October 10th was World Mental Health Day. As I scrolling through Facebook that day, I noticed several of my friends were sharing their stories about their mental health struggles. One of them was fellow blogger (and my down-the-street neighbor) Holley Grainger (Holley Grainger Nutrition). I was so blown away by her honesty that it inspired me to share my own story. View her video here.
My mental health issues started when I was a teenager. The combination of being insecure, not knowing how to handle situations like gossip, a broken heart, body shaming, unwanted sexual advances, and an unstable family life… all took it’s toll on my mental health.
It was around that time when I developed eating disorders, which I’ve written about before. It was the only way I could have a little bit of control over the stress happening in my life at the time.
College was better. I felt like I “belonged” somewhere for the first time. I immersed myself into church and with people who did the same. My desire for connection was filled with people who were Christians so I thought I was on the right path. It was only when I finished college and started working in the real world, did I realize that the place where I felt like I belonged for all those years was actually not what what it was at all. And the same went for my relationship at that time.
I handled my anxiety & depression ok during that time with the help of a therapist and one dear friend who was going through the exact same thing as me. Seeing a therapist was exactly what I needed, and I should’ve gone sooner.
Fast-forward about 6 years… I’m now happily married to Chris, and we are living in North Carolina and working for a new company. Baylor is 2 1/2 years old, and I’d just given birth to our second child, Loxley. My anxiety & depression started rearing its head again, this time in the form of PPD. I knew something wasn’t right so I made an appointment with my doctor and walked in with a list of problems I was experiencing. I remember a few things I had on the list:
Shortness of breath
Fear of dying
She looked at the list and said yes, these are symptoms of severe anxiety and I can help you. I left with a prescription for 10mg of Lexapro, which is an anti-anxiety, anti-depression combo. I started noticing a difference about 2 weeks into taking it. It didn’t completely take away all my symptoms but it eased them a lot.
I kept taking Lexapro for 4 years; right up until I found out I was pregnant with my 3rd child. I consulted with my new doctor (we had moved back to Alabama at this point) and she said candidly that there was not enough information on taking anti-depressants while pregnant so if I could be off of the meds, that would be best. (Please consult your doctor before doing this as they each have their own point of view on it). So I decided to stop taking them – for 9 months of pregnancy, then another 2 months while breastfeeding.
It was the hardest most mentally challenging thing I have ever done in my life.
Also during that time our oldest was diagnosed with autism.
Truth is, I think most of us are struggling with our mental health. We just don’t talk about it because of the stigma that comes with it. But who cares? Mental health is no different from physical health. The brain is a part of the body. Anxiety and depression is a chemical imbalance of the brain. It’s not a weakness. Just as we wouldn’t tell someone “just don’t have cancer” or “just don’t have heart disease”… we also shouldn’t tell someone “just don’t get anxious” or “just don’t get depressed”. No.
Mamas, we carry the mental load in our family. It’s just how we are wired. We carry the weight of the day-to-day demands… the scheduling, the housework, the activities, the groceries, the appointments, the birthday parties, the haircuts, the field trips, the play dates, the dog… you name it and it’s already up there in our minds to get done. Combine that with the pressures of staying hyper-focused on our kids at all times…. we are absolutely mentally strained.
Some of us can manage our mental health by exercise, diet, therapy, or prayer. That is totally legitimate and possible. Some of us our conditions are genetic and we can’t escape them no matter how hard we try. So we need a little extra help – and that’s ok too.
We cannot care for other people WELL without taking care of ourselves first.
If mental health is something that impacts you or someone you love, please seek help and talk about it, so together we can reduce the stigma.