Mental Health Awareness Month

It’s May and that means it’s Mental Health Awareness Month. I never used to be someone that had to deal with mental health issues until I was officially diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (also known as GAD) two years ago. I probably had GAD well before then due to the unexpected passing of my mom and then reliving those memories when my dad passed in November.

There is a lot of stigma around mental health illnesses and I know a lot of people tend to think that everyone has anxiety and to just get over things. However, with GAD there’s so much more to it than that. Anything can set it off and it can send you into a panic attack. I’ve hit some pretty low lows in my life over the last few years and have had panic attacks that have started one day and continue into the next. Part of what got me diagnosed with GAD was a work situation I was in. There was so much stress and everyday I went in I felt like I was walking on egg shells. During this time I was helping to not only cover different shifts when needed, but also taking care of my dad who had some life threatening illnesses during that time as well.

I know some people that deal with mental illness like to keep it to themselves, but society has created such a stigma around mental illness and I don’t think it’s right. Just because I have a mental illness like so many other’s doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person or that I’m going to go and do something crazy. I am lucky that I do have access to healthcare, medication, and a doctor who is supportive. I know a lot of people don’t have that and it makes me sad. I’m also not ashamed that I need medication to help my symptoms. I was much worse off before we found medication that worked for me. I’m on one medication daily, and then another as needed, mainly at night to help me sleep when I can’t get my brain to wind down to sleep.

I’m wanting to help end the stigma surround mental illness, so this month I will be sharing more about GAD, my experiences with it, and how I cope. Mental illness shouldn’t be viewed as scary. We have so many medical conditions out there that are a lot scarier than mental illness and there isn’t the stigma around them that there is around mental illness. If you would like to learn more about mental illness in general, you can check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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Taking Care of Myself

For the first time in almost 7 years I have the opportunity to focus on myself and my needs. Being a caregiver to my father who had many health issues was so hard, but I would do it all over again if I had to. My dad was my rock and I can’t believe that it has been a month today since he passed. It doesn’t feel like it has been a full 30 days. I remember vividly the week before he passed when I asked him one day how he was doing he told me he felt like he was dying. I told him he wasn’t and that his infection and other labs were getting better. By 11/28 he could tell it was his time to go. I was in the waiting room with a couple of friends because they were going to get my dad cleaned up. During that time he ended up getting sick and was really agitated, so the nurse called me and asked me to come back to his room. When I did, I could just tell he looked different than he had before and he was more alert. I walked over to his hospital bed and held his hand. He looked at me and said “Remember what we talked about last week baby, I think it’s time”. Hearing those words were heartbreaking. I gave him a big hug and then because I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to my mom, I was able to get video of my dad telling me he loved me. I’m grateful I was able to get that and I still have several voicemails from him, but something else special that I have is songs that he sang. My dad sung pretty much all his life, and loved Elvis. Once I was done taking care of his arrangements and other running around that needed to be done, I sat down at his computer and pulled up his music. I found a folder that had several songs he recorded and also found a record in the spare bedroom that he was on when his high school choir recorded a Christmas album. I’m so grateful to have these things.

Since my dad’s passing I have been having a hard time with cooking at home. Until last night I had been stopping on my way home to get something through a drive thru or a microwavable dinner. I know those aren’t good for me, so last night I went shopping and actually got some healthy stuff. Yesterday I started a 40 day challenge called ShapeGoal40 being hosted by Jen Widerstrom and Shape magazine. Back in February this year I met Jen after the release of her book Diet Right For Your Personality Type. We talked for a few minutes and she remembered me from one of her DietBet’s I did. She and I have kept in touch since then and I knew that this would be the perfect time to tackle this challenge head on. I have my goals written down and posted to my Instagram (cubbie_87). I convinced a friend to sign up and I’m super excited for these next 40 days. Life has a crazy way of timing sometimes. Part of my goal is to lose weight because I have put on at least 30 pounds since meeting Jen. But there is so much more to my goal than the weight loss, so if you are interested go check out my Instagram and while you’re at it go follow Jen on their as well (@jenwiderstrom). She’s had such an impact on my life and I love that she and I have been able to keep in touch.

As time goes on I will share more about my life as being a caregiver and more of my story, but I felt like today these are the things I really needed to share. It hit me pretty hard this afternoon and needed to get it out so it doesn’t eat away at me inside. If you are interested on doing the ShapeGoal40 with me, you can search for Shape’s page on Facebook and all the information you need is there. I also have a Planet Fitness membership that allows me to take a guest, so if you want to join me at the gym, let me know!