How do you start talking about mental health? How do you know if you need help? Or if someone else does? Mental health…sometimes there is a negative stigma associated with it….but there shouldn’t be. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health.
I know for me, good mental health helps me take better care of myself physically, be the best me I can be and make healthier decisions regarding my family and my life. And that’s the whole point right? My kids, especially, deserve the best of me. Taking steps for your own mental well-being can be scary and uncertain at times but, I promise, it’s worth it.
Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month I wanted you to meet someone….my friend, a wife, a mom, a mental health advocate and another blogger, Cristi Comes, author of Motherhood Unadorned and someone I respect immensely.
SRP: Hi Cristi and thank you so much for doing this. Can you share a little bit about yourself?
CC: Hi Steph, thank you so much for inviting me to share on your blog. I am a huge fan of your photography. I sometimes wish my kids were newborns so I could get a session with you. Haha, Ok well not really. I’m a wife and mom to two fun kids Ronin (8) and Ellie (6). They are obviously a huge part of my world. But I’m also a writer, and I work part-time doing influencer marketing campaigns. We live on the Northeast of Seattle in Bothell.
SRP: Why is mental health important to you?
CC: I’ve been blogging at Motherhood Unadorned since 2011 shortly after a dear lifelong friend of mine died by suicide. It made a huge impact on me because of my grief in losing her but also because I too have fought mental illness for many years. I threw myself into mental health advocacy work after my friend’s death, writing and volunteering for suicide prevention and maternal mental health non-profits. I met some incredible people through this journey, all who work hard to break the stigma associated with mental illness, and it’s been such an important part of my grieving and continued healing.
SRP: Why do you feel this is so important to being a mom?
CC: Postpartum mood disorders are incredibly common, more so than anyone would ever think. In fact, suicide is the leading cause of maternal death in the first year. And even beyond that first year, moms mental health affects the well being of the kids too. We are better parents when we take care of ourselves first. This is an important issue for us and for our kids.
We have to stand up and open up about mental health so that those struggling know it’s OK to reach out. When we know we’re not alone or know that we’re not “just crazy” we’re more likely to seek help and get treatment. Mental illness is a real illness and needs real treatment.
SRP: How do you balance the busy-ness of family life and your own mental health?
CC: Balance is a tough one. I’m always a work in progress because family life, home and work always seem to come first. But thankfully I have a wonderful husband who understands what I need for me, who takes on a lot of the household responsibilities, and encourages me to do things for myself. For example, I hate cleaning. Just thinking about cleaning adds extra anxiety and stress in my life, so we hire a house cleaner once per month. It’s something that I know is an extra expense but for my own sanity it is so worth it to me.
SRP: What are some things you do to take care of your own mental health?
CC: It’s a continual process for me, since I live with mental illness. I have to be hyper vigilant, making sure I get good sleep, eat well, get sunlight, take my meds and supplements regularly. It’s also important to make plans with friends or my husband, and do things without the kids if and when I can. Self care is so very important. I think we tend to focus everything on our kids so finding even small ways to take care of me regularly really helps.
SRP: What advice do you have for moms who may be struggling? Any resources?
CC: One of the best resources for postpartum depression and postpartum mood disorders is Postpartum Progress. It’s a blog, which I’ve written for the last several years, but also a non-profit dedicated to advancing maternal mental health. I also have some general mental health resources on my own blog HERE
Most importantly if you’re struggling, reaching out is the most important and first step. It won’t immediately fix everything but being honest about the way that you’re feeling can go a long way to finding the support you need. Postpartum Progress has a New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health that is wonderful to print and fill out before going to your doctor to help you identify what it is that you’re feeling.
SRP: Tell me a little bit about your blog, Motherhood Unadorned? What made you start writing/blogging?
CC: As I mentioned above, I started blogging out of loss but it’s become a lot more than “just” a mental health blog. It’s now a family lifestyle blog that covers topics on motherhood and self care, but also family activities, entertainment, travel, technology, parties and holidays and more. It’s actually a part of my own therapy to write about the fun stuff and not only mental health. We are so much more than our illnesses.
I appreciate Cristi so much for opening up and sharing her story. I know it has helped me to have someone to talk to and share with. Getting rid of the negative stigma and taking steps, small and big, towards our own mental health is so important. Especially when it comes to our families, but mostly importantly ourselves. We deserve to be healthy and happy, both physically and mentally. Make the time for it, you deserve it! <3