May is International Mental Health Awareness month. Knowing that we have a month reminding us of the importance of mental health, and the acknowledgment of mental illness, restores my faith in humanity. Mental illness, a wide range of conditions that affect mood, thinking and behavior, is a very real, common, and growing condition in our world. Feeling ashamed or embarrassed to speak about it, or to get help, is a conditioning that we all must work against. Every single one of us, at one time or another has battled the power of dark emotions. All of these feelings are valid and worthy of care.
When I was 23 years old, I had my first baby. I was so excited to be a mom, but nobody really talked to me about what happens once that dream becomes a reality, nor the reality of the new body that I had, raging with hormones and sleep deprivation. I felt overwhelmed and unsure of myself. Most of all, I was ashamed of all of these emotions. I cried a lot, and I didn’t want to be around anybody. The only one that I wanted to be around was my new baby, but he also overwhelmed me. Never once did I see that I was overwhelmed by myself. Everyone told me he was colicky and that it would pass, but somehow I couldn't shake my sadness. It was a slow moving train, fueled by my massive shame and judgment of myself. I would look at my perfect child and think what is wrong with me. My nature had always been light and happy. This new me was incredibly difficult to face, so I didn't. I told no one, and I sat with it alone for 6 long months. After I had my daughter Jordyn, I felt balanced and happy, yet I kept waiting to see if that dark wave was going to take me down. It didn't. My second experience was completely different. Of course I was exhausted and hormonal, like every new mom, but the polarities of the two experiences were significant.
I remember watching Brooke Shields on television promoting a book she had written, called “Down came the rain.” It was about her experience with Postpartum Depression. Of course, I had heard of it, but I never equated my experience to a depression. Everything she described was me to the last detail. I, for the first time realized that maybe my suffering wasn’t a normal aspect of motherhood; it was an aspect of human hood. What I did recognize was that I was too embarrassed and ashamed to talk about it to anyone, and worse even acknowledge it to myself. I didn’t ask people if it was normal, I just assumed that it was my fault. Now, when I talk to moms who are in struggle, my heart swells, and I share my story. Help is the only remedy.
Everyone’s experience with Postpartum Depression, or any kind of depression will vary of course, but the common thread is that it is a real condition that deserves care. I wish that I would have opened up about it to someone, because suffering alone is a very dangerous proposition.
Whatever your situation, or loved ones situation is, or whatever you may be going through, it is important that you never feel embarrassed to ask for help. There are plenty of people and organizations out there that are incredible. I’m a huge advocate of the therapy. There is no relationship more important than the one we have with ourselves. Therapy gives us a road map to moving in closer to ourselves. From that place all becomes that much clearer and more gentle.
There are so many people out there, maybe even people close to you that may be suffering in silence. This pandemic has brought forward every possible emotion on the human spectrum. I urge any and all to reach out bravely.
As part of my own self-care in managing my mental health is a list of things that I force myself to invest in. See if any resonate, they sure do shift my energy pretty immediately.
I mediate. You can down load free guided mediations that are so healing.
I put lavender & different essential oils in a diffuser to help settle me.
I sit at the piano & just play.
I’ll go on a walk to be with nature.
I do laundry. It’s a soothing task with a beginning and an end. It calms me.
If and when I need, I will see a therapist to help me deal with different life situations, and move more closely to myself.
I pray. I ask God, a Higher Power for help, grace, love and guidance.
I spend time with a trusted friend that I can be my complete honest self with, bumps, bruises and all. Someone that will show me the underbelly of herself bravely.