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This story is the sixth installment of our Time to Talk series, exploring different aspects of mental health in Douglas County. In this installment we talked to several Douglas County mothers and local and state medical and mental health experts talk about the importance of seeking support and treatment.
• Maternal depression and the importance of feeling connected
• "Moms need to know that they are not alone"
• To take care of your child you have to take care of yourself
• Pregnancy related mood disorders affect the whole family
Throughout her life, Lissa Miller experienced some depression and anxiety. The mental health disorders run in her family. She managed her symptoms by being mindful and exercising.
In her early 20s, Miller, a Parker resident, was employed as a licensed social worker in Aurora. She worked with abusive parents, neglected children, battered women. Her environment, she said, caused some post-traumatic stress.
When she was 25, Miller had her first child. Though she experienced some symptoms of depression and anxiety, it wasn’t until she had her second child four years later that her mental health spiraled out of control.
She had suicidal thoughts daily, she said. She felt like she was a bad mom and that no one loved her. Her temper was short. She was irritable. Her chest felt tight, her breath short.
“I felt like I was failing all the time,” Miller, 31, said. “I just felt like everything was a mess.”
Five months after her pregnancy, she was driving her two kids to her parents’ house in Brighton when she visualized veering off the road, crashing her car and ending it all.
“It was so hard to talk about because I’m a clinician, I do this for a living — I assess people for threats and suicide every day,” Miller said. “It was really hard for me to say, `Hey, me too.’ I worried I would be fired or lose my license because I couldn’t even get my act together.”
That day, Miller opened up to a coworker about her feelings, and her coworker encouraged her to see a doctor. She booked an appointment with her nurse practitioner of 10 years at Kaiser Permanante. Together, they decided medication was the appropriate route of treatment.
“I’ve been on it ever since and, honestly, it was probably the best decision I ever made,” said Miller, a bubbly woman with an infectious laugh. “I haven’t had a single suicidal thought. I feel normal — I forgot how great that feels.”
Miller talks to a life coach on a weekly basis. She switched professions and works from home as a representative for Herbalife Nutrition, a company that promotes health. She serves on the board of a local group for mothers called You Are Not Alone Mom 2 Mom (YANAM2M).
She credits her strong support system of family, colleagues and friends for pushing her to get the help she desperately needed.
“Moms really are the cornerstone of the family,” Miller said. “If we can’t take care of ourselves, if we are not healthy mentally or physically, it impacts our families.”
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