Mental Health Awareness Month

For those of you who don’t know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to post on a subject that is extremely important to me.

According to the CDC, 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year, with depression being the most common diagnosis. And did you know that, also according to the CDC, women are 1 1/2- 3 times more likely to experience mental illness?

In addition, mental illness increases your risk of many physical illnesses such as heart disease, weight fluctuation, low bone density in women, and inflammation, just to name a few. While it is clear to many that mental health is just as important as physical health, getting treatment can be much more difficult, costly, and viewed with stigma.

I could go on, and on, and cite statistic after statistic about mental health, the stigma around it, and its effect on people, but all of that is easily accessible online. What I really want to address in this post is this: 1 out of 5 people will experience symptoms of mental illness this year. Over half of those will be women, which means, many of those struggling with their mental health will be mothers.

I want to say that I know firsthand how hard it is to be a mom and struggle with your mental health. I was diagnosed with PTSD and depression at the age of 19. Over 25 years later, it is still something I struggle with. Therapy helped, medication helped, education helped, but what helped the most was knowing that I was not alone, and that I did not need to feel ashamed.

As a mom, I already feel guilt over so many little things. Are my kids eating enough vegetables? (In the case of my 6-year-old the answer is absolutely not.) I didn’t make the book fair or class field trip because I had to work. I yelled too much, or lost patience over something stupid. Well, when my depression hits, I disconnect and spend more time watching tv or on my phone. I struggle to get out of the house, or interact with others. Simple tasks like cooking dinner or folding laundry begin to feel like monumental events. My energy is drained, and my emotions, especially the happy ones, are slightly numbed. I KNOW my kids feel it, and it always makes me feel even worse.

Over the years, I have learned what medications and coping mechanisms help me get through these periods the most. In my younger days, I fought the feelings. I looked for any quick fix to make the misery stop, but I have learned those quick fixes often just make it worse. So now I let the depression flow. I remind myself it is temporary and that it always passes if I give it enough time. I write, I draw, I make myself talk to friends, I make plans for myself, and I make myself take walks and get outside. I remind myself that my brain is malfunctioning and that no matter what it says. If given the choice between this mom and no mom my children would still choose this mom, And if I just hang on the light starts to peek through again. Once that happens I’m able to be the mom that I try to be again. I hope that I am teaching my children resilience in the face of difficulty.

So, during this month of mental health awareness, I am telling my story to help reduce stigma, increase hope, and so that other moms who face mental health challenges are not afraid to ask for help, and stop beating themselves up for not being the “best mom.” Know that you CAN get help, you CAN get through this, you are not alone, and to your kids, your existence means more than your bad days.

 

Some of the ‘art therapy’ I’ve done. 

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Lauren Eber
Lauren is originally from the Laurel Highlands area in Westmoreland County. However, she lived in West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia before returning to South Western Pennsylvania after having her two youngest children to be closer to family. She and her husband have a blended family, each have a teen daughter from previous relationships, and at the ages of 39 and 40, they added two boys to their family. Lauren shares custody of her daughter, with her daughter’s father, who lives in West Virginia, while she, her husband, stepdaughter, the two elementry school age boys, and their three legged rescue dog now live in Mount Lebanon. In addition to being a mom, Lauren works full-time as an interior designer at a local kitchen and bath design center. She also enjoys reading, crafts, drawing, spending time in the mountains, writing, photography, watching the Penguins play, and eating vegetarian wings at The Double Wide Grill. She loves connecting with other moms and feels it is essential for moms to have a community of other women who support and encourage them on their parenting journey.