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Friday, September 8, 2017

Mental Health for Mom

I’m 52 years-old. Some days I wake up thinking, I would sell my house and all my earthly possessions just to pay someone to come and take over this mom gig for me. I'm sure someone else could do a better job. 

Well ...I wouldn't sell my bed. I love my bed. 
Or my down pillows. 
I would also keep my mala bead collection, and my laptop, and maybe my phone and well...I don't know, but mostly everything else, I would sell.

My last child just graduated from high school. My two older boys are both out of the house, slowly moving along with their lives. My 21-year-old has autism and mood dysregulation disorder. He will probably always be high maintenance and need help with managing his life, but at least he is working. He keeps a job, and right now he has two. Maybe, just maybe I will get lucky and some day he will find a lovely woman to marry and finish raising him. I am done. Mostly. Only he hasn't finished growing up. 

I must have been delusional to believe that this stage of my life would be a time of celebration and freedom. Maybe not total freedom, but at least more freedom. I finished raising children. I can finally have a life, right? I can build my web site, write my book, launch my t-shirt design business, travel with my husband, travel alone, and maybe never come back. 

Maybe I could finally feel a sense of purpose beyond the care, feeding, and therapy of other ungrateful humans. 

Only none of that freedom has happened. And it doesn’t feel like it’s close to happening.  

The 18-year-old also has autism, mood dysregulation and a ton of anxiety. He is not launching as expected. He is brilliant and has all of the potential in the world. However, right now he is a nervous, anxiety-ridden, self-sabotaging, bundle of hot mess. We’ve been putting him through all kinds of thousands of dollars in therapy. Our goal is to get him to the point of being able to somewhat regulate his emotions. 

Between transition from high school into adulthood, starting community college, friends moving away for college, and other social situations, it turns out that this is not a straight shot. It doesn't matter how high his S.A.T. score is if he can't manage the responsibility of college life. 

One would think this would be an exciting time for a young adult, but for someone who doesn’t deal well with change, it is an onslaught of, gigantic, scary looking, changes and challenges. 

When his anxiety is high, it sometimes turns in to anger and it's not cute when you're a big old 18-year-old boy. I happen to be the safe person that gets to see and feel the brunt of that frustration. 

So last week, I found myself in the office of a Psychiatrist. Talk about depressing. I’ve been in Psychiatrist's offices many times before --for other people. 

I never liked Psychiatrists or the process of dealing with psychotropic medication for mental health. When your back is against the wall, and someone you care for about is not mentally healthy, you do what the hell you have to do, just like you would if they had any other illness. 

I’ve been on anti-anxiety medication for a while. It was prescribed by my Primary Care doctor. She had the nerve to move away in January to take care of her own parents. Damn her for having a life. I loved that woman. 

She left me with a script that by May, was no longer doing the job of keeping my anxiety in check.

Years, months, days and countless minutes of hyper-vigilance, living in this stressful, chaotic, war zone I call home, has conditioned my body to be on alert for something bad to happen even when there isn't anything major going on. It's the infamous, waiting for the next shoe to drop. PTSD from hundreds, if not thousands of meltdowns, fights and phone calls with a bomb on the other end of it. I get butterflies in my stomach and my heart starts racing every time the phone rings or any time voices get raised above a certain level in this house.  

I tried all summer long to avoid taking the step of seeing a Psychiatrist. I’m in therapy. I tried walking. I did yoga. I transferred some of my responsibility as Payee and Problem Solving Consultant for Kendal, to his father. These things helped, but there was still lingering depression and relentless anxiety. Every time, I felt like I made a step in the right direction, something would happen to knock me on my ass again. 

I can’t tell you why it is that we as moms, put ourselves last on the list in too many ways to count. When something is wrong with one of my kids, I’m in a doctor’s office in a heartbeat. 

Over the summer, my arthritic knee was killing me. It took months before I finally gave in to go see a doctor. When my anxiety and depression was flaring, I tried all kinds of band-aids before I gave in and visited a Psychiatrist. It kind of felt like admitting weakness. Like, I just can’t handle my life. 

I asked myself, is this anxiety organic? Is it something I’ve always had, or is it just situational? Yes. I have been living under stressful, circumstances for a long time. It was getting to a point, where I felt somewhat incapacitated in growth and forward movement in any area of my life. Like the faster I go, the behinder I seem to get. 

Having to see a Psychiatrist made me feel even more depressed. I wallowed for a few days after the visit --not moving ahead with her suggested line of treatment. Until I realized, it was a necessary step for my own mental health. Just like with my boys, I have to use every possible tool in the toolbox. Otherwise, I may find myself in a position where I can't take care of anyone.

When you visit a mental health professional, they always ask, "Do you have any thoughts of hurting yourself or others?" Hah! That's a trick question. I think of knocking these boys silly all the time. I have no thought of harming myself tho. I have too much shit to do.

My name is Karen. I needed mental health treatment and I chose to get help. I hope that you will too if you need it. 
Don't let the stigma stop you from getting healthy. Take care of you.