“Growing up, my only father figure was my grandpa. My mom was single most of my life, and a majority of my time was spent with my grandparents, so I became really close with him. He was always my guide down the straight and narrow, and someone everybody loved.
At 14, we lost him to cancer. And that was when I first started struggling with my mental health. It was my first real experience with grief, and I didn’t know how to handle it. How to cope. I felt alone, angry, confused, and nobody ever thought to ask me if I was okay. I started bottling up every emotion because I felt like I had no one to talk to. The depression only escalated from there.
At 15, I started my 10th grade year at a public school, after 10 years of Catholic school. I was introduced to a whole new world, which only fed my grief in countless unhealthy ways. I started numbing it with drugs and alcohol, and skipping school daily just to get high or drunk. I’d drink to the point of blacking out, steal pills from my grandma, and do anything to feel any type of emotions. I pushed everybody who loved me away, and was constantly looking for something to fill the void I felt deep inside, which always ended with me in bad situations.
At 16, I ended up overdosing on Xanax, a muscle relaxer, and codeine. This was my first wake up call. The first time in a long time I felt any type of feelings. The last time I took pills. But, I still felt hopeless at this point, and was still so numb everyday I just stopped caring about everything. I merely existed with what felt like no purpose. I remember wishing I hadn’t woken up that day in the hospital.
Then, the summer before senior year, I met my husband. We were both involved in the ‘party scene’ and knew a lot of the same people. He wasn’t someone I was necessarily interested in, but his charm and genuine nature drew me in one night, and after that one night I was hooked. I knew this man was important, I knew he was going to change my life, I needed him in it. There was something so different about him.
We became official on my 17th birthday, and 3 months into our new relationship, we found out I was pregnant. I was feeling sick for over a month, so I chalked it up to the flu. Then, one day it hit me I had missed my period…for the last two months. Right away, I got a pregnancy test, locked myself in the bathroom, and took it. Seeing that positive test sent a chill through my body. So many emotions at once: scared, nervous, hopeful, excited. I apprehensively showed the test to my husband, thinking surely he’d turn around and run the other way. Instead, he hugged me as my mascara ran down my face, telling me, ‘Everything will be okay.’ And he’s stuck by my side since that day, always reminding me everything would be okay.
I announced my pregnancy on social media, and the next day at school, I was greeted with nothing but nasty looks, whispers in the hallway, and terrible names by my classmates. It was my senior year, and I was failing out, on the verge of not even graduating with my class. My last resort was switching to an alternative school, which I did, where I ended up graduating ahead of time with all A’s. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. Everybody told me to drop out, to quit, I’d equate to nothing as a teen mom, but I’ll forever be grateful I didn’t fall into that stigma. I did it. Against all odds.
I had my son a week before my 18th birthday, which marked one year of my husband and I being together. One year in, and there we were, young parents, who still knew very little about each other, and were still merely kids ourselves. All of the odds were always against us, yet we were determined to break the stigma on teen parents. Shortly after my son was born, I started experiencing postpartum depression. Something I was in constant denial of. I knew depression, but this was a new feeling for me. It was a darker hole. Even with an entire village helping me, I felt like I was constantly alone. It was a scary feeling, and I knew it was something I needed to work on in order to be the best mother I could. My son deserved a happy mom, and I deserved to feel happy.
It was around this time when I discovered yoga and learned how to connect with and understand my body and mind. I started getting more in tune with my mind, becoming conscious of every emotion and why I was feeling a certain way. Learning how important self care was for my mental health was a pivotal point. I started eating better, thinking better thoughts, becoming more and more aware of my personal traumas and triggers. I started healing. Healing for my son, and my future children. Healing for my husband. Most importantly, healing for myself.
My yoga practice became daily, and my son joined me on my mat every single day. We meditated, we flowed, we learned and grew together on the mat. He watched me go from hopelessly depressed to a stronger, healthier version of myself. And he was a huge reason for it. He’s always been my motivation to better myself. From 19 to 22, I was unstoppable. I felt the best I ever had my entire life. I finally had a good understanding of my mental illness, and control over it, I was at a point I was always determined to reach. I was healthy, and I was happy, and I was ready to bring a new human into the world. I did all the work I needed to on myself – I healed generational trauma I had suppressed so many years prior, I had a really good hold on my emotions – and I knew through all the healing, I would be the mother I always wanted growing up.
I owe all of my healing to my oldest son. Without him, without getting pregnant with him at such a young age, I would’ve never opened my eyes to the hurt and healing I needed to face head on. I would’ve never become this version of myself. I felt like I had finally broken through my chrysalis and was ready to spread my wings.
23 came, and I was pregnant with my second son. Shortly before conceiving him, my oldest son told me, ‘I’m going to have a baby brother soon!’ And only a few weeks later, there we were, looking at the positive test, knowing intuitively it was another boy. I had my second son the day before my eldest’s 6th birthday, and my third son was born at home this year, with his two big brothers watching and cheering me on. It was a beautiful, healing experience in itself. I felt that same sense of accomplishment I had felt when I graduated. I felt unstoppable and on top of the world.
All of this to say, if you’re struggling with mental illness, you’re not alone. And you’re not broken. Living and coping with mental illness is possible, even as a mom. Ask for help, tell your partner how you’re feeling, and teach your children about mental illness and the importance of our mental health. It’s become something I’ve incorporated into our homeschool routine. I’m teaching my boys it’s okay to have emotions, and to voice their feelings. When they feel some sort of way, I make sure to be their safe space to talk to.
I’ll always preach mental health and self care to them, because I never want them to experience the hardships I did. I’m still healing, and my family sees that. They’re patient with me because they understand now. I’m patient with myself, too, because I understand better. The older I get, the more in tune with myself I become. And if there’s anything you can get from my story, it’s to always be aware of yourself. Take care of yourself in every aspect: mentally, physically, emotionally. I deserved all of this happiness I’ve finally received, and you do, too.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emily Klein of MI. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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‘I was 15, pregnant. My principal looked at me. ‘Your mom didn’t graduate. Your dad didn’t graduate. Just drop out.’ I never felt more hopeless.’: Teen keeps pregnancy against all odds, loses son 18 years later in car crash
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