This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), so I’m going green–the awareness color of mental illness.
To be honest, I didn’t know MIAW existed until I saw this picture posted to Notre Dame’s Instagram account. Notre Dame has illuminated their iconic campus mural green this week to raise awareness for MIAW (in addition to the numerous events planned on campus). click on the picture for the full article
As if I couldn’t love Notre Dame more.
Why does MIAW matter?
Because millions of people live with mental illness. 42 MILLION live with some type of anxiety disorder; nearly 15 MILLION have major depression.
Because mental illness is stigmatized.
Because many with mental illness are afraid to speak out or ask for help.
Because One in FOUR adults will experience mental illness.
Because I am one of those four–and stigma and fear still make me feel embarrassed and afraid to type that.
During my 6 week postpartum visit, I talked to my doctor and he asked a few follow up questions. “An isolated incident. Not regular pattern.” Ok, sounds right. We both wrote off PPD. I escaped.
I went back to work to be a lawyer, a wife, mom to 2 kids, manage a house, and 2 dogs. I did a damn good job at it, too. I was like every new working mom. I’d get tired, I felt worn. I began to rationalize the tired, mood as “just” part of being a working mom with two kids. In reality, I knew that whatever I was feeling had a deeper culprit–I wasn’t just tired.
Then the anxiety started and I knew something wasn’t right. I had never struggled with anxiety–at least not that I knew of. Thinking back, I realize I probably always have.
I recognized my symptoms when I read Jill’s blog, and 6 months after Allie was born, I talked to my doctor again. This time there was no doubt, but I didn’t have the classic PPD everyone knows about. I had postpartum anxiety (PPA)–something I didn’t even know existed–until I read about it on Postpartum Progress.
I wanted to be able to blog about living with PPA-the ups, the downs, the treatment, all of it. The best resources I had were the people who had been through it. The women who had lived it and come out on the other side and shared their stories. I wanted that to be me for someone else. The stigma and fear of what others would think kept me from doing it. It still does–mostly.
As a professional with a family, the consequences of admitting to having PPA can silence you into submission. It’s scary to wonder how you’ll be judged by the real people in your life. Would they think I’m any less capable of everything I’ve already accomplished? It’s just easier to put on the face and pretend that nothing is going on. Telling yourself that nothing is wrong makes it so, right? Nope.
If you read my blog at all over the last year, you know it has been a bit rough–go back and you’ll see radio silence that you can track through the ebb and flow of anxiety and depression. I’ll admit it was an uphill battle that sometimes felt like it would never end.
That’s where an incredible network of friends and professionals comes in. The right doctor. The right meds. The right everything. I’m so glad that I never felt shamed for seeking help–I know others who have. I’m thankful for a loving husband, wonderful kids, a great dad, and an awesome support system.
It’s been a long road that has required a lot of work, patience, love, open minds, care, and prayers, but things are better. Things are good.
Now you know that mental illness doesn’t just affect who you think it does. It’s the guy next door. The neighbor down the street. The coworker in the next cube. The girl putting on the happy face and saying hello.
So with all of that said…
My name is Jess. I suffer from anxiety and depression. I am an ass kicker and a fighter, and I will win this war.
Never be afraid to ask for help.
Always be proactive.
You are never alone.
Every storm runs out of rain.
Here’s a link to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.