Growing up I remember thinking I would know if I was struggling with mental health issues. I had seen my mom’s up and downs as she fought with mental illness my entire life. I knew I was at greater risk genetically. I was also naive enough to think I’d recognize it if it was happening to me.
Just as naive as I was when I thought I’d be well prepared for having a baby because I worked in a daycare for years and often changed 14 diapers in assembly line fashion. I could change a diaper, many diapers in fact, but nothing completely prepares a person for parenthood.
So I ignored many of the signs because they weren’t as extreme as what I saw in my mom. I slept too much but figured it was because I was a teen in college and didn’t we all just want to sleep?
I had plenty of friends that I enjoyed spending time with so that meant depression wasn’t an issue for me, right? I was often happy and goofy so I figured I was good.
My first experience with postpartum smacked me in the face and in retrospect I can see how much I needed to ask for help but didn’t.
With my second child I better recognized the apathy and asked for help during a checkup. My doctor was surprised because I seemed “good” on the outside. She prescribed me an antidepressant. I didn’t take it because I still decided I wasn’t suffering at the level I had seen my mom suffer so I decided to ignore it.
Then I switched careers. I went from being an educator to a counselor. The signs of depression began to show themselves again – but stronger this time.
While one part of me was better able to recognize it from my education and training, another part of me still couldn’t really accept it.
I was a helper and always had been – how could I be the one asking for help?
Then I saw it begin to really take over and impact parts of my life I never wanted it to. I felt isolated from those I cared about most, I was losing joy in my day to day life, I felt numb.
So I decided to ask for help in a different way this time. I sought a counselor who I connected with and was honest with her about the hard stuff.
I found a doctor who took her time and listened to me. I wept as I told her what was going on. I got to understand how scary and humbling it can be to ask for help.
When I reflect on this, a few things come up – I hope others don’t feel like they need to wait for some sort of breakdown before they ask for help.
Also, I know there are many helpers who are so used to caring for others, they forget to ask for the help they need. We can create a strong community of those who do both, give support and seek support.
Lastly, it is heartbreaking to think about how many people need help and support but can’t access it. I want to work and fight professionally and personally for these people.
These are the things I will be reflecting on this year as I prepare for our walk. I would love to have you walk with me and also hear your “why” if you are feeling ready to share.