I have talked openly about my struggles with mental health for years, almost to the point that it pisses off people because I’m too open about how I’m feeling and then other people get butthurt about the situation. I’m just kind of a tell everyone about it type of person. Keeping secrets isn’t a skill in my repertoire.
Before motherhood, my mental health was a crapshoot. I have spent most of my life in and out of therapists offices. I’ve seen more psychiatrists than boyfriends. I hate psychiatrists – seriously, the worst experiences ever.
In my teens, I struggled with ideations of self-harm and suicide. I was a very anxious and depressed and self-doubting person. There were a lot of ups and downs, and cyclical patterns that we tried to manage with birth control, and eventually a variety of different SSRI’s.
Things never got better, but they really didn’t get worse. Between therapy and SSRI’s managed to keep most of the mental health stuff under control-ish.
Maternal Mental Health
It’s really no surprise that my mental health has fallen into the gutter since becoming a mom. I knew coming into this that Post Partum Depression was a thing and it was something that we watched me… but, honestly, I don’t feel like I relate to the term postpartum depression. The stories I read and listen to don’t scream “ya, that’s me,” instead they seem vaguely familiar, but they lack the plague of chronic long-term mental health challenges.
Motherhood makes managing mental health harder. I don’t feel that my kids caused my mental health struggle – my anxiety – my days of depression – my unconsolable rage – or whatever else plagues me. Motherhood makes it feel impossible to take care of the things I need to do to balance my anxiety, heal from my past wounds, and rebuild my terrible self-image.
Motherhood is incredibly self-sacrificing, and sure there could be ways that I could set myself up to give less of myself to my children but those things don’t really work for me because I have underlying mental health issues… To be able to leave my children with someone else isn’t easy if you’ve battled anxiety for years and have deep unresolved issues with that whole scenario. Many of the self-care tips that I originally dolled out to me in 2015 are just things that aren’t physically possible being who I am pre and post mom life.
My poor mental health makes motherhood hard. I think if I were to remove all the hormones around having babies, that I would still be struggling.
The sadness of winter makes trying to keep your cool and parent two toddlers incredibly hard.
The anxiety of meeting new people or picking up the phone to call the doctor makes parenting really hard.
Feeling like an utterly worthless human being makes waking up and making meals for your children incredibly hard.
It’s incredibly nerve-wracking to drive when you’re feeling like your life isn’t worth living and your children would be better off without you.
It’s overwhelming when you’re doing it all yourself for days on end and nobody’s come to check on you, or follow up, or call you. But, you can’t do it yourself because you’re too worried about inconveniencing someone else to even try to reach out for help.
Daily breakdowns happen you can’t handle large amounts of noise and light. People wonder why I don’t buy battery operated toys for my kids and I make he same ol’ jokes, but at the end of the day, I struggle with a little bit of sensory processing overload, and it’s just easier to parent without another level of noise.
I hate being touched, and yet I breastfed two kids into toddlerhood. Breastfeeding didn’t really trigger me (not till the second), but the constant feet on my body, climbing, kissing, needing to be held or screaming, that bothers me. It’s also why I hate 90% of things people classify as self-care because no way in hell is a pedicure relaxing.
These aren’t new experiences for me. These are the same old things just in a new more challenging environment. It’s easy to ward off and distract from these things when you don’t have a 24/7 job of keeping tiny people alive.
It really sucks.
I am taking medication currently. I have gone through different bouts, but winter is definitely the hardest for me.
I also feel like I relate to Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder the most because these feelings I described above are very cyclical and tend to only pop up for a few days at a time around my menstrual cycle and sometimes ovulation. Because these feelings are very likely to completely destroy relationships, render me almost useless, and really impact my overall functioning, I know it’s more than PMS. But I also have a lot of really great days where I’m functioning like a normal person and you would never know.
This just relates back to why we need to talk about women’s mental health and how it might be different than men’s mental health. Further, not to disregard the challenges of others, but we should recognize that as mothers we have different challenges and barriers to accessing resources and support and being treated like an actual human being who is struggling.
I don’t want to be treated like I have postpartum depression. I want someone to see the entire picture, the whole me, the 28 year years of mental health anguish, and treat me like I have mental health issues not tied to my pregnancies.
I think talking about Maternal Mental Health is important because not all maternal mental health struggles are postpartum related.
What Makes It Hard to Manage?
I don’t believe I’ll ever treat my mental health. This is something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. That’s part of the reason I don’t identify with postpartum depression/anxiety because I know that this is just me. At the core, this is who I have always been and might always be, it’s just how I handle it.
The biggest barrier is myself because remembering to take my medication when I feel great is hard. We all fall into that little trap of being like, well it’s all amazing why do I need these and then I crash hard 4 days later. I do this every couple months or so. I also have had scary experiences with SSRI’s including a day where I couldn’t even drive because of the dizziness and suicidal thoughts.
The second biggest barrier is the kids. I don’t have a husband with a regular life, and this is more the norm than not in my area. This limits my ability to go to work because when we crunch the reality of life we would never see each other, or get to do fun family things, and I would never have a break.
It also means that access to counselling and self-care is limiting. Sure, I could hire a babysitter – but do you know anything about anxiety? That’s like the hardest thing to do. I’ll have to call someone, interview them, then trust my kids with them. When they were really little it was incredibly hard to let go of that, it’s getting easier as they get older and I begin to feel they aren’t as overwhelming for others. But, it’s not easy.
If you’ve ever volunteered to watch my kids and I’ve never followed through its because the anxiety halts me from following through.
I think that’s all I have to say. I’m in a good mindset this week to write this down. I struggled today because it’s really hard for me to not always be angry at my kids and think they are failing me, but in perspective today was manageable.
Today is #BellLetsTalk which is talking about mental health. Tweet #BellLetsTalkMaternalMentalHealth to donate 5 cents specifically to mental health.
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