I began experiencing the symptoms of depression in middle school. I didn’t know what it was at the time and didn’t get diagnosed until I was in college. That’s when I began the journey of really figuring out what this mental illness is, and a million ways to cope with it. **Coping is not the same as healing**
It became a cycle of depressive episodes followed by contentment over and over. Every time I felt like I was better, it would come back around. Every time I felt like I wanted to die, it would pass.
I’ve always had a tendency to hide my emotions. I never wanted to appear too excited for things, and definitely didn’t want to let anyone know when I was struggling or hurting. There was a lot of shame around feelings for me. Numbing my emotions was the strategy I went with, which always led me into a depressive episode.
Learning to feel my emotions, and lean into what makes me happy, while making others aware of the things I don’t like, has helped me to become who I’ve always been, my true self.
Hiding your depression, your struggles, your emotions is a way of lying. Lies will always manifest into feelings of doubt and shame and make you feel yucky inside. Only the truth can set you free. We can’t be our true selves, if we are hiding a part of us. Emotions are a part of us, passions are a part of us, struggles are a part of us, and only embracing all of us, can we really begin to practice self-love.
I’ve been in counseling a few times and had very different experiences. The first was not a good fit for me, but I was still able to learn from her. I had one really great therapist who really helped me to heal past trauma and to develop anxiety coping mechanisms that I still use often. I’ve also used Betterhelp, it was helpful but it also showed me that I already knew what I needed to be doing, so I didn’t stick with them for very long and transitioned into what I call self-therapy.
I use my own mental health toolkit to proactively check in with my own mental health, I keep an eye out for the signs that I might need help again, and I work through my emotions and negative thoughts as they happen. I’ve developed a lot of great daily habits that contribute to my mental wellness and have kept me nearly a year now from a major depressive episode.
My 3 daily practices for mental health are introspection, gratitude and affirmations. These three habits have quite literally changed my life and have helped me to let go of a lot of things that were blocking me from being myself.
- Introspection is my very fancy word for brain dumping. Sometimes I’ll do meditation for mindfulness, but the easiest way to practice introspection is to simply brain dump. Write out everything on your mind – all your to-do list, all your thoughts, all your fears, all your anxiety, everything taking up space in your brain – get it on paper and let it go.
- Gratitude is my favorite. This is how we stop focusing on burdens and start to see your blessings instead. Too often the negative will stick out and draw our attention. I make a short gratitude list every morning in my planner, and if I’m feeling especially stressed about something in particular, I will take an extra minute to make a gratitude list specific to that stressor. (my kids get their own list pretty often).
- Affirmations will change the way you see yourself. Never underestimate the power of a targeted, specific affirmation. We all have one (or more) things that we struggle with when it comes to how we view ourselves – whether it’s our appearance, our reactions and emotions, or something else. We have limiting beliefs that keep us from moving forward and the right affirmations practiced regularly, like almost obsessively, are going to help with that.
My biggest struggle has always been feeling like I’m not enough in one way or another. Telling myself every day, all day, writing it repeatedly, sticky notes and reminders all over the place, has changed this view of myself. Occasionally it still comes up, but it’s not my reality anymore.
June 2020 was the last time I hit a major depressive episode. I was really ready to leave it all behind and take the express ticket out…Honestly, I chose not to mainly because I don’t trust anyone else to raise my kids.
I want to be here for them and to raise them in a home that they feel okay to feel. As a boy mom its really important for me to allow them to express their emotions, to let them cry and to feel supported in that rather than shamed. The only time I won’t let them cry is when they throw a fit because they want a toy or a snack – my mantra for them is “it’s okay to cry for sad, but it’s not okay to cry for want, that is not how we ask for things.”
I grew up in a home that didn’t talk about feelings. I watched my mom struggle with her own depression and she never told me what was going on, but tried her best to hide it from us. That’s probably where I got the idea that I needed to hide my own struggles and had depression for 8 years before I ever got help for it. I want my kids to have a different experience, I am open with them when I’m not feeling right – not just with depression, but with anger or burn out, I make what I’m going through clear to them and want them to feel comfortable talking to me if they ever experience anything like this. I don’t just want to make them aware that I’m going through something emotionally or mentally challenging, but I want to show them how I’m getting through it. I want them to have these tools too.
When I decided not to end things, I felt like I’d been baptized in the rain – it was raining that day if I didn’t mention that already. I heard God speaking to me that I wasn’t done and I had a work to do.
He’d pulled on my heart for years, literally years to use my writing as a platform for Him and I just never figured out how or what exactly I was supposed to be doing. This is why I already had a blog going, but content was all over the place… I took some months to work on myself and put together my mental health toolkit – if you don’t have one of those, you definitely need to put one together, it’s like having a first aid kit for your brain, you wanna have it before you need it.
At the beginning of 2021 everything kind of clicked together and I heard from God again and He told me what to do. Pretty loud and clear. He wants me to be open and vulnerable about what I’ve experienced, because I’m not the only one. That’s why I’ve converted my own mental health toolkit into a 3 week workbook to help other moms.
Sometimes we just aren’t in a place where we need therapy, but we need something… We need to be proactive about our mental health and we need to have our mental health toolkit on standby. The Happy Mom Brain Workbook is that something. It’s already been really helpful to a handful of other women, with a lot of others who are really excited to get to work in theirs.
We don’t wait until we’re dehydrated to start drinking water, we drink it to avoid dehydration. Similarly, we have to stop waiting until we are facing depression and other mental disorder before we start taking care of ourselves. Proactive mental health needs to be a daily habit to keep us moms happy and healthy, for ourselves and for our families.