Let Me Tell You Why Mom’s Aren’t Seeking Help For Their Mental Health.

Can we talk about mental health for a second? A few months ago I decided it was finally time to deal with mine. I resonated with stories of postpartum depression and anxiety and the more I read about girls with ADHD because of my daughter’s diagnosis, the more my whole life suddenly started making sense. I knew it was time to admit I was struggling.

Photo Credit: Ivan Karasev

I remember long ago in nursing school a patient. She was a mom. She lost it on her kids and started hitting them with a VHS. This was what it took for her to finally get help (and at that point it wasn’t voluntary). In true baby nurse style I was truly shocked. Why would anyone get to that point? Why wouldn’t they ask for help?

Now I’m a mom. I can relate to that mom on way too many levels. Motherhood is the hardest thing I have ever done. It’s physical and emotional work all caught up in societies expectations, but also your own. The subtle messages you’ve received since you were a child shaping your very view of parenthood, and the world, even when you fight it.

They say chronic anxiety leads to depression. So apart from the radical hormone shift that is thought to trigger anxiety and depression postnatally, there is the simple nature of chronic stress, sleep depravation, and never feeling adequate. It’s the strain of parenting often in isolation, only to receive dirty looks and backhand comments when you do go out. Sometimes even from other moms.

It’s a world where social media daily, loudly extols on us the virtues of black and white. It paints parenting as a dualistic endeavor. A world of two choices while nothing is further from the truth.

Parenting is a constant myriad of choices made everyday. Some controllable some not. We may make choices in the direction of one thing or another, but circumstances have a funny way of snatching that choice away. Yet even then, we reap the failure feeling of the choice.

Parenting is hard. It’s never enough. There is no attainable position of perfection, because it doesn’t exist. Facebook and even scientific research haven’t landed on the perfect choices. It belittling of the complex nature of parenting to assume there is one right way to do it.

Then we wonder why mom’s don’t seek help for their mental health.

We live in a culture so hell bent on attaining perfection, that there is no room to eradicate the stigma of needing help. Women know that those feelings of depression and anxiety don’t fit with the perfect mother syndrome so we hide them.

We believe that the rest of them are holding it together so work extra hard to hide our pain. In many cases we pretend those feelings aren’t even there because we don’t think they should be. We hope that if we control them enough, and project a perfect image, that that will become our truth.

Until it doesn’t. Until we kill ourselves, or our kids. Until we finally lose it and hit them with a VHS, or maybe our hand. Or maybe we don’t lose it. Maybe we find ourselves in a place where we’ve convinced everyone around us that we a fine, probably even great really, but there are little people who see through the bullshit. I don’t think mom’s who are struggling and keeping it hidden are truly hiding it from our kids. They are there in the secret when we cry, or rage, or shut down.

Why do women not seek help?

Well, maybe they try.

Maybe they are told that the anxiety is in their head, that they have the power to control it, that it’s just a part of being a busy mom who works and doesn’t sleep.

Maybe they are made to feel like a needy woman who just can’t get their shit together because they aren’t trying hard enough.

What’s your next option? Pay a psychologist $180.00 an hour to agree with you? What when? When what little your insurance covers is gone and you walk out with a diagnosis? There is no money left to treat. Your doctor doesn’t believe you. Go to the emergency department?

I had a friend who did that. She is well spoken and articulate. She’s also a nurse. She also would not have marched herself in to emergency department if her thoughts and feelings weren’t a problem. They denied her care. They disregard her possible acuity I’m guessing because of her presentation. She knew how to hide the symptoms even while articulating the problem.

Why is it that if someone can articulate their anxiety or depression that it must not be that bad?

That if they were brave enough to seek help and admit they have a problem, that it’s ok to tell them they don’t?

If a mom is at your doorstep, your office, your whatever admitting she needs help? She needs help. Maybe she caught things early, maybe she’s just really, really good at hiding it and keeping all those plates spinning. But here the things about moms. We’re pretty good at keeping all those plates spinning, we probably even keep letting people add more and more plates, but when something finally breaks that concentration, It’s too late.