4 Tips From My Mental Health Journey

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DISCLAIMER: The following post outlines the writer’s personal experience with mental health. It is not intended to act as medical advice. As always, please consult your doctor with any questions about how to improve your mental health.

 

I am a mother who has . . .
Mental illness?
Mental unwellness?
A struggle with mental health? 

None of these seem right. I’m no longer “suffering from” or “struggling with” the way my brain works; I’m living with it. My mental health is just a part of my story. 

I have a history of depression. I have battled self-harm and suicidal ideation. I’ve previously been diagnosed with postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. I take medication for depression and anxiety. 

I am open about all of these things because someone has to be. Far too many moms go through wavering states of mental health thinking they’re the only one. My hope in life is for everything about my journey to serve others. That includes my mental health, because there is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Here is what has helped me most in my mental health journey (in no particular order): 

1. My Faith

Faith can provide great comfort and be incredibly grounding when life feels unsteady. Additionally, a community of like-minded believers is an awesome source of camaraderie. Maintaining faith isn’t always easy, but it has always been worth it.  

2. Therapy

I’ve gone to therapy off and on over the course of the last fifteen years. My first therapist did me a wonderful service with one particular lesson he taught me. It went something like this: when you’re feeling depressed (or anything else), acknowledge that you’re feeling it, and move forward. Don’t start to analyze the emotion and then develop a feeling about the feeling.

In practice, this looks like:
Ugh I’m depressed. I’ll have to make a therapy appointment.
as opposed to
Ugh I’m depressed. I can’t believe I’m depressed again. What right do I have to feel this way? I shouldn’t feel this way. I’m ashamed. 

I still utilize this lesson often, and it’s been a game changer. Money well spent. 

My second therapist was the first person to listen to my story and succinctly name what I was experiencing. When she did, something clicked and I knew I could begin to heal. 

My current therapist . . . I promise you, this woman is precious to me. She pushes me just enough, she’s an excellent sounding board, she gives me practical steps to take, and she provided my first clinical diagnosis. 

3. Medication

The meds don’t make everything great–they just make everything normal. With the medication, I navigate the same ups and downs of life that you do, except I do it without my brain in a pit of darkness and my nerves vibrating on one hundred.

I’ve sometimes described my medication as “taking the edge off,” because with it, I feel like I can start my day at baseline instead of constantly trying to pull up from behind. Medication is not the answer for everyone, but it’s a part of the treatment plan for me. Whether or not to go that route is between you and your doctor. 

4. Being Honest About What’s Going On

When someone asks how I am, I tell them. I no longer hide in shame. Speaking my truth not only frees me, but it also helps normalize that freedom for others.

If you are interested in improving your own mental health, here is my advice:

  • Take a step. Any positive step–whether that’s researching a therapist, starting a conversation with your doctor, finding an effective self-care method, etc. Just do the next right thing. The only thing that won’t help you is to do nothing.
  • Let go of shame. So many people are going through the same thing you are, though they may not be talking about it. You are not alone and you are not broken. Working on your mind is no different than working on your abs or glutes. Do what you must to become your best self.

You deserve to be a happy, healthy human. And I love that journey for you.

For more mental health information, read Sabrina’s post about postpartum disorders and finding postpartum support.

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