After graduating from college, finding the man of my dreams, and deciding to have a family of my own I remember thinking everything was perfect! Everything was perfect, but it wasn’t.
Looking back, the world began to change after my first child was born. I was so happy to be her mother! She was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. I loved her so much, but I couldn’t stop crying. I cried for weeks, but nothing was evidently wrong. I was dismissed by the doctor and told it would clear up in time.
Life went on and we had our son two years later. He was the best looking baby I had ever seen, now in competition with his beautiful sister. My pregnancy was hard. Andre struggled to survive to 32 weeks and he was born prematurely. It was a naturally trying time in our lives. The NICU, 2003 Iraq war. Times were similar to now. It was difficult, but I kept telling myself the fears I had were rational, that the dark cloud over my head was going to lift, that it was just hormones, right?
I remember feeling off for several years, and in my early forties things intensified. Anxiety was prevalent. I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of traffic. Crowds. And depression was seeping in more often than not. I felt like I couldn’t escape. I wasn’t thriving in my perfect life, I was surviving.
Shortly after, nightmares came. Flashbacks. Agitation. Irritability. Insomnia. Guilt. I thought I was going crazy, and in effect I was, daily, a little bit at a time. My husband encouraged me to seek help and I called my doctor. That conversation changed my life, and in essence saved it. Shortly after I was referred to a mental health provider and was diagnosed with PTSD. That was my first contact with people in the mental health field.
Why am I writing this story? I feel that too often shame is involved in seeking help from a mental health provider. We talk down to ourselves that we need help. We are afraid for our careers and what people will think of us. We try to pretend things are normal, even though they are not. We are ashamed to reach out. I feel if I share my story, maybe one person will connect with it and seek help too.
Mental health can feel like a lonely place, but it doesn’t have to. We are lucky to have great resources on base for both active duty and dependents, and there is a wider community of professionals in the broader area. We have access to care and we do not have to feel this way any longer!
Personally, I’ve gone through therapy and have overcome the things in my past. My daughter is now a freshman at UC Berkeley and my son is a junior at Cabrillo High School. My husband continues to love me through my journey, and my mental health network is always available to me. Things aren’t perfect, but they are right. I am very grateful for Mental Health Awareness Month! Please reach out if you feel the need for assistance. People will help you and you too can get to “right.”