May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
I can’t remember exactly when I became an anxious person. Overthinking has always been a great motivator to me. The ability to plan through details mentally never seemed like a bad thing. I am great at planning vacations, organizing groups of people and planning events. When someone told me I was prepared or organized, I beamed with pride. The mental game my mind went through to get to that moment of preparedness was not visible to those around me who only saw the calm in control person that always seemed one step ahead. I was in control of my Everyday Anxiety for 34 years of my life.
The moment all my plans came to a crashing halt was March of 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic and the events in my life during 2020 left me with the inability to plan or anticipate anything. For an extreme extrovert like myself who feeds off socialization and making plans this was ultimately debilitating. Adding to that was the tremendous workload that pandemic life dealt working mothers like myself. If you are a working mother or are married to one you know that women who balance children and careers do this with extreme precision. Every day is carefully constructed to maximize their ability to meet the needs of both their family and employer. Something as simple as a child forgetting their water bottle in the morning can throw off the entirety of a tightly scheduled day.
By mid-March my job had started transitioning to work from home to keep illness levels low in our community and conserve medical resources. Then on March 18th, 2020, Governor Kelly cancelled in-person school. This was the first moment I felt “this is too much”. My entire body began mentally seeking a solution that could not be found. Both of my school aged children required one on one help for schoolwork and my youngest daughter wanted to be a part of the school at home “fun.” My husband did not have the ability to work from home. We would later realize this caused resentment towards each other. He viewed my working from home and spending time with the kids as a wonderful and happy time of togetherness while I yearned for the normalcy of his routine of going to an office daily.
We floundered through the next 2 months of school one day at a time. I was waking up early and working late to keep up with the increased demands of my job and both of my daughter’s school needs. I stayed up late worrying that I was enough for my family and mentally obsessing about the day ahead to see if I could shift something to maximize my productivity. The self-care activities I enjoyed doing were all off limits during pandemic life. Grabbing a drink with a friend made me believe that I would somehow kill someone by spreading COVID-19 and left me questioning if my social life was worth someone’s life. I scolded my parents to be careful and took extra precautions anytime I planned to spend time with them or my in-laws. I truly thought by controlling my decisions I would prevent my family from passing away due to the pandemic.
Then in October of 2020 my brother died by suicide.
This was the most out of control I have ever felt. How in my tight-knit, loving family did my brother suffer so silently? How did I miss any signs that in hindsight still do not add up to this tragic ending? I can say with complete honesty, no one knew. We would have done something to prevent this. Every single member of my family would have done anything to save his life. I can only assume that his brain told him lies that were too big. Lies like he was a burden to his family. Lies like the world did not need his kind soul. Lies like he was not good enough to keep living.
His sudden death felt like a rug got pulled out from under me. My false sense of security was gone in an instant. Suddenly I was left mentally vulnerable that any tragic thing was possible. My anxiety was at an all-time high.
Making an appointment and seeking help was hard. I debated it for months after my brother passed away. In my head, going to therapy was a sign of weakness. I have a great family and many blessings to count. Someone like me shouldn’t need to go therapy. The truth is, admitting I needed help and opening-up about my problems to a professional required a level of vulnerability and strength I never knew I had. That phone call was the first major step I took to becoming healthy again.
Therapy has been a great experience for me. I uncovered burdens about myself during the sessions that I did not realize I was carrying. Recognizing when you are going through depression and when you need help was the most important lesson I have learned. I still have blue days. I still have moments that grief takes over unexpectedly. I still have moments of bad anxiety. But now I have tools and healthy ways cope with these moments.
If you are like me and are debating making the call to start therapy, do yourself a favor and make the call. Your life is worth living.
Emma lives in Northeast Wichita with her husband Jason and daughters Clara, Caroline and Marian. As an on-the-go mom and a Brand Asset Manager at Vornado Air, she almost always has a lingering basket of laundry that needs folded and an iced coffee in hand. Advocating for mental health has become a recent passion of hers after the events of 2020. Emma enjoys camper camping with her family, girls’ trips, a good pinot noir, online shopping via influencer recommendations ,and, of course, Target trips.