I have always chosen to live my life pretty openly to those who have wanted to listen, and one of the major subjects that I feel is not only important to me to be open and honest about but I think is important for helping to slowly eliminate stigmas against is mental health.
I have a long list, a resume if you will, of mental health diseases that I suffer from. Clinical Depression, An Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Postpartum Depression. My brain (like many others) is chemically wired in a way that has been a beautiful home for these diseases to flourish and grow.
I have spent the better part of my life coming to terms with my mental health as well as combating it. When you give yourself the proper tools (whatever those may be) to work with, instead of against your mental health disorders, you become this crazy empathetic badass. There have been a couple key moments and thoughts that have helped me in those, why me moments. First, I’ve always believed that everything does happen for a reason, it could be to teach you a lesson, bring you joy and laughter, make you stronger, smarter and wiser, every experience that we face will eventually have an outcome that will add value to your future life. Second, when you have experience with the struggles of mental health you view other individuals with a lens of empathy, and this is a huge part of who I am, I care a lot about other people and their happiness because I know how it feels to feel the opposite and how painful it can be.
Since the birth of my son I have struggled many a times with the feeling of loss of self. It’s a truly horrible feeling to one day truly not recognize any part of you. I would stare into the mirror and see greasy hair, dark circles, dry skin, no bra and saggy boobs, all that comes with new motherhood and then I would try to look deeper and all I would see was a shell of a person caring for a little human. My whole prior existence and 27 years of life felt like it disappeared and shifted into this reality that was so simple and at the same time ever consuming, that completely revolved around my son. There seemed to be no more room or time for me, a person I’ve spent a lot of time, hard work and money (in therapy) to get to know and love.
That’s when it happened, it came in a beautifully wrapped present on my front door step. Post Partum Depression. My husband was just finishing his concrete season, his hours were long and crazy, everything was falling on me, then a family member fell ill and passed suddenly at the same time another diagnosed with terminal cancer. With all of this going on and me very much struggling and holding on by a string, inside that box of PPD was a side gift called Compassion Fatigue.
Caring too much can hurt. When caregivers focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviors can surface. Apathy, isolation, bottled up emotions and substance abuse head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic stress disorder now labeled: Compassion Fatigue*
The only thing that can help reverse compassion fatigue is to start taking care of yourself. I need to block out time in my days that are solely focused on me as an individual. What brings me peace, joy and happiness. Working on getting myself back into a more balanced and happy life is important for not only me but my family and those in my life. Eventually if you give too much of yourself you do end up with nothing left, and its scary.
I’ve begun to realize through therapy and some amazingly inspiring super moms that I need work on getting rid of this mom guilt and be able to take time for myself.
This year I am starting it off with a daily drawing challenge. I’m creative and being on maternity leave that has really been lacking in my everyday. Being able to express myself creatively is therapeutic. Follow my Instagram account and join in on this January Drawing challenge to help hold you accountable and take time for yourself everyday or evening if that too brings you joy.
Mama’s lets work on taking care of ourselves first, making time for ourselves as individuals so we can be the best moms, wife’s, girlfriends, friends, and versions that we can be.
* site passage from http://www.compassionfatigue.org