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May Is For Mamas: Appreciating Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

background-beautiful-bloom-96627Blame: Assign responsibility for a fault or wrong, condemn, accuse, assign liability, indict, incriminate.

We are all living on this very Earth because of our mothers. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

I know that can be hard to remember when it has taken until 2018 for the care standards to be adjusted to include the vulnerable days and weeks following delivery, but it’s true. It’s also true that many women prioritize the needs of those we care about, or sometimes others we’ve never met, over our own.

It is through this constant state of deferment that many women who struggle with mental illness not only suppress their emotions and opt out of the help they would like, but they’re also assigned responsibility for the external symptoms of their inner struggle.

This adds blame into the equation and inappropriately places responsibility on someone in need, without providing any attempt to identify or address the root cause.

It’s easy to provide empty words of affirmation like, “look on the bright side,” but for the 43.7 million Americans who struggle with mental health illnesses annually, these aphorisms exacerbate their inability to see it through, as much as they might like. Now, in addition to the feelings of depression or anxiety, someone else has augmented the already existent and very real internal voice that this is somehow their own fault.

Stigma: Shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation, and (bad) reputation.

There’s a reason why it’s not acceptable to say “you’re just having a bad day” when you break your arm.

Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama said, “at the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.”

Mental and emotional health are just as important to our wellbeing and ability to be the best parents we can be as our physical health, but the stigma we’ve placed on those who live with mental illnesses prevent many from seeking the help they may need or even the help they desire. That’s at least 8.7 million people, according to the American Medical Association, who need treatment that will not receive it.

That’s like the entire population of the state of Nevada, Utah, and Iowa combined breaking their leg and then “looking on the bright side.”

Live openly, live consciously. Choose your words wisely and own up to your misspoken words. Think about how what you’re saying might affect someone else. You never know who might be listening, who overheard your remarks, or how big of an impact your words might have on another precious soul, sharing the same space you’re in. Encourage equality. Show compassion. Choose empowerment. Be honest. Educate.

Guilt: The fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime, wrongdoing, wrong, criminality, misconduct, sin.

I believe that guilt is one of the strongest, most insidious forces known to man.

Women are told we’re too emotional. I don’t think we’re emotional enough.

Is it really such a bad thing to wear our hearts on our sleeves? If we cannot openly share our feelings, especially as mothers, how can we expect our children to be emotionally intelligent?

We’re all taught to be tough. “Tough it out,” we’re told from a young age.

Well, being tough does not cure cancer. It does not prevent a heart attack from occurring. Nor does it improve our mental and emotional wellbeing. This inaccurate association of mental and emotional illness with weakness is what leads so many to missing the care and attention they need and deserve. Too many of us, too often, alienate ourselves for fear of disappointment, rejection, and judgment.

Ironically, those struggling with mental and emotional illnesses while fighting through to take care of their families are some of the toughest, strongest, and most emotionally intelligent people – err, mothers – you’ll ever meet.

If we cannot express our emotional health with honesty, vulnerability, and wisdom, the fear of appearing weak and powerless will continue to take over our hearts, our souls, and our families.

As mothers, it is more important for us to support one another, than it is to worry about meal planning. After all, we’re the only ones who truly know what it takes to cope with the changes our bodies endure, hormonal surges, hemorrhoids and hair loss, sleep deprivation, and many other highs and lows that originate with motherhood.

If you are struggling, please remember that you are not alone. It is perfectly okay to not be okay. Listen to yourself, and don’t hesitate to seek the help you desire, speak about the help you desire, and embrace the help you deserve.

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.” – Bill Clinton

Happy Mother’s Day Month, Mamas! 

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About Stephanie Cox

Stephanie Cox
After five years of living it up in downtown Chicago, Stephanie and her husband, Danny, migrated to the Biggest Little City in June, 2014 with their rescued fur babies, Illy and Sirf. They welcomed their first baby boy in January, 2018! An adept health care and business professional, Stephanie keeps the lights on at Blue Truck Studios, a full-service marketing and advertising agency she and her husband started together in late 2015. Stephanie is passionate about creating the best life for her and her growing family. A native Wisconsite, she loves living among the mountains and the lake. Stephanie is thrilled to embrace all that motherhood has to offer and invites you to join along as she shares her thoughts, reflections and experiences. She prides herself on her openness and willingness to share vulnerabilities and insecurities, preferring to connect with others through real, candid, open conversation instead of the sugar-coated version so many of us fall into today.

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