Updated: Oct 9, 2020
What are the facts about maternal mental health?
2 in 10 women have a mental health problem
Over 75% of women do not get diagnosed and do not receive adequate treatment and support
Not having adequate treatment has consequences for the mother, the baby, the family and society in general
Why should maternal mental health be a priority?
To give more visibility to this problem
To combat social stigma
To improve detection (diagnosis) and treatment
To earmark more resources to maternal and infant mental health
I think it's important to shed some light about our struggles with mental health. One of my favorite quotes is "Dark is a way. Light is a place," from a poem by Dylan Thomas. It's also the title of an album from my favorite band, Anberlin. I think what it means is that there is going to be so much pain in this lifetime, but that doesn’t mean it is not worth losing a single moment of it because at the end of the day there is going to be Hope. There is a better life out there you just have to find it for yourself. It's up to us to create meaning by intentionally making the most of our time on this earth.
Life isn't black and white. It's light and dark. Physically, there can’t be light without darkness. We are literally floating in space through the vast and infinite darkness. We are all connected through the universe and are collectively going through a lot around the world during this pandemic. We can't truly appreciate happiness unless we've understood pain. Life is cyclical. The moon cycle. Sleep cycles. Life cycles. Season cycles. Hormone cycles. All the planets are shaped like the clocks and we are constantly rotating through infinity. How fascinating is it that we are part of this beautiful experience?
When we look up, past the clouds and night sky the moon can only be seen as a result of the Sun's light reflecting off it. It does not produce any light of its own. Our children can’t thrive without us, like the moon needs the sun to illuminate the sky at night. Every morning the sun rises without us asking to. Flowers die, animals, die, and sadly people we love die. Seeds can be replanted. People and animals are born again. This life is precious and beautiful. It can also be dark and traumatic. Our spiritual beliefs draw us to a higher purpose and ultimately, we can make the world a better place, no matter what our beliefs. Our souls can still live on through love and spiritual impact.
From my experience, it's not always been a spiritual one, but as I grow older, I am open understanding life instead of staying stuck in "why did life happen to me" mode. It's a negative cycle to break but life is meant to be lived abundantly and with intention.
It ultimately took losing my dad unexpectedly to suicide, watching my mom relapse through a mental psychosis multiple times with schizophrenia and almost losing my husband to peptic ulcer disease. In that order. I lost one very important person in my life but it took losing almost all three to change the trajectory of how I became intentional with how I live and love others. I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride that I couldn't get off of. It was a constant cycle of allowing life to happen to me, feeling burnt out, depressed, and at some points ready to get off of this ride of life. I wanted a refund for my admission ticket to this world. I was stuck. It was terrifying to stay stuck for many years through childhood through my late teenage years til I turned 24. I'm only 25 now, and hopefully 25 years down the road I will continue this path to healing knowing it's not always rainbows and butterflies.
I went through so much trauma through childhood and adulthood that I still battle with depression and anxiety. But this path hasn't been linear. I felt disconnected from my mind, from God, my body, and the people around me when going through postpartum depression after my son was born. It's a dark place you don't ever think you'll escape from, but trust me it's so worth it if you just hold on. It's like as a parent, when you are replaying your childhood and finding ways you want to break the cycle for your child to prevent the heart break and loss. It's heart breaking to go through so much loss and traumatic events, because we would never want anyone to experience any of those terrible things but I've found that our breakdowns create breakthroughs.
When my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I had a million thoughts of how and if I can I advocate for him and to speak on his behalf because he is nonverbal. There's no prognosis of when he can and will speak, if at all. He mumbles and gives me kisses, and communicates non-verbally. As his mother, it's my duty to discover his needs, find his voice, and help him feel loved and understood. I dreamt of the moments I am living today with my little family. I am ever so grateful to be here because my journey has led me to where I am today. Without it, life would be much different.
So when we are battling our own darkness, chances are, someone is going through the a similar situation. If no one asks how you're doing, no one would know. That's where I've learned it's important to ask for help. To reach out. To share our stories with one another. I'd rather be seen as vulnerable than suffer in silence and not have the opportunity to help someone see the light at the end of the tunnel. We connect on a deeper level through ways we can relate to one another. That's why we call them relation-ships.. see what I did there.
My husband has told me how he appreciates my dark humor. It's not something I share with everyone, but he's shed a lot of light in my darkness that has allowed me to heal because I've felt seen, heard and loved by him. He taught me that when you're laughing, you're healing. It's a better coping mechanism than drugs or alcohol, believe me I know. It got me thinking of how we heal when we feel seen and heard. How we respond to certain situations or conversations is a result of how we cope through trauma, with mental health, how we choose to live and be intentional with our time. That part of me has been disconnected for so long. My body and mind have responded in ways that have manifested through anxiety and clinical and postpartum depression.
I want to give my children a life that they don't have to spend so much time healing from or unlearning toxic patterns that have manifested through generational trauma. I’ve been on the path of holistic healing and over the course of time the disconnect within me is from trying to do this alone. I can’t do this alone, without my husband, my son, God, my friends, family or the beautiful people whom I’ve connected with online that I hope to meet someday. I truly believe our experiences and stories help shape us and the people around us. I could and some day aspire to write a book to help other moms, but basically if this blog post can be a guide or dose of inspiration for you, then I feel I have made some impact in hopes you find your path to healing, too. It's certainly not linear. Nothing is. I think our paths to healing are cyclical, too.
When you share, you heal.
When you create, you heal.
When you write, you heal.
When you move, you heal.
When you dance, you heal.
When you laugh, you heal.
When you love, you heal.
When you heal, you help heal others, too.
It's why I've founded the Motherhood Spectrum.
More than 75% of women who suffer from mental health disorders go un-diagnosed and un-treated. This results in suffering for the women, their babies, as well as their partners and families. They may feel alone when experiencing depression or anxiety during or after pregnancy. Let’s pass the word that you are not alone and these disorders are treatable with or without medication.
It’s important to speak up – the sooner you get help, there's hope and the sooner you’re on the road to healing. We are all on the path to healing, no matter what direction or lane we are in. Our destinations are all the same.
If this inspires you to share your story, please tag me on instagram.com/dena.doolin so I can support you to help raise awareness for mental health issues so that more women will get treatment and fewer will suffer.
If you'd like to continue the conversation about your story with mental health in a safe space and connect with other women, our fb group The Motherhood Spectrum community is open for you. You can join for free by clicking here. We will be sharing weekly prompts, conversations surrounding personal growth and resources to help you live your best mom life. Hope to see you there!