Becoming a mom resurfaced my childhood secrets of shame that have contributed to my struggles with mental health.
If this sounds like your journey with mental health, please keep reading.
However, if you choose to stop reading, please leave with one message. You are not alone in living with mental health challenges; help is available.
Visit Psychology Today for resources to find a professional in your area.
When Did I Start Feeling Mentally Unhealthy?
This mom’s mental health battled started long before parenthood.
In 2nd grade, I had my first anxiety attack during a worksheet lesson on telling time. My head was spinning, my heart was racing, and I was crying uncontrollably. Although the same symptoms resurfaced, the diagnosis was a “virus.”
Although a doctor and other adults could not identify what was happening, how would I know my mental health was deteriorating?
Since then, anxiety and depression have been my norm.
In my 20s, my official mental health diagnosis started. Initially, my diagnosis was depression, and subsequently anxiety and ADHD.
This Mom’s mental health journey also lead me to a place I never thought I needed. Be sure to read: How Did I Unexpectedly Become a Better Person Because of Motherhood?
Unrenound to me, I have no clue how I completed college and graduate school.
Although I did make it through, I was miserable and constantly overwhelmed. My mental health was at one of its lowest points.
My Self-Worth Was Nonexistent
Without a doubt, I have always felt inadequate and unworthy.
I tried to find my identity by copying and adopting the persona of others I knew people praised. Yet, my lost identity made me clueless about who I admired.
No one was able to identify my self-loathing. Like others raised during my era, it was essential to present yourself as perfect. The priority was perfection, no matter what the sacrifice. What other people perceived was of the uttermost importance.
Therefore, my existence focused on being a people pleaser without regard for my mental health. The worst part is that others accepted this because it met the expected standard. My mental health did not matter.
As a young child, my mother told me she hoped I would have a daughter like her. My response was a mental health red flag, proving my self-loathing. I said: “Why would you wish that on me?”
Undoubtedly, my response proved that I hated myself as a child. Some days, I still hate myself.
Surviving Sexual Abuse
Preditors know what exact children to target and groom. They can identify those who are struggling with mental health.
As a child filled with self-loathing, I desperately longed for people to like me. My outer appearance held more weight than my inner mental health.
Most importantly, my abuser could identify that I had no self-confidence even when others could not see it.
He was well-liked, charming, confident, and a hard worker. Like many predators, he was a master manipulator. He knew he had power over me and could make me feel guilty.
He knew if I told an adult, it would be minimized and seen as “dramatic.”
How do I know this? Because that is what happened when I attempted to tell a trusted adult.
As an anxious child, I shared that I was a victim of sexual abuse.
The responses were:
- “Did anything happen?”
- “I don’t know what you want me to do. “
- “You need to tell me what to do because I don’t know.”
As a 10-year-old girl, I did not know what to do. All my fears came true. In a way, the shaming was more toxic to my mental health than the actual abuse.
That was the last time I tried to tell someone about my survival.
That is until I found therapy.
Therapy is my safe space. With hard work, I am processing surviving sexual abuse, the trauma of being shamed, and healing my mental health.
Listen to the uncensored life of motherhood on Mom Treading Water wherever you get your podcasts or right here.
Self-Loathing Is Exhausting
Hating yourself is physically and emotionally exhausting.
Without positive mental health, it is nearly impossible to have successful physical health.
How do I know? Because this has been my life.
Although I did not have the professional help I needed as a child, I realized it was my responsibility to take control of my adult self.
Being conditioned to worry about what others would think made this a scary step, but I knew I would die if I didn’t.
Owning Mom’s Mental Health
Through therapy, I am learning more about myself and doing the work to become stronger and happier.
In a raw and emotional way, I am working through my past to heal my mental health. Therapy has been a safe space to disclose experiences rotting my inner self.
Although it has been emotionally exhausting at times, therapy has allowed me to find inner freedom and helped me uncover that I am worthy of taking space.
Slowly, I am finding my voice in setting boundaries without guilt because my mental and physical health matter.
Also, through therapy, I’m done minimizing accomplishments.
In the past 2 years, these are accomplishments by my standards:
- I received multiple messages from people thanking me and saying my content has been helpful.
- I met amazing women who have been guests on Mom Treading Water, with most of the women being people I would never have met.
- I taught my children my identity is not only “mom.”
- I taught my children it is okay to challenge yourself and take risks.
- Expanded Mom Treading Water onto social media and website
- I learned I have tougher skin than I realized because I had had a few trolls.
- Published over 70 episodes
- Five stars on Apple Podcasts
- Heard in 50 countries
- Starting to monetize while making a difference
One of my greatest accomplishments has been prioritizing my mental health and instilling its importance to my children for their own mental health and mom’s mental health, too.
They will always be able to come to me for support without fear of judgment.
With my husband’s unwavering love and encouragement, I am learning to love and care for myself.