ and ‘You have no right to be feeling like this with all you have’, I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of this dark cloud I felt I was in. I didn’t tell a soul the true extent of my feelings as I thought it meant that I was failing as a mother. I never asked for help.

It took hitting my rock bottom moment to finally make an appointment with my doctor who told me what I was experiencing was postnatal depression and gave me a prescription for antidepressants.

In a state of shock I took the piece of paper and was about to get up and go when my doctor put her hand on mine and said, ‘You know how you get on the plane and they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others? That’s what you have to do.’

Arriving home knowing I only had a few minutes until my family would charge through the door, I sat down on my bed with my prescription for anti-depressants on my bedside table and sat staring at it. I felt myself exhale like I hadn’t done for a long time.

The anti-depressants made it all feel very real. I knew in that moment that trying to talk myself out of how I was feeling wasn’t the answer. It hit me that I had been so focused on making sure that everyone else’s needs were taken care of that I’d totally forgotten to take care of myself.

Somehow in that darkness I decided that before I took any medication I would first commit to doing one thing every day that could be my oxygen mask. But what could I do? I exhaled again and closed my eyes.

Then like letters being written up in the sky, through my tears I saw what I needed to do. Move.

Picture: Supplied. Lizzy Williamson.

Picture: Supplied. Lizzy Williamson.Source:BodyAndSoul

I had stopped making my body a priority, and as a result my mind and soul were in a terrible way. I had to do something to start bringing myself back. Reclaiming my body, my brain and my spirit.

Straight away my mind started bombarding me with excuses: I’m too tired, I don’t know how to start, I won’t be able to stick to it, I’m ashamed of my body , I don’t have time, I’m too overwhelmed and stressed out.

But I also knew that I had to try something so the next morning I put on Playschool for my kids, went and stood at my kitchen bench and, even though it was the last thing I felt like doing, I practised some of the ballet moves I used to do at the ‘barre’ as a dancer: raising my leg up and down behind me, then some plies (leg bands).

I’ll never forget feeling this tiny bubbling of emotion, a kind I hadn’t felt for so long that it took me a while to recognise it. It was hope.

I did 10 push-ups at the bench, and the feeling of strength through my body faintly sparked an inner strength that I thought was lost. I only lasted two minutes before my daughters called out that they needed something, but that was all I needed. That sense of achievement and connection to myself, helped me realise that taking even that little moment to exercise was so worthwhile.

I started finding two-minute moments I could give back to myself through exercise. While brushing my teeth I would do some wide squats.

As I was stirring dinner on the stove I would do heel raises. I’d turn a boring sweep of my floor into an invigorating workout. When I was reading my daughters a story I would lie back and cycle my legs to work my core muscles.

Many of us have ‘rules’ about what exercise has to be – a certain amount of time, intensity or location. So if we can’t make it to the gym for a 60 minute workout or out for a 30 minute walk then we do nothing.

But I discovered that something is so much better than nothing. Even if that is only two minutes. Because you bust through all those excuses and you begin.

Chances are, like me, you’ll keep coming back for a whole lot more. To this day movement continues to be my oxygen mask. I use it to keep my sanity, be more present with my family, and to bring joy to my day – two minutes at a time.

Lizzy​ ​Williamson is a health​ ​and​ ​wellbeing​ ​expert,​ ​mother​ ​and​ ​author​ ​of​ ​Two​ ​Minute Moves. For​ ​more​ ​information​ ​visit​ ​twominutemoves.com/

Bec Judd shows off her epic home workout on Instagram. Courtesy: @BecJudd/Instagram

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fitness | body+soul