October 10th was World Mental Health Day. As I was scrolling through Facebook that day, I noticed several of my friends were sharing their their mental health story and struggle. One of them was a 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 having the maturity to handle situations like body shaming, gossip, instability, judgement… all of it 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 a way I could have control over the uncertainty that was happening in my life at the time.
College was better. I felt like I belonged somewhere for the first time. My desire for connection was filled with people who were Christians, and I felt that 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 I thought it was at all.
I handled my anxiety & depression ok during that time with the help of a therapist and a dear friend who was going through the exact same thing as me. Talking to a therapist was exactly what I needed, and I should’ve gone sooner.
Fast-forward about 6 years… a lot has transpired. I’m happily married, living in North Carolina and working for a new company. Baylor is 2 1/2 years old, and I’d just had our second child, Loxley. My anxiety started rearing its head again, this time in the form of Post Partum Depression. 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. I started noticing a difference about 2 weeks into taking it. It didn’t completely take away all my symptoms but it did ease them a lot.
I kept taking Lexapro for 4 years; 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 there was not enough information on taking anti-anxiety medication while pregnant so if I could be off of them, that would be best. So I decided to stop taking them – for 9 months of pregnancy, then another 2 months while breastfeeding. (Please consult your doctor before doing this as they each have their own point of view on it).
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.
Here’s the thing. 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 something we can ignore. 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”.
Mamas, we carry the mental load in our family. 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 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 state by exercise, diet, therapy, meditation or prayer. That is totally legitimate and possible. For some, the conditions are genetic and they can’t escape them no matter how hard they try. And they need a little extra help. 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 talk about it. It’s so important that we broaden the conversation and reduce the stigma.