The goal of the Mental Health Mom Series is for Moms and Moms-to-be to share their stories to be used to help inspire, uplift and spread awareness about mental health and motherhood.
Whether you suffer from depression, PPD, PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder or something else your story may help change the life of another mom reader and that’s important to me!
A submission by Michelle of The Artful Ambler
When I started blogging six months ago, I knew I needed to have a target audience, as any good entrepreneur knows. Knowing that as a fact didn’t help me figure it out, though. I knew that I wanted to help and build a community of women like myself, but after thinking about it for a good long while, I realized that I really didn’t know who I was. So how was I supposed to connect with “women like me?”
I remember knowing who I was at 22. California girl through-and-through, I spent my days off at the beach, and my nights with friends either out dancing, or shooting pool. Then I met this fine-ass (and equally hilarious) Marine who loved heavy metal just as much as I did, and my whole world got turned on its head.
We were friends for a couple of months before we started dating, and eight months after that, we were married. Then we discovered that, by a fluke, I was pregnant just three months after our wedding.
I had a literal panic attack before I took the pregnancy test because I knew I was pregnant and I was NOT ready. We had discussed having kids eventually, but I wasn’t finished with college (and I wasn’t even really sure what I wanted to do for a career), and I had just gotten laid off – this was during the height of the recession.
But baby came anyway, and of course, I instantly fell in love. I decided to stay at home, because, like most new moms, I couldn’t fathom leaving my infant with someone else during the day. So hubby re-enlisted, and we were sent off to Japan. While we were there, we had another baby (intentionally this time, haha). I also realized that I wanted to study fashion design.
My husband left the Marine Corps after eight years, and we settled down in his home state of Texas. We both started school, and I got a retail job so I could be in fashion. But then I quit school because I realized I couldn’t work and do school, and take care of my family at the same time.
Hustle as I might, I ended up being miserable because I just didn’t have time to spend with my kids. So, I hustled at work, and just over a year later, we were able to purchase our very first home. Then, we were again surprised with a pregnancy. So I left my retail job and went back to being a stay-at-home-mom.
That’s where the mental health portion of this story comes in. Now, I’ve dealt with moderate anxiety since I was a teenager. I remember crying over an AP History homework question that I couldn’t find the answer to, no matter how many times I re-read the text. I’ve always been a very emotional person, but my anxiety can heighten that to an unreasonable level.
Thankfully I was able to figure out how to manage it pretty early on, and have been able to use meditation and breathing techniques to reduce or get through panic attacks. But depression was something I had never really dealt with. Besides an odd super-gloomy day here and there, I hadn’t experienced PPD, baby blues, or anything of the sort.
Then all of a sudden, about six months after my youngest was born, it hit me like a freaking brick on the head. I had been breaking down crying every two or three days because I was just overwhelmed with everything. And “everything” was just normal, everyday stuff.
The dishes would pile up in the sink, or I’d step on a LEGO, and either lose my temper or sit down on the couch and not do anything for hours because the weight on my chest was physically painful. I barely got up to feed and change the baby, let alone do dishes or laundry.
After about a month and a half of this, I finally realized that it wasn’t just a really bad bout of anxiety and that it wasn’t going away. Finally, I went to the doctor and got a prescription. While it helped immensely in treating my depression, and my mood swings became much better, something was still a bit off.
That brings me back to the blog. Having to figure out my target audience helped me realize what was off, and it forced me to figure out why. I didn’t know who I was, because, in my seven years of being a mom, I spent all my time taking care of other people, without taking time for myself.
And it took me an actual mental breakdown to realize it. Y’all, the last time I had a pedicure was before my second daughter was born. Four and a half YEARS ago. WTF? I feel like I went straight from 20-year-old party girl to 40-year-old mom (and I’m not even 40 yet).
Now, I absolutely love being able to stay at home and take care of my babies. But I’ve realized that I also need a life outside of my family. I need to have an adult conversation with someone other than my husband (as much as I love him). I need to get a damn pedicure and go shopping by myself, for myself.
I need to make some local girlfriends (my best friend is thousands of miles away), and actually, hang out with the few that I do have. I need to figure out who I am as a woman because in being a mother, I forgot that the two aren’t mutually inclusive.
I need a balance.
Because as much as I love being a mom, I also love being “me.” And when I figure out who that is, I think I’ll be an even better, healthier mama.
Who are you?
Michelle Fehrenbach is the founder and author of The Artful Ambler, a blog where she hopes to help other women find their balance by providing information and inspiration to help make life easier. Her favorite things include eating tacos, swimming in the ocean, and loving on her dogs
(and the rest of her family).