I couldn’t let May come to an end without acknowledging Mental Health Awareness Month + Maternal Depression Month. It has personally affected me + will continue to be a part of me for the rest of my life. So anything I can do to raise awareness + advocate for other patients, I will gladly do.
MY BATTLE WITH DEPRESSION, ANXIETY + OCD
I began to realize that I needed help for my mental health about a year after my best friend passed away. Of course, that event was responsible for my depression to a degree, but it was more than just that. It was very hard for me to take the first step in getting help. I didn’t want to admit to anyone that something was wrong. I thought that people would think I was crazy. I was embarrassed + ashamed. My doctors + therapists tried very hard to explain to me the chemical imbalance in the brain that causes these mental illnesses.
After a few months of getting help, as a 19 year old who thought she knew everything, I decided I could handle my symptoms on my own + I didn’t need doctors or medication. That was not only not true, but a big mistake.
Things got much, much worse over the next few years. The things I would work myself up over were insignificant. When anything went wrong, I would have a huge breakdown + wouldn’t be able to get over it for days. I was argumentative + always had to be right. I did anything I could to try + prove that I was right too. If things weren’t going my way, I would have suicidal thoughts. I let really small things irritate me to no end. I cried a lot. A lot. I didn’t think I was worthy of so many things. I started speaking to myself in a hateful way. I would tell myself, “You’re stupid. You’re ugly. No one likes you. You are a failure. You can’t do anything right. Everyone is laughing at you. You’ll never be successful.” I believed these things about myself.
There was one time I got so upset, that I went home + took all the antidepressants that were left in my bottle, which was luckily only 8. I got sick of course, but I survived. Once I was off my antidepressants completely, there were so many times I thought about crashing my car into a cement wall. There were times I was begging my husband to go get a knife + kill me. I pleaded with him + cried out. + the sad thing is, I really wanted him to in those moments.
When I got to the point where I literally could not be alone with my thoughts for one second, I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t live like this forever.
I got in to see a doctor who listened + handed me a tissue when I was sobbing, telling him what I had been dealing with. He said he understood I had been dealing with anxiety + depression + had been treated for it in the past, but had I ever been diagnosed with OCD? I hadn’t, + when he said that, I thought, wow. That makes a ton of sense. Why haven’t I put that together before? I’m not saying I’m one of the people who has to open + close a door exactly 27 times before I enter it. That’s not the only kind of OCD. Some of the obsessions I had been having made sense. I would obsess over bad thoughts + convince myself that something terrible was going to happen + then worry myself to death over it. Of course there are the insignificant things such as having to have the volume at a certain number, not being able to leave the house if I knew that one piece of trash was still on the coffee table, having some routines that I couldn’t just not do. Yeop, it made a lot of sense. This doctor worked with me to find the perfect combination of medication that would help me find some relief finally from depression, anxiety, + OCD.
With the help of the medication, my doctors, + family + friends’ support, I was able to start to feel better. I was able to let some things go. I was able to take a breath. I was able to relax. I was able to smile. I was finally able to see clearly.
Once I was pregnant with my first daughter, I weaned off of the medicine because I didn’t know how it would affect my unborn baby. I did ok during pregnancy, but as soon as she was born, it was obvious I needed to go back on medication. It was 5 days after she was born that the depression just hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I would cry for no reason, I felt hopeless + like I wasn’t doing anything right with my baby. I was so happy + wanted to be happy, but I couldn’t help how my body was reacting. I went to the doctor 6 days postpartum + my doctor was excellent in getting me started on some medication again that helped me get to a better place.
My next two babies, the depression came even faster after birth. It was the exact same feeling. The only good thing, I guess, is that I knew the symptoms + what to expect.
Currently, I am still taking antidepressants + I think I will for the rest of my life. I have learned that this is just the same as a physical illness. There is a chemical imbalance in my brain that medicine helps. So I will continue to take it. I will continue to put my health first. I will continue to be aware that every day is a gift. I will continue to remember how far I’ve come. I will continue to be thankful for modern medicine. I will continue to advocate for others with mental illness + bring awareness to hopefully end the stigma.
MOM GENES FIGHT PPD
1 in 7 women will suffer from postpartum depression. The hormones + emotions that come with pregnancy + childbirth are crazy. Your whole body is on a rollercoaster for 10+ months. Once the baby comes, all that anyone, including yourself, cares about is taking care of the baby. Moms sometimes get put on the backburner when this is actually the time they need help the most. No mother can care for her baby if she isn’t healthy herself, both physically + mentally. I fully believe that mental illness is completely equal with physical illness. I have lived it myself. Some people don’t understand that. + that’s why we have Mental Health Awareness Month + Maternal Depression Month. We have to bring awareness to the realness of these diseases. We have to advocate for those who have mental illness + those who will.
Recently, I found out about Mom Genes Fight PPD, which is a study being conducted by UNC looking for a connection to the disease which could lead to a cure. They are in need of 100,000 qualified moms to send in their DNA for their study. I downloaded the app, answered the questions on the survey, + it was determined that I was eligible to participate in the study. So they sent me a test kit for free in the mail. I had to spit into a container + then seal it up in the addressed packaging they sent + mail it back. It was so easy to participate, + I feel good knowing that I had a small part in this research that will hopefully find a cure for future generations.
If you are a mom in the USA, go to www.momgenesfightppd.org to learn more + download the free app to join the study. If you know someone who experienced postpartum depression, send them this info so they can take the survey + possibly contribute to the study.
Small steps like this will help in big ways. If you know of other ways to help with scientific research as it relates to mental illnesses, please let me know.
IF YOU NEED HELP
Lastly, if you are someone who is suffering in silence + afraid to talk to someone or seek help, I understand. I have been there. + I will be here for you if you need help. Please never hesitate to reach out to me if you need someone to talk to. I wish I had gotten help much sooner than I did. I wish I hadn’t been afraid of what other people might think. I wish I would’ve talked to people about what I was feeling instead of keeping it to myself. But I will not be silent anymore.
Also, it is important to note that almost 50% of people suffer from mental illness + many of them might seem perfectly happy on the outside, but suffering tremendously on the inside. Check in on your friends. Look for signs of depression. Don’t think you’re being a bother by asking a friend how they’re doing. Just do it. It could make a world of a difference.
I have found some great resources for anyone who is searching for answers or assistance + don’t know where to start. Please check them out below:
If you have other great resources for anyone struggling with mental illness, please leave them below in the comments. Together, we can end the stigma + raise awareness.