After giving birth to my first child, I remember taking him to a pediatrician appointment and not only did I have to fill out a questionnaire regarding his developmental milestones, but I also filled out one regarding my mental health. I was so impressed that they were asking about me as well as my newborn!
And when I answered those questions honestly - I was feeling overwhelmed, not sleeping well, crying for no apparent reason - they asked me about my responses and allowed me to have these feelings and offered therapy referrals. This simple act helped me to feel normal. Having a safe place to talk and share how being a new mother was difficult and exhausting totally shifted my energy.
Not long after, I joined a Mommy & Me group, which was incredibly therapeutic. Sitting with all these other new mothers and having a shared experienced - from sleep regression and teething to introducing solid foods and intimacy after baby - confirmed I was not alone. It was a great place for our babies to hang out, but it was also group therapy and I actually made amazing friends.
Another story, that isn’t quite as impressive, was when I moved to a new state. Moving away from my family and not knowing anyone was hard enough. When I found a primary care physician, they also gave me a questionnaire that was specifically asking about my mood.
Just as before, I answered those questions honestly and circled the responses stating that I was struggling with depression most days, had no social support, felt anxious, had difficulty sleeping and was feeling overwhelmed. I was curious to see what this doctor’s response would be... I mean I was practically screaming “I AM STRUGGLING!”
Unfortunately my responses were never mentioned or brought up in our consultation. Looking back I wish I said something to that doctor, but I just switched doctors and never saw them again.
Thankfully I'm able to speak up and ask for help on my own, but it makes me sad to think that there are millions of people out there who are asking for help and not being heard.
Clearly a stigma surrounding mental health remains. Generations of people find it difficult to share how they are feeling and voice their struggles. These days, we look at social media and celebrity culture and not only do many of these people look flawless in a superficial way, but their lives appear perfect as well. They showcase their perfect home, partner, family, and friends. However, we must remember that there is a very thick filter warping reality.
We're better off living our own unfiltered lives. The good, the bad, and all of the in-between.
Everyone struggles. Some more than others. A colleague once made the comparison of how when we get a cold, the virus effects people differently. My husband gets a horrible sore throat when he has a cold, while I get super congested and stuffed up. Depression and anxiety also show up in different ways. Some people may just feel tired, while others feel hopeless. We just need to talk to others and listen.
Let’s normalize this conversation. Please see a few of my top resources below and I'm here if you need to chat.