May is Mental Health Awareness month, and to raise awareness I will tell you my secret.... I have two Ps.... PTSD and PMDD. Let’s talk about my PTSD first. I am a survivor of domestic violence and my coping after I separated from my ex-husband back was bodybuilding, but one day it stopped working. I can remember it like yesterday, I had my yearly performance review with my boss and got feedback I did not agree with. My response was thank you sir, and I remember going to the bathroom breaking down in an ugly cry and then literally taking a round about way back to my office to avoid people because I couldn’t stop crying. The performance review was not the reason I was crying, but it showed me I was at my breaking point because I had not addressed the divorce an domestic violence.
That next day, I went to medical with every strength I had and requested to see a mental health professional. That was huge for me because I didn’t know any of my family or friends who ever went to see a mental health professional. Being raised Christian Pentecostal, Jesus was your antidepressant, but I knew I needed Jesus and something more. I was able to see a therapist that day, and I told her my story of the domestic violence and recent nasty divorce, and she said you need intensive counseling and our office does not have the capacity to help you, but here is Military One Source and they have resources to get you the treatment you need.
Military One Source connected me with a program called Give an Hour. Give and Hour offers free services to active duty military, veterans, and dependents. I was able to find a therapist in my area who I was able to meet with for an hour weekly. With her I was able to work through my PTSD as a result of the abuse and even cope better with my Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD is when your hormonal imbalance before your period is so extreme that you experience symptoms of clinical depression. My therapists and doctor after 20 plus years diagnosed me with PMDD and at one point I took antidepressants to help. I no longer take them because I have learned to better manage using coping strategies like prayer and exercise.
Originally when seeing a therapist and even being on medication I didn’t tell any of my family for fear of criticism. However it got to a point where I revealed to family and friends about my mental health challenges and they have been nothing but supportive. I still go regularly and even have had my kids in mental health to help them deal with the divorce.
The one thing I want to impart to everyone is that mental illness does not discriminate against religion, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. As a Christian woman I once saw mental health counseling as a lack of faith in God’s power to heal me. However I need Jesus, my therapist, and at one point an antidepressant to have the quality of life I need. I also pray, meditate, exercise, and connect with friends to manage. Luckily I have a job where I can go in person weekly, but if you don’t have that flexibility tele-health is widely available nowadays and supported by insurance.
My mental health is just as important as my physical health. I encourage you that if you need help get it. If you are lucky enough to not suffer from a mental health issues, then be apart of your loved ones’ circle of support who do and let’s break the stigma together.