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Depression is a horrendous place. Despite it, unfortunately, now having a colossal army of recruits, it is the loneliest place in the world. In my experience, this was a result of Superwoman Syndrome.

I wonder who noticed we skipped an edition? In nearly eight years of publishing Offspring Magazine to simply not produce an issue was a big deal. It wasn’t just a blip to my staff either who rely on a regular income.

The reason? A Big. Fat. Meltdown.

I shouldn’t understate the reality… that’s what got me into strife in the first place … glossing over things.

Celebrating 2017 New Year’s Eve and the ensuing 11 days in Royal Perth psychiatric ward with “Ice addicts and prostitutes” (yes, shamefully, my words at the time before discovering we suffered from the same disease – Inability to Cope with Life) was a Superpowered meltdown. Otherwise known as BREAKDOWN.

So I won’t skirt around, in a misguided attempt at Superwoman heroism. Mind you, I was never under any such delusions of grandeur, but I guess trying to meet some self-imposed, perfectionistic ideals of running a successful business and having aspirations of becoming a Mary Poppins-style mother (albeit in her forties, and single…), and managing – was trying to utilise superpowers I simply didn’t inherit. As my therapist points out, “60% is Doing Great”.

Flagellating the self for failing at attempts to live up to an ideal which saw a Good Mum BAKING not BUYING $10-additive-ridden-cupcakes from Coles; Or, that my kids would become maternal orphans for spending more time at their dad’s than mine during press deadlines; contributed to the malady.

I did have real pressures. Being a single mum is tough – emotionally and financially. I personally find the burden of having to Provide the hardest part. As well as not having that special someone to confide in the stresses of each day. The isolation and load is taxing.

I had also been running flat out for a while, expanding Offspring during a relentless and fast-paced era of communications changes, in a cut-throat industry, while adapting to life as a single parent, in a new town with no family or friends. The isolation exaggerates everything. It has been gruelling, lonely and stressful.

Background: Several years after launching Offspring Perth, I packed up my then-five and two-year-old children, and husband, and moved interstate to launch our Sydney edition and then earlier last year launched Offspring Melbourne. The digital side was somewhere in between, and of course the requirements for that area are expanding all the time.

The timing was unusual. Depression can be like that…sneaking up on you while you’re convincing yourself you’re ‘doing fine’.

I was apparently doing everything right: I took time off work. I was running 6km every day. I meditated two hours a day. I had regular counselling sessions with a great psychologist. Confided with close family. Spoke candidly with friends. Had invested in a personal library dominated by Hay House publishing; I think I could write a PhD thesis on positive affirmations! Hell, I even gave up alcohol. No mean feat given it was the Festive Season.

But, still, I could not keep the Black Dog at bay.

I lost all interest in life. Including eating, I weighed 45 kg.

I just wanted to Not Exist Any More. To die.

I wanted to escape the pain. It was excruciating.

During my daily run, I had to continuously fight the urge to run in front of oncoming traffic. And would then curl over in a screaming ball of agony. The pain in my gut, in my solar plexus, was like someone was pushing a nine-inch dagger inside and twisted it around. It was physical.

I prayed like hell for help. And it came. I was lucky in that I had tremendous reprieve relatively quickly, and without medication.

I was prescribed Prozac and told I would be committed to a life-long dedication to a medication and counselling program. It would be about ‘managing’, not ‘curing’. As someone who hates to be confined to any one dogma or label, this prognosis irked me.

One afternoon, two days before I was due to be released back into to the Wild, er, world again, and five days into the administered anti-depressant regime, and hungover from Temazepam as the only means of sleep while battling mental train wrecks and sharing a dormitory with three other emotionally-fraught, insomniacs, I had a whim to do what, any rational, and very, very desperate person, seeking Hope, might also do. Go see a clairvoyant.

It was on one of my family excursions, out of the asylum, during which my supportive ex-husband brought the kids to visit, that I decided a trip to Fremantle might be useful. This was the kids’ Summer holiday, I didn’t want my ‘ineptness’ ruining their holiday. (Ineptness was precisely how I viewed my condition, not as an illness, which is not a helpful attitude for addressing this type of problem.).

It was here, in a Crystal Shop in Fremantle, I met Yvette.

Yvette could relate. She read my soul. She could feel my agony without me saying a word. She understood my pain and offered help.

The medical staff at hospital had done their jobs well and offered help but I’d tried their treatments previously, and here I was, worse than ever. I certainly open to alternative suggestions. Anything was worth a crack, even if it meant reducing the pain by placebo. I didn’t care.

Yvette referred me a Body Talk worker, Brenda, and while I didn’t know anything about this discipline, I was too exhausted and hopeless to care, judge or enquire. What the hell? I’d take a gamble on adding to present pain.

I went and saw Brenda and WOW. I went to sleep that night and awoke the next morning to have ALL PAIN REMOVED. THE DEPRESSION HAD GONE.

And it hasn’t returned.

I am not advocating against traditional medicine. This is very necessary, for many, but for me I had tried several times over the years and it hadn’t worked. There were blocks there not being addressed by traditional methods.

When I experienced the relief of the depression I also had a massive realisation: This pain wasn’t new. It had only intensified recently to become unbearable but I had been harbouring the aching for nearly 30 years.

Sounds miraculous, and it was. And I am very, very, very grateful. I am grateful to the whole experience, not just the healing, and the people and events that lead to that.

I am also grateful to now grasp the damage this ridiculous Superwoman notion causes. Not just to ourselves, but to those around us. My family in Perth missed spending time with me at home. My kids had to visit me in a psychiatric ward and deal with an emotionally-fragile mother. The only time I spent with my old Perth friends while visiting was in hospital. My staff lost income. My ex-husband had to take a week off work, not to mention, presumably, dealing with the prospect of his children having a basket case for a mother. And of course, I was getting no joy out of life.

Ironically, in my bid to ‘have it all’, I had nothing.

So Superwoman, or Superman (now that’s a whole new kettle of piranhas!), can superzoom off into the ether. Superordinary will have to do.

 

For those experiencing depression please contact:

Suicide helpline:

If you or someone you know is struggling with Depression please contact

Lifeline Australia

Phone: 13 11 14

www.lifeline.org.au/get-help

Zoe Foster Blake is a fast-paced modern take on the Renaissance Woman. The beauty aficionado and Go-To Skin Care founder also writes books, overlords a formidable online universe through Instagram, and expels, at an overwhelming rate, a variety of products for our consumption pleasure. 

Zoe Foster Blake has her hand in a lot of pies; indeed, she is purported to be a champion of their consumption. Pie Eating Champion is one of the more outlandish claims made on her profile at www.zotheysay.com. The former beauty editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and successful author of eight books with Penguin Random House, launched her Go-To Skincare line a month before the birth of her first child, Sonny, aged three. Since then she has been busy with motherhood and micro projects, managing a burgeoning Instagram page, producing lip balm, blog posts, apps, books, oh and a daughter, Rudy, just shy of four months. Reports that Foster Blake 37, was raised in rural NSW without a television could explain the enigma of this rampant productivity. Research, albeit dubious, indicates that while the rest of us were being brainwashed by Bert Newton through morning television that our lives would lose meaning without a steam cleaner, Foster Blake was busy ticking off life goals.

Motherhood has not slowed Foster Blake, it may have redirected her creative energy somewhat but has not thwarted it. Becoming a parent for most usually means collapsing into a milk-stained heap in front of the television while it offers you soothing advice on how to get your life insurance in order.

“Everything changes when you’re a mother doesn’t it? The identity crisis is real, and certainly the professional.”

For Foster Blake it has meant slightly adapting her trajectory of over achievement (she published her first novel at 27). If you know Foster Blake through her Instagram platform, Zoe Foster Blake (@zoyousay), you may be forgiven for falling under the illusion that she is mere mortal. You might think of her as an online friend. Someone who makes you snort when you laugh and lets you feel good about beauty products and sponge cake, and most pertinently that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be a gas (she has also just ripped out a kid’s book about farts?)

You may wonder what’s so superhuman about farts, cheeky Instagram posts, cute kids and a husband with food in his teeth. A possible answer is that Foster Blake’s ability to create an accessible, humorous arena for her 619 000 followers is a superb and masterful marketing feat, and no accident.

Foster Blake came to the phone after a sleepless night breastfeeding her daughter Rudy, who at 16 weeks is teething already, getting things done, much like her mother. She apologised for being tired and explained how she procrastinates, when asked if she’d ever tried it.

“Of course I have. Most things actually, like daily things. All the clothes are at the end of my bed on that nice ottoman thing you buy that just becomes a place for clothes. I left the house this morning and there was just mess everywhere. So the boring day to day tasks, they don’t get done but the big projects, they do tend to get done which is a strange habit, but of course I procrastinate….”

 

“Know your super powers. Do the things that you’re good at.”

Foster Blake appears to have escaped Bert Newton’s mind control and, being untethered to notions of domestic aspiration and invisible germs (housework be damned), is creating an empire instead. Describing the practice of positive procrastination, marinating ideas and pulling all-nighters she is clearly a person attune to doing the things she loves. When congratulated on avoiding the mundane she offers, “Know your super powers. Do the things that you’re good at.”

Brace yourselves for the condensed summary of the things Foster Blake is good at. As a magazine journalist with over ten years of experience, Foster Blake worked both as a beauty editor and relationship columnist for numerous publications, including Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Baazar. She has published four chick-lit novels, her most recent, The Wrong Girl being adapted into a successful Network Ten series of the same name, starring Jessica Marais and Rob Collins. She has also published several non-fiction books including beauty manual Amazinger Face and Textbook Romance, a dating guide co-written with then “friend” and “to be” husband, Hamish Blake, and is about to release her first children’s picture book called No-one Likes a Fart with illustrator Adam Nickel. She has released an app for broken-hearted singles called Break-Up Boss with plans to release it in book form next year and has collaborated on a clothing line currently flying hot off the racks with fashion brand Skin and Threads. As CEO of her rapidly expanding company Go-To Skincare she oversees its day-to-day operations whilst keeping us abreast of all this through funny posts on Instagram.

Perhaps, more is at play here than a TV-free childhood, and that’s okay tired mums and dads because this just means ABC Kids can stay on while Zoe Foster Blake hoards all the super powers. But she needs them because she is one busy mother. She explains that once she has an idea she is driven to expel it, “I think you throw everything at a project and then it’s done. It’s almost like I have to get it out of my head to feel like I can move forward onto the next thing.”

These ideas which often bubble around in her mind for a while, some longer than others (Break-Up Boss took six years to manifest), are usually born from a desire or need for something she can’t find. Cleaning her ottoman may have saved her some time and effort but perhaps the world can never have too many lobster jumpers and Foster Blake likes making things.

These ideas which often bubble around in her mind for a while … are usually born from a desire or need for something she can’t find.

“Most of the time I make things that I wished I had. With the skincare I thought, ‘Aw, I wish that existed, I’ll bloody make it myself’, and certainly with some of the non-fiction books that was the same and then with this children’s book it was not because there weren’t stunning children’s books already out there but it was just an idea that I had, that I wanted to, that I had to ‘get out’ as it were, there are just so many bad fart jokes.”

And so, Foster Blake’s latest offering No-one Likes a Fart, collaborated with illustrator Adam Nickel which she credits for his mid-century style (think Mr Men), was released by Penguin Random House Australia in November. It is a fart book with a message. She didn’t mean for it to have a moral tale but explained that, although not a fan of earnestness, she felt a certain responsibility writing a children’s book, recognising the perils of peer groups as a relevant subject for young readers. She explains, the message formed organically and felt it should be there.

“I think it’s mostly a funny book but then there’s a nice message that even if people are being mean to you or calling you names, there will always be someone who loves you and there will always be good people.”

“I think you throw everything at a project and then it’s done. It’s almost like I have to get it out of my head to feel like I can move forward onto the next thing.”

Foster Blake is a writer at heart and as she speaks of her craft her speech slows and her voice catches at times, with vulnerability creating some room in the conversation. “Writing is inherently selfish. You are by yourself. You don’t have a boss. Now I see it for the indulgence that it is. If the kids are out of the house, which is just never because I am tethered by breastfeeding at the moment, but if I do get the house to myself I just want to write. I don’t want to go shopping or get my hair done, for me writing is a real joy and something that I miss deeply.” When noted she hadn’t written a novel since the birth of her son Sonny in 2014 she laughed, “Shhh, I’d hoped no-one noticed. Thankfully the T.V show’s kept it going a bit longer.” She explains this is more an adjustment of her creative process since becoming a mother.

“I don’t want to go shopping or get my hair done, for me writing is a real joy and something that I miss deeply.”

“So, that’s probably why I’m working on smaller projects because I have a shorter attention span, I can’t quite bang out the 100,000 words I used to … So yeah, everything changes when you’re a mother doesn’t it? The identity crisis is real, and certainly the professional. I have changed a lot how I do things and it probably seems a bit more scattered but I think it’s because my energy bursts are shorter and I can do different little shorter projects rather than one long book project.”

And thus, Foster Blake reveals resilience in attitude and quotes sensible advice from her mother that the chaos of life with small children will soon pass. “Look, I know it’s a moment in time and I don’t fret about it at all. It’ll come back and I’ll have plenty of years to write more fiction and so, I sort of enjoy the different projects and I think it makes me more efficient in some ways because you’ve got such a small window to do the work. You have to produce quality work in a smaller amount of time. The old me before kids would just sit at my computer for eight hours and I reckon I’d spend six of that just pissing about and now I’m like, you’ve got two hours, you’d better write.”

With less time for the introspective task of novel writing she has utilised her well-honed skills as a commercial writer in an impressive turn at mumpreneurship and, dare it be said, capitalised on the shared humour and wit of her high profile relationship with Hamish Blake to catapult Zoe Foster Blake into an emerging brand.

 

“I have changed a lot how I do things and it probably seems a bit more scattered but I think it’s because my energy bursts are shorter and I can do different little shorter projects rather than one long book project.”

“As a beauty journalist for a long time, I was in the business of ‘recommending’ anyway and Instagram is just a natural progression of that. I can do captions because I’m a professional writer and I enjoy it, and it’s a way for me to have a mouth piece,” she explains. Her mouthpiece is funny and light, her wit sharp and when discussing how she gets away with swearing and risqué jokes she says, “The beauty of Instagram is you are who you are and everyone uses it for different purposes. Mine is to just have fun, be a bit cheeky and also, I guess to some extent have an advertisement for my writing.”

Foster Blake appears to navigate the pitfalls of online backlash with a phrase she often coins in Instagram posts as a “special brand of arrogance”, but perhaps this wily twist of humility can be attributed to a magic elixir of understanding how to reach an audience and a personality essentially grounded in principles. Foster Blake explains her principles for Go-To Skincare, “You have to earn permission from people to sell them things and I don’t take that lightly, it’s just got to be perfect or we just won’t launch it. We always come up with the best possible product with the best possible ingredients and it’s a real team thing.”

When pressed on broader principles she says, “I’m actually reading a book called Principles at the moment and I’m sort of getting my head around it…Look, I think my family and my husband and I are pretty aligned in that we love fun and surprise and delight, and we love generosity and gratitude. So I think that it’s working in the realm of making people’s days a bit happier, maybe.”

And so, perhaps this is why Zoe Foster Blake can suggest a night nurse in a blog as a solution for sleepless nights with a newborn without a cacophony of cruel online claws calling for her eyes to be scratched out. Principles go a long way, just be wary if she starts spruiking steam cleaners.