Our mental health is too fragile not to protect.
Something was wrong. I was angry. I was hurting. I was grieving. I was burnt out. I knew I had to make a change, so I quit my job. I was having trouble sleeping, I was short with my co-workers, and I was short with my family at home. Covid had taken its toll working in social services, and after two solid years, I couldn’t do it anymore. It was time to move on. I severely lacked motivation. The solution seemed simple; I would leave my job. In my mind, this was the fix to feeling better.
The first week home was full of decompression and self-care. I got a pedicure, received a facial, had my hair done, and I ate lunch with my husband. I could feel myself getting lighter. But then week 2 came, and I was numb at times. Also sad and had an ache in me I couldn’t pinpoint. It didn’t make sense. I should have been ecstatic that I didn’t have to rush out the door on certain days. Or I could pick my son up when school is out. I could go back to bed, read, or watch whatever I wanted on TV during the day. Why didn’t I feel better?
I was struggling and crying in my mind for no reason at all. And then it hit me … like a ton of bricks …
I am depressed.
I figured it out. I named it. I was suffering from depression. I no longer had a mask like work, or events to focus on, it was just me. There was nothing to hide behind anymore.
There was some relief in identifying my mental health struggles, however, it meant the real work had to begin. I was low, and this meant I had to crawl out of this hole I had been digging for a very long time. Too long, honestly.
I confessed to my husband in the car one evening what I finally acknowledged to myself, “I’m depressed.” I said it matter-of-factly and let my words float in the car between us. His voice, soft and calm said, “I think you are, too.” We talked a little while more about where I was mentally and emotionally. In my mind, I didn’t know how to start processing. Where do I begin? How do I start this journey? I wasn’t a stranger to depression, but this felt more daunting than previous times. While I had experienced a great deal of loss during this time, I tried to identify when I started struggling. Truth is, I have no idea. With COVID, my concept of time has seemed skewed, but I believe it’s been gradual for at least a year.
This was more than grief, this was more than burnout. Depression had taken hold of me slowly. Like me, it happens to so many people unknowingly. You think it’s a phase of sadness or a trigger and assume it will get better tomorrow. But the feelings continued to be pushed down, I kept pushing forward, never acknowledging it.
If you asked me how I was doing during that time, I would answer, “fine” or “I’m here.” Subconsciously I couldn’t say how I was really feeling. That would mean admitting to myself I was floundering. The reality was I was numb and didn’t care.
Then the journey started to bring myself to fully face my depression. I made an appointment with my therapist. I hadn’t spoken to her in over a year, but it was the start of where to narrow down what I needed and begin working through emotions. My husband made a point to get me out of the house on the weekends to get in the sunshine. I told some of my closest friends how I had been feeling and I didn’t recognize myself anymore. Again, admitting it was a huge weight being taken off my shoulders.
Little by little, I was starting to feel better, lighter, and as though the fog was lifting.
It has been six months since I fully broke down and came to the reality of facing my mental health. I’ve had far more good days than bad days. And it’s okay when a bad day happens, it’s always a process.
I wrote this piece because, as mothers, we have many different layers. We are multifaceted, meaning we’re not just moms. We’re wives and partners, friends, co-workers, etc. And when something such as working through depression hits us, the ripple effect spreads far and wide. It wasn’t until recently I was emotionally and mentally able to have a tough conversation with a lifelong friend. Prior to then I physically didn’t have the energy to talk on the phone. I knew my limitations, and being in a bad headspace would not have been good for either of us.
It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay not to completely understand why you’re feeling a certain way. Help is available. You can now dial 988, which is free and confidential support for people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.