I’m not one to typically shy away from the raw complexities of life’s ironic, bittersweet and humorous moments … but I have been contemplating my “coming out” so to speak about certain aspects of my mental health. But in honor of Mental Health Awareness Week, here we go.
*Valley girl voice* Mental health talk is like so hot right now, you guys.
Spoiler alert: Things are about to get deep ya’ll.
I have been candid about my struggles with post partrum anxiety/depression/OCD recovery for more than a year at times on this blog. The truth is that I always feel more inclined to give hope and encourage to those in similar situations when I myself have crawled out of the slimy pit of my Internal Hell. Still some call me brave; I just call myself real and crazy.
But I’m not crazy and neither are you, my friend. Society and Hollywood have put such a stark outlook on those with any sort of mental health condition — those with mental health issues are considered weak and doomed. You’re flawed.
I will say that genetics and your environment play a role in your mental health, yes. If you are surrounded by negative people, you will have a more negative outlook. But as someone who grew with a pretty happy childhood by most standards, I can tell you that isn’t always the case. Traumatic things happen to everyone in some shape or form. What might be terrible for you, is just Tuesday for others. Some people get postpartum issues and some people don’t.
I have been in therapy for two and a half months now because of how disturbing my ppa/ppd/ocd was — i had never experienced anything so dark. I had experienced the occasional “I’m so tired” cry to put myself to sleep when it was just me and our boys, while their dad went to go fight a war in Afghanistan for a year. But this. This was the darkest, scariest thing I have overcome in my life. This was my nightmare.
I had signs of the baby blues after our daughter was born. When I went into that doctor’s office for the birth control shot when P was 6 weeks old, I was warned it could cause severe postpartum depression. I’m just a tired mom of three, I thought, no biggie. One week exactly after that shot, I broke. Like a mirror I shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces onto our kitchen floor. I was broken, crushed into dust. Thank you Jesus, for never giving up on this dust and rebuilding me with a strong foundation in your Word and promises.
I was a fragmented shell of a person, and my only goal was to somehow get those tiny pieces of myself back up on the wall as fast as I could without our children finding out just how much mommy didn’t feel like herself anymore.
Paranoia, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, anxiety, exhaustion — you name it, I probably felt it, and still sometimes do. That’s just life. I have anxiety and basically PTSD.
I didn’t start popping a pill every day and everything came back to me in a few mere months. And I couldn’t just force myself back to being myself, either. I have fought, tooth and nail, blood, sweat and tears (so, so many tears) with God by my side through the waves — wave after wave, day in, day out. I am on the other side of that darkness but that doesn’t meant the work is done. I am in therapy now to have the right tools in place to make sure I never go down in that dark pit again, no matter what life throws at me. I am better but I know that I can be even better with guidance. I know I am worth fighting for, worth living for and I refuse to settle for 90% better. I want 99.9%. I want and deserve it all.
My darker days have taught me that a few things that I’d like to share with you:
First – it can happen to anyone. Not just postpartum but any mental condition. In fact, 1 out of every 5 American have a mental health condition right now. That’s more than 40 million Americans. And who knows how many of those 40-plus million American are seeking treatment, how many are in denial and how many know something is going on in their head space but refuse treatment because of the mental health stigma.
Second, beautiful things can come from brokenness. Truly — those positive memes floating around social media are true. You may see them and roll your eyes. But they work and when you are in the trenches, why not have a cuddly kitten meme to brighten up your new dwelling? Because if you have been in the pit, you know good and well like I do in order to get out of it, you have to pretty much just accept that you are living there for a bit and slowly work your way out. I had positive memes, encouraging words from family and friends, my children’s love and God’s promises. The latter saved me, I know it.
I always knew the Bible was important but I hadn’t read it before, not really. I vaguely knew some of the more popular stories but I knew nothing. I was worse than Jon Snow in that department. I was a hallow Christian. If all it takes is the faith of a mustard seed, my faith was the size of the speck of dust in Horton Hears a Who!. Beautiful discoveries of myself and my faith have come from my darkness. Some days, I wish it hadn’t happened but most days, I can’t say I regret all of it. I can’t.
Thanks to therapy I can see it has made me a better person, it has shown me my strengths and #workinprogress areas. It’s made me a better mom, a better wife, a better and more honest friend, and a better me. I like myself. Heck, I love myself. I don’t think I could say with a straight face before all this. I do. I’m pretty flippin’ awesome and so are you.
Third — We are all a little broken. We all have something we are working on or we know we need to work on. Perfection isn’t real or attainable in any aspect of our lives. And you know what? It’s okay to be broken. It’s okay to not be okay. God’s got you and He has me, too. Even when you can’t feel him, he’s there. He’s in your child’s eyes, your dogs wagging tail. He’s in the sunlight that seeps through your bedroom curtains every morning. He’s in your favorite song. He’s the wind in your hair when you roll the windows down and just drive; he’s the smell of rain; he’s the morning dew that soaks your shoes — you ignore him or even scowl at him but you know he’s there. I hope you laughed at that last one.
And lastly, — You’re not crazy. I have a whole new respect for those who fight mental health conditions that are not curable, those who take a rainbow of pills (mine is white- snooze fest) to be functional every day. My friend, if that is you, are you far from weak. Self-awareness is something not everyone has or achieves. But you have that, you knew you needed help and you chose yourself. You know you needed to talk to someone to sort things out in your head, so you went and met a therapist. You put yourself first for a change, went to a professional and said “I need help.” I applaud you. You are incredible. You are a warrior that deserves a gold medal the size of Texas.
And you are not crazy, far from it. You’re human and you deserve the best life. Do what you need to live it. God bless.