It’s the last day of Mental Health Awareness Month, but the conversation on the topic must go on. According to the CDC, one in five adults live with a mental health condition in the U.S. and nearly 50% of us will experience a mental illness during our lifetime.
In my lifetime, I have had three distinct time periods when I sank into a clinical depression. By this, I mean I was diagnosed and advised to take medication. I felt hopeless, dissatisfied, and without purpose.
Throughout my journey I have found that hearing other people’s stories gives me strength and perseverance, thus I’ll share my experiences in hopes it helps someone else. In fact, these times of anguish and uncertainty were the cornerstone of the ‘why’ I started FitPros, a workplace wellbeing service provider that makes health and fitness accessible to employees where ever they are. FitPros offers several Health Talks on Mental Health, which are speaker-led discussions held in-person or virtually for employees of our client companies.
My dependency on alcohol was revealed. Alcohol helped me escape the chatter in my mind and quite honestly, I wasn’t sure how to have fun if drinking wasn’t part of the equation.
On September 15th, I realized the impact alcohol had on my life and set out to learn how to live a fulfilled life without the crutch of booze. It was not easy, especially the first year but with the support of people I met in sober communities was able to relate, learn and grow.
Proudly, this fall I will celebrate 10 years without a drink.
My youngest brother, Cory lost his life in a car accident. Not only did this test my sobriety journey, but this was my hardest fall into depression.
Five days prior to Cory’s car accident, I participated in my first fitness competition. I spent three months working on myself physically and mentally. Unfortunately, I found myself disconnected from people outside of the fitness world.
I would call my mom when I needed a boost of self-esteem or someone who would listen to me whine about my perceived problems of imperfection. She shared Cory was not doing well emotionally. When I would call him, I wouldn’t hear back from him for weeks.
The last I remember hearing his voice was in May of 2015. We talked about all the things happening in our lives, and he focused on a new job prospect and his ex-girlfriend. I asked him to call me in a few days to talk more. Neither of us picked up the phone.
On July 2, time stopped when my phone read two missed calls and one text from Mom that read 911.
“Your brother was killed,” my mom said over the phone. The accident happened at 7:32 a.m. when driving to his new job. He drove head-on into a guardrail, hit two trees, and slid down an embankment. One witness said, "It didn't look like he hit the brakes.”
Cory hadn’t been at the job long, but he found a gig that kept his interest. He was able to express his creative talents. He had a knack and passion for creating music and art; guitar and drums were his greatest strengths.
Unfortunately, he never got a health break. In the 28 short years prior to his death, he developed rickets, contracted viral meningitis, had a ruptured appendix, was hit by a drunk driver while riding his bicycle, and had a traumatic brain injury that went undiagnosed for eight years.
To escape the pain I rekindled an unhealthy relationship with food. My eating disorder was dormant for 15 years prior but this felt quicker and easier than facing reality and I didn't want to resort to drinking alcohol. Gratefully, I snapped out of this dependence within a couple of months when I tapped into spirituality with yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices. This was when I dove headfirst into building FitPros which launched in 2016 with the purpose of helping people who struggled like I had when faced with life's challenges.
In January a friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer, in February my husband’s colleague committed suicide, and in March while Covid threatened my business I endured my second miscarriage.
My first miscarriage was soon after Andrew and I married in June of 2019. We were pregnant by September. At the eight-week checkup, we learned that the embryo’s heartbeat pace was off. My doctor sent me for blood work and asked me to see me again in two weeks. At ten weeks, we learned the pregnancy was not viable.
Feeling the need to regain confidence and heal my body, we waited until January 2020 before trying again. We got pregnant quickly. Although there was fear, Andrew and I were excited when the day arrived for our first appointment.
The news was all too familiar.
The heartbeat was faint and we were told to return in a week for a second ultrasound. At the next appointment, we were given three options:
Similar to the first time, I could wait and let my body end the pregnancy.
I could miscarry at home with medication assistance.
I could have a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure.
Because of the excessive blood loss and emergency hospital visit after the first miscarriage, I followed my doctor’s recommendation and had the uncomfortable procedure at nine weeks pregnant in March 2020.
In July, we met with a fertility doctor and began in vitro fertilization (IVF) egg retrieval in August with a second round in November.
Andrew helped give me six shots a day, twice a day for 10 days straight. During the first round, we could only retrieve five eggs but none survived to the blastocyst stage. With a shift in medicine, we had greater success the second time around. The doctor was able to attain thirteen eggs and six were stable through the blastocyst stage.
While preparing for the third and last round, we decided to give trying on our own another shot in January 2021. This time it was meant to be and we gave birth to a healthy baby boy on September 30, 2021.
Not a day went by during the pregnancy that I wasn't scared my body would fail me again.
I don’t believe someone has to experience rock bottom or tragedy to experience depression. But for me, it was in these distinct life circumstances where I felt useless with very little sense of purpose to be alive.
That is the feeling that people experiencing darkness can relate to.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about mental health which contribute to stigma and misunderstanding. Some people believe mental illness is a choice, that it is a sign of weakness or only a specific group of people suffer from mental health problems. None of those are true.
It’s critical to dispel these misconceptions and educate people about mental health in order to reduce stigma and improve access to care for those who need it. Even without health care credentials, we can support one another by simply listening and sharing our personal experiences. If you or someone you care for has mental health issues, you’re not alone. There’s support out there for you.
Call or text 988 or 1-800-985-5990
Contact FitPros to invite one of our credentialed Mental Health experts into your workplace (virtually or on-site) to facilitate a discussion on the critical topic. Choose your topic of interest on this Health Talk page.
Founder & CEO, FitPros
FitPros is a turn-key wellness provider empowering people to take charge of their personal health.
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