So this is normal?…… This is how ‘normal’ people feel?? I can honestly say that I don’t remember a time I felt like this. Ever. Not even as a child.
At the age of 34 I called Uncle. I waved my white flag. Threw in the towel. Whatever you want to call it, I was just done. It wasn’t until after having my two boys that I really realized how much anxiety had taken over my brain and life. Looking back I didn’t make a decision without fear coming into play. There are so many chances I didn’t take. So many things I hid from. My life. I was essentially hiding from my life. It makes me sad for the past, but so hopeful and excited for the future. I decided I’m not missing out on anymore of my life. My personal mission became to thrive and not just survive.
I should first start with what started me down this road and to the realization that I needed help. My husband had been gone for 5 days for business, came home on Saturday afternoon, and then was gone the next morning for another day. Sunday afternoon I was home with my almost three year old and my 6 month old sons. The baby was crying for his bottle and I was exhausted from trying to keep both children amused all day. As I went to give the baby his bottle I noticed it was leaking. I flipped the bottle and it came pouring down my hand, onto the baby and myself, from where it had pooled in the cap. I went into a full blown panic attack. Crying, couldn’t breathe, light headed. I was alone with a crying hungry baby and a brown eyed boy who looked at me with confusion. I said I had to go to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet crying. My three year old stood outside the bathroom door and said, ‘Daddy is happy. I’m happy. Mommy is sad.’. It broke my heart. I told him mommy was fine. (I wasn’t fine) I decided since they both loved bath time I’d work through this and bathe them. In the tub my son started singing Row Your Boat, complete with rowing motions, and for the first time in an hour I felt as though I could breathe. My heart had stopped racing. I knew enough was enough and I was tired of fighting my brain and body. I was tired of snapping at my husband. I was tired of having angry outbursts of yelling at my kids, for well, being kids. This wasn’t ‘me’. This wasn’t what my true nature was. This wasn’t what I was intended for.
I found a therapist asap and had a doctors appointment coincidentally already lined up for my annual physical two days after that. Call it divine intervention or perfect timing. Either way I decided I was going to tackle this from both sides. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
It seems easy enough but there is shame associated in seeking help. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t strong enough to tackle this on my own. That I couldn’t control my own mind and body. I’ve always been fiercely independent and in control, so not feeling that way shook me. I was now sitting in my doctors office praying they’d give me something, anything, that could help. I felt I’d given up. I told my therapist this. That I wanted to do the work myself and not just think there was a magical pill out there that would solve my problems. On my third visit she explained the way brain chemistry works and told me she thought I’d been battling anxiety and depression for so long that I didn’t even realize it. I was shocked. Me? Depressed? She explained how people can function with depression daily and that since I was upbeat it would be hard for others to detect. It felt like all of the puzzle pieces began to fall into place for me. This explained SO much. And apparently not everyone feels a constant underlying sadness. My anxiety was front and center, which had contributed to my OCD for years. That was old news, but depression? Mind blown.
Fast forward 4 months to the present. I’m amazed at the way I’m feeling! I should’ve called Uncle sooner! I feel as though I’m coming out of a fog. I’m really noticing my surroundings. I don’t feel overwhelmed by the thought of exploring or learning new things. I’ve been doing so much more socially. Moms nights out. A trip across country with my best friend being planned for June, and I’m excited! Not scared of the unknown variables of the trip, but excited to see where it takes us. To have an adventure. In two weeks I’m going to a Girl Scout Cookie and wine pairing event on a Monday night. Something I never would’ve done before. It’d be out of my schedule, comfort zone, and fill me with anxiety. As my doctor put it, ‘So you’re enjoying life?’. Yes. I’m really enjoying my life. Every piece of it.
I share this because I don’t want other women to feel the stigma I felt so often attached with getting help. Whether it’s therapy, medication (not something everyone needs, but for me it was a necessary part of my journey), or just asking for support from family and friends. Open up. Tell people what’s going on. Allow them to love you. Allow them to help. I can’t tell you how many moms or women I knew and respected that I’d opened up to about what was going on that had been through the same thing. I had no idea! I was surrounded by amazing resources of support and by women who understood and were fighting the same battles. I felt less alone and relieved. We can’t do life alone, and we shouldn’t. It takes a village. Build yours and really allow them to be apart of your own life. Listen to yourself. It’s likely you know where or what you need help with. The first step is acknowledging it within yourself. Then take that leap of faith. It won’t be fixed overnight, but I’m telling you it’s worth the work and time involved. YOU are worth it.
This all started me on a personal journey to better myself and my life, so I could in turn be a better mother, wife, friend, sister, and daughter. By taking care of myself first I can truly take care of others. I’ll save you the whole airplane air mask speech, but you get it. I wish everyone who needs a journey like mine the strength to start their own. For everyone who has stuck by me and helped me through my own personal journey, I love and thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Here’s to living the full lives we were all intended for.