Mental Intervention

What was I thinking having three kids?

I mean, I love them, but who went and told them they could have their own social lives?

My life has turned into a maelstrom of meetings and play dates, educational outings and activities, birthday parties and sleepovers. Add that to my own [limited] social calendar and my outta-mind anxiety is over the top.

A dear friend once commented that a fellow mother reentered the real world more smoothly and earlier than I, perhaps because she came from a large family and was better equipped to juggle multiple responsibilities at once. She was busting my beans for being incommunicado for most of my child’s infancy, but it stung. Because I was an only child, I sucked at balancing the many demands of life? More so, I think it hurt because it hinted at my inability to cope. In a subconscious effort at self-preservation, I had compartmentalized my life to its limit. The new job of mothering was so all-consuming, I shut out all other demands like the airlock of a submarine to prevent an all-out deluge.

Nine years later, I feel myself pulling back, anticipating catastrophe as life – mine in relation to the swirling schedules around me – ramps up big time. Can I truly not handle all we’ve taken on? Or is my anxiety creating a problem before it’s even – or will – begun/in? I think my struggle is a direct result of my anxiety and not from a need to learn to say no.

It could also be the stubborn mule in me that hates change putting on the brakes. My family no longer exclusively rolls as one unit. The oldest is here, the middle is there, the youngest is home with Daddy while I run errands. Going to the grocery store by myself and buying Christmas gifts without acting like an art smuggler to keep them away from prying eyes is a luxury – but our family life feels so disjointed lately. Times of transition are not my friend.

Another friend once left me a message – somewhere between the two points on today’s timeline – that I couldn’t just stop answering the phone because I was stressed out. It amazed me that she could see me more clearly than I could see myself. When I finally did talk to her, she made me laugh and at least temporarily forget my troubles.

I need some sort of mental intervention now. If only I could enact one myself.

Solitary Confinement


It’s not that I didn’t believe her . . .

My therapist told me that, while I may have had underlying anxiety for years, it hadn’t presented itself until I had one, two, three children because up until that point, it had been manageable. I could handle it. I’d organically and subconsciously found coping mechanisms. The fact that I could no longer manage it didn’t signal failure, but a new tenor to my life that was above and beyond – and that wasn’t going to change anytime soon. I balked at taking medication to control it, but she pointed out that there is nothing I can do to control the level of stress that accompanies three children – while I can assist my bodily systems and psyche with medication.

Intellectually, I understood it. I trusted her and her care. But there was a part of me that didn’t truly want to buy it. The control freak in me raged. I can do this! Even while popping the pills, I thought somehow, someday, I’d overcome this. I’d whip that three-kid schedule and lifestyle into shape and surmount the odds.

Then one day, four years, ten months into the anxious maelstrom that had become my life, I found myself alone. There was movement, noises on the edges of my consciousness, but it was gentle, distant. My husband came to kiss me goodbye before leaving for work and then I was truly alone.

I debated going back to sleep, but figured I’d be in that half-conscious state that would leave me feeling worse than if I’d gotten up early. I did roll around in my head various scenarios of what I might do with my time, but more mind blowing than my options sans kids was the quality of the time sans kids; that is, unfettered. There were things I wanted to do, things I should do, but nothing I absolutely had to do. For several hours, the majority of this fine day, I had to answer to no one.

I could eat when I felt like it. Nap when I felt like it (which I did end up doing to counteract the non-sleeping-in). Pee when I felt like it. I could open that new bag of crispy treats at midday and eat as many as I wished without vultures swooping down upon me. I could concentrate unencumbered on the tutorial for a new software program that’s been languishing on my desktop for lack of time (and be inspired to take said nap before returning to it 😉 )

There’s no such thing as perfection. I did need to intersperse my chosen activities with household duties due to the threat of family members coming to see the house for the first time. But even that may have been a blessing in disguise, as I finally found a home for the mound of summer attire that had taken over a chair in my room – which, again, would never have happened had I not been alone.

It was at some point during all this alone time, however, that I sat on the couch and stared at the gloomy scene out the rain-speckled window. I was still tired, I was still mushy-mush. I wasn’t channeling Gene Kelly in all my solitary resplendence. I was still the non-prioritizing, neurotic perfectionist able to unravel at the drop of a hat if things didn’t go according to plan.

The thing was – the plan was much more likely to stay stuck without three little whirling dervishes to spin it apart from the inside out. And if not, I could adjust accordingly, changing course according to my needs and neurosis. Or just chill out for the day until my thin skin thickened up accordingly.

It’s so much easier when things fall apart for one person than a whole tribe. And much easier to put the pieces back together. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the whole tribe does not fall apart; in a poignantly fortunate way, I suppose, just its leader. And when it’s up to the leader to keep the tribe together, her own loose pieces rattle together until she has a day alone.

And since those days are few and far between, medication it is. At least I don’t drug alone.


A Sit-com of Errors

I desperately want[ed] to pin my depression on ‘postpartum’.

If the hormonal let-down following birth was responsible for my troubles, then it was acceptable.  It was normal, natural, physiologically sound.  And it was temporary.  Once my body got back to stasis, it would go away.

Three years later, though the cloud has shrunk, no wind stiff enough has come through to sweep it across the plain of my life and over the horizon.

I don’t think I can ‘blame’ postpartum anymore.

My therapist said that my anxiety and depression are situational; that the heightened stress of my last pregnancy, the trauma following it, the continued stress of a three-child household all brought out my worst symptoms.  I argued that I may have always had some latent tendencies toward anxiety and depression.  Perhaps, she said, but up until this point I had successfully managed them.  I wanted to pinpoint the origin of my maladies, while she was focused on helping me overcome them.  In my mind, if I could find a reason for it, my depression might be more understandable, more valid, more easily admissible.

I think the term situational freaked me out.  Situational.  Just because I was in a shitty situation I couldn’t hang?  What kind of weak human was I?  This wasn’t a sit-com on network television that, after thirty minutes, left the sad sack sitting on the couch for a vibrantly-colored automobile commercial that told viewers to go out and grab life by the *#&@s.  My situation had grabbed me by the neck and wouldn’t let go, throttling me for much more than thirty minutes.

Now as postpartum fades in the rearview mirror, and my symptoms continue, some getting weirder (reemergence of night sweats), I’m turning my attention to other causes.  My aunt gave me Thyroid Power: 10 Steps to Total Health by Richard L. Shames and Karilee Halo Shames.  Since adolescence, my physician has tested me for nearly every cause of low energy: anemia, low blood sugar, mono, thyroid . . . you name it.  A few years ago, she diagnosed me with Raynaud’s Syndrome (because of my frigid, ubersensitive extremies), but that was seemingly unrelated and no other conclusive evidence could be found of a specific problem.  After reading this book, it seems this is the story of many other individuals with undiagnosed and untreated thyroid issues, which – you guessed it – is a major cause of depression and energy problems.  At this very moment, I am awaiting the results of a blood test much more detailed than the usual thyroid work-up, which often isn’t sensitive enough to catch subtle problems.

But even if I never determine the exact cause of my depression, does that make it any less real?

Whether my brain is misfiring its seratonin, my hormones revolted against another pregnancy, my anxiety makes it impossible to hakuna matata, or my thyroid is on hiatus, my depression is impairing my ability to live.

Yes, I need to analyze certain factors to appropriately address it (i.e. choosing SSRIs, hormone therapy, and/or just plain old people-to-people therapy), but my therapist had the right idea with simply moving forward; rather than looking back, looking forward with a positive outlook to improve my situation.


It would be nice if the script-writer of my life could wrap it up in a nice, tidy episode, though.  To be continued . . .

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