Tuesday, November 5, 2019
My Anxiety and Depression Journey
As I have parented first one special needs daughter, then a highly spirited son, and then another special needs daughter, I saw my stress levels progressively increasing.
It got to the point where I was getting about 3-4 hours of sleep at night and operating in hyper drive all day, every day. It felt like if I slowed down or stopped for even a second, everything would fall apart.
I worried. I worried about everything. Was my daughter's IEP being followed? Was I doing enough at home? Was her seizure medication dosage correct? Had I made that doctor appointment? Updated insurance information? Was I working with her enough at home? Was our will up date and in place?
That, plus all the "typical" mom worries- shoe sizes, dishes, spirit week, trying to exercise and give attention to my hobbies, husband, friends, etc.
It was utterly exhausting. I was tired ALL the time, and yet I couldn't ever tap the brakes.
I finally realized the symptoms of depression and anxiety when I broke down and sobbed to my husband that I didn't want to be around our older special needs daughter.
That I didn't like being with her and was yelling and spanking my kids and never wanted to be that mom. I was snapping at my kids and husband over stupid things that didn't matter, and everyone was walking on eggshells around me.
I never thought I would resent my child as much as I did that night. Even though I knew it wasn't her that was the issue. Intellectually, I grasped that she is incredible and amazing and I would do anything for her.
But I was so mentally, physically, and especially emotionally drained. Completely depleted.
When people asked what I did to fill my figurative "self-care" bucket, I felt like my bucket wasn't just empty, it had cobwebs on it and was dry as a bone.
How on earth was I supposed to find time to nurture friendships, go on date night, enjoy my hobbies, and volunteer when every second of every day was spent cleaning up messes from my kids and managing the care for two special needs girls and a boy who demands constant attention??
After nearly a year of dropping hints to my doctor about my possibly struggling with depression and anxiety, I went into her office, sat down, and refused to leave without being screened and getting something for relief.
My doctor said my stress levels were off the charts and prescribed me an anxiety medication. As I left the office, I was having anxiety about the anxiety medication! Would it change my personality? Would I be less of myself?
But I was determined to be a better mom, and if I needed a pill to take off the edge, then that is what I would do.
That night, I took the medication, and was awake with yet another stress-induced migraine (had had them 3-5 times a week for years), and felt the medication take effect.
It was one of the strangest and most liberating feelings I have ever experienced. I felt my body relax for the first time in years. My jaw unclenched when I hadn't even realized I was tense.
Before, it felt like my mind had been scummed up with racing thoughts and feelings, but the medication gently wiped those away, replacing my resentful feelings with a greater empathy for those around me, and an increased awareness of their needs.
The first day I was on the medication, I felt weird. I felt very floaty, and didn't care about just about anything. My kids threw food, and I just shrugged and thought "well I guess we can clean that up later". No screaming or yelling. And guess what? We cleaned it up later with no fuss.
Now, I feel like I can focus on a task at hand much better. I can prioritize what is important and put off other things (hence a 3 month break in blogging!), and be okay with not completing my entire to-do list in a single day.
Now, I feel like I can take time for myself, and that it is okay. The kids will learn to play together, if we have some cereal or sandwich dinners, the kids will still be fed, and if the floor isn't vacuumed, then it is still okay.
I had always considered myself a very positive person until this last year. I naively thought that if someone would just think happy thoughts for long enough, they wouldn't be depressed anymore. If you just focused on what you could control, you wouldn't feel anxious.
I need to just stop making any type of judgements or assumptions! Because I always end up learning lessons the hard way when I do that.
I can attest that anxiety and depression are REAL. It isn't a matter of thinking happier thoughts, exercising, eating a healthier diet, and going on walks with friends. I was doing all those things, and while they did help, they didn't fix the problem.
So my plea to anyone who thinks that they may be struggling with anxiety or depression- PLEASE get some help! Whether that is counseling or medication or whatever you need, you are worth the effort!
And I promise, it is SO freeing to be able to enjoy the kids that God gave me instead of feeling angry about being cheated out the children I thought I should have had.