These lessons have come after years of hard work, starting with what she describes as a ‘fairly dramatic hospitalisation’ just a few short weeks after giving birth to her son.
‘I just wasn’t feeling right, so my GP started me on medication,’ she says. ‘I had a positive reaction until I woke up one day and had…I can’t even describe what it was, [but] it was bigger than a panic attack.’
Susan consulted her husband and doctor: ‘I think I was hoping and waiting for someone to say I was fine,’ but instead she was sent to hospital where she spent the next two weeks as a voluntary inpatient.
Susan, who holds a doctorate in landscape architecture, likens the experience of recovery to a building project. ‘Much like a project manager, I worked out what my plan was,’ she says. Sourcing the necessary tools (exercise, hobbies), products (medications), and professionals (psychiatrist) for the job, Susan says she wasn’t going home without them.
School-aged Imogen, who was staying with her grandparents at the time, was faced with a tough reality: the realisation that your parents are not invincible.
‘That was something I fortunately hadn’t been exposed to before,’ she says.
‘We’d been through ups and downs as a family in the past, but none had caused anything like this. For everything to fall apart, even temporarily, it was very confronting.
‘As I got older I realised a lot of people have family members with mental illness,’ she continues. ‘Depression can look like anything and anyone, it doesn’t discriminate.’
Having learnt so much in the years since, neither mother nor daughter were worried when Imogen started her own family. Imogen says having a great role model who showed her ‘it ain’t weak to speak’ equipped her for the anxiety of pregnancy and motherhood in a way nothing else could.