Parents, we need to talk about mental health issues.

I’ve been trying to find new ways to cope.

Warning: This post contains strong language and triggering content.

“We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed.¬†Coffee¬†solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.”

I think the above quote from Jerry Seinfeld describes my current relationship with coffee almost perfectly spot on. It gives me a good kind of anxiety that helps me cross things off my to-do list every week. Like I’m in control of something in my life.

Now, I hate to admit it, but depressive¬†episodes still happen to me every once in a while. After PJ’s first birthday passed, I thought I was going to be in the clear from postpartum depression, and this emotional and hormonal crap could be put behind me.

Well, yesterday just proved me wrong.

Seemingly out of nowhere after being productive and finishing up dinner, I started feeling sad, which caused me to ruminate about all of the things I couldn’t control in my life, reliving all of the bad things that were happening to me while I saw everyone else around me thriving, happy, and unaware of my emotional anguish and pain. That set off the thought pattern of depression – that I am useless, I’m a burden, I suck at everything, I’m a piece of garbage (but at least I know I’m a piece of garbage human being, and that makes me feel a bit better).

This inner dialogue from BoJack Horseman really hits the nail on the head of the kind of thought process that happens to me while I’m in a bout of depression:

“I don’t deserve breakfast. Shut up. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, what does that do? Go get yourself some breakfast you stupid fat ass.”

“These are cookies, this is not breakfast. You are eating cookies. Stop it. Stop eating cookies and go make yourself breakfast. Stop it. Don’t eat one more cookie. Put that cookie down. Do not eat that cookie. I can’t believe you ate that cookie.”

(I shouldn’t be able to relate to a fictional character so much, especially not one like BoJack.)

That fun voice in my head decided to pay me a visit after being on vacation for a few months apparently. I was completely unprepared to deal with it. I was feeding PJ dinner and she was throwing a fit. Dan decided to attend an evening church service out of town, my in-laws were at a barbecue somewhere else, and I was in no shape to drive her to my mom’s in that mental state. I felt trapped.

Luckily, as I was about to get into the really bad part of it, my father in law shows up at the door, told me the barbecue was pretty boring, and that they would be more than happy to take PJ for the night so I could try and recollect myself.

These guys win the in-laws of the year award. Seriously.

It was breaking my heart to have PJ witness this latest meltdown. I needed someone to come get her while I had to deal with this on my own. Again. She was even trying to feed me dinner and could tell something was off with me. I put on a brave face, told her that mommy wasn’t feeling well, then sent her away with her Paw-Paw before collapsing on the living room couch in hysteric tears.

“This too shall pass… This too shall pass…”

I poured myself a few too many glasses of red wine, then settled in for a Netflix binge session, and managed to keep myself spaced out until Dan finally got home. Then he got the lovely task of helping me decompress and getting that voice in my head to go away. I needed him when the depressive episode started, but I also know it’s unrealistic and unhealthy for him to be there to walk me through this sort of thing every time it happens.

I’ve also been dealing with this sort of thing for a while in college, but it never registered to me that it could be depression. I just dismissed those negative feelings and chalked them up to stress and insomnia issues from the heavy workload I was taking on at the time. I was taking up to 16 credit hours and working three different jobs. I coped with everything by drinking, partying, and smoking hookah.

But now I’m a parent and an unconventional work-near-home housewife. I go to church (almost) every Sunday. I can’t go party with my friends like I used to in order to decompress. No more drinking and being irresponsible for a few hours out of each day. I have to be responsible 24/7 now. I can’t break out the hookah either while PJ is awake, and at the end of the night, I’m just too exhausted to care about anything. I’ve been trying to find new ways to cope.

The good news is that I’ve replaced some of the bad habits I used to have with good ones. I’m gonna sound like an old lady here, but gardening really helps keep my mind out of that downward spiral. I love working in the dirt outside and being in the fresh air, and most importantly, not being stuck inside the house.

I’ve also taken up a morning yoga practice with the free Down Dog Yoga app. Back when we made more money, I had a YMCA membership and I would take yoga classes there. I only was able to get a few classes in before falling pregnant and ultimately canceling my membership. But I’ve gotten back into it and it helps me stay grounded and be more aware of how my body is feeling.

That, in turn, has also helped me clean up my diet in the past few months. I’m eating my fruits and veggies every day, drinking plenty of water, and taking vitamins as needed. I’m basically doing all of these things that are supposed to help with mental issues just short of taking medication for it, as I cannot afford those treatments or any sort of therapist at this time with our miserable healthcare situation.

So I was devastated when yesterday still happened, despite all of this positive change, and so I had reverted back to an unhealthy old method to numb myself of any feeling. I’m at least able to function today, but I’m still beating myself about it a little bit.

All I can do for now to keep this thing at bay is to stay busy, get out of the house regularly, and make sure to take care of myself with good food and regular exercise. (Words of encouragement would also help! It sounds dumb, but it does help.) It sucks that there is still a great stigma to this sort of thing in the US, but I am comforted to find that I am not alone in this struggle. There are other people who are dealing with this sort of thing have created these communities online to help each other out.

And while it is terrible to see suicides happen, the notable deaths of people like Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, and most recently Tim Bergling (aka Avicii) due to mental illness have helped to show that this thing can affect even the most influential, powerful, and most amazing people on this planet. These people, along with other living, high profile individuals who have struggled with these illnesses are coming out with their own experiences and helping to create a dialogue about mental health that has been badly needed.

Another scary thought ran through my head recently, too: If I haven’t been taught how to regulate my emotions, how well would this kind of thing end up for PJ if she experiences this? How would I be able to help her get through it? I don’t want my daughter to develop bad habits like I did. She deserves to be more educated about these issues. Much more than Dan and I were growing up.

We shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about mental illnesses, because they literally affect everybody. From those who are suffering themselves, those with loved ones who have these issues, and for those with friends and peers who are struggling. Let us not argue about how or why this thing happens, but let us create a united front on how to deal with it and get help.

So let’s talk about it!

By Jessie

Jessie works a full-time job and also happens to be the mother of a bubbly toddler named PJ. She lives with her husband Dan in Southeastern Michigan and hangs out in the Toledo, Ohio area a lot. Loves food, coffee, and likes to play video games in her spare time, if she's lucky to get any.

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