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Motherhood & Mental Health Awareness: Depression Isn't a Character Flaw, guest feature by Kristen G.

One of the biggest misconceptions I see about mental health is that the person who is suffering should just be able to do XYZ and they will feel better. While there are many activities and habits that can improve your mental health, depression and anxiety are illnesses that are complicated and often need more intervention.

I started experiencing depression with my first pregnancy. I thought my exhaustion, lack of motivation, and extra tears were just because I was pregnant. I thought maybe this was normal and I'd get over the hump eventually. But I didn't. In fact, things got worse.

I found myself unable to do much of anything. I called in sick to work. I laid in bed and watched TV a lot. Even the thought of taking a shower seemed like a monumental task. Everything was extremely overwhelming.

I tried my best to shake the depression. I thought maybe if I exercised more, prayed more, and just worked harder that I could handle this myself. It wasn't until my husband seemed seriously concerned for me that I realized that this was bigger than I thought.

I didn't know, and didn't want to accept, that I had a true disorder. I had depression. And just like any other disorder, it needs to be taken seriously and treated properly.

There are many types of treatments out there, and what works best for one person may not work for another. But it is absolutely essential to realize that depression doesn't happen because you're doing something "wrong," or not doing enough. It runs much deeper than that. The neurotransmitters in your brain, for whatever reason, are not in balance. And they literally cannot send the right messages until they are.

For me, medication was the only thing that gave me enough balance so that I could function normally. Up until that point, I couldn't help myself. My mind and my body felt paralyzed before that. I couldn't make the decision to do healthy things like exercising, cooking meals, and practicing self-care. No matter how much someone would tell me until they were blue in the face that xyz would help me, I felt completely unable to implement that.

Depression is an illness. It can happen to anyone, no matter how positive they normally are. It doesn't matter how hard you work. It doesn't matter how healthy you are. It is not a character flaw. It is not a punishment for something you are doing wrong. Sometimes it just happens.

I know this because even in my top physical shape where I was running, had a personal trainer, and ate extremely healthy, had great friends, great sleep, and great support in my life, I still struggled and needed help.

I have continued to struggle with depression and anxiety over the years and have learned that there is no shame in needing help, in whatever form you need it. I am grateful that I chose to accept help and can now experience a full life with the help of therapy and medication. These things enable me to make the healthiest choices for my body and mind which I could not do before. They help me help myself.

I'm now able to be the mom and the person I want to be despite the ups and downs. There is hope that you can feel better. If you are struggling, please reach out to someone. If you have a spouse or a friend you can confide in, that helps a lot. But it's also vital to talk to a professional who is knowledgeable about mental illness to find out your treatment options. Your mental health is important. You are important. Your body and mind deserve to be taken care of. Never feel guilty for doing that.

Kristen is currently a stay-at-home mom to three wild and crazy boys, ages 10, 7, and 4. Kristen was born and raised in San Antonio and she and her husband recently moved their family to Allen in 2018 after a four-year stint in Oklahoma City. Kristen loves to write about motherhood, mental health, and child safety. She is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and has a passion for contributing hands-on car seat education to her community. Kristen has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing from Texas A&M and an M.B.A. from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. In her spare time, she loves binging on Bravo shows while sipping a Diet Coke. Share in the everyday highs, lows, and humor with Kristen through reading her blog at Driving Mom Crazy, and on Facebook or Instagram.

Headshot courtesy of Jess Graefe.

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