Earlier this week, I put on a t-shirt and pinned a couple of buttons to it. I stood in front of a camera and spoke from my heart about mental illness. I was very nervous. I was worried about how people would see me. I was thinking about that ten pounds that a camera is supposed to add (not gonna lie there). I was also apprehensive because I was at my job, on camera, admitting to the world that I have a mental illness.
I did this so that the college students might see it and know they are not alone. I did it so that moms and dads and everyone else might know that it does get better. I spent a lot of time talking about my experiences with postpartum depression (which didn't make it on the air) and how PPD is so much more likely for those who have a history of depression. I talked about how I suffered from depression long before I got help and I shared my shame in having to admit that I NEEDED help. I spoke about all of this because people I know have been affected by suicide (and even dyed my hair blue not long ago to promote suicide prevention). I did this because I know so very many people who feel like failures because they need help. I did it because I don't want people to feel the way I did for as long as I did.
Monday was the National Day Without Stigma so I pretended I was not scared and shouted from the roof tops.
Now I'm worried that my coworkers will think I'm all crazy up in here and treat me differently. I'm nervous and afraid to face people. I took Tuesday and stayed home because the anxiety of dealing with the aftermath of being open about my mental illness was pretty much overwhelming. Today kiddo illness kept me home (insert sigh of relief/guilt here).
According to one of the buttons I wore on Monday, one in four people are diagnosed with some sort of mental illness. ONE in FOUR...and those are the ones who are diagnosed. There are so many people out there (that I know personally) who have not attempted to get any sort of help. That is staggering to me.
I spent years in denial. I gave up primary custody of a child. I lost relationships, jobs, friends. All because of my depression and anxiety. My life started getting better when I embraced who I was and learned to live with the fact that I needed a little modern chemistry to not only live, but live WELL.
I've posted a few times about my ongoing depression and anxiety issues and Katherine Stone from Postpartum Progress and Lauren Hale from My Postpartum Voice were two of my biggest cheerleaders. They rallied the troops in the #ppdchat on Twitter and raised me up and supported me when I needed it. I got texts, phone calls and emails. There were (and are) so very many more women and men that helped me out of the inky black hole I was in - I cannot possibly list them all. Know this friends. I will not forget you or what you did and continue to do for me.
Katherine has asked us to support pregnant and new moms with their emotional health. We can do it in many ways. Make a donation. Write a post linking back to Katherine's post supporting Start Strong Day. Send an email asking friends and family for support. Tweet using the #ppdchat hashtag. Support moms and dads who need us. Have the conversation. Talk about this. Normalize it. De-stigmatize it.
I learned from Katherine's post that there are a half a million moms out there suffering from untreated postpartum depression and hundreds of thousands of moms who suffer from untreated mental illnesses that existed long before they gave birth. This is UNACCEPTABLE.
I don't know of any person who ever started this journey with any other goal than to be a good mom to their babies. We must do what we can to help these mamas have a strong start. We MUST.