The Racine County Eye and Kenosha Lens’ tribute to Mother’s Day 2022: “A Few Good Moms” wraps up with the first of three stories of moms who have touched the hearts and lives of more than they could possibly know. We will showcase two more mothers, one each Sunday for the next two Sundays. These mothers are all receiving a special service or gift from Salon All Star in Kenosha.
Our first story is about a US Army Veteran who found her way to motherhood unexpectedly, during the fight for her life against mental illness. This Mother’s Day we honor Emily Ballman, of Racine, as a part of the 2022 Racine County Eye and Kenosha Lens’ search for “A Few Good Moms.”
Serving in the Army
Emily Ballman is a resident of Racine. She is the daughter of two US Army Veterans and the youngest of 4 children. Each of her siblings also served their country in the US Army. After graduating from Horlick High School in 2016, Ballman, 17, set out to serve her country.
In the US Army, Ballman was a Logistic Manager. During her three years of service, Ballman was deployed to Korea and Japan. She also served stateside.
She spent 12 months in Korea, where her life changed forever when she was sexually assaulted by her Chain of Command. She arrived overseas on January 6, 2016, and was assaulted on January 21, 2016. Following the traumatic event, Ballman began experiencing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
She says, “I had to work with my perpetrator for that entire time. I was bullied and targeted. ” She continues, “if somebody is in higher authority over you, it just takes as much as writing something down to get dishonorably discharged. And so it’s kind of my word against his.”
Emily states, “I didn’t say anything until I got stateside until I felt safe enough. And then everything unraveled.” Ballman’s mental health declined and she was discharged from the US Military. An investigation took place and her abuser was sentenced to prison. However, that punishment didn’t change the effects it had on Emily’s life.
Ballman hung up her boots for the sake of her life. Due to her PTSD, she experienced depression, anxiety, seizures, self-harm, an eating disorder, panic attacks, ADHD, and even suicide attempts. Upon returning home, Ballman was hospitalized and started receiving treatment at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
She shares, “I was required to meet with a treatment team three times a week, and basically lived inpatient for the past four or so years of my life.” She is now considered 100% disabled according to the US Military and US Government.
“I was so actively suicidal I was praying for the day I didn’t wake up and was disappointed when my attempts didn’t work. Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any crazier, I got unexpectedly pregnant. I was not mentally in the place to take on being a mother, but people who knew how dark of a place I was in convinced me ‘it’s a sign,’” shares the Veteran.
Needless to say, Ballman felt different than other mothers. She didn’t feel an instant connection when she first heard her daughter’s heartbeat. She didn’t feel excited to become a mom. Her mental illness contributed to feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. The feelings of fear and worry are not uncommon for expecting mothers and mothers with children. These types of feelings are however just not talked about enough. Ballman went through with the pregnancy and gave birth to Kyler Robbins, just over a year ago.
After the birth of her daughter, Ballman was challenged with Post Patrum Depression (PPD). She continued to face her own diagnosis and even still, Ballman had plans to act out her suicidal thoughts.
Little did the veteran know that those feelings would change. A shift in Ballman’s life occurred and the thoughts of self-harm and suicide came to a halt.
It took another curveball for Ballman to find her purpose. On top of everything this far, Ballman began dealing with a sick newborn. She and her boyfriend, Justin Robbins, spent many nights awake dealing with a baby with an undiagnosed condition. Most nights, Kyler screamed out in agony. On one of Kyler’s tough nights, Emily found her purpose.
She vividly recalls the night her daughter changed her life. At about 7 months old, after a night where her daughter spent hours screaming and crying out in pain, Ballman said the words, “I’m not going to leave you. Mom’s here,” to her baby. As this mother spoke those words, her baby’s demeanor changed. The tears stopped flowing and the screaming turned to silence. Her baby felt comforted by the presence of her mother and Emily knew then that she could never leave.
“My brain drew a line in the sand and I crossed it overnight. And I just woke up and like, you know what? I’m gonna fight this.”
Reason to Live
She’s here to be a mother to her daughter, who is now nicknamed Sheppy. Ballman shares, “in the New Testament shepherds are the ones who are chosen to witness the heavenly announcement of Christ’s birth.” She explains, “in this case, my daughter, Sheppy was being chosen to come down and rescue me. I honestly believe that. I don’t think my purpose was to become a mother. I think my purpose was to become her mother.”
While Ballman and her family continue to deal with the ongoing health troubles that “Sheppy” faces, one thing is certain, her mother will be by her side through it all.
Becoming an Advocate
While Emily has faced enough trials for a lifetime, she believes in not only being there for her daughter but for other mothers too. Ballman’s changing the narrative to shine a light on mental illnesses that mothers face. The veteran chooses to share her story so that others feel seen, and so other women can know that people will stand by them. She wants to normalize the reality of motherhood.
She explains, “depression is a taboo and people don’t like to talk about it because of the scary outcomes. The outcomes happen because we’re not talking about it. I will talk about suicide attempts and plans all day long. As much as it makes somebody else uncomfortable, it could save somebody else’s life. I will go out of my way, out of my own discomfort, to comfort somebody else.”
Ballman is now an advocate for maternal mental health and veterans’ mental health. Currently, Ballman is enrolled at the University of Arizona for Early Childhood Development. She is taking courses online to become a parent educator, sharing knowledge about gentle parenting. Her goal is to help parents guide their children to develop into the best versions of themselves. She actively is researching and educating others about her field of practice so that she can support mothers, especially those who feel lost.
In the future, Emily plans to help create more resources for mothers who may be struggling with their mental health. As for now, she finds joy in connecting with mothers one-on-one. She invites people to reach out to her through Facebook or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if they are in need of support.
“I want people to know they can even contact me even if they’re a stranger,” she encourages, “because that advice would have been so much more helpful from somebody who has gone through what I’ve gone through.”
Mental Health Support
If you are a veteran, or a veteran mother, struggling with mental illness, Ballman encourages you to take advantage of the VA’s Mental Health Walk-In Clinic in Milwaukee. The Veterans’ Crisis Line is available at 800-273-8255 (select 1) for free, private help anytime 24/7. The VA additionally provides suicide prevention coordinators to connect service members with ongoing counseling and services.
All mental health services provided at the VA can be found online.
Other mental health services include:
Are you a veteran? The following support services are available as resources to you.
Thank you to Emily Ballman for sharing your story of bravery and fighting to be there for your daughter. We additionally thank all of those who nominated their mothers to share their stories. Want to read more stories about moms in Racine County?
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