Motherhood: The struggles with Mental Health

It’s 2019- I feel like our society has really come a long way in talking about mental health.
Okay, that’s all well and great, but if everyone is talking about it, why the hell aren’t we DOING anything?!

My Story

I want to take a minute to discuss my own mental health. I’ve had anxiety my entire life. Problem is, I didn’t really know it was anxiety until I started looking into my daughter’s mental health. I knew that if I was going to try and help her work through her difficulties, I needed to start with helping myself. I went to specialist and was diagnosed with anxiety and underlying depression. After researching on my own first, I knew she had hit the nail on the head. My entire life I was so worried about what others thought, if they were mad at me, or if their feelings were hurt. I am extremely passionate, which I think can add to the anxiety. When I was little, my teacher told my parents “Brittni is an awesome kid, but she wants to make everyone happy. Sometimes it gets her into trouble with her friends.” I don’t know if my parents knew, but I was in the councilor’s office a lot. Mostly because of dumb girl drama, but I was always so worried about other people’s feelings, it would consume me. Even to this day, I have some of that. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned it’s better to be honest than to worry if someone if going to be upset with me, but it still isn’t easy!
Another way my anxiety showed itself, was anger. Even when I was little, I had colossal tantrums. Going into my teenage years, my parents and I would have screaming matches on the regular. I wasn’t a “disrespectful” kid, by definition. I appreciated that my parents did so much for me and that I never went without. I wouldn’t say I was spoiled, they also taught me responsibility. I got a job at 16 and when I moved out at 18, I was on my own. They did give me an exceptional childhood with lots of experiences that I will be forever grateful for. But, we all yelled, a lot. When I would get upset with them, I couldn’t control myself. It was never physical, but I shamefully told them I hated them more times than I want to admit. I didn’t hate them. My anxiety was just so high, and unfortunately that’s how I let it out. Once I moved out and got married, my parents and I had a much better relationship!
The anger was now shifted to my husband, and eventually, my kids. Some days, I just couldn’t help it. Some days I still can’t help it. Women are emotional beings by nature, but some of us are able to rationalize when we’re being a little crazy, I couldn’t. When I’m feeling upset, whether it be mad, sad, anxious, or scared, it usually manifests as explosive anger. I yell and say things that I know will hurt, just to prove my point.
On the flip side of that, I sometimes let people outside of my home, walk all over me. Going back to my childhood and not wanting to make anyone upset, I always try to watch my words and think before I speak. I think that’s another reason I can get so expressive at home. I let everything out that I’ve held in. It’s not fair for my family and I know that. It’s gotten better, but I’m not perfect.

Once I went to talk to a doctor, we tried a few coping mechanisms before even talking about medication. I started seeing a councilor. It was great. Even just to vent and talk about things that were bothering me, it was just a nice outlet. But, if you’ve ever gone to counseling, you’ll know it’s not cheap. I tried meditation, journaling, and breathing techniques. But when the emotions got too high, I still lashed out.
Finally, I started medication. I had to adjust things a bit. I tried a few different medications, a few different dosages, but I’m finally at a good spot. There are still days when the anxiety is overwhelming. There are still times when I yell and lash out. But overall, I feel so much better.

What I’ve realized through my own journey, is the pressure that us moms have to keep it all together, even when we “talk” about mental health. A mom might talk about her anxiety, and while others will exclaim that they understand and that they’re here for her, they will still judge when her house is a disaster. What they don’t consider is that maybe she’s so anxious about her house being a mess, that she doesn’t even know where to start the cleaning process. Maybe for her, it’s more important to sit and play with her kids to ease her mind, than to worry about a mess.
Or maybe, she’s so anxious about the mess, that she sacrifices time with her kids just to keep a clean home.
A mom might talk about how her anxiety and depression manifests as anger, but is still judged when she yells at her kids too much. Yes, maybe she does overreact a bit, but that is not her intentions. Or maybe she let’s them have too much time on electronics just to keep the peace in the house. She’s damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.
It’s great that out society has been more open in talking about mental health and the effects that it might have on moms and/or dads for that matter, but we still haven’t done a good job in getting parents the help they need. Or, giving them credit for just doing their best!

It’s hard too when your significant other doesn’t understand what you’re going through. There are so many times that my husband has said “I don’t know why you’re getting so mad. It wasn’t that big of a deal.” And he’s right. But what he doesn’t understand is that to me, it IS a big deal. With anxiety, the little things can become the big things. I don’t like it anymore than he does. It doesn’t make sense. But that’s the problem with mental health issues, they don’t make sense, especially to outsiders. This is why it is so important that we discuss these things and truly try to understand and help others who are suffering!

From my own experience, here are a few ways that we can be proactive in the fight against mental health disorders and how you can help those struggling; specifically mothers!

  • Let go of expectations
    If a mom is struggling just to get out of bed every day, please don’t look at her or her messy house and judge. If her family is healthy and happy and she’s doing whatever she can to make that happen, it’s none of your damn business how much of a “mess” she is. Maybe her husband doesn’t help around the house. Maybe she’s a full time working mom, who would rather spend her time playing with her kids than clean. You have no idea what someone’s story is. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and don’t judge a mom by her mess!
  • Don’t ask what you can do to help. Just help
    Too often we say, “let me know if you need anything” when we see someone struggling. Hell, I’m guilty of it myself. Instead, we should be ahead of the game. Offer to babysit and give an actual day and time you’re available to help. Make a meal ahead of time so she doesn’t have to. Offer to take her kids to practice so she can get dinner made for the rest of the family. When someone is depressed or anxious, they usual have a lot of guilt. Asking what you could do to help, will often make them feel guilty about asking. “Is that too much to ask. I know they offered to help but they were probably just saying that to be nice.” Your attempt at “helping” can almost make us more anxious! So don’t ask, just do! And if you can’t physically help, pick up the phone and call just to see how she’s doing. I know we all have busy lives, but when it comes to the people we care about, we can all make some time.
  • Don’t give unsolicited advice
    Personally, I take medication. I know that not everyone agrees with pharmaceutical drugs and like to take more holistic routes, and I think that’s great as well. I have used this blog as an outlet, I saw a councilor, I even tried CBD oils. But the truth is, my medication makes me a better mom and wife. I felt ashamed at first. I couldn’t believe I needed medication just so I wasn’t a raging bitch to my family. But my councilor explained it like this, If you had a heart condition, an insulin issue or a thyroid problem, and you needed medication, you’d take it- no issues. Mental health is just as important as the health of the rest of our bodies. She was right. I felt better about my decision to take medication. That is, until I asked a question in a Facebook group and a few people shamed me for taking that medication. This group, that was supposed to be a supportive group for women, made me feel terrible about myself. We don’t need the negativity, we need the support. With or without issues. We aren’t always going to agree with everyone’s decisions and that’s fine. But we can come together and support each other without giving advice that will inevitably shame and hurt someone.
  • Don’t downgrade other’s feelings
    Maybe you don’t think they “should be depressed.” Maybe you don’t understand why they have anxiety when they have a good life. Or maybe you just think they should be able to fix it. Well, as a mom who has a great life and loves her family more than anything, I don’t understand it myself. I wish I could change the way my mind thinks. But, when I hear people mocking mental illnesses, it makes me feel even worse. “Is that what they think about me?” Just because you don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it’s not real for someone else. Do your research before saying things that could hurt someone!

Anxiety, depression, PPD, PTSD, Bipolar, and OCD are just a few common mental health disorders that people, specifically moms, deal with every single day. And you never know who around you, is fighting these battles. That mom that always looks like a hot mess, she might be dealing with anxiety that didn’t start until she had kids. She can’t explain it, but some days it’s crippling. The mom who is the head of the PTO and is always dressed to impress, she might be dealing with depression because her and her husband are going through a divorce and she’s trying to keep it together so nobody finds out. Or maybe, the brand new mom who loves her baby so much, and has so much family support, can’t explain why she’s so sad all the time. Everyone has their problems. Always have an open mind. You may not understand what someone is going through, but it doesn’t mean you can’t support them. And if you meet someone who is battling similar issues as yourself, but coping with it in a totally different way- BE SUPPORTIVE! We need to come together. Stop “talking” about mental health and start fighting it, together!