Over the years, there have been seasons when I’ve fallen hard.
I’ve struggled with a dark little echo that says, “This is just who you are.”
I’ve been paralyzed by the thought of getting out of bed at times, let alone fixing breakfast for my kids; but also knowing I needed to keep myself together for their sake.
You see, I struggle with anxiety and depression. I am a 32 year old, career-driven, social butterfly and single mother who has faced anxiety and depression since I was 16 years young.
I don’t sob and wail and flail. Instead, I just become numb, uninterested and sad. I’ve laid in bed contemplating the difficulty of functioning enough to send the kids to school; wanting, instead, to call us out sick from work and school, and making it a lazy movie day inside. Because that seems about as much as I can handle. Some of those days I can push forward and muster up the ability to pour a bowl of cereal and milk for the kids. But really, that almost seems too hard. I hop in the shower to prepare myself for the day, yet I’m unable to do anything but let the hot water run fiercely down my body as if it could magically wash away all the pain I feel in that moment, or maybe all the pain I’ve ever known over the years.
Nothing specific seems to trigger the days when I struggle. Some days it just hits me. And it hits me hard.
Over the years, I’ve worked hard for my mental health. I’ve taken medications, I’ve asked for help. I’ve partnered with therapists – some who I didn’t click with, and those who felt like angels sent to show me that my battles are lessons. Such beautiful lessons.
In my late teen years, I was hospitalized. I remember the room, the lighting, the smell, and the intense emotions as my father wept over me in a hospital bed – the room free of things that could harm me. I kept my eyes closed because I couldn’t fathom the pain I’d see reflected in my his eyes. The pain both my parents must of been in. Back then, mental illness was not a big conversation, with somewhat limited resources. It felt as though no one could help me, not the doctors and not my parents.
But then, fast forward all these years and I have kept striving. I am now the parent. I am responsible for two human beings, a career, a home and myself.
And one of the most important insights I’ve gained on this journey is that the mornings when it feels too difficult to move are actually an indication that something in my life needs to change. I’ve learned that as humans, we must listen to our bodies. When our anxiety and depression seems to “flare up,” it is actually our body’s way of telling us that something in our life has to shift. This framework for my mental health was an incredible insight.
My first thought was: start small. I’ve found one of the changes I can make is to create space to have a “me” day. These days, I purposely plan so that I am the only one who needs me. Sometimes, I am exhausted and drained from being needed by my kids, work, bills, laundry, and all the things required to be an adult. So I send the kids to school and daycare, and then I do as I please. I don’t touch the dishes, laundry or vacuum. Instead, I cozy up with a good book and a warm cup of tea. I do what inspires me and reignites my internal peace. I go into these days with the intention of finding the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. I’ve learned to trust that it’s there, I just have to work at it.
Other times, my changes look a little bigger, like establishing new boundaries. I have to ask the hard questions… Am I over committing myself? What things don’t serve me anymore? Can I let those things go? Have I just been too caught up with keepin’ up? Do I need to create boundaries for work, friends, family or myself?
I’ve also learned the power of a support system. People in my life who truly love and support me and my beautiful kids on this journey of life.
The bottom line is, depression and anxiety are part of me. I’ve had to learn how to work through it while working with it. I have had to learn how to become self aware and introspective. I’ve also learned how to share my story without fear of being shamed or ostracized by others. Because my story might just give someone else the hope they need while also helping me verbally process my internal struggles. Most importantly, I’ve learned that my mental illness does not make me weak and fragile, but instead makes me courageous, tenacious and proud.
Because look how far I’ve come.
Now, I don’t have a magical fixer upper tip for those of you who mom so hard, but also fall flat many days out of the year. I don’t have the perfect therapist to recommend. I don’t have a magical formula to offer you to make things immediately better. But I can tell you, there’s light. There is hope. And I can tell you that I’ve struggled too. So trust me when I say: If I can work through it, I know you can too. Take heart.
If you are struggling, don’t hesitate to ask for help! The SAMHSA’s National Helpline is always there for you: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).