May is Mental Health Month. As someone who has recovered from postpartum anxiety and depression, this is a topic very close to my heart.
I’m far from alone in my experience with mental illness — nearly 50 million adults in the United States alone manage a mental illness every day. And right now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, many millions of people are suffering.
Even folks who don’t have diagnosed disorders are experiencing sadness, anxiety, loneliness, stress and frustration like never before.
Mental health struggles in the time of coronavirus
Whether you have a formal diagnosis or not, these times are hard on everyone. There are many factors at play.
But before I call out the factors I want to be clear: It can be terrifying to look at our fear and traumatic feelings. But if we don’t look at them, we get stuck in them. When we call out our fear, we can see it as separate from who we really are. Calling it out and naming it is the first step to relief.
So while you’re reading the ways we’re struggling right now, take a deep breath and get honest with yourself about what is up for you. Give yourself permission to be going through a tough time. Honor your feelings and your experience. We’re all in this together.
We humans are social creatures, but in order to protect ourselves and our communities, we must isolate ourselves right now. Finding support becomes more challenging when we can’t just get together with friends or hug our families.
It’s very important that we keep our distance, but we can’t deny the psychological toll of quarantine. If you feel lonely or miss people, that’s something all of us can relate to in some way.
Work and the economy
Another source of fear and anxiety is the state of the economy. I don’t need to rehash the statistics here. We all know they’re bad. Many people are out of work and can’t go out to find other work. Many others are risking their health to do essential work.
Still more are working from home, carving out office space on their kitchen tables or in their basements, helping their kids with distance learning, caring for babies and toddlers and elderly parents, trying to keep the house somewhat clean amid the chaos.
Even if you’re in a relatively good position, the stress is still serious. You don’t have to dismiss it or tell yourself, “I’m lucky, I have no reason to feel bad.”
Health anxiety is another big one, especially for people who are on the front lines, who have risk factors that make them particularly vulnerable to infection, or who are suffering from COVID—19 or have a loved who is.
Plus, the pandemic has interrupted routine health care for so many people. Elective surgeries, important check-ins, fertility treatments, dentist appointments, prenatal care and more are the kinds of appointments being delayed or dramatically changed right now.
We’re dealing with a lot of unknowns, and the onslaught of news (not to mention rampant misinformation) can be overwhelming. Many questions don’t yet have answers.
Despite all the uncertainty, we can still reclaim our power and remember that we’re always being guided. If you’re looking for help or resources right now, or just want to know that you’re not alone, you can trust you landed on this post for a reason.
Mental health is important for everyone
Regardless of whether you have a diagnosed mental disorder or you’re just feeling the enormous stress of the times, mental health is paramount right now. (This also goes for anyone struggling with addiction, which I address in this post as well.)
In this post I want to do a few things:
- Share my own mental health story
- Show you that you’re not alone
- Provide accessible resources for mental health care
- Share tips for how to help yourself and others right now
I’ll start with my story, and then all the resources are linked at the end of this post.
My story of postpartum anxiety and depression
I had my son, Oliver, in December 2018. I was fortunate to have an easy pregnancy and the labor and delivery experience I’d hoped for. When Oliver and I came home from the hospital, we were both doing really well and had a lot of support.
Then, three months later, I started to feel my anxiety flare up in weird ways. I started worrying about things like which diapers to use and whether my son was sleeping okay.
At first I brushed them off as the kind of thing every new mom worries about. But I couldn’t deny that the feeling behind them was one of terror and panic. I wasn’t just concerned — I was obsessed.
My anxiety only got worse
My anxiety got worse with each passing week. I couldn’t sleep. I had panic attacks. I became agoraphobic. My insomnia was so bad that I was scared to even attempt to fall asleep.
Scariest of all was the fact that when I looked at my son, I didn’t recognize him. This disconnect plunged me into depression.
I tried to fix the problem in all kinds of ways. I called every doctor friend and wellness expert to ask for their opinion. I took supplements for anxiety and sleep, but nothing worked. I was so sleep-deprived that I was having meltdowns regularly.
Hitting bottom with postpartum anxiety and depression
I hit bottom in May 2019. On Mother’s Day I was so depressed, anxious and exhausted that I said I wanted to kill myself. But I still didn’t let myself get honest about what was going on.
Later that month, I went to Manhattan with my husband and son because I had a talk scheduled. The night before my talk (we were staying at the apartment we rented in the city), I didn’t sleep at all.
For the first time in my 15-year career, I canceled an appearance.
As I sat in my living room breastfeeding my son, I felt ashamed and beaten down as well as afraid. Finally, I knew it was time to surrender. I couldn’t go on like this any longer. I prayed for guidance.
That afternoon, my therapist called me to intervene. She said she thought I had postpartum anxiety and depression, and she suggested I talk to a psychiatrist and get on medication.
Her recommendation alarmed me. I’d been brought up homeopathic, and prescription medicine was totally foreign to me. But I’d prayed for guidance, so I stayed open. I made some calls and met with a psychiatrist who specialized in maternity and postpartum mental health. She diagnosed me with postpartum anxiety and depression (PPA and PPD).
I was relieved that I finally had a diagnosis and a healing path. But I realized I was also ashamed of my diagnosis. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t help myself. None of my tools had worked. I also felt ashamed that I was suffering from mental illness, because the stigma made me feel broken and inferior.
Accepting help and speaking up
I had a choice. I could stay silent and ashamed — or I could speak up. The voice of my Higher Self was guiding me to open up about that unspoken shame in order to help others. That same day, I posted a video on Instagram where I shared my diagnosis and postpartum experience.
Posting that video was a huge relief, and I was so grateful to be able to serve other women who have suffered from postpartum anxiety or depression. Since then I’ve continued to be very public about my experience. I’m committed to erasing the stigma and shame for myself and others.
I’m no stranger to stigma. In my early twenties, I suffered from addiction. In order to get clean, I had to overcome the stigma around addiction, ask for help, show up to meetings and do the work.
Every ounce of effort was worth it: This year I celebrate 15 years of sober recovery. You can read more on the spiritual tools I use in my sober recovery, and below, in the resources list, I include links for treatment and support.
Once again, in 2019, my willingness to ask for help and do the work cleared my path toward healing. It wasn’t always easy, and I still had resistance. I had a hard time being patient and wanted to force myself to recover faster. I had to remember to surrender every single day.
The gifts of recovery
My recovery from postpartum anxiety and depression involved therapy, my spiritual practice and psychiatric care — including medication. I was really hesitant, at first, to accept the medication part of that equation. As I said earlier, it was totally unfamiliar to me. And there’s still plenty of stigma around psychiatric medication.
But today I’m so grateful that I didn’t let my fear or shame hold me back… because medication saved my life.
Suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. But one beautiful lesson I learned through my recovery is that the great stuff can coexist with the tough stuff.
Now I can look back and see how my darkest struggle was the catalyst for my greatest transformation. I’m able to forgive my experience and release it. Best of all, I can celebrate my resilience.
I stand here today, joyful, healthy, confident and strong, as a result of my willingness to seek help. And while I’ve recovered, I still tend to my mental health daily, the same way I tend to my physical health daily.
Anxiety, depression, panic, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, PTSD, addiction disorders, eating disorders, and every other type and expression of mental illness — they don’t care who you are. They don’t care how spiritual you are, where you come from, what you look like. If you’re suffering with one or more of these conditions, it doesn’t mean you’re broken or inferior or weak.
In fact, living with these conditions requires extraordinary strength. Recovery, however it looks for you, however messy it may be, is something to be deeply proud of.
It can be really hard to reach out and advocate for yourself, especially if you suffer from one of the more stigmatized and debilitating disorders. But you are worth it. Your life, your well-being, your health, your happiness, your very existence are all worth it.
The spiritual side of mental health
While my PPA/PPD recovery may have started with a medicated path, it was my spiritual faith that helped me get to where I am today. The medication helped me feel safe. But my spiritual and personal growth tools are what led me to the next level of genuine safety and trust.
Through my devoted weekly therapy sessions, I dove deep into healing modalities such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Somatic Experiencing (SE).
Each day I woke up and prayed to be supported and guided. I built up my meditation practice to be a sustainable source of peace throughout the day. I made sleep hygiene non-negotiable by turning off my phone two hours before bedtime and putting all my devices in another room.
I also created a very powerful nighttime ritual. I take a bath, journal and listen to bilateral music.
When dealing with anxiety, exercise is one of the greatest ways to move the stagnant energy out of your body. Our body holds our fear and we have to move to release it. I walk four miles uphill every day along with other online workouts.
I know it may sound like a lot to stay mentally well, but that’s cool! My inner peace is my highest priority. When we make that commitment to ourselves, the rest of our life can flow.
In times like these, we must prioritize our mental health. I recently heard Sister Joan Chittister say that her daily prayer was meant to punctuate throughout the day. I feel the same way about my spiritual practice! Read more about my daily spiritual schedule and learn how to create your own.
Mental health resources
I’ve been very fortunate to have access to excellent medical care, but I know this can be a profound struggle for many people. Sometimes it feels impossible just to know where to start. So here I’m listing mental health resources that my team and I have gathered over time.
First, I want to make sure you know about my free Anxiety Relief Workshop. In it, I share some of the methods that really helped me recover from anxiety and depression. These are simple and very effective tools that you can bring into your daily life and use regularly. Click here to access the workshop.
Undoubtedly there are ones we’ve missed, so please feel free to share a comment below with any resources we should investigate.
General mental health
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- Mental Health America: Recovery and support resources
- Psychology Today therapist directory
- SAMHSA.gov has a free, confidential helpline available 24/7. The number is 1-800-662-4357. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community organizations.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- Schizophrenia support and resources
- Bipolar disorder resources
- UK helplines
- Australia helplines
- Canada resources
COVID—19 mental health resources
Be sure to check out resources available in your state, city or other local community, in addition to the links below.
- Taking care of your behavioral health during COVID (PDF from SAMHSA)
- CDC.gov resource on stress and coping during coronavirus
- NAMI.org COVID resources
- Disaster Distress Helpline
Postpartum anxiety and depression resources
From the American Psychological Association:
If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, take action now: Put the baby in a safe place, like a crib. Call a friend or family member for help if you need to. Call a suicide hotline (free and staffed all day, every day):
- National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
- National Strategy for Suicide Prevention LifeLine: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). There are hotlines for every state.
- PPDMoms: 1-800-PPDMOMS (1-800-773-6667)
Call your psychologist’s or other licensed mental health provider’s emergency number. Call your doctor’s or other primary health care provider’s emergency number. Tell someone you trust about what you are feeling; ask him or her to help you take these steps.
- Postpartum Support International helpline (NOT for emergencies): 1-800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453
- Postpartum Health Alliance: 619-254-0023 (English and Spanish)
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America info and resources on PPD & PPA
Important note: If you’re in a dangerous or life-threatening situation, call 911 (see below for emergency services numbers in other countries).
Emergency numbers outside the United States:
Mexico: 066 or 911
UK: 999 or 112
Ireland: 999 or 112
Australia: 000 or 112
New Zealand: 111
South Africa: 112 on mobile phones
See a complete list on Wikipedia.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7: 1-800-273-8255
Chat online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org
For Spanish speakers: 1-800-273-8255 then press 2
For LGBTQ youth: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR
Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255 or TTY: 1-800-799-4889
Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566
Call Samaritans 24 hours a day: 116 123
More suicide & mental health helplines in the UK
Domestic violence, physical abuse & sexual assault
RAINN is an organization for helping sexual assault survivors. Free, confidential sexual assault hotline is available 24/7: 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673). You can also chat online with a counselor.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is free, confidential and available 24/7. Call 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
SAMHSA.gov: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The main hotline is 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357). It’s confidential, free, and available 24/7 in English and Spanish.
This helpline is for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
You can also find free online addiction recovery support from In the Rooms.
The NEDA Helpline is 1-800-931-2237. Find more helpline info here.
How to support yourself and others in daily life
There are a number of ways you can support yourself and others during the crisis. Here are some helpful links:
During times of crisis (especially when the #1 thing we can do is just stay home), we can feel powerless. One way to regain our sense of power is to help others! If you’re able to, here are some ideas: Check out this Washington Post article for ways to support nonprofits helping vulnerable populations. And ELLE.com did a beautiful job rounding up safe ways to help your community.
If all you can do right now is focus on your own mental health and well-being, know that it’s enough. We must take care of ourselves first. And remember that as you feel better, your energetic shift lifts up everyone around you.
How are you supporting yourself (and others) right now?
Spirit Junkies, I want to hear from you! If you feel called to share, leave a comment on this post and let me know how you’re supporting your own mental health during this time.
And if you’re also caring for others, whether that’s your own family/friends or the greater community, please feel free to share whatever resources you’re relying on now.
You are not alone.
Remember that no matter what’s going on — during this crisis or long after it — you deserve mental health care. If you suffer from a mental health condition, you are NOT alone.
Help is available, and there are brighter days ahead. The first step is to reach out, whether that’s calling a helpline, a doctor or a trusted friend.
The Universe has your back now and always.