May is Mental Health Awareness Month and as we all are faced with unprecedented times, it is the perfect time to check in with ourselves.
Like really check in and truly answer the question, “How am I doing?”
For me, most days are a range of emotions: fear, joy, sadness, contentment, exhaustion, gratitude. I won’t lie and say that I am 100% all of the time, but as someone who really wasn’t okay, I know the signs and understand what I need in order to ensure my own mental health.
But I didn’t always know how to do this.
I gave birth to my daughter at 32 weeks exactly. She subsequently spent 39 days in NICU. In the days and months that followed her birth, I experienced a range of mental illnesses that included PTSD, anxiety and PPD.
However, I did not seek help for several months. Everything was too hard, too overwhelming, and it was happening so fast that I couldn’t stay afloat. My focus was my child and there was often nothing left to give myself.
After my best friend reminded me I needed more self care – which was met with a lot of resistance – I sought professional help. I found a therapist who not only specialized in birth trauma, but who also was a NICU mom.
She got it and she helped me heal parts of me that were broken, rectify my guilt, and shed layers of grief that blanketed some of the most beautiful moments of my life.
And now, many of us find ourselves living and parenting during a health crisis that is in so many ways is sparking mental health issues.
I struggle every day with anxiety and managing the range of emotions I feel every single day. And let’s be honest, this is hard stuff.
But it matters that I continue to show up for myself and support my mental health so that I can show up for my loved ones. Here is what I have found to be the best practices that support my mental health and well-being.
Give Yourself Permission
Allow that time and space to give yourself what you need. Communicate those needs to those around you, but do not expect your loved ones to meet your needs. You may need to seek out professional support.
One of the greatest gifts I have given myself has been the gift of setting boundaries. If it isn’t healthy for me or my family, I say no – especially when it comes to social media. Set your boundaries and do not apologize for them.
During my time in the NICU, I was paired with an incredible peer mentor with whom I am still friends today. I also found a group of moms who have shown up during really hard moments. Find your village, ask for help, and show up wholeheartedly for them too.
Find What Nourishes You
I strongly believe that mental health is linked to our own biochemistry. I work along with an incredible doctor who uses lab work to see where imbalances may be to supplement those gaps. Talk to your doctor. I am also very open to the fact that I take CBD oil from a very reputable pharmacy here in Austin and have found using this supplement to improve my anxiety.
Notice I did not say exercise. Yoga has been a constant rock for me for years. Find something that you love – walking, dancing in your pj’s, getting on swings with your kids – and let your body move.
The biggest thing therapy taught me was that it is okay to grieve what we may have lost and still be grateful for what we have within the same breath. Grief is natural, especially in times like this, Remember to be grateful for what you do have. Hold on to what you’re grateful for. It will propel you forward.
I want to make it clear that access to mental health care and support can be limited and hard to access. I also want to acknowledge that for those who identify as LGBTQ or BIPOC, these health topics can be even harder to talk about with more limited access to treatment and support. Please know if this is you, there are safe spaces for you to be seen and heard and there are professionals who are trained to work with you.
Had I not gotten professional care, I wouldn’t be able to practice this on my own. No matter where you are in your mental health journey today, remember to take care of yourself. You are worth it.