TRIGGER WARNING: This article mentions sexual abuse
Laticia Gibson is a survivor.
The former TV reporter has lost close friends to tragic accidents and suicides, experienced domestic violence and been scared for her life more times than a person should.
On top of all that, she was sexually abused as a child.
"In speaking up about my childhood, I lost a lot of people I cared about," she tells Essential Baby. "I was made to be the villain by many who just wanted me to keep it under the rug. A common reaction, I later learnt,"
As a single mum now living in Queensland, the 38-year-old is at the helm of two successful businesses while also caring for her three-year-old son, Harrison.
"When I was pregnant, I knew the relationship to his father wasn't going to last," Laticia reveals. "I grieved hard during my pregnancy. By the time he was born I was ready to face the hardest challenge of my life - being a single mum to a newborn.
"I would cry with utter joy and despair some nights alone in my big four bedroom home. Maximus, my Rottweiler and first 'baby', would sometimes leave the room because my sobbing was too loud. I'd look at Baby Harry and beam with pride. I was doing this. He was safe and we were healthy and I was supporting myself."
It was Laticia's focus on health, she believes, that allowed her to get through the darkest times. She threw herself into learning more about the psychological, emotional, and physical links, to help process her trauma.
'It's hard to love yourself'
Testing a range of modalities, she found routine 'maintenance' was key to her personal development, self-care, and ability to keep everything afloat.
"When you have been through significant trauma, it's hard to love yourself – so therefore 'self-care' isn't always high on the priority list, despite how trendy the notion is."
This sentiment supports new research from Natalis which revealed that while 94 per cent of mums know they would benefit from more self-care, the same amount feel guilty for not taking it.
According to Clinical Psychologist, Jaimie Bloch, the concept of 'self-care,' popularised across social media by 'mumfluencers' and celebrities alike (#selfcare), has been both a blessing and a curse for Aussie mums.
"On one hand, the self-care movement has been great for highlighting how important it is for us to take an active role in protecting our own wellbeing and happiness, but on the flip side, it's become another item on the to do list," Bloch explains.
"If we don't get to it, we feel guilty about it, and if we do, we feel guilty about everything else we're not doing."
Laticia relates to that feeling of guilt, however found her secret weapon in overcoming it.
"The biggest breakthrough for me came when I realised that as a 'survivor of abuse' I'd also actually been abusing myself for decades," she shares. "The negative self-talk, the poor choices – I was responsible for all of it. Realising you have the power to change it is the first step to making self-care a priority not a burden!"
Despite her commitment to self, the challenges haven't ceased, particularly since COVID.
"With no family to lean on and the majority of my closest friends overseas or interstate; I had never felt more isolated and alone. It was one thing after another," she explains.
Photo: The loss of her first baby Maxiums hit Laticia hard. Supplied
'Felt like I was in a pressure cooker'
It started with work challenges, the sudden and unexpected death of her beloved Maximus and being asked to vacate her Sunshine Coast rental due to the property being sold.
"Harry and I jumped from over-inflated Airbnb's to friend's houses for weeks on end," she reveals. "I'd hoped to buy but the market was out of control and I couldn't risk over-capitalising."
The market went 'crazy' thanks to the influx of Sydney and Melbourne residents moving north. To add to the pressure, just before she was asked to vacate, she bought a gorgeous Labrador puppy, called Lucy, who Harry adored.
"Despite having money in the bank, a profitable, longstanding marketing agency and excellent rental references, I couldn't find anything suitable for us all. I felt I was being discriminated against. So I had to make the heartbreaking decision to put my belongings into storage and give Harry's pup away. I felt like the worst mum ever."
Despite her commitment to her health and her ex-partner looking after Harry every second weekend, she became rundown, exacerbated by Harry not sleeping well. With her long list of responsibilities, Laticia felt she was in a pressure cooker.
"I know I'm a highly capable human but I was struggling and no one could help me but me," she tells Essential Baby.
"I've been through and overcome so much in my lifetime so if anyone could handle this 'test' and survive, it was me. I knew that there was something I could gain through this darkness to help others.
Focus on the small things
And survive she did - crediting that to her self-care journey.
Laticia called on every single learning resource, tool and friend she had.
"I was in survival mode yet again, this time with a toddler and staff (some of them single mums also) depending on me," she admits. "I had pumped my life savings into my new tech venture and I felt sick at the thought I could lose everything. The weight was excruciating and at times, debilitating."
Instead, Laticia focused on what she could control.
"I focused on the small things to begin with - my breath, our health," she explains. "On my child-free weekends I ventured to the bush to be alone and journal, meditate, to cry and heal. I called on my mentors and friends and shared the burden. I was determined not to give up on myself which is the first thing we usually want to do when we are feeling beaten"
It's a message Laticia wants other overwhelmed mums to learn and implement.
"You see, sometimes self-care isn't about a weekend in a fancy Byron retreat, sometimes it's just doing what you can to get through the day with hope. To call a friend you miss, witness a rainbow or share a smile with a perfect stranger, recognising the same anguish and hope in another.
"It is so easy to lose yourself and your identity when you're a mum. To just get by 'surviving'. But that's not living. Living is learning to love yourself – ALL of you. The darkness, the anger, the sorrow, and joy. You know what you're capable of.
"Stop being afraid of yourself. That's real self-care."
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline 24-hour crisis support: 13 11 14 or go to lifeline.org.au