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Our church is doing a special series on mental health called, The Unmentionables. The first one was last week and it was fantastic. I love that our pastor isn’t afraid to speak beyond the fluff, to core issues that our society deals with…even if they aren’t PC.

Last week the focus was on depression, anxiety and suicide… it didn’t take long for tears to start streaming down my face during the sermon as he discussed the ins and outs of what anxiety and depression really are. Before cancer, I never really understood mental health issues. I always thought, come on, surely you can snap out of it. Cheer up buttercup, life isn’t that bad! {Who in the world was I to ever judge?!}

After cancer, my perspective on mental health is quite different. My mental state is forever altered. Early on, I vowed to myself to remain as positive and joyful as I could, despite the fear of being diagnosed with cancer, and the terrifying thought process and physical process that followed.

I was always emotional before, being uber-sensitive and having a pretty sentimental grip on life, I was always more in touch with my feelings, but I was always Mrs. Brightside.

Today, I have serious triggers… I can be walking through Home Depot smiling one minute and have tears the next because of something that was said. I get these random dark clouds of fear and anxiety about the unknown with cancer that become overwhelming. Sometimes I have a hard time breathing…I can feel the anxiety rising up in my chest and I feel trapped. PTSD is very real and rears it's ugly head out of nowhere, attempting to leave you emotionally crippled.

Sometimes I have a hard time being part of a conversation (which I had zero issues with before), I feel like I have a hard time being part of life in general with others. Sort of turning from an extreme extrovert to more introverted.

My thoughts are so different than most nowadays, my responses are different. I feel like many just don’t understand. People say really hurtful things today… but they are completely unintentional… they don’t know. I try not to take it personally, knowing I have been through something most do not go through. I also try to shed light on the reality that this is very real and I am not alone in dealing with this monster.

Anxiety and bouts of depression are not popular to talk about among company. They are harder than ever to handle in a marriage and with children.

When we talk about someone’s physical self, we should also ask about their mental self, right? If we truly care about someone we should be checking in to see how they are doing on all fronts. We shouldn’t feel so scared to be real about how we are doing mentally… women everyday deal with postpartum depression and the conversation is rarely real and open. People have all kinds of mental battles they deal with today, but are hardly asked about it. How do we expect people, our friends, our family, our brothers and sisters to handle these earthquakes all on their own? They shouldn’t have to. We should gather around them, protecting them, nurturing them and sitting down with them to listen.

I started seeing a therapist a few weeks ago and it has been so healing for me. I don’t know why it took me so long… probably because I put everyone else’s needs above my own. Moms tend to do that. Why do we do that moms? How can we expect to pour from an empty cup? And it shouldn’t take something like a cancer diagnosis to evoke that action of taking care of one’s self.

Mental health is a serious crisis in our society and world today. More and more tragedies take place because someone was not given what they needed. Children are screaming out in terrifying ways because they are slipping through the cracks. Girls are becoming mothers before they should and not given the tools to nurture the next generation, because she was not nurtured. Sweet ones are taking their lives because in some way they felt life was just not worth living...We need to make mental health just as important as physical health. We need to come up with solutions, not band aids.

I think mental health starts within the family, moms we need to take care of ourselves…what breathes joy and wholeness for you? A bath and a book? A magazine and a pedicure? A coffee and a chat? Yoga and hot tea? A run and writing a blog (this girl right here) …find whatever it is and make it an important part of your week. Don’t slack on it. Then once your oxygen mask is placed, you turn to fulfill others around you. Those tiny humans staring up at you, you are their beacon of light…how can you help guide them and fill them if you are not filled?

We need to top putting ourselves last… that is when our stress and tension gets laid on our children. We protect them by protecting ourselves. I think everyone would benefit from counseling at some point in their life, regardless of any major life changes or not. Let’s vow to break the mold and start pushing open the curtains on mental health. You don’t have to do it alone. Our tribes need to be real tribes, not just a hashtag. Tribes that see a need and fill it. Tribes that aren’t afraid to ask questions or do hard things to help another in a challenging season. Let’s start making the unmentionables, mentionable.

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