Mental Health and Stress

After one of the hardest days I’ve had in a while, I want to talk about the stress load and mental health issues I face on the farm. I know I’m not alone in these matters either.

Every farmer tries to show the best side of everything we do, rarely do we discuss the negative, the stress and even worse we rarely discuss our mental health. As the nation is falling apart over the latest election results, I think it’s time we talk about the real issues happening in rural America.

Farmers, ranchers and land owners are facing many different challenges that stress us beyond measure at times. This is my view and vision only. I’m not saying I’m a representative of anyone else but I’m not holding back anymore.

Most rural are taught to “suck it up” and not discuss issues. This is wrong. We have to stop doing this. Let me explain why. In normal mental wellness, they tell you that you can’t bottle up things that bother you. It causes you to become irrational and irritable. Yet, in agriculture it’s a fairly normal conversation to vent about cattle price, bitch about the weather and deal with most of our community issues alone. Even folks within the ag world crucify others for trying to express a differing opinion.

Even being involved in Farm Bureau, online groups and organizations don’t build bridges within our own industry. We face topics of HSUS in a united front but yet when some would like to open dialogues about why these issues crop up, they continue to lay blame on the opposite side. Not every farm is perfect but we never talk about what created the environment into which animal abuse starts. I’m not saying that every depiction is taken in appropriate context but there are plenty that get national attention that ARE and HAVE ACTUALLY happened. Yet, as an industry we don’t do anything until after the fact and then try to defend the rest of the similar farms against being unfairly lumped into the same groups.

Farmers and ranchers are worn out, slammed into the ground no matter what type of farm they have and then we argue among ourselves. As a female in the industry that started farming as source of therapy, through manual labor and mental health reasons, I’m so sick of the drama. It’s not just those in our industry either, it’s people we work with. It’s that banker that calls you a hobby farmer when you run a 150 acre farm and your only income comes from farming. It’s the accountant that says, you can’t keep doing this without an influx of some cash. It’s battling through a stack of paperwork to get a grant because that’s your only option to get much needed fence you can’t afford and can’t get assistance for. It’s the denial of ag tax exemptions and exorbitant land taxes.

It’s corruption in local towns that favor one over another and unjustified taxes that no one will stand up to help you fight. It’s people not admitting fault in a design and basically giving the shoulder shrug that it’s your issue to deal with because you can’t sue the USDA, there aren’t lawyers with balls enough to take on the federal government over a pond system.

Had enough yet? Imagine the stress load of all the above. It’s feeling like getting kicked in the ribs daily. Think it doesn’t take a toll on how we think or how we react? As I’m just starting out, there are days I want to quit. Just walk away with a finger flying in the middle of the air and say “fuck you! I’m out.”

Yet here I sit, an uneducated, rural woman (according to the media) that’s so sick and tired of the push of more government crap into my face, more regulation that makes it more and more difficult and so frustrated with the status of markets and futures I walk around thinking I would love to see some of these lawyers and political official do my job for just a simple 30 days. I’m sick of feeling like everything I do or try to do is dictated by someone.

Every single piece of this drives me insane mentally. I have friends who think I’m the strongest person emotionally they know. It’s so far from the truth!! I’ve made myself sick with worry, lost sleep crunching numbers and building additional alternatives for a business plan. I’ve lost weight, gained weight, been distracted and gotten hurt. I’ve sat at my kitchen table and cried over the tax bill, knowing I’d have to sell off cows to pay the bill. I’ve been angry over slanders about talking to my husband that I don’t have and the following insults. Others farmers tell me to “buck up” or stop “overreacting”.

I’m an emotional roller coaster but I’m determined. I have a vision and a dream. I might break but I always rebuild. I use apps and webcams to meet and talk to counselors. I’m blunt and open with people who say “you should take a spa day” by explaining that I’m a single farmer and I deal with 100% of EVERYTHING that happens on this farm. I don’t have a hired secretary. I don’t have a man do the cattle tending. I don’t have anyone but me! I work 365 days a year.

The reality is this… I get depressed. I have panic attacks. I suffer from anxiety. I have insomnia. I don’t eat right. I struggle. I stress out. I’ve got ulcers. I’m tired. YET… the thought of losing my cows is tearing my heart apart. I cry. I can’t remember the last time I spent time on something that made me not worry or stress and just laughed. Maybe after all the calves were born this last spring and I watched 16 calves and their mothers running and playing in the pastures.

Farming is something that’s in your blood but there are times I make some very irrational decisions. I just get sick of listening to people criticize and give advice when they have no concept of how damn hard I’m fighting right now to keep MY DREAM!

I apologize for the length of this post but I’m just venting to stop myself from bottling up even more. Thank you all for understanding this need. I hope this brings some understanding.