Like many of you, I am a mom juggling the demands of work and home and family. While I am a professional Paralympic athlete, I am also proud to have served our country in the Army and run a small business when I’m not training for the next competition. The demands on my time might look a little different than yours, but parents share some common themes of attempting to “do it all” and often feeling like we’re coming up short.
The feeling of coming up short is a tough feeling for all of us and I struggle as I have always striven to serve our country and my loved ones at the highest levels. After being deployed to Iraq in 2004, I became the first female American soldier to lose a limb in active combat, when my vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. I was honored with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star and made a promise not to let losing a leg slow me down. Four years later in 2008, I became the first Iraq War veteran to qualify for the Paralympic games, competing in swimming. In 2016, I won a bronze medal in the triathlon, competed again in the triathlon in 2021, and am now training for Paris in 2024.
During that time, I also got married and became a mom of two. My day-to-day schedule includes more working out than most fellow moms, but we share struggles of balancing the many demands on our time as co-workers, moms, spouses, and friends. To navigate the challenges of elite sports and the day-to-day chaos of raising children and working full-time, I’ve prioritized my mental health, and I challenge you to do the same.
May happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month and when we celebrate Mother’s Day. This year, I’m challenging the fellow moms in my life to have conversations about their mental health.
We need to talk to ourselves and others about our struggles and our joys to improve our mental wellness. I have found that talking to someone about the worries I have and the everyday stressors I struggle with is so helpful to help put things in perspective and balance my priorities.
This can mean talking to family and friends. I am a social person by nature and have always loved talking things out with my support system. That is an important part of how I prioritize my mental health, but not all of it.
For me, talking to a therapist — a third party removed from my personal life — gives me a fresh perspective and improves my ability to focus and perform at the highest levels. Therapy can help anyone who is trying to juggle work, family, friends, and home obligations. It can be intimidating to ask for help whether you’re an elite athlete.
As moms, we can be expected to “do it all” without issue. Sometimes the realization that you do need help, and asking for it, is the toughest choice of all. It means facing your fears about yourself or the unrealistic expectations you feel from others. But it’s amazing how life changing it can be once you take that first step to get support. No one — an athlete, a parent, a co-worker, or a neighbor — succeeds alone. It takes a team, and we all have to prioritize our mental health just as much as our physical health.
If you need to talk to a professional about your mental health, talk to your primary care provider for recommendations or try a mental health company like SonderMind that can quickly get you connected with a therapist who can help you and takes your insurance. And if you are in distress or thinking about hurting yourself, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 at 988.
As mothers, we can do a lot of things, but we never need to go through challenges alone! I challenge each of you to start a conversation with someone you trust and if you are struggling do it today. Build your team of supporters and seek the professional help you need. We can do this together!
Melissa Stockwell was commissioned into the Army in 2002. After being deployed to Iraq in 2004, she became the first female American soldier to lose a limb in active combat, when her vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. She was honored with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star and made a promise not to let losing a leg slow her down She is a business owner with her husband, co-founder of Dare2tri Paratriathlon club but is most proud to be a mom to her two kids Dallas and Millie.
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