I wasn’t sure if or when I would share anything this personal, but since today is World Mental Health Day, I figured, why not. I don’t have a problem with talking about my mental illness. I’ve come a very long way and thank God for taking me out of the dark space I was in. That’s why I started this blog. I’m certainly not looking for sympathy from anyone; I just want to contribute to the mental health conversation and help at least one mom see she isn’t alone.
Whether you feel inadequate as a mother because you haven’t found that joyful bliss in motherhood you think everyone else has, or you find yourself feeling sad more than others may seem, YOU’RE NOT ALONE. And I’m letting you know right now that not everything that glitters is gold. Some people look like they own the world but are fighting battles you couldn’t imagine on the inside.
Anyway, here’s a little bit about my mental health journey…so far.
I have been dealing with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. When I was nine or 10, I would have panic attacks, always worried that my mom would die when she left the house.
I would cry at school for no reason and refuse to talk to anyone for days (I still don’t understand how no adult saw something was wrong with me). I used to pick at a vein in my wrist with cuticle clippers and had a suicide plan for when I was ready.
I’ve had issues for a while.
It wasn’t that my life was so horrible. In fact, my mom busted her butt to give us everything. She was and still is, a fantastic mother. I just couldn’t find happiness in anything, and the only solution to every problem I had (no matter how small) was to end my life.
I went on Medication in 2009 but continued to have some of the same thoughts and fears. They weren’t as intense, and I was able to think much clearer, but I was still very anxious and struggled with bouts of depression here and there.
Every time I would feel good like I was on cloud nine, I would stop taking my medication. I don’t know why I did it, but I did it often. I would think I don’t need this anymore. I feel great! (even though I was only in this positive space because I was on it) and would stop taking it for a couple of weeks. Every time I discontinued my meds, I’d go through crippling withdrawals that kept me in bed for days at a time. I felt like a failure. I just knew I’d be on my medication forever.
***DISCLAIMER: I am in no way bashing or scolding anyone who must take psychological medication during their pregnancy. Many times, the symptoms of mental illness can do more damage to a baby than the medicine, so please follow your doctor’s instructions and do what you must do to be healthy.
Fast forward to January 2016 when I found out I was pregnant. I did a lot of research on the effects of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) on a baby and didn’t like what I saw.
But I was determined to be free. I read about the two-week withdrawal our child would go through after being born and felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t bring myself to put her through that. I felt selfish, but I only felt this way because I wasn’t doing much to work on my mental health outside of my medication. I decided to stop taking it immediately.
***ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: Stopping any medication is TOTALLY NOT ADVISED! Don’t ever stop a medication without your doctor knowing.
It was hard. Like, super-duper hard. I went through a month-long withdrawal myself. Like the shaking, always sleeping, always crying, hating everything and wanting to die withdrawal. It was terrifying and hard and felt like it would never end.
But I got through it; and when I came out on the other side, I was even more afraid. I was afraid of who I’d be, afraid of experiencing the acute depression that put me on the medication in the first place, and afraid of hurting my baby by not taking care of myself.
My doctor kept close tabs on me. He even scheduled additional appointments and connected me with other medical professionals to make sure we were okay. He’s awesome. My husband was pretty amazing through all of this, too. He only knew me on medication, so this was a new experience for him too.
Throughout my pregnancy, I had to prove to everyone, including myself, that I was going to be okay. I had to make some hard life choices and changes that were best for my entire family:
- I reduced my stress by shutting down my business and working part-time to keep a consistent income and schedule.
- I slept whenever I was tired to keep myself calm and relaxed.
- I prayed like I’d never prayed before.
- I made friends to keep myself from becoming isolated.
- I did a lot of opposite actions, meaning I did something I didn’t feel like doing at the moment I didn’t want to do it. For example, if I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I called everyone I could until I felt better.
- I spoke positive affirmations over myself and my family.
- I wasn’t sure if this would work but it kept me from drowning in my invisible sorrow.
After our little ham was born and we took her home, I almost immediately recognized the signs of postpartum depression. I felt like I was a robot taking care of a robot baby. It was a weird feeling. But I also had postpartum anxiety. So, I didn’t feel too much of a connection but worried about her getting her all day every day. It was a never-ending battle in my mind.
I had my placenta encapsulated (don’t judge me), which I feel helped with the depression, but the anxiety lasted for months. Like, eight months. I won’t go into detail, but I consistently played out scenarios of the baby getting hurt. It was the only thing on my mind all day every day, nonstop.
I started going to support groups and met a woman who had had the same thoughts as me. We talked for almost an hour after our group meeting, and I began to feel normal. After our conversation, the thoughts immediately ceased. It was a miracle! I think being able to get it out of my head helped tremendously.
I’ve recently started focusing on joy. Not just finding happiness in things and people, but feeling my happiness internally no matter what is going on externally. It has been life-changing for me. I’ve never had joy before!
I know my daughter is the reason I’m still here. She has forced me to deal with my mess. I couldn’t push off friendships, counseling, or dealing with my issues any longer. She’s really the only reason I’ve made these changes in my life. I didn’t want her to be like me.
I feel like I was reborn when I gave birth. I look at the world in a way I’ve never seen it before. I still have my sad moments, but they’re just that—moments. I know that I don’t have to die because a bill didn’t get paid on time or I messed something up at work. I can move on and still have joy.
Again, I don’t advise anyone to stop taking medication or to not seek medication if they need it. Lord only knows where I would be if I wasn’t on it for seven years. But I’m grateful not to have to take that pill every single day and rely on it to give me normalcy and a glimmer of happiness in my life.
I hope this inspires someone in some way. I don’t really have a purpose for this post other than sharing my super long story with other women who can relate and to contribute to conversations around mental illness. It doesn’t mean you’re useless, worthless, or a waste of space. You have a purpose in this world that will be recognized when you’re ready.
My call to action today is to hug yourself and tell yourself you’re wonderful. Why, you ask? Because you deserve it!
Keep on living, mama