I was in college when I saw a therapist for the first time. Up until that point, I thought everyone lived with what I can only describe as aggressive butterflies in your chest. I’m not sure why it never crossed my mind that it wasn’t normal but one day I walked into the health center and the counselor took one look at my form and said, “so you have anxiety?”
Oh. Is that what that is??
After that I began medication and joined a group therapy and simply having a name what was happening gave me control over it.
Flash forward a few years (post graduation where mental healthcare was no longer included in tuition!) and I decided it was time to start seeing a counselor again. We had had our first miscarriage and I specifically looked for a counselor who had experience with infertility. A few days before my first appointment I found out we were pregnant again and I almost canceled. I’m so glad I didn’t because we lost the baby a few weeks later and I’ve been going to my counselor every few weeks ever since then.
After Lainey’s NICU stay, my counselor and I decided it was time to begin medication again. During her stay I was in survival mode, so most of these symptoms popped up after we got home. I went to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with PTSD and OCD. I had pretty much guessed the PTSD but the OCD really surprised me. I’ve never been one to count steps or turn the lights off and on a certain number of times. He explained that compulsions could manifest in checking Lainey’s breathing obsessively or not being able to sleep because I was afraid a painting above Lainey’s bed would fall on her. With those compulsions, I couldn’t rest until we did something about it. With medication I still get those compulsions but I can put a name to them and recognize that I don’t need to act on them.
Medication means we don’t have to rearrange Lainey’s room just in case a driver drives through the front of our house.
Medication means Bryan is still alive even if he doesn’t answer his phone.
Medication means that the other shoe isn’t necessarily going to drop (though often it does, and that’s ok too).
Moral of the story, taking care of your mental health is so important. For some that looks like counseling and medication. For others it might be exercise, meditation, prayer, journaling. Do what you need to do and don’t be ashamed.
Also, I realize that mental healthcare is a luxury which is ridiculous. Because of that you never know what someone is dealing with on their own so be kind to people regardless of how they treat you.