Mental Health Awareness: Finding Yourself in Parenthood

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What do you think of when you hear the term mental health? I personally think of the vast list of mental health disorders, from depression to schizophrenia, which are often stigmatized by society. The constant quest of the individual to understand and fix what is “wrong” with them. Hesitation in opening up about what they are going through, out of fear of rejection or judgment; I know, I have been there. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder at the age of 10. I have spent a lot of my life battling internal conflicts. And growing up, if I was not battling with myself, I was stirring up conflicts with those closest to me. However, at the age of twenty, I became a mom.

When I first found out I was pregnant in 2017, I was terrified. I was still in college, I had only been living on my own for three months, and I had never been certain if I truly wanted children. Yet there I was, seven weeks pregnant. While my depression and anxiety had previously been on the dormant side, finding out I was pregnant led to an eruption. I thought “how can I be a mom, responsible for another little life when I don’t have my own life figured out”? I started having random panic attacks multiple times a week and ended up suffering from post-partum depression. To this day, and another child later, I still struggle with my anxiety and depression. But being a mother has changed my outlook on my mental health drastically. I am no longer living just for myself, but for others as well.

You probably hear it all the time from others, “becoming a parent is the best thing that has ever happened to me”. And while I believe that is true, becoming a mom has also been one of the most trialing and draining aspects of my life, especially mentally. Mainly since I am still growing and trying to find myself as an individual. Which brings me back to the question of how do I navigate through life as an individual with my own personal problems, but also as a mom, responsible for raising little ones? I wish there was a straightforward answer, but the truth of the matter is that we all experience different realities. We all have different perceptions. We all have different emotional responses to the trials we face daily. We all have our differences, our own internal conflicts, our own concerns over mental health, but we also have things that can bring us closer together. If we can open ourselves up, become a little more vulnerable, we have the chance to not only learn more about ourselves but about those around us as well.

Mental Health Awareness Day was this fall and I spent a lot of the day looking at how far I have come and how far I still must go. I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that parenting is hard, finding yourself is hard, dealing with your mental health is hard, life, in general, is hard. That I will probably always have dormant periods and eruptions with my mental health. That being a parent and an individual is trial and error. Life is not meant to be easy, even though the fairytales we grow up reading would suggest otherwise. But there are things we can do to make this journey a little smoother. Such as creating a strong support system, finding hobbies and activities that bring you joy and create a sense of hope, staying true to yourself despite the fear of rejection or judgment, and reaching out for help when you need it. If you only gathered one thing from this post, I hope that it is that your trials and errors do not define you, your mental health does not define you, and that you are not alone. We are all in this together, trying to find ourselves and make sense of this thing called parenthood. 

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