Friday, October 18, 2019

365: Mental Health Month

October 18 is part of Mental Health Month. Mental health awareness is something that is near and dear to my heart. In full transparency, I was diagnosed with depression around the age of 8 and anxiety not too long after that. I grew up in a world that made you feel less than if you shared anything about your mental health. Luckily, I had the love and support of my parents, and I want to make sure that Jude understands that there is no stigma in our house for mental illness. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

Honest truth time

I had a lot of anxiety during my pregnancy with Jude. We tried for 2 years to make him. We did IUIs and meds and it was very stressful. I stopped taking all of my psych medication during that period to try to help my fertility. I was depressed, anxious, and just overall defeated. When I finally got pregnant, I was terrified something bad would happen to one of us. To the point where I made Jay promise that he wouldn't resent Jude if something happened to me during labor. My anxiety completely took over.
After I had Jude, my anxiety didn't let up. I spent hours during the night watching him breathe for fear that he would stop when I wasn't paying attention. I was drowning and unable to enjoy my sweet miracle. I was put back on medication after an honest conversation with my PCP. It helped, but I threw myself completely into being a mother, a busy one at that, to combat any anxiety. A part of me knew that if we slowed down, I would likely not leave the house, and Jude and I would spend our days on the couch.
When I left my career in December before ever actually returning, a new wave of anxiety and depression entered my life. What was I going to do now that I wasn't a teacher? I spent so many years with my entire identity being wrapped up in education that I felt like I was spiraling endlessly when that chapter closed. I felt myself starting to sink back down, and I knew that I needed something to focus on. Thus, Chicka Chicka Mama was birthed. I love teaching. I love Jude. I love writing. And, I needed something to pour all my energy in. This blog keeps me busy. It helps Jude learn and grow. Most importantly, to me at least, this blog is therapeutic. It keeps my brain working. It encourages both me and Jude to step out of our comfort zone. This blog has kept me grounded, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I felt compelled to share my story for Mental Health Month as a way to normalize mental health and more importantly, normalize postpartum mental health. Postpartum depression and anxiety is not just reserved for women that have a predisposition to depression and anxiety. Stigmatizing new mothers who are scared and overwhelmed is an epidemic in our medical system and society, and I want women out there to know that they are not alone.

Celebrating the holiday

With all of that said, to celebrate the holiday, Hanna, Jude, and I took to the streets of downtown Cincinnati to do activities that fed positivity into our souls. We met up with Jude's Pappy (Hanna's father/my father-in-law) and he bought us all lunch. We ate delicious bagels from The Bagelry. And, best of all, we got to spend some quality time with Pappy!
After lunch, we went to The Candle Lab. It's a shop that allows you to sniff about a hundred scents and they help you create a candle, spray, or wax tart based on what you liked. You get to design the logo, pick the name, choose how much of the three scents you want in it, and pour it yourself. A few hours later, you stop back in and your product is done. I let Jude create a spray based on the scents he seemed drawn to. I would give him option and he would attempt to drink one, and that's the one that I chose. Hanna and I both created candles.
We finished our adventure at the Contemporary Arts Center in the Unmuseum. Jude was able to run around. We saw an old friend. We played with interactive art. Hanna and I got to sit down with the artist in residence, Simone Yael, and participate in a short writer's workshop. It was an unexpected and much needed activity. Jude colored and danced while we did that. We all left refreshed.
Take the time to prioritize your mental health. Talk about how you feel. Take days dedicated to doing things that positively impact you. Be open and honest with your loved ones and be a safe space if you are able to. And please, please, please support your children's mental health. Make sure your kids know that mental health and honest conversations about it are not wrong or taboo. The stigma we have placed on mental health is a learned behavior. Let's make sure the next generation doesn't have to live with the stigma.

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