Making My Mental Health A Priority
Hi, I’m Susan Petersen founder and CEO of Freshly Picked. I’ve been running FP for 13 years, and in that time we’ve had a lot of highs and lows. The last 4 years have been super hard, and I’ve been working through lots of struggles related to work and my personal life.
In September of 2021, all of it caught up with me, and I had a nervous breakdown.
I know, I know, nervous breakdown isn’t a medical term, but my doctor and I have agreed to call it that. I was fine one day, I was heading to a therapy session and was wondering what the topic of conversation would be. Everything was going well. The next morning I was out for a walk and fell over because of a panic attack. I ran into a fence. I immediately called my husband and had him pick me up.
I thought I was having a heart attack.
We drove to my doctor’s office, where they ran a bunch of tests and everything came back normal..ish. He sent me home diagnosed with acute anxiety, OCD, and depression. The next couple of weeks were hell. I was having at least 2-3 panic attacks a day with non-stop anxiety in between. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or leave my house. My capacity went from a full, busy, and fulfilling life to comatose on the floor.
My doctor wanted me to start medication immediately. I felt like I could work through it and not need any form of medication. I have always struggled with some form of anxiety and dealt with imposter syndrome and bouts of depression. Those struggles always went away in the past. However, things got to crisis level, and my husband begged me to try the medication.
After speaking with my doctor, we landed on a SSRI medication for me to start with. I feel really lucky that after the initial 6 week period, the first medication I tried worked for me. I honestly wish I would’ve started the medication years ago. Now that I’m more stable, I can see how damaging muscling through situations was for me. I feel like medicine saved my life.
Once the medication started working, I found ways to take care of my body as well. I started eating clean and working with a specialist to fix my gut, liver, and thyroid. Crazy how in tune our minds and bodies are. I also started weekly therapy sessions to talk through areas I was stuck in.
Medication, therapy, and a diet have been life-savers, but the biggest thing I did was to be kind with myself. I cleared my calendar, worked from home, and handed off big projects. I turned down social engagement for 4 months and I deleted all social media from my phone. Rest was the key for me and taking it very seriously worked wonders.
To get all the help I needed, I was very upfront with family members and friends about the situation. My husband was a gem and picked up all of the slack. My mom and sister stepped in and helped so much. One weekend, my husband had to leave town, and I couldn’t be alone. My sister flew in from Washington to stay with me for the weekend. My mom brought me food and would help run errands. I had friends check in and were okay with me not responding.
I still have bad and good days, more good than bad. A good day can look like making my bed and cleaning my room, to having a board meeting and visiting friends. On the bad days, I make sure to put myself first whether it’s canceling on plans or going to bed early. I feel like I’m fighting the hustle culture but stepping back and finding joy in self care allows me to be more effective on my good days.
Since I’ve started sharing my mental health struggles, I’ve had so many people resonate with my experience. Life is hard, complicated, and messy. I’m strong and can handle so many things that come my way, but I also need time to rest and recover. Taking a break doesn’t make you weak. Reach out if you’re struggling, you don’t have to suffer. Call friends, family members, or co-workers - anyone who is willing to listen and help.
As a working mom, I’ve pressured myself to handle and manage all of my home and work duties. I tried so hard to never show that I was struggling and to appear as though I had it all together. I hated feeling like I was failing since I held myself to the highest standard, which ironically, always made me feel like I was failing! Talking openly with my kids and employees has been so rewarding. Communicating about my mental health and then asking others to support me as I took time to rest, has allowed me to be a better mom and boss.
If you’re struggling, talk to those around you, seek help, and talk to your doctor. Be honest about how bad the situation is and be willing to accept help. You’ve got this, it will pass, and you’ll come out on the other side.
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