"I Am No Longer Embarrased. I Am Real."

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My name is Lisa Sonnenberg.  I am a 32-year-old woman, wife of 10 years, and a mother of 4 children under 8 years old. I suffer with anxiety and depression. I have suffered for as long as I can remember.

My number one goal in life was to get married and have children. I had 3 kids in 3 years...yikes...I know...but they are all so amazing and a true blessing.  I was overwhelmed a lot. My husband and I worked hard as a couple and made it through the tough years.  We even decided to have a 4th child and I worked out through the entire pregnancy.... all the way up to delivery. I often got comments on how neat it was to see a 9-month pregnant lady doing squats! I know that exercise was what would get me through the increased depression I felt during the pregnant months.

One goal of mine was to compete in a figure competition. I always wanted to train and push myself to the extreme and see what my body could do.  This would take a lot of mental work, but knowing how determined I was by nature, I knew I could do it.

The competition day came, it was a wonderful experience and I loved every minute of it. I am happy to say I won first place in my division.  I have received so many kind words about how I have inspired women.  I love to hear the compliments, but most of these people don't understand the mental struggles that I face. Each day is a challenge and commitment.

This past summer, my husband and I were faced with a huge trial. Finally he acknowledged that I did need help.  I like to say he "joined my team" and he accepted that maybe I am suffering from a mental illness.  We both have had counseling and he has been a real support in trying to understand anxiety/depression.  It has helped our marriage tremendously, working together on nurturing my mental health.  He has had to practice a lot of patience and for that I will be forever grateful.

This upcoming March, I am honored to be a contestant in the Mrs. Illinois pageant. My platform is depression awareness. My goal and drive is to be a face and voice for women struggling with mental illness.  I don't wear a sign that says, "I suffer from anxiety/depression," but I am no longer embarrassed. I am real. I am doing something about it. It is a struggle many days, but I have tools that make life better for me.


--Lisa Sonnenberg, Families for Depression Awareness volunteer

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