I can't decided where to start or what to write, so I'm just going to start typing, and we'll see what comes out. Sound good? Great. My last post was on October 23rd. Almost 8 months ago? I'm pretty sure I was a different person on October 23rd. I wrote about post partum depression and how I had just started taking medication, which if I remember correctly, was in late August of last year. So now I've been on medication for nearly a year.
I want to be very careful about how I share this journey because I realize so much more now than I ever have before how insensitive it can be to make claims on mental health. Whether you admit it or not, we all have preconceived notions on what mental health struggles are like. I'm sure if you hear the words depression or anxiety you have ideas of what those things are, and you likely even have a person in your life that struggles with one or both. You probably also have idea of what medication for these things is like, and/or what it is like to be on these medications.
For me, I was in a place where I absolutely needed the leg up. I felt like I was drowning, and I knew there were choices I could make that would help me, that would make me feel better, but I couldn't handle making those choices. I felt debilitated. Tied down. For me, the struggle wasn't very visible. I still went about life in a mostly normal manner. I ran my dayhome, I went to church on Sundays. I smiled. I was happy. I kept my house mostly clean, and I my family was fed and had clean clothes to wear. By the end of the day however, all the pretending I was ok took its toll on me, and by the time the kids went to bed I was completely empty. I would sit in front of the tv or my phone screen and attempt to "rest" or have a "brain break" and I would ignore all the thoughts that were trying so hard to consume my mind. Then I would go to bed and the thoughts weren't quiet anymore, and I would lay awake feeling panicked that I had wasted another evening in front of the TV when I should have been doing *something* else. The "something" changed day to day or week to week - often having to do with things like balancing the budget, doing my taxes, organizing my bills into the proper folders, or cleaning out the back entrance or the storage room. These tasks felt like they needed to be done, but I felt completely unable to even take the first step towards doing them. It felt as though not doing these tasks was going to ruin me.
It felt like impending doom. My inability to do these things made me think I must not be doing other things that were equally or more important. And not doing them meant we would one day find ourselves in financial ruin- unable to pay our bills and care for our children. I would go to bed each night begging God to help me do the task tomorrow. Help me wake up tomorrow and feel ready to tackle the project and not feel paralyzed. And the next day would come and I would ignore the task once again. Sometimes if I found myself with a pocket of time to myself (quiet time for instance) I would remember I should be doing something and feel panicked again. Cleaning something usually helped the panic because I felt like I was being productive and had something to show for my time which I felt like I was wasting. I have always felt this way about cleaning (and still do!) which is why Chris always raises an eyebrow and asks if I'm alright if he comes home to an impeccably clean house.
Medication has quieted the thoughts and made me feel like myself again. In fact, I feel more myself than I have in years, and after a lot of introspection I have realized that my struggle with post partum depression goes back much further than I first realized. If I could pin point when things started to be "hard" I would say it started right around the time when I first opened my dayhome when Elliott turned 1. It was a steep learning curve to learn how to "parent" children that were 1, 2 and 3 years old after only having a year of parenting a baby as experience. Also, Elliott's poor sleep hit an all time high (I was up almost once an hour most nights) and now all of a sudden I needed to not just be awake at 6, but shortly after I had to be dressed and ready to make 5 kids breakfast. It was hard, and I think I felt very stuck in the situation because I had planned and prepared for having a dayhome since long before Elliott was even born, and I felt a lot of pressure to make it work, and to be really good at it. Thankfully I have come a really long way since then, and actually enjoy running a dayhome now.
Now that I am approaching a year on medication I have started to think about my mental health a lot. I think that there was a lot that happened in the year leading up to starting it. A hard pregnancy, my Dad's fall, having a new baby (read:hormones be crazy!) and a toddler that needed to adjust to that, Chris getting the new job, moving... the list goes on. I was mentally just laying on the ground in the fetal position, shivering, and the medication was like a warm blanket. So far I have felt like I still need it to stay warm, but I am thinking forward to a time when I might be able to put it down. I have been doing some research about mental health and how to manage my entire body's health (including my brain) through a number of things- diet, exercise, good communication with Chris and healthy rhythms that lighten the mental load. If anyone has any resources they would like to share on the topic, I would be more than happy to hear about it!
Friends, this stage of life is no joke. Go hug a mom of small kids today and tell her she's doing a great job. I promise you she needs to hear it.
Thanks for reading! I promise I'll post again soon (or at least sooner than 8 months)