This story is part of a blog series called, “Your Story: a conversation on mental and emotional health and disabilities.” Please read with a heart open and understanding – free of judgement.
Please be aware that, within this interview, topics such as: depression, anxiety, self harm, suicidal thoughts, postpartum depression, anger, and sexual exploitation are brought up. If these topics affect you in any way please stop reading, talk with a someone you trust, or contact a mental health professional immediately. You may also call the Suicide Hotline 800-273-TALK (8255).
A Note On Editing
Minor changes were made to help make the interview easier to read. I have also added some information about water within the interview which is differentiated by the use of italics.
By way of Introduction
We never know why, how, or even when emotional and mental health challenges will affect us – which is why I am so grateful this story was shared. This story is about a mother struggling to love and nurture her children, take care of her home, and support and love her husband as an equal partner all while fighting one of the hardest battles known to humankind – a battle within herself and for herself – a battle with mental and emotional health.
When did you realize there was something mentally or emotionally wrong? And what did you do about it?
I knew I was having emotional issues during my first pregnancy, but I rationalized that it was standard pregnancy hormones. Honestly, I would be up half the night crying for weeks. I felt hopeless, unmotivated, and numb. I have a lot of blank memories from that period on. Finally, after giving birth and still feeling lifeless and empty, I told my husband I needed help, and he set up an appointment with a counselor. I wasn’t as open as I should have been at that point, but I learned good coping mechanisms. Eventually, we decided to get pregnant again, and I felt a bit better with this one until about a month after giving birth. Then I crashed, and it just kept getting worse. Finally, after starting to resort to self harm to snap out of my episodes of suicidal thoughts and breakdowns, my husband set up appointments for me to see my counselor again (who I had stopped visiting for over a year) and my OB. I’ve been on medication since then and just recently, with a positive response from her, stopped seeing my counselor.
Are there/were there moments in your life where this mental/emotional struggle becomes more present and you’re more aware of its existence?
I definitely felt the frequency increase during stressful times. I also began to remember, acknowledge, and deal with sexual exploitation I’d experienced in my past during this time, and working through that definitely made the anxiety and depression worse.
How has this experience affected your relationships with others?
From the beginning, before I realized what was happening, I stopped being involved in the lives of my friends and family. I just distanced myself from everyone except my husband, and I was angry and impatient with him frequently. It was hard on both of us, especially when we didn’t understand. No one talks about unexplainable anger and lashing out being a sign of depression and anxiety. I thought I was just a horrible person who had no self control and therefore didn’t deserve friends. Not to mention, I suspected everyone of secretly hating my company and talking about me behind my back. I was also working at a daycare when it started and things got noticeably harder to deal with in regards to both my boss and the kids. I had to quit because it was too difficult to handle the emotions.
What methods have you found are beneficial for your treatment and healing?
Weirdly enough, water is incredibly soothing and helps me get grounded really well, so I’ll often go take a shower or bath when I’m breaking down. Focusing on my senses helps too. When I start to lose it, my husband will ask me to describe something: his eyes, the feel of his hand, etc. The medications have helped so much as well. They brought me out of a dangerous place for me and my kids. I can’t emphasize enough how much of an advocate I am of medication for those who need it.
It isn’t weird at all that water would be soothing or healing to both the mind and the body. Symbolically, water means life, so the use of water and it’s healing properties is not new or weird at all.
All life begins with water. Within the womb, new life is surrounded by amniotic fluid: “mainly water with electrolytes, but by about the 12-14th week the liquid also contains proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and phospholipids, and urea, all of which aid in the growth of the fetus.“ Not only does this fluid serve to nourish the growing fetus, it also helps to protect the fetus. Water, then, continues to nourish, protect, and soothe the body as we move through life.
Many spiritual practices also use water to symbolize birth, death, cleanliness, etc., and water continues to play a role in spiritual worship throughout the world. For Christians specifically, Jesus Christ is also known in the scriptures as Living Water. And Christians show their commitment to follow Jesus Christ through baptism by water.
Water plays such an amazing role in life and has incredible power. It influences the physical body, the mind, and the spirit in ways that are not always understood. But just because we don’t fully understand something doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain truth.
What keeps you from receiving or accepting treatment and healing?
Before I decided to get help, it was my own head that held me back for a long time. First, I didn’t realize I needed help or was losing control of myself. Then I’d tell myself it wasn’t bad enough to go in for and stupidly enough I was terrified of going in and being told there was nothing wrong with me except my horrible personality. I’d also grown up in a home where mental illness wasn’t addressed and was just considered a case of selfishness or lack of control. And then there was just the stigma surrounding seeing a counselor – like I’m a child who needs help to sort through my emotions. And then, even worse, I felt so weak when I had to be put on meds. It’s hard not to feel like a failure when you need a pill to function enough to even care for yourself.
What symptoms or behaviors of your mental/emotional health experience are the most difficult for you to handle? For example: self harm, disordered eating and sleeping, suicidal thoughts, loss of motivation.
The loss of motivation is so hard for me to handle because, before all of this started, I was a very productive person. It’s hard to sit in bed feeling like I can’t manage to even put one foot outside the sheets and underneath me. It’s so hard to remember how I used to be and to only numbly yearn to be that person again. The anger is also really hard. Most of the depression and anxiety is unseen, so it’s just hurting me, but the anger hurts the few people I still trust and cherish.
Have you shared your struggles with family and friends? If yes, what have their reactions been? Are they supportive, or do they wish to keep your struggles hidden?
I have shared my struggles but, with a couple exceptions, my immediate family seems to want to avoid the details and forget that it has been/still might be a problem. Thankfully, I have an insanely supportive husband and much of his family is very open and kind in regards to my struggles. I have very understanding aunts too. My friends, however, have pretty much become nonexistent. Only a couple are still in contact.
What inspires you to stay hopeful through this experience? Or how do you find hope during this experience?
It’s difficult; I won’t deny that. I think looking at my husband and kids is what really pushes me to not give in, so I think that’s what the hope is. Just wanting to be what they need and being willing to do all I can to make it happen. Also, my belief in God helps me keep going in the hope that, if I just keep stepping forward and get through this, someday, I’ll be healed.
If you could travel back in time and visit yourself just before or just after recognizing there was something amiss, what would you tell yourself?
This is gonna be a battle, but you’ll be so much more humble and understanding of other people’s struggles after this. It will be worth it, and you have a true man beside you to rely on. Trust him.
If you met someone else going through a similar experience as yourself, what advice and words of courage would you give them?
Hey baby momma, it’s unbelievably hard right now, and you can barely even take anything in because you’re so numb. But please, find your reason to live and be. Then fight your enemies with whatever strength you can muster and in whatever time you can. You don’t have to win the war right now. Just focus on the little battles, and you’ll find yourself taking ground. Those battles may just be asking for help, but they are battles worth fighting.
Is there any final part of your story or thoughts of encouragement you wish to share with the readers?
Let’s just be kind to each other, we all have our own battles we’re fighting.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Continuing the Conversation
The final question I asked as part of this interview was whether she was willing to connect with others about her story. She agreed and said that she would be willing to talk with those interested over email. To continue to protect her privacy though, I will not disclose her email in this post. If you are interested in connecting with her, please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will forward your message to her directly.
Feel free to continue the conversation on mental and emotional health in the comments below. But please understand that your comments are being moderated and will be deleted if they are hurtful, hateful, or inappropriate in any way. This is a safe space to share your story about mental and emotional health and disabilities. Please do what you can to keep it as such.
A Note For Readers
If this mother’s story has inspired you to share your own story, please click here to be taken to the introductory post where you will learn where the inspiration for this blog series came from as well as how to participate.