I have gone back and forth for months on writing this post. My mental health battle stems back years and years. I literally battle with depression and anxiety every single day. After writing about my miscarriage story, I realized just how healing and therapeutic writing about my experiences was. However, I still couldn’t bring myself to talk about this topic.
It seems that it is so much easier to write about something that I have walked through and conquered than it is to write about something I still struggle so heavily with. Here I am encouraging others to write about their struggles and experiences, yet holding back on one of my hardest battles.
For months I have contemplated my delivery on this subject. I have changed the title one thousand times. My brain has organized and reorganized and reorganized again the outline of this post. Anxiety has played its part in my anticipation of sharing my story, but today I am taking control.
One of the main goals of my blog is to let others know that they are NOT alone in their struggle. This post is extremely personal, extremely vulnerable, and details that I have not shared with anyone other than my husband. I truly hope that this post is able to help another mama out there.
[Disclaimer: This post includes details that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Trigger alerts for abuse, self-harm, substance abuse, and a few others. If these things are a trigger for you, I urge you to leave this page now.]
The beginning of my mental health battle
My entire childhood I was viewed as more of a tomboy. Even when I did competitive cheer-leading my tomboy nature was always peeking through. When I got to 8th grade I decided that I wanted to try this whole “girly” thing. And I ended up liking it. The cute shirts and makeup were fun! But it didn’t last long.
During my freshman year of high school I was assaulted by someone I considered to be a close friend.
He told me that it was my fault for looking good.
And I believed him.
From that day forward, it was all about t-shirts and jeans for me. I thought they would make me less desirable. I also started to eat my feelings. Comfort food took on a whole new meaning for me. Each day was spent stuffing myself and trying to drown my emotion. As a result, I gained 40 pounds that year. Needless to say, the weight gain didn’t help my struggle any.
For the next year and a half, I felt like a shell of myself, just floating through my life.
Highs and Lows
My husband, then best friend at the time, was always there for me. Whenever I was having a rough night, I could text him and he would always have the right words. Nine times out of ten he would push me to pray or read my Bible, and it always helped.
I have no doubt that God placed my husband in my life for many reasons, and one of them being to be my life raft. Finally, in my Junior year of high school I started to feel like myself again. I enjoyed waking up each day. To make up for lost time (I guess) I got involved in a little bit of everything at school. Student council, dance team, drama, you name it. I was at school from 7 am to 7 pm most days due to all of my activities.
But as the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.”
In March of my Junior year, my husband asked me to be his girlfriend. And one month later, someone new was introduced into my life by way of my mother.
At first, it seemed like it was a good thing. But looks can be extremely deceiving. This person ended up being the trigger that started my lowest low.
This person very easily deceived everyone, myself included. Without going into too much detail, out of respect for privacy, this person literally snatched my future away from me.
I was taken from my school, my friends, my church, everything. Even a few scholarship offers. All based on prejudice.
During my Junior year I experienced the beginning of my kidney stone journey. Also, from 8th grade until this point I had experienced a few broken bones, several dislocations, and a few torn muscles. As a result, I had acquired quite the medicinal arsenal. When my senior year began in the hole, I started asking for medicines at night that I thought would help me.
Because of my health history, it was pretty easy for me to convince my mom that I was actually in need of the medicines I was asking for. Muscle relaxers, pain killers, whatever. It didn’t matter as long as it made me feel better about myself and helped me sleep.
I also began cutting because I had heard that it might help. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), cutting didn’t do anything for me, so I stopped after the first couple of times.
My senior year was basically one big low. I made very few friends at my new school, things at home were not the best, and I had no outlet. The friends that I had held so dear to me in my past, I was no longer allowed to talk to or hang out with. And for whatever reason, I was punished for not being happy with my circumstances.
There’s only so much faking that a person can do, and I was completely burnt out.
I began thinking of ways out. Both physically, mentally, and otherwise.
I thought about how many pills I would have to take. Running away seemed like a viable option at times. Literally one month before graduation, I asked my dad if I could move in with him, even if it meant I would have to spend another year in high school because I hadn’t met all of the graduation requirements for his state.
Every plan I made just seemed like the wrong one.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
One day, I got home from school, went to my room and just couldn’t focus on my schoolwork. I was enrolled in three different schools at the time to try to keep my mind occupied. I was in high school full-time, taking a class through the University of Alabama, and completing a Certification course through Penn Foster Career School. Typically, I didn’t have a problem keeping up with my course load, and was actually ahead in my college and career classes! But for some reason, on this day, I had no motivation.
I felt this urge to open up my Bible and just start reading. Because of my emotional state at the time, I can’t for the life of me remember what I was reading, but I still remember the peace that just flooded over me.
I remember texting Derek (then boyfriend, now husband), and telling him that I felt so much lighter. The feeling I felt in that moment was so much better than any high I had gotten from the pills. From that day forward, I never felt the desire to abuse my medications; God delivered me from that addiction in my life.
Just a few short weeks later, my mom came to me and told me that she wanted me out, but would let me pick the date. As crazy as it was, I felt this huge release and full-body sigh of relief.
Soon, this struggle would be over.
Burying my Emotions, Once Again
When the day came, my graduation day, I was full of mixed emotions. I didn’t really know how to deal with them, so I started drinking. I moved in with my boyfriend’s family, got a part-time job until it was time to leave for college, and any time that I wasn’t working I was drinking. There was never a period where I was completely slaughtered, but I was drinking pretty regularly.
Until a few weeks went by and I found out that I was pregnant with my first child. Derek and I went to the courthouse a month later and were married. It was always a part of the plan to get married, just not in this way.
My little girl saved me from the path of destruction I was on, though. God knew that I needed her. That little life motivated me to live a better life, if not for me then for her. Because of her, I kicked the alcohol. I may have a glass of wine here and there (I mean, #MomLife, right?), but it isn’t a problem anymore and never in front of my babies.
Saved from Myself
As you can see from the above, I didn’t have a very healthy way of dealing with my struggles. Honestly, I strongly believe that if it weren’t for God strategically placing my husband and children in my life, I wouldn’t be here today. I can’t thank Him enough for His grace and mercy in my life.
My depression still surfaces from time to time, and really peaked again in the postpartum period after having Norah, but I now have a different handle on it than I did in the past. Now, I know the power that comes from releasing your troubles to God. I have come to fully understand just how freeing it is to verbally and mentally release the reigns on my life by fully submitting to His will. There are some days where I will still get into a funk, not want to get out of bed or see anyone, but because of these precious souls that God has entrusted to my care, I have a physical representation of His love. My kids always seem to know when mama needs just a little more loving, and they always come through.
Until recent years, I didn’t even fully understand what anxiety even was, much less what it felt like. I have ALWAYS been an over-thinker or a worrier. But I never saw it as anything more than over-thinking and worrying. After my family became homeless last year, my worries became much worse, and rightfully so I think. I began talking to a spiritual advisor of mine, and they recommended reading scriptures about anxiety. So I did, and they seemed to help. So, I started looking up articles about anxiety. Each and every one of them described me to a tee.
When one of my littles began to show signs of anxiety, I reached out to my dad who said I had been diagnosed with anxiety as a child. I looked into the chances of it being hereditary, but honestly didn’t read much into it. My main focus was helping my baby learn to cope with it.
And then another family member reached out and informed me that a good portion of our family suffers from anxiety as well. So, I looked into it further, and turns out that there is a connection.
Scientists aren’t sure exactly if its a hereditary thing, but they do believe that anxiety can be a learned behavior. Having family members who deal with anxiety puts others in that family at a predisposed risk of showing signs and symptoms. Like my depression, my faith has allowed me to learn how to cope with my anxiety in a much different manner than before. Which, let’s be honest, my “coping mechanism” for my anxiety used to be ignoring it.
My Mental Health Battle Today
As I said above, my depression does surface from time to time, with seemingly no triggers. Thankfully, it is nowhere near the scale it was before, though.
Anxiety is my main struggle now. The simplest of things can trigger a panic attack for me. For example, I am currently without a phone because my kids cracked my screen and made it unresponsive. Anything that causes my schedule to be altered makes my heart race.
Some days, something as simple as more dishes or laundry than normal will cause me to lose control of my breathing.
When I can’t seem to get a post written for days or weeks at a time, you can almost always bet that I am struggling with my anxiety. Much like this post. I have so much anxiety over if my delivery is too much, or not enough. Or if anyone will even be able to relate. About how it will be received.
There’s a children’s book that I recently got for my kids called “Jonathan James and the What-If Monster“. It’s about a little boy that constantly has this little monster following him around making him second guess every decision he makes. That book has resonated with me so much, and actually helped me get the courage to write this post today.
Sure there are TONS of negative “what-ifs” that I could come up with for why NOT to write and publish this. But the positive what-ifs outweigh it so much more.
It’s Not Over
While my mental health battle is far from over, I have hope that I will one day overcome it completely. Day by day I am getting better, and finding better ways to cope.
I hope that someone, somewhere finds something, or anything, in this post that will help them look toward their future in a brighter way.
And let me just say, that getting all of this out, has truly taken a HUGE weight off of me. I feel 1,000 times better now.
If you need to speak to anyone about anything related to this article, but don’t feel comfortable going to anyone who knows you personally, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not have much to offer, but I will certainly support you in your struggle.
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