Did you know May is mental health awareness month? I had no idea until it crossed my screen the other day, on Instagram or Facebook. I scrolled by it so quickly, barely acknowledging it at the time. But then it got me thinking. I’ve avoided writing this post for months, afraid to be this transparent. But as usual, if it takes up real estate in my head for too long, it’s at high risk for getting written out, and I think it’s important. So, I have a confession:
A few months ago, over Valentine’s weekend, Erron and I had a ‘Come to Jesus’ conversation that had been boiling over for weeks. We were driving back from a weekend getaway with friends where we spent the majority of the weekend separated; guys fished, girls talked. It was probably for the best because Erron and I had been treading on thin ice anyway. I was totally exhausted. Like, turn on a show for the kids, napping in the middle of the day kind of tired. (I never nap.) Work wasn’t busy but I could barely keep up with the house. Thinking about cooking dinner made me want to cry. (The daily responsibility of feeding my people can still have this unfortunate affect on me;) Around that same time I wrote this post, documenting my memories of Shep’s accident making a fierce comeback and reeking all kinds of havoc. The point is, Erron’s words on the drive home from Valentine’s Day confirmed what I already knew. As much as I wanted to be, as much progress as I had made… I hadn’t really recovered.
And I was sinking.
Since Shepherd’s drowning, I’d filled my life with positive distractions, a new career, new community group, volunteering, this blog….and sometimes that worked….But I had to fess up to the truth, things were not going so well. I was defensive, agitated, and mostly, I was just So. Freaking. Tired.
I knew I had anxiety. I knew it. But I kept wanting to label it as temporary, conditional. I continued to blame my exhaustion on Char’s terrible sleep habits, when the truth is I was out running hard and pushing a double Bob stroller full of kids only 8 weeks after having Charlotte. She certainly wasn’t sleeping through the night then either. It wasn’t adding up. And when I REALLY took stock, critically looking back over my adult life, it was glaringly obvious that I’d always danced with Anxiety. The tempo just ebbed and flowed depending on circumstances. I took Anxiety to work with me on my first job, fighting panic in the middle of classroom when things where moving sideways on me. I thought if I changed jobs I could leave it behind. But I unknowingly packed Anxiety up and brought it with me to my second job in Highland Park. Anxiety followed me around like a shadow dressed as Standardized Tests and intimidating standards. After a rocky initiation into motherhood with Shepherd’s extra early arrival, I was over it. I made it one more year, then ran out of the classroom as fast as I could, vowing I would only feel that anxious over my own kids from that day forward.
And for a while Anxiety took a vacy. Then I had Char, and 9 months later, I found myself back at the doctor running all my labs, checking my thyroid desperately trying to figure out why I was so tired all the time. My levels came back fine, and my doctor looked into my eyes and asked me straight out “Could you be anxious, or depressed?” I fought back my tears and shrugged my shoulders. I had NO reason to feel anxious, or depressed. But something wasn’t working. After weeks of hearing me doubt my mothering skills, my Dallas community group asked me the same question. Still, I wasn’t ready to own it. Soon after, we got distracted by Erron’s new job, and moving to Oklahoma. Then Shep happened.
Flash forward to the Valentine’s Weekend drive home with Erron. It was messy. And painful. I was going down and Erron was going down with me. He was at a loss. I’d known I was running out of options before the weekend even started so I’d already scheduled an appointment with the same doc I’d seen right after Shep’s accident. I’d tried medicine for anxiety then too, (I had felt justified in taking it to combat the awful memories) but the prescription put me in a fog and I‘d quickly bailed, preferring to talk it out with our counselor. That helped, SO much. Yet it was clear Anxiety had made a massive comeback and was pulling out new tricks I hadn’t seen. I was finally at a point where I was ready to not only own it, but hit it with the big guns. So I sat in the doctor’s office and laid it all out. “It’s like I’m spending every second of the day, capturing a thought Anxiety is feeding me, then having to pin it down and say, “You’re not true.” Or, “That won’t happen.” And I think it’s wearing me out.” He agreed, if you’re doing that all day, no wonder you’re tired. We decided to try something new.
About 10 day’s later, I finally felt a shift when I realized I wasn’t SO tired for the first time in a long time. I made it back to the gym for the first time in a year and half. When work picked up and I had to negotiate deals and write contracts for the first time, it became clear that a glass wall had been put up between me and Anxiety. I could see my anxiety through the glass, buzzing like a hornet trying to sting, but this time, I could choose whether or not to engage with it.
There are a lot of opinions on this, especially in the Christian community. I know the verses, trust me…I’ve said them to myself over and over when I fight off images of Shep poolside, blue, still, and staring. I pray them at night when I’m stressing out about Shep ever learning to read, or us having enough money to pay for private school long enough to get him reading. I pray them with my littles before they go to bed. There is power in those verses, God is big enough to take my anxiety. Jesus swallowed Anxiety up whole when I should have been tucked into a ball on the hospital room floor. But that doesn’t mean that the daily battle with anxiety, or depression isn’t legit, or that it sometimes doesn’t take some help to push through. Sometimes, it does. And I did. And it’s working. Hallelujah.