Today is #BellLetsTalk Day across the country. Last year, I shared my personal story with a quick Instagram post and a tweet showing a picture of the two small pills I take every day to help me cope with symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. One low dose antidepressant and some Vitamin D.
Sharing that short but personal story generated a lot of discussion for me. It inspired a few people to share their own journey and also let me know that I am certainly not alone.
This year cause me to open my eyes and see into the much darker side of Mental Illness and I think its important to share what issues we deal with on the farm, in my own words, however I know we are not unique in our struggles.
#1 – Weather
The weather plays into stress on the farm more than most people realize. Every single seed we put in the ground, every blade of grass we need to feed our livestock and every drop of rain that does, or does not fall, effects our entire year. We can’t control whether we get too much sun, or too much rain, and we can’t control a random June frost like the one we got this past year that effected so many of our farmers. We were lucky, but many were not. Although we have crop insurance and we expect weather events to have an impact, it is never easy when it does. It is literally our blood, sweat and tears that go in to making the farm run and when you have to watch it go bad in the blink of an eye due to a change in weather, it really increases that stress level. Not only can it financially make or break the bank, it can also make or break your mental health.
#2 – The pressure of supporting a family.
Supporting our family and making sure we always have a reserve in our cup for our kids can also be hard at times. They are always first and foremost in our day no matter what gets thrown at us on the farm and some days that can be a lot, which makes it more important for us to be successful at what we do. Success is one of the many things that makes people feel good, but success alone doesn’t keep that cup full. If we are good at what we do, and not let the small things bring us down, we’re able to enjoy our days, put more positivity into what we do and be happier, more successful, and therefore better role models for our kids. If we aren’t successful, that positivity dwindles, happiness is harder to achieve and that reserve in our cup can’t be sustained. Some times it would be so easy to get sucked into the demanding days and work until we drop but its important for our mental, and physical, well being to slow down and take time with the kids to show them that although part of being successful is working hard, making money and having financial stability, another part is making sure that we’re happy and taking care of ourselves.
#3 – The “F” Word
Perhaps the most stressful thing that many farm families deal with is the future. As the daughter-in-law on the farm, this is something that causes a huge amount of stress for me. I rely on someone else to control my future at this point in my life. My husbands parents. I haven’t been under the control of my own parents since I was 18 so to feel like I don’t hold my own future in my hands at this point in my life is incredibly stressful. I can’t speak for my husband, but we both work hard for the same thing and have the same goals. We’re in this together. In some ways I find the future a very difficult subject to talk about because its so personal, in others, I’d like to scream at the top of my lungs and let everything out at once. The future is scary. The unknown is scary. Planning for what may come, or lack of planning for what may come is terrifying. As mentioned above with a family to support and the stress that already comes with that, the fear of not knowing if we’ll be able to support them financially in the future or continuing on with the career and lifestyle we are so passionate about is overwhelming. This is not a situation that’s unique to us and knowing that makes it some what easier as we have people we can talk to and relate with, however that also makes it more frustrating because its so hard to believe that so many of our generation are stuck in this situation. And being stuck is scary.
While these 3 things are all topics that may effect mental illness, they do also contribute to our mental wellness.
The weather allows us to be a part of an amazingly diverse industry which is continually changing and coming out with new crops or management practices to help farmers like us with the ups and downs the weather brings.
Our kids keep us grounded and provide endless entertainment and help us see the reasons for doing what we do.
The future may be scary, but its also filled with prospect and opportunity in one way or another.
No matter what your worries may be or what causes stress to overcome you, remember that you’re not alone. These are my top 3 but everyone’s stress and mental health situation is different.
Always remember that someone else is there too, or has walked in those shoes and made it through. Reach out to someone you trust if you need help and if you see someone struggling remember to be that help to them. You never know when you may be bringing someone out of the darkness and into the light.