July 6, 2020

Motherhood at a Glance: Conquering the Valley of Mental Health

I think you would find it difficult to find many mothers who have not experienced some level of anxiety, especially during the early years of motherhood. Mental health is an incredibly important topic that I'm grateful to see being talked about more and more. I'm thrilled that today's feature writer, Lexi Shanklin, wanted to share some insights on this topic with us! 

Lexi is the mama to two girls, Scarlett and Elsie, and a baby boy, Shepherd, who will be joining them this month! She is married to her high-school sweetheart and living in central Indiana. Lexi worked as a Mother-Baby RN before becoming a stay-at-home mom and being able to stay home with them is the absolute sweetest gift to her! Lexi has a heart of gold and is genuinely one of the sweetest mamas I know. I'm so excited for us to learn from her today! 

In 2016, my husband and I had our first daughter, Scarlett Belle, and we had never been more in love with anyone in our entire lives!! I fell so in love with being a mama that 17 months later, our second daughter, Elsie Rose was born!  Watching Scarlett become a big sister was the sweetest (and scariest :O hehe) experience in the world! For all of you mamas who have kids close in age, you know that it's hard to teach a 17-month-old that the new baby is not a baby doll!! hehe. To say that Scarlett was madly in love with her new baby sister was an understatement! She has been maternal since day one, and that’s one of the many things I LOVE about her!! 

When Elsie was around 2-months-old, my husband left for a military commitment. He has been in the National Guard since he graduated high school, so these types of leaves were not out of the norm for us. I have always been good at getting into a routine when he is away; conquering caring for the kids and the house, but always missing him so much of course! Unfortunately, this leave was different for me. 

While he was away, I became very sick, which led to a long down spiral with postpartum anxiety and some of the darkest days I had ever experienced.  It took weeks, and eventually months of visits and tests to determine that I had developed an autoimmune condition as a result of my pregnancies and an infection that left me feeling weak and sicker than I had ever felt before.  This postpartum time period, along with physical illness, and single parenting at a time when I was at my weakest, was the perfect storm for the development of severe anxiety, which I had never experienced before. Before staying home with my girls, I worked as a Mother-Baby Nurse. I had learned about anxiety and supported other mamas through anxiety. But I never truly understood the stronghold that anxiety can take over someones life, until I had experienced it firsthand for myself.  

Thankfully, my health improved and the infection cleared. But I was left with an internal battle of anxiety that I still work so hard to battle to this day. However, my girls were and still are the greatest medicine of all; and they taught me so much more than I could ever learn on my own. Being their mama through one of my greatest trials and tribulations in my life helped me cultivate so many strengths that I didn’t know I had. I learned how strong I am as a mama, how to advocate for myself, and that in order to be the best mom I can be to my kids, I needed to take care of myself. I think sometimes as a mom, we can be so focused on caring for our kids, that we don’t always take care of ourselves. This helped teach me the importance of caring not only for my physical health, but my mental health as well. A happy and healthy mama is so important for a happy and healthy family. 

One major thing that helped me cultivate these strengths was investing in a community of moms and forming some amazing relationships. The more I invested in these relationships, the more mamas I met who had struggled with postpartum anxiety as well. Being able to connect with others who had experienced something similar (even if circumstances were different), was such a freeing feeling. These relationships are some of my most cherished and I am so thankful for being able to learn from other mamas to guide me through. There can also be a sense of shame and fear to share about postpartum anxiety or depression, and the more it is talked about, the more common you will find that it is. I encourage anyone in that same boat to reach out, because community is so powerful… and finding that can be the sweetest medicine for the soul. 

I am a Type A personality; a perfectionist; a 9, wing 1 on the enneagram (for all of my enneagram people :)… so to say reaching out for help is hard for me, is definitely an understatement! I often feel bad asking people for help; or that I can or should be able to do it all! Motherhood has taught me that it really does take a village. We, as moms, are superheroes in the eyes of our babies… but even superheroes need help sometimes, and it’s okay to ask when you need it. 

As a mama, we spend a lot of time filling the cups of our babies (also literally filling their cups! :) When I started investing specific time each week into something that filled my cup full, it helped me to be able to pour more into my babies. For me, that was a bible study with sweet friends who were able to pour into my cup each week. This special time each week was medicine and fuel for my soul. This can look different for everyone; from exercise, to a hobby, and so forth!

All in all, no matter what the trial or tribulation you will or have faced as a mama, know that you will make it through stronger than before, and with little ones who will be so proud of their mama for conquering the valley and coming out of it stronger, wiser, and even more amazing.  

“May the flowers remind us why the rain was so necessary.”

Thank you so so much to sweet Lexi for this amazing reminder that it is possible to be a happy, healthy mama while struggling with mental health! As a recap, the three ways you can conquer the valley are:

Find a community and find people who you can connect with for further support

Reach out for help and don't be afraid to ask for it in the first place

Fill your cup and do what you need to in order to fuel your soul

You can find Lexi over on her Instagram:

And shop her boutique that she owns with her mama and sister!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing Lexi. A Bible study and Christian girlfriend is good medicine. Postpartum depression happens to most women and miscarriages to so many. I wish I would have known that many years ago.

A grandma