May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. A quick Google search will show you that millions of Americans suffer with mental health issues. Of those people, a large majority of those affected are mothers. The most common mental health issues mamas are dealing with today are anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
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I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the summer of 2013 along with Adult ADHD. Having that 2-in-1 diagnosis came down like a ton of bricks on me. At the time I had no children and did not understand what was happening to me. I would ask myself why I would experience severe anxiety and could not think clearly, when I was not intentionally doing anything to provoke it.
When I write that down on paper, it does not sound debilitating at all. It affected me so severely, that I would get physically nauseous going to places and I had to use the public restrooms and proceed to get sick. It was embarrassing, and at one point during my sickness (before being diagnosed), I thought I could be allergic to the sun. Seriously. I still get nauseous to this day, even with everything I do now to prevent it.
Getting over the stigma of a mental disorder can be challenging. For many people, the self-realization that they need help is a struggle in itself. For me, I did not think something could be wrong with me mentally, and it wasn’t until I reached a point where my husband intervened and said “you need help, this is not normal” that I listened and decided to do just that.
Searching the internet, I found study after study claiming that over half of the people today suffering from mental illness go untreated. This leaves parents, mothers, caregivers and many around children suffering from symptoms without relief in their day-to-day life.
This is a struggle for many due to lack of insurance, lack of support from loved ones, lack of education or lack of financial means to pay for these services. If left untreated, mental illness can severely impact quality of life for the parents, children, and everyone else in the home collectively.
What does GAD Look Like for Me?
In my personal experience, general anxiety disorder means that I come prepared wherever I go. It manifests in both physical and mental symptoms. Many times it can be severe, even though on the surface I look normal, or even appear confident.
No one thought triggers it. I will be happy and calm and then without warning I will feel a rush of adrenaline that feels like I am about to go down that very tall roller coaster dip…and then that feeling gets stuck and that rush never completes itself. I get nauseous, heart palpitations, sweaty, shivers and many other feelings too.
It means I have had to postpone trips, meetings, and other important events in my life. It means learning to cope every day. It means sitting in a parked car meditating and getting myself together before I walk into a room of people that do not see that I have this issue. It means faking it until I make it. It means I will not let my anxiety win. I am not my anxiety. I am ME. It means using my voice to tell others that mental health is important to all of us, both individually and collectively.
It means that I am here for you to talk to if you need me to. I am an advocate and I understand how it feels. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. Reach out for help.