Opening Up About Mental Health

In 2013 I’ve been dedicating a post in the middle of each month to my one word for the year, attitude.

Here in May, I genuinely think I have grown in a positive way since January. Maybe it’s just that the arrival of spring is making me chipper, but I feel like I’m able to let things “roll off” more easily. I’m finding more fun and beautiful moments, and I’m stressing less about small problems in my day.

I don’t want to give some crazy impression that my days are perfect, but at least I am appreciating them more.

So… Now I want to switch gears and focus on depression. Literally. Maybe I can even help shape your attitude about it in a small way.

Did you know May is Mental Health Awareness month?

This is a subject that has always been close to me, as my Mom has bravely battled depression since I was just a little girl.

Before I say any more, I want to announce that my mom is the best, kindest, most patient, and loving person I know. Even growing up all my friends would comment on how “gosh darn nice and sweet” my mom was. Depression doesn’t discriminate.

I remember when she had to go away from us for awhile, and suddenly we were eating my older sisters’ burned attempt at cooking and we could never keep up with laundry. I don’t know, but I’m sure housekeeping was in shambles.

The one memory that’s imprinted strongest in my brain is my dad making time to say bedtime prayers with me.

Looking back I know he probably hurried in from the field or barn to tuck us in and then had to go back out later to finish the day’s work. But I didn’t really realize all of that back then. I just knew how special it was to say my prayers with Dad.

When Mom came home we tried to be extra good (and more quiet), but I can’t imagine that went so well for five noisy girls.

With good doctors, prayers, the grace of God, and yes, medication, my mom has overcome. But she still faithfully goes to counseling and takes care of her mental health. Depression, I think, is always lurking.

I believe my mom must really be super mom because even from this difficult time, I have no memories of being yelled at, scolded unfairly, or feeling unhappy.

She managed to hold us together and keep us strong, even in the midst of her worst struggles.

I think those bedtime prayers probably helped too.

Depression is a scary word, and it’s even scarier for people to admit it’s happening to them and seek help.

Serious depression isn’t something you can simply will away with a positive enough attitude. Everyone around you may try to help with encouraging words and happy anecdotes, but those things don’t always have meaning to a brain that can’t process them anymore.

I know I don’t understand it like those who have been through it, so I apologize that my crude attempts to write about it come up short.

Mainly I just want all of you to know it’s okay to talk about mental illness. It’s okay to know someone who is depressed, bipolar, has an eating disorder, or is struggling with any mental health issue. You must encourage them to seek professional help. If you think you might be depressed or suicidal, you should and can get help. Now!

Cost and access to care can be huge barriers, so if you or someone you know simply needs a place to start and someone to listen, you can always call this hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

No one is really immune. Even, or especially, if you call a freshly painted 1900’s farmhouse with blue shutters, a white picket fence, and a red barn out back home.

I discovered a new blog recently, Tales from a Kansas Farm Mom. The author, Nicole, talks about the staggeringly higher suicide rates of those working in agriculture and the stress that can eat away at farmers.

I was shocked and saddened to read this, and it really gave me the push I needed to write this post. You can read her full post about mental health and farmers here.

I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the blog Hyperbole and a Half, but she is a very talented, funny writer and artist who was gone from her blog over a year. She returned this May with an eye-opening post on depression. The humor is unexpected (and maybe even irreverent), but I know I have never seen depression explained so well. It helped me understand things I never could before, and I think it’s a must-read.

From Hyperbole and a Half, Depression Part Two.

Whatever struggles you face, readers, I want you to know you are wonderfully made, valued, and important. No one else can make the same contributions you can. As you face the ups and down of life, know that it’s okay to ask for help along the way. You are worth it.

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About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
This entry was posted in Agriculture ( in general), Attitude - One Word 2013, This and That and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Opening Up About Mental Health

  1. Christina says:

    A very wonderfully written post. I have several people in my life who I think suffer from some form of depression and I never know sometimes what to say. It resonates in different ways, some lash out with anger, others hiding it quietly. I just hope they can find a way to seek the help and get the help.

    • Lisa says:

      Christina, I think mental illness touches everyone in some way, whether it’s personal or those we love. I, too, hope the people in your life can get the help they need.

  2. Heidi Nicole says:

    A CO blogger just wrote a post on the topic – http://www.lgsmash.com/2013/05/10/life-mental-health-month-suicide-prevention/ – her sister attempted suicide. You don’t really think about how many people are affected until they tell their story. Glad your mom has been so proactive about her mental health!

    I completely agree with what Nicole is saying about depression being higher in ag families. I can’t speak for her, but based upon what you’ve written I think my mom had a similar experience when we were kids (minus the complete support from my dad). At the time (and even now with some people) it was very looked down upon and mocked. That makes me angry!

    Also, I love that post from Hyperbole and a Half!

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks for sharing that post. As far as being looked down upon, I know there is still a stigma associated w/ mental health challenges. I can only hope that as we keep writing, talking, and blogging about it things will keep improving!

  3. Suzanne says:

    What a wonderful post Lisa! It sounds like you have a wonderful set of parents. I can’t imagine five girls. Our house was crazy enough with just two of us!

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