Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

M’aider: help me

repeated three times in a row

internationally recognized distress call

Next 31 days – third May I’ve tackled mental health issues for a month straight

It is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, the beginning of a month dedicated to opening dialogue and resources to all women in the perinatal realm; that is, attempting to conceive, prenatal, postpartum, and living the dream.  There are air quotes around that last phrase there – because sometimes mothering can be a nightmare – for too many reasons to list here, but May is a month dedicated to the mental health of mothers, be their struggles situational, emotional, or physical.

As maternal mental health is an issue close to my heart – and psyche – I endeavor to share my own experiences throughout this month and explore others’ and share information.  The fact that I haven’t made it each May since the inception of this blog is an illustrative example of my life and the raison d’etre of the blog itself.

While I was blogging in 2012, I’d only just started my fifth month.  And while I’d signed my name in ink and blood on its byline, I don’t know that I was fully in mind of where my daily life and mental health intersected.  By 2013, I felt comfortable enough in the platform to tackle a month-long series to raise mental health awareness and work to eradicate stigma.  Even then, I still saw the month as other; a separate function of my blog.  I showcased the fabulous Blog for Mental Health Project, but hadn’t taken the pledge myself, feeling unworthy since my blog wasn’t dedicated solely to discussion of mental illness and health.  By 2014, I was ready to laser my focus on not only mental illness, but the flavor that burned the back of my tongue after the birth of my third, inciting this whole process: maternal mental health.  Ironically, this laser focus blew everything wide open.  I began to realize that my blog was always focused on mental health even if I wasn’t discussing DSM or sharing the latest research; because mental health, whether an individual accepts it or not, affects every. aspect. of. one’s. life.  

And then, 2015, I didn’t log daily posts during May.  Perhaps I was burned out by the idea of daily posts with my three minions around.  Maybe I felt I’d saturated my serial idea.   I know I wasn’t naive enough to think I’d covered it all.  Maybe I was naive enough to think my life had hit critical mass and I didn’t have the time.

Because in May of 2016, irony of all ironies, I gave birth to my fourth child.  Another surprise.  Another girl.  But a new beginning with no mental health issues – other than the low-grade ones I’d been dealing with for the previous seven years.  Needless to say, a month-long daily series did not occur with a newborn.

Enter 2017.  I’m going to try to climb back on the horse, though it may look more like the dark ride of the ring wraith than the victorious march of the Mother of Dragons.

I’m not promising anything – except my ever-continuing support of all those struggling with mental health issues.

The Hairy Crumb

Do you remember when you were a child and your mother seemed so neat and tidy, so put together? She would whip the house into shape in no time. Flit about the house each morning, making beds, washing breakfast dishes, hanging clean laundry to dry in the sun.

You knew she did it, but it never occurred to you how. You never weighed the drudgery of the tasks, the tedious amounts of effort that went into the seemingly effortless job she did.

Did the tasks weigh on her the way they do you? Another item added to the to-do list adding one more stone upon your chest. The never-ending monotony of it threatening to suffocate you like a toppled tower of laundry. The disarray around you making you feel like a failure.

The hairy crumb on the floor taking on a life of its own, sucking the life out of yours spiraling out of control.

Keeping house probably didn’t send your mother into the existential angst of a panic attack. Not because she emulated June Cleaver, but because she was not (is not) ruled by anxiety. She would not take on more than she could chew. And if she did pack her calendar, she’d know how to prioritize to make it all work. She did not suffer from the irrational desire for physical orderliness as a means of reining in her mental and emotional chaos.

Or maybe you’re seeing your mother through the eyes of a child – a superhero who can do all effortlessly and heroically. Perhaps not unlike your own children see you. Only you’re pretty sure you never saw her sitting on the floor, hands hovering near her heart, tense and twitching, physically trying to push. the. demands. away.

Maybe

At the beginning of May, I set out on a mental health mission.  May being Mental Health Month, I wanted to dedicate a daily post to a condition of, treatment for, and/or living with mental illness.  While my life is influenced by my own struggle with depression, and all of my posts are therefore colored by it, I wanted these series of posts to address mental illness and health dead on.  And with the exception of one day, I did it!  And learned some interesting things in the process.

What a month of blogging about mental illness and health will teach you:

  • Focusing on your depression and what it does to you everyday makes you even more depressed
  • I may have exhausted not only myself, but also those around me.
  • Daily blogging (I had previously blogged approximately two times a week) made this ‘stay-at-home mom’ feel like I had a purpose, a vocation, a “real” job.  I had set that schedule for myself and had to stick to it.  I made writing – something I truly enjoy – a priority.
  • Daily blogging made my house look like a pit.  Making my writing a priority pushed nearly everything else to the wayside.
  • I need to work on time management 😉
  • If you write it, they will come – eventually
  • There are a lot of super-supportive people who write incredibly thoughtful comments.
  • I feel your pain’, though overused, is not a pile of horseshit.  It is extremely powerful to connect with someone who has, indeed, felt your pain.
  • That I over-catastrophize (yes, I may be making up words again).  I missed one day in my blog-a-day-a-month challenge and a bushel basket of chopped potatoes did not come crashing down upon my head.
  • That given the chance to slack, I will.  June 1 rolled around and I let the rest of life come rushing back in.
  • That, sometimes to a fault, I engage both sides of an argument, an issue, etc.  I’m forever writing that big pro/con list in the sky, which may make me come across as wishy-washy, fickle, not knowing my @## from my elbow (compare the two previous points!)
  • That achieving balance is to continually adjust on the tightrope of life.  Urgh.
  • That telling your deepest, darkest fears and foibles makes you incredibly vulnerable – or at least feeling that way.
  • That people like to know they’re not the only one feeling that way.
  • That one month of posts is not enough to explore all there is to know about mental health and illness.
  • That although I started the month of May thinking these posts would be a departure from my usual in that they directly addressed mental health and illness, there really is no separating out depression from everyday life.  It’s the constant mantle on our shoulders, sometimes blowing lightly in the wind, sometimes soaking wet with rain.

So, now it’s back to operation ‘normal’, whatever the hell that is.  I did miss writing about my crazy adventures and travails as a mom.  I did miss writing something “positive” or life affirming (I tried during May, but felt like most of it was heavy).  I’ll be glad to write something that doesn’t make you think I loathe my children and the life I lead.  But I guess I won’t be giving up writing about mental health and illness; that is woven into the fiber of my being for better or worse.  Maybe I’m finally learning to live with that.

Getting from “I can’t” to “I’ve GOT this”

“We have to let go of what the world wants us to hang onto and hold onto what the world wants us to let go of.”

The wise deacon who gave the homily this Sunday morning spoke these words.
But how do we operate within this paradox?
Why is it always about balance?
How much of it is our attitude and how much is our chemical make-up?
What miracles will ‘heal’ us if we believe?
This post raised similar questions.

Off Duty Mom

I have struggled for most of my adult life with borderline depression and probably a little anxiety, too.  These things, however, have not existed in real life like I would have imagined they would.

cryingI had previously figured that depression was reserved for people who had SOMETHING to be sad about.  And those poor saps wouldn’t be able to get out of bed each morning.  They would cry constantly.  They would probably resort to maniacal meth usage, would wear all-black and would get swoopy haircuts, but would ultimately not really wash or style their hair much, anyway.

I figured that people who had anxiety would be nervous wrecks 100% of the time, would talk really fast, drink too much coffee, talk incessantly about governmental conspiracy theories, and would be all twitchy and weird.

Most of that stuff is dead wrong.  For me, at least.  Except, I could get into a…

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