Today I’m talking about something really hard and I’m honestly terrified 😱. But as hard as it is, it’s also really important.
Like really important.
A couple years ago, I was struggling. My anxiety was on hyper-drive. I was over-worked, over-stressed, and constantly felt like I couldn’t breathe.
One day when I was at my breaking point, I was sitting in the kitchen looking out the windows at the backyard and a giant wasp flew over. For some reason, I was convinced the wasp was going to get in the house. How? I have no idea. But I was sure it would happen.
It flew around near the window and eventually found a hole in the porch ceiling to hide inside. In and out of the hole it flew, stopping over near the window here and there. And there I was panicking that the thing was going to get in the house and sting me and the kids. My chest tightened. I couldn’t breathe. My vision went all wonky. All over this stupid wasp. I sat and stared at it for over an hour until it finally flew away.
I wasted over an hour of my life staring at this stupid bug, convinced it was going to hurt me.
It was a completely irrational thought, but if I’ve learned one thing in the past few years, it’s that logic and anxiety can’t co-exist in the same space.
After that experience, it was like a switch flipped in my brain and my ever-present anxiety was suddenly swapped out for ever-present depression. Instead of feeling uptight and stressed all the time, suddenly I felt lifeless, hopeless, joyless. I’m not going to go into details yet, maybe one day, but things got really dark really fast.
I wasn’t okay, but I didn’t want to admit that because admitting it felt like failure. I was embarrassed and ashamed and guilt-ridden for these thoughts I was thinking and emotions I was feeling.
Plus, I felt like I’d done something wrong to be feeling this way.
But since that moment I’ve learned something important:
It’s okay to not be okay!
It’s okay to need help. If life feels a little (or a lot) heavy and you’re not sure how you’re going to manage another day of it, it’s okay. You’re not failing if you feel like you can’t do it anymore.
Here’s a little secret: more people struggle with mental health than you realize. Some people are just really really good at hiding it. And therein lies a huge part of the problem: we don’t open up about it. Not really.
Yes, in the past few years there’s been a movement to talk more openly about mental health, but I still don’t feel like we’ve really dug deep into that discussion. We’re holding back so much of the real emotions and thoughts that come with anxiety and depression because the truth is that it’s really scary to admit those thoughts and emotions. I get it–I can’t even talk about some of them with the people I love most.
Hopefully as we start talking more, these walls will break down more and more so that those who haven’t ever felt those emotions can understand them a little more and those that deal with them will feel a little less alone and insecure with the things they feel.
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that my mental health issues are not my fault. I did nothing to deserve them. I’m not a bad person because I deal with them.
I remember the feeling of not wanting to live another day, then feeling worse because I felt that way. What kind of horrible person wouldn’t want to live another day when she’s blessed with so much? I saw all the blessings I had in my life–healthy kids, a supportive husband with a stable, well-paying job, a beautiful home, a safe environment, and so much more–and yet I felt so down. Something had to be wrong with me, right? A good person doesn’t just feel that way.
Oh, how wrong that thinking was!
It was the depression that was the problem, not me.
Depression is evil–and that’s a nice word for it. There are plenty of other not-as-nice words I want to call it. Depression clouds everything good and makes it seem dark. Depression twists everything so tightly until nothing makes sense anymore. Depression sucks, but it doesn’t define who a person is.
So if you’re dealing with depression or anxiety or any sort of mental health issue, please listen to this:
There is nothing wrong with you! You’re not broken. You did nothing to deserve this.
Mental health issues are sicknesses, just like cancer or Alzheimers or the flu. Think about it: when someone gets cancer do you think, “Well, that’s her own fault.” No! That’s ridiculous. The same goes for depression or anxiety. It’s ridiculous to place blame on yourself for feeling that way.
So if you’re not okay, take heart. You’re not alone. Talk to someone about it. Open up. Let someone into that space, no matter how embarrassing or scary it feels. Forgive yourself because it was never your fault to begin with. Love yourself. Go see a therapist. Get on medication. Do whatever it is that you need to do to feel better. But please, please remember: It’s okay to not be okay!
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