I felt helpless
My mother died from breast cancer complications when I was a twenty-one year old graduate student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. My mental health began to decline around that time—I wasn’t ready to lose her. Feelings of anxiety and depression had plagued me all my life, but growing up, I never attributed those experiences to mental health problems. I thought those experiences were normal. They were not. After my mom’s death, it took a lot for me to return to school and complete my degree. Mom would have wanted me to finish, so I couldn’t quit.
Completing school and moving back to Little Rock would help put an end to my grief and stress, or so I thought. Little did I know, it was only the start of another emotionally and mentally trying time in my life. Full-time employment was elusive, even with my advanced degree. Within six months, I lost two cars and my boyfriend lost his fulltime job. In addition to all of that, I found out I was going to be a mother. My boyfriend and I only had two part time jobs between us. How could I support my child when I couldn’t support myself? I was scared and yearned for my mother’s advice and comfort again.
I felt like there was a dark cloud hanging over me. My days were emotionally and mentally unbearable and my nights were sleepless. I was afraid that something bad was going to happen, and in that state of anxiety, my mind could not rest. Angry and hurt, I pushed several people away, even my boyfriend and our child. It became painfully clear that I had to seek help.
I SOUGHT HELP
The fear and worry of how my depression was affecting my child led me to seek professional help. A psychiatrist in my community diagnosed me with depression and anxiety, and with therapeutic help, I was able to begin processing deep emotions. I learned that I was still grieving deeply for my mother. It was so hard for me to move on past her death. Prior to therapy, when I faced challenges and knew that my mother was no longer there to support me, I would spiral down emotionally and keep my mind busy to keep from grieving. Through therapy, I found coping mechanisms to help me through periodic bouts of anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. I also learned how to hold on to the amazing memories of my mother while slowly letting go of the pain of life without her.
Prior to therapy, the various events and experiences in my life after my mother’s death led me to withdraw from people and stuff my true feelings. Outside of my home, I pretended that everything was great. I wanted to portray the life of a happy, wonderful new mother. I didn’t want people to think I was incapable in any way, so I kept my struggle private. Seeking therapeutic support was a scary step for me, but it has helped me in so many ways. It helped me become the best person I could become for my family and myself.
I WANT TO OWN WHO I AM
People have a misconception of taking medication for mental health but there is none when taking medication for physical health. I helped myself by seeking professional help where I received medication for my illness and attended therapy regularly. My depression and anxiety does not make or define me.
Today, I am in a better place in life. I am no longer ashamed of who I am and the struggles I dealt with when it came to my grief and mental health. I am so thankful for those who stood by me. I am grateful for their patience and understanding, even when I was ugly and hurtful to them. Every day, I am able to get up and fight for my health instead of pushing away the ones I love. I joined Youth Home’s #LiveStigmaFree Campaign because I know I’m not the only one who struggles with mental health. I want others to know that they do not have to be ashamed or afraid of what people think. Through my story, I hope people can find the courage and strength to seek help.