Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Calm After the Storm, Isn't Always Calm...aka My Story of Anxiety/Depression Etc...

Think about it.  The calm after the storm is usually when the realization of what the storm has done hits you smack between the eyes.  Then the work begins.  The clean up, the readjustment to life, the moment where you say "this is my life now-post storm-and I am going to keep going, stronger!"

But it is also the moments where you see all that has happened and you have a plethora of emotions flooding your run-down self.  Emotions are good, but there is always the possibility of "too much of a good thing."

This is not something that I have ever publicly shared about.  Considering that I feel called to share my life with complete strangers, it is kind of shocking that I haven't "gone there, yet."  To people who do not like sharing all of their bizzz-ness, they will think that I am a nut-bunny.  But driving home from my doctors appointment today, I heard a still small voice saying "this is part of the life that you live, this is part of you being a mom with special needs kiddos, you can do it."  And yes, the last part-the "you can do it" was said in the voice of Adam Sandler, lol.

That still small voice is not schizophrenia, even though the doctors office that I was leaving was a psychiatrist.  Some may call that voice "a conscious".  Some "a muse".  But I know that the still small voice that I hear is a gift from my Father in Heaven.  I call it the Holy Spirit.

Because, you see, there is nothing and nobody else, that could convince me to share this topic with you or anyone for that matter.  I am a wimp in many ways and talking about my struggles would definitely be my fear scenario if I were a character in "Divergent" by Veronica Roth.  See how long it is taking me to get to the point!!!

I have struggled with anxiety my entire life.  I have also had bouts of depression that seem to come when I have had just about enough of the anxiety and my life seems rather glum or out of control.  I had my first nervous breakdown at the ripe old age of 17.  And by nervous breakdown, I mean a literal breakdown.  Thankfully, I had a very good friend, an awesome mom, and a loving older sister who helped me to make the decision to spend some time in the hospital to work through some of what was happening in my life.  It was during this time that I realized my passions, what made me tick, what I needed to take proper care of myself, and that I am stronger and smarter than I ever gave myself credit for.  It was also where I learned that being sensitive, emotional, and empathetic are not a weakness.  In my opinion I think that they are a super power, a gift, and a great responsibility.

After I had my first child my mom and sister came to the rescue again when they realized that after about two weeks I was white as a ghost and although wildly happy I was both anemic and dealing with the most anxiety I had ever had.  I found it hard to even walk around the house because I was afraid that I would trip and fall thus hurting my new precious baby.  I went to the doctor, changed my diet (increasing iron), and also tried anxiety meds.  This was the second time I was on medication and I took it for a while and then stopped because I found that my copping mechanisms worked so much better than the medications that seemed to give me horrible side effects.  I loved art, walking, music, dancing, reading, and I loved to pray.  I also had an amazing support system through my home church and women's Bible study that my friend April hosted at her house every week.

Life carried on and my husband joined the Air Force.  We moved to Oklahoma and I was land locked and in a state that experienced Tornado's several times a year.  My family was back in Pennsylvania with mountains, trees, and normal human-safe temperatures (joke).  I had three babies aged 4 and under and was pregnant with our very unplanned fourth child whom I struggled to develop an attachment with.  This was crazy to me because I had graduated college with a degree in Behavioral Sciences and my major focus had always been social research, family studies, and attachment parenting (my minors were Religious studies, English, and Women's Studies/Ministry).  When she was born 6 weeks early and spent time in the NICU it made it that much worse.  Fortunately, my best friend told me that she was worried about me because she thought that I might have pre/post-partum depression and the light bulb went off.  Again, just realizing that I was struggling in this way and remaining active helped me to deal with the symptoms.  When my preemie was just a few months old (and before I started taking anything for depression or anxiety) we found out that we were pregnant with number five.  Ironically, he too was very unplanned.  We found out during this pregnancy that I have auto-immune disorders that caused the pre-term labor (I went into labor early with all of my kiddos but was able to stop it with the first three) and that it made it that it compromised the different birth control medications (and other medications too) that I used.  The good thing about this pregnancy was that it made the depression and anxiety go away and it stayed that way for several years.  Despite my last baby being born 8 weeks early and spending more time in the NICU, I had a very good few years without overwhelming anxiety.

But then life kind of took me on another down swing and Avagrace's seizures became real and constant.  Everything was happening so fast that I didn't even stop to think about how I or my husband were handling it.  Our focus everyday was on the kids, their safety, and their happiness.  The more seizures she had, the more nightmares and sleepless nights I had.  The more doctors appointments and hospital stays she had, the more anxiety, bad eating habits, and lack of coping mechanisms I had.  The more hectic our lives became, the more reclusive I became.  It is hard to visit friends, go on dates, or even pick up the phone to call someone when you are; giving oxygen, taking care of seizures, dosing medicine, picking up medicine, calling doctors, fighting with insurance, visiting doctors, going to therapies, and taking care of the typical stuff with all of your other kids.  Add on top of that three moves in six years and we have a house that is so disorganized that Niecy Nash would have to do a multi-part episode just to help us get squared away!

But, it wasn't until the beginning of 2013 when some other very personal stuff, that I am still not ready to talk about, hit the fan so to speak.  And it was just one thing too many and I realized that darn it.  I needed to go to a shrink.  I needed to try the medication route.  I needed to be able to sleep.  I needed to be ok with asking for help.  But most importantly I needed to be ok with admitting that I do not have it all together.  That this life is hard.  And that I am not a bad mom for saying these things.

So here are some things that I firmly believe:

As a person or as a mom you do not always have to have it all together.

It is ok to tell your kids that you are having a hard time, they will learn how to talk about their difficulties and how to deal with healing and growth by your example.

Strength comes in admitting your struggles, not in covering them up or pretending like you don't have them.

And if you made it this far and are wondering what is the point of this blog is let me sum it up...(maybe I should have done that in the beginning?)  Sure, the storm is a time to buckle down and hold on but it is ok to not be calm after the storm.  Healing from the storm is sometimes the most challenging part.

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