It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and I wanted to share part of my story.
I was diagnosed with anxiety in 2017, just a few months after having my first child. Becoming a mother broke open my emotions with such power; it knocked me down HARD.
Before my baby, I had a false confidence that I was in control and that no one had to know when I was struggling. Feeling down? Just be positive, Sheena! Don’t let people doubt that you got this!
But it wasn’t working.
It took me a long time to realize and accept that I am an anxious person. I wasn’t someone who openly spoke about what worried me or bad days. I had friends who were open books and I was amazed at their ability to just let it spill out. What if people didn’t accept them?! Doubted them?!
My own father was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when I was young and I saw how much he struggled with his illness, in addition to drug abuse, unhealthy relationships, and periods of not living in safe housing. I remember he had a lot of pill bottles and I associated medicine with his instability.
I knew my situation wasn’t anywhere like his, but better addressing my emotions was going to help me be a strong, stable parent to my child. As my maternity leave came to a close, I decided to start therapy.
We got into a flow of meeting regularly and she called out that my levels of anxiety were preventing me from doing “simple” things well, like speaking up in groups, approaching people I found intimidating, or asking for help, and that I didn’t need to accept it.
Armed with tools of regular therapy and anxiety medication, I have since begun a new journey of expressing myself (the good, the grey, and even the tough days). Being vulnerable is ROUGH and I still find myself making lots of mistakes in trying to act “perfect.” But perfection is no longer my goal – what a disservice it was to myself and those in my life. The real connections happen when we are ourselves.
When I find myself afraid to speak up and worried to let people in, I picture those brave and courageous people in my life who show up as themselves. They are truly living because living means feeling IT ALL.
I am still on this journey of growth, as I left a way of life that I had been “perfecting” for almost 32 years, but I am SO glad that I took that leap to address my anxiety because now I get to be ME.
If you’d like to explore resources around emotional wellbeing, check out The Wellbeing Partners’ COVID-19 page. If you would like to anonymously share your mental health story for the good of others, please submit it here.