Mental Health

Today I’m going to talk about something that is not talked about enough in America. Let alone in the community of motherhood. Some of you may have already guessed what I’m going to discuss. I want to start a conversation today just to open up about mental health. As I’m sure most of you know mental health is such a broad topic and there are so many alleyways you can explore within that realm. Today I will just be giving a broad overview of mental health and how I’ve dealt with and still currently deal with my mental health. My son was born August 27, 2022 and my mental health has taken a roller coaster ride since that day. Actually, let me backup and preface this with a backstory to my mental health as this has been an ongoing struggle since high school. From around sophomore year which would pin me around 15 years old I knew something just wasn’t right internally. Growing up I never really fit into anyone’s friend group at school. Moving around to multiple schools didn’t help with that either. The school I graduated from didn’t become my school until half way through 6th grade year. There are so many changes going on at that time for children and adding on the stress of a new school environment can be overwhelming. Throughout middle school I did have a few friends to hang out with and I also played volleyball 7th and 8th grade year. However, high school hit extremely hard on my social life. Freshman year I slowly realized all of my “friends” started new friend groups that I no longer was a part of. Sophomore year it was even more apparent that I was alone and felt a deep sense of unloveableness and unworthiness. I remember one specific day it had came to a head for me. It was a Sunday and I had felt so unbearably low that day. My parents had noticed and asked, “why are you acting like that?” I replied along the lines of I felt so terrible inside but I didn’t know what I was feeling. Essentially I couldn’t identify my emotions and thoughts at the time because I was never taught how to express emotions and thoughts in a healthy way. I’m not sure what 15 year old really ever knows how to do that. They are children that are still trying to navigate their world while going through puberty. The response I received from my parents is something that is still imprinted in my head to this day and I can hear them say it plain as day still. “If you can’t tell us what’s wrong then there’s nothing wrong” How invalidating! I think to myself now that I’m a parent and can’t for the life of me fathom ever telling my child that if they can’t put into words what’s bothering them then it must not be real. As a child who struggled with self esteem and worthiness that was something I never needed to hear. To this day I still have trouble validating my feelings and experiences even for myself. However, most of the time I’m able to recognize what’s going on and combat those thoughts. I remember a fight with my dad which was typically me doing something any typical teenager would do and being screamed at for an hour about it and then told I was just making excuses. I was never allowed to have thoughts, inputs or feelings of my own as a child. One fight we had ended with me going to my room and looking up “how to kill yourself”…… at the ripe age of 15. How terribly lonely and sad I felt to think that the only way to make all of this stop was to end everything for myself. I still grapple with this to this day. I graduated at 16 years old from high school. Looking back now I still think it was a good decision for me to be done with high school but I did grow up way too fast. Once I graduated high school I was essentially a full functioning adult with minimal support in my corner and began a terrible relationship with my mental health. I went to Ohio University Eastern campus for fall of 2015. I started as a criminology major because the end goal was becoming an attorney….. I couldn’t have been more off about myself. But again what 16 year old knows what is to come in life. I took 12 credit hours, worked 30 hours a week working evenings/nights as a cashier at Walmart and then would study and do homework until 2 or 3 in the morning. Rinse and repeat every single day. I knew it wasn’t normal to have as much energy as I did while only sleeping 3 or 4 hours a night but I never knew a name for what was happening or just how damaging that was for me. After completing my second semester at OUE I decided I wanted to become a psychology major because it was more in line with what I had decided I wanted. To which I was told “You are not changing your major.” Because ya know no college kid has ever changed their major…. Not ever…. I guess going in as undecided must not be a thing either. So that was the first of many dropouts in my college career. The October after I turned 18 I was kicked out of my parents house and again had to navigate the entire world on my own. It threw me into such a deep depression I again wanted to die. This was around the time I discovered alcohol and began to use it as my saving grace. This continued for longer than I would like to admit. I moved to Columbus in 2017 with my mom and had decided to go to OSU and study you guessed it… psychology! Going to OSU was so challenging and amazing at the same time. Studying hard all week long and partying every weekend was my way of life. 2018 was the first year I hit rock bottom. I met my now ex-fiancee that year and that relationship developed too quickly. One night after hanging out twice he stayed the night and never left. We ended up getting engaged after two months and had moved into a house shortly after. I dropped out of school for the second time to pursue the role of housewife and we were trying for kids as well. July of 2018 one day before my 20th birthday was my first inpatient hospitilization for my first of many suicide attempts by overdose. I couldn’t cope with life. I was binge drinking every day and my relationship had become unbearable. I was hospitalized two more times in 2018 for trying to take my life. The second time was the day after Thanksgiving and the third time was the week before Christmas. Two of my favorite holidays. I just didn’t care anymore and couldn’t stand the idea of being alive. Between trialing with many many medications and not sleeping it was too much. This was also the year I obtained the labels of bipolar II, GAD, Borderline and PTSD. All of which are still prevalent as I’m typing this. Coming to an acceptance that these four labels characterize who I am as a person was shocking and brought on more shame than I like to admit. Through the next couple years I would drop out of school two more times, work odd jobs and essentially keep attempting to take my life. I have had 8 inpatient hospitalizations for attempting to take my own life. The last one was October of 2022. When I was pregnant I had an extremely difficult situation with my child’s father that brought on a lot of loneliness and depression because I was alone and no one was coming to save me. I had to figure out how to make it work for my son mentally, physically and financially. All of that on a mentally struggling pregnant woman was so much and I still to this day don’t know how I made it through. There were a lot of days on the weekend I only got out of bed to eat and pee. That was it. Once my son got here it ramped up. In the hospital I experienced the baby blues which was extremely difficult for me because I was always taught that crying was a sign of weakness and I was crying all of the time. We went home a few days after he was born and I didn’t have any clue how I was going to take care of this tiny human and myself at the same time. Terrified of how things would go I left the hospital clinging to the hope that everything would be okay. The first week was absolute hell. The first seven days I only slept 10 hours. Exhausted doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt and the state I was in at the end of that week. Getting up every 2 or 3 hours (sometimes sooner) feeding a bottle for an hour then attempting to pump and get cleaned up took up so much time. I was lucky to get even 30 minutes in between the wake times. I can remember the night my milk first came in like it was yesterday. I had just fed him his bottle and sat on the couch to use my electric pump for the first time. I was absolutely clueless on how to use it. The instructions were not helpful and here I was feeling so exhausted and stupid. It was 3 am and my baby was in his swing screaming while i’m trying to pump and it was a complete meltdown for me at that moment. I knew i needed help which isn’t something I typically like to admit but I knew I needed it so I called my mom at 3am to ask her to come help put Declan to sleep so I could attempt to pump. She came right over and helped and yet again I felt stupid for not even being able to pump and calm my baby. As if a brand new mom would have any idea what she is doing let alone doing it perfectly. I was on maternity leave from work for 8 weeks. Throughout those 8 weeks I had many highs and lows. Being that I struggle with bipolar and not sleeping and eating pretty much at all I experienced a manic episode in October. I have bipolar II so it is a little less intense and I’m very insightful into my mental health so I was able to recognize what was happening eventually. No I could not stop this episode from happening but I was able to keep me and my baby safe. I will just say it now for all of you…IT’S OKAY TO PUT YOUR BABY DOWN! If you are feeling overwhelmed and not thinking clearly it is perfectly okay to lay them in their crib and take a few minutes to recompose yourself. It is the best thing you can do at that time for the health and wellbeing of you and baby. In the hospital it was drilled in from many of the staff to put the baby down if I needed to (mostly because they knew I was doing this alone). I was so offended thinking that they truly thought I wasn’t competent enough to care for my baby. This was one of those things that you don’t know until you know. After about 4 days I realized they were right and it was okay. To this day I still have to do this because sometimes it gets to be too overwhelming and I don’t have anyone here to pass the baton too. Sometimes when he’s having a hard time and so am I just realizing that I don’t have anyone to help and no one is coming to help is so upsetting and upsetting in and of itself that I have to put him down to recompose myself. I love my son and would never hurt him so sometimes the best thing for both of us is a time out. I make sure he is fed, dry, and a clean diaper. No fever or pain and then I give him a kiss and tell him I love him and place him in his crib. I will set a timer for 10-15 minutes and then resume what we were doing when the timer goes off. It has honestly been my saving grace most days. His temperament is very non chill and most of the days we are home all day he is fussy for more than half the day. When you are the only one with your baby and you are in charge of taking care of them, yourself and the house it can become overwhelming extremely quickly. Having a manic episode when my baby was two months old was extremely hard for me. Choosing to not sleep because I thought it was better if I didn’t and not eating because I had better things to do wreaked havoc on my mental state even more. Prior to getting pregnant I had been on Abilify and Remiron for two years. It had been my holy grail for two years and had only been hospitalized twice since finding that combo. Coming off of the meds was a personal choice that did some damage. I tried going back on the meds but my body chemistry has changed and a lot of antipsychotics make me sick. I was given seroquel and while it sedated me I still could not sleep. I was just very out of it when I woke up after taking it the first time. Being sedated and detached is not it when you are providing for an infant so that was a definite no go for me. I went back to work at the end of October and it was honestly the best thing for me. I needed to have some separation from being with Declan 24/7 and to be amongst other adults. Eventually work was no longer a good fit for me. I will not speak on the issues at work. However, I will say the environment was not healthy for me anymore which caused a lot of anxiety and mental issues for me. Between working full time in an environment that gave me anxiety which is draining, being a full time single mom, and still trying to take care of myself I reached a state of burn out around Thanksgiving. It was absolutely terrible and scary for me. I decided two weeks into December that I was going to need to do a PHP/IOP program in order to keep myself well. I ended up starting the program at OSU and it has been helping tremendously. I will be discharging from the program this week after being there for almost a month. It didn’t fix everything but I feel a lot more stable and like I have a direction to move in with my new outpatient provider. I know that was a lot to digest but obviously this is a very big thing happening in my life and I felt drawn to share with you guys because I don’t believe mental health and motherhood is discussed enough. I will continue to keep the conversation going about mental health as I am a huge advocate for mental health. 

Until next time,

Ness

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