Fixing My Mental Health as a Caregiver
Always a Cheerleader
I was always a person who said things like, ‘take care of you first’, and ‘there is nothing wrong with working on your mental health.’ Supporting and listening to those around me who were seeing therapists taking medication was easy. Allowing myself to entertain the idea of needing or relying on any of those resources, was another story. As my best friend once said I was “always someone else’s cheerleader.”
Don’t get me wrong, there were issues from not having a normal childhood that I was aware of. It was just that I had built a life and I was managing it well. Time and again, I would tell myself that I would go to therapy ‘someday.’ There was never a right time, if there is such a thing. Plus,I had kids, two whom have disabilities, so my mental health was not a necessity or a priority. Why would I want to add yet another therapy to our schedule?
That all changed once I was faced with an issue that took my childhood ‘daddy issues’ to a catastrophic level. I became a pile of emotions and anxiety. My brain took me to dark places that scared me into realizing that this had become the time I had to focus on me. Honestly, it wasn’t just the dark places in my brain scaring me into action. The mom guilt also threaten to take over me completely. When you become a parent you will undoubtedly have guilt about something. Being a parent with a mental illness and past unresolved trauma, leaves you feeling guilt about everything.
Thanks to the anxiety, I began seeing how my mental health was affecting my kiddos. I was never mean or unkind, but I was short with them, constantly. Every time my children would make a loud noise I would become jumpy and anxious. The relentless state of anger, sadness, depression and anxiety kept me constantly exhausted and on edge. For a few months I lost my ability to function, but worse, I lost my ability to just sit and exist. Relaxation was nonexistent.
The Battle of the Antidepressants
Once I, finally, figured out that I was living in a constant state of having no chill, I made an appointment to discuss antidepressants. I made my way through the doctors appointment, begrudgingly, and filled my prescription, while full of anger and annoyance at myself. However, I didn’t take them right away. I was angry, so angry, that I needed those dumb little yellow pills. It wasn’t that I needed them, it was why I needed them that made me so angry. This felt as if it was yet another thing I was unable to control. Another thing that my childhood did to me.
After a few days I eventually took them, but all of the anger and sadness that I felt while not taking them, made me realize that I needed to resolve these things causing me stress. Coming to terms with needing to take time for my mental health, was hard. But, I was very lucky that I found an amazing therapist who specializes in PTSD and began to work through my various traumas.
Figuring It Out
It was not easy, and it took me awhile to not mentally object to everything my therapist was saying. Learning how to have feelings at the age of thirty-two is as odd and uncomfortable as it sounds. In my defense, there was only one person in the household I grew up in that was allowed to have feelings, and that wasn’t me. As I became aware of how abnormal my childhood experience was, it was much easier to accept that I had to change the way I thought. It also made me analyze my parenting, and gave me a better understanding of how I react to situations. Feeling calm and safe is hard when you grow up never feeling safe. The shortness that had become my normal response, was due to anxiety. The exhaustion was from being in a constant state of anxiousness but never allowing myself to rest.
The ‘Other Side’, So Far..
While I still consider myself a work in progress, I am now able to just be. Currently I’m able to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee without thinking about everything that I am doing wrong. Playing with my kids without being anxious about things they may do makes it much easier to parent them. Now I know that everything can be cleaned, and scraped knees can be kissed and covered with Band-Aids. (If I could ever keep them around for more than a week.) I can actually see now that I have a great support system. It’s not the conventional support system that I once obsessed about not having, but it’s mine. And it’s full of people who actually care about my thoughts and feelings.
Being able to see what you have in your life does more than just make you more grateful. Not feeling alone and unworthy makes me a better person and a better parent. I can make a conscious decision about how I react to situations and behaviors from my children. I’m able to speak more clearly about the emotions they are feeling and provide them with the space to feel those feelings. Moreover, I can listen to my gut and allow myself to take new choices, even if I might fail. If you are struggling to sleep, relax, get motivated or whatever else, take time for yourself. Figure out why you are struggling and fix those issues. As corny as it sounds, I promise you its harder to live mentally unhealthy than it is to work through those issues.
If you or anyone you know needs resources to find a help visit Mental Health America