As a kid I loved rollercoasters. My all-time favorite is he Haunted Mansion at Disney World. The ride takes you through a Twilight Zone themed storyline before dropping you down an eight-story building a few times. My kids were not too thrilled when I forced them to go on it a few years ago. Let’s just say they learned that screaming is a universal language no matter what country you’re from.
One summer a few years back, my family went to a local waterpark, and my oldest son was thrilled to go on a fully enclosed slide that played LOUD music. I was chosen to join him, and up the stairs we went. Then into the loud black abys. I was terrified. My son was having the time of his life. I hated not knowing what was coming next. I was white knuckling it and had my eyes clinched tight. When would it end?
I was shocked. I had always loved rollercoasters and waterparks. What had changed?
But over the last five years, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety. I had always jokingly called myself a control freak, but now my desire for control was affecting my attitudes, my parenting, and motivation to do things that I usually took great joy in.
May is Mental Health Awareness month, so I am taking the time to tell you a little about my mental health journey. I hope that in sharing a little about my mental health we can break down the stigmas that come with mental health struggles and we can seek help when we need it and support those who do.
Recognize the difference
It wasn’t until I could see that I wasn’t responding in the way I usually did, and not engaging activities or responsibilities with a can-do attitude that I could see that I was struggling with depression and anxiety.
I had to accept that there was a problem, and be determined that I didn’t want things to stay the same. I’ve had to face fears, admit my lack of trust in God’s plans, and work daily to ‘take my thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 10:5
The national numbers for anxiety and depression have jumped considerably in the last year alone, due to the emotional weight of the pandemic and turmoil in our world.
Doctors, whether or primary care, OB/Gyn, psychologist, etc. are all equipped with surveys and tools to help assess if your thoughts and feelings. To see where you might be on a depression/anxiety scale. The questions are simple and do an amazing job of getting to the heart of where your mind is.
In my parenting journey, I’ve had to come to a place to be okay with medical evaluations of my kiddos. Because the worse they can tell me is ‘nothing is wrong’ and the best they can tell me is more information about my kiddo. So why would I hold back, when it comes to my own health.
One friends once told me is sometimes the greatest thing you can do for your kids is to make sure you’re healthy.
Make a change.
Take a step in your mental health by getting active.
Whether it is taking up daily walking, starting an exercise routine, or even taking up a hobby that you’ve set aside by taking a class with others that share your passion. You have to rediscover joy and make time for it in your life.
But one of my doctor’s recommendations was to exercise first thing in the morning to boost my good mood brain chemicals and set myself up for success. I would NEVER have told you that I am athletic, or that I have ever truly been consistent in any exercise program. But I’ve found a program with a great community of people. Though I haven’t seen a whole lot of physical changes the mental benefit and the people keep me coming back even when it’s 25 degrees outside or 89 degrees at 5 am.
Share the Burden
Don’t keep your struggles a secret. The burden of your hurts and struggles can only be lifted with we let others help us out. The people who love us don’t want us to struggle and want to help in any way possible. While, my husband struggled to truly understand how I was struggling, he was present and willing to work through the hard to get me to a better place. It wasn’t pretty or easy, but having him and others on my team supporting me was a tipping point toward success in my journey.
A Year Later
With the help of my doctor and an exercise routine, a year later, I was feeling better. But then came the real test. Could I face the waterslide and not be a white knuckled participant? The following summer I traveled down the black abys of a waterslide and was able to enjoy the experience. It was still hard to be out of control. But my feelings were not in control of me. I took captive my thoughts, and made the choice to enjoy the ride.
I was so thankful to be in a different place than I had been the year before, but depression and anxiety are not ‘curable’ conditions. The majority of mental illnesses are a daily internal battle. It is a mixture of both chemical imbalances, thought patterns, and habits.
My hope in this post is that you will evaluate you heart and mind and be okay with taking one step toward improving your mental health. Whether it is making an appointment, making a habit change, or sharing what’s going on in your heart and mind with someone you love.
Your mental health is important, and worth the time to have a check up or for your mental health. Seeking help is a sign of strength not a sign of weakness. May our stereotypes of mental illness be willing to change, and help us recognize we don’t have to do this life alone.