Postnatal depression affects about one in every seven women who give birth in Australia each year.
Kris Flanders

The Point
6 Apr 2017 - 2:52 PM  UPDATED 6 Apr 2017 - 3:17 PM

Postnatal depression affects about one in every seven women who give birth in Australia each year.

It can develop anytime between one month to one year after the birth of a child. For Shantelle Thompson those feelings occurred after the birth of her two twins in 2009.

“The turmoil of the emotions, like the darkness that was there, the depth of the feelings I was experiencing, the visions I was having, it was scary. And I guess trying to hide it because I didn't want other people to see that I was suffering. When we first discussed what to do, I didn't want to do medication because I'd seen my Mum go through some hard times and my Dad,” Shantelle tells The Point.

“I guess I've always been a fighter. From a very young age I've always stood up for myself."

Some of the more common signs of postnatal depression include: feeling inadequate, a failure as a mother, and general anxiety.

“Mainstream society tells you that parenting is supposed to be this rosy thing and you're supposed to instantly fall in love with your kids, it's like a Hollywood movie; When it doesn't happen like that you begin to question yourself, especially as a women,” says Shantelle.

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For Shantelle and her husband, George Tuuholoaki, the two used their love of grappling sports to help get through a dark time. Shantelle took to Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and husband George saw first-hand the difference it made for his wife.

“She had no outlet and that I guess it tends to build, you have nothing and it builds and it builds and it's like go and train,” he says.

"Like I'm not asking you, I'm telling you to go and train. You need to do this, not only for your well being, but for my wellbeing and the kids.”

Shantelle says she realises that this method isn’t for everyone – but it worked for her.

“Ju-Jitsu challenged me physically, like it took all the energy that I had. It was more important for what it did for me emotionally, spiritually and mentally, it kind of allowed me a space to feel that and find a new sense of self,” she says.

Seven years later and the Collingwood based family are a close, tight-knit unit and Shantelle loves her role as mother to three children. She’s also stayed in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and made such a great crack at the sport that she’s won two world titles in the Super Heavy Purple Belt.

But being the best in one sport hasn’t been enough for Shantelle and has taken on Wrestling too. Her coaches in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu say she’s made the transition to wrestling naturally.

Originally from Dareton, near Mildura, Shantelle transforms on the grappling mats in both sports, into the Barkindji Warrior.

“I guess I've always been a fighter. From a very young age I've always stood up for myself. When I sense an injustice or a wrong its always gotten me going, it’s always been like this fire gets going when I see a wrong or someone's said something. When I step into my Barkindji Warrior, I have this vision in my head of I'm all painted up and I'm in my warrior clothing, so that when I step onto the mats to compete, it's no longer Shantelle with all my imperfections and everything else I carry, I allow myself to become free.”

With the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast now less than a year away athletes who aspire to represent their country are doing everything in their power to compete.

Shantelle looks up to Uncle John Kinsela, who represented Australia at two Olympics, the 1968 Mexico City Games and the 1972 Munich Games.

“I'm looking forward to the challenge and it's an opportunity and it's something that I value deeply to be able to have the opportunity to do something and follow in the footsteps of people like Uncle John Kinsela, who was the first Aboriginal wrestler. It's an opportunity to qualify for a sport where you have to prove yourself.”