Below is a post from a guest blogger. She wanted to share her story anonymously on KickAss Living. I am honoured that she trusted me to help her tell her story.
I should be working right now but instead I’m left wondering… is this my Kickass life?
I remember a time when I didn’t need anyone to make me happy. My water cooler dating advice to anyone seeking enlightenment was to “take yourself out on a date. If you can’t stand being in your own company for 3 hours… how can you expect someone to spend a lifetime with you?” Happiness is from within and no one can give you that.
I worked hard to be happy – it wasn’t an easy journey – but I wasn’t going to let depression and anxiety kick me in the ass.
Fast forward 12 years and after 3 grueling pregnancies and extreme post-partum depression I was failing. Failing at business. Failing at housework. Failing my kids.
I felt like I was failing life.
The baby was 18 months old and I still wasn’t getting better. My anxiety just kept getting worse with each passing week.
We were busy, sure – 1 car, a husband on shift work, little kids at home, ailing parents who needed increasing care, a successful business and career to manage. But I couldn’t.
I couldn’t look at my inbox on those days it was too hard to get dressed, to brush my teeth. I couldn’t face my inbox weeks later when my anxiety over replying to everyone made me hide under the proverbial rock.
My kids’ needs were met – that was a non issue. They were fed, clothed, had activities, saw their grand-parents multiple times a week. They went to school and preschool, they had friends, but I rarely had time to just enjoy them. I felt like my life was spent in the car running errands, in the car to go help someone, or in the house trying to make sense of the clutter.
Driving was a nightmare. The kind of nightmare where you see a crazy driver go by and you can see the accident that could have been as if it was right in front of you. I could see my mangled car. I could see my kids splattered on the asphalt.
Let’s rewind a minute: I could see – clear as day – my children splattered and dismembered on the asphalt.
Horrible, right? I never meant any harm to my kids – EVER. But my anxiety was so severe I could see the worst case scenarios all around me.
All the time.
I’m betting your gut fell right through your ass and you’re feeling some mixture of sadness, anger, and that feeling we get when we can’t peel our eyes away from a train wreck.
I know. Because I felt it. Every day. Every time I got in the car.
You can’t unsee those images your screwed up post-partum brain shoves in front of you. It’s disturbing. It’s horrifying. And like the train wreck you can’t look away from, the memory dwells and each time you remember, you violently shake your head to try to get it to stop.
But the show must go on.
I remember sitting in my Dr’s office, and telling her exactly what was going on. I’d always described it as ‘crazy thoughts’ but that could mean so much.
I was explicit. I wanted her to understand my pain and help me get better because I wasn’t coping anymore. The house was a wreck, the car was a wreck, my business was a wreck, and let’s just say my marriage wasn’t exactly honky dory. I screamed too much and lived too little. I was a wreck.
A change in my medication brought a tremendous amount of relief. Before I left her office, the doctor grabbed my arm. “You matter. YOU. Take the time to decompress. Make sure you get enough sleep even if it means napping with the kids. They’re old enough to do age-appropriate chores – put them to task. And your husband? Anyone with a demanding job comes home stressed but he lives there too, and he needs to be more supportive and helpful. Take care of you – or this will only get worse.”
I did just that. I put ME first for the first time in years and every day I felt just a little bit more me. My husband didn’t understand but then again he didn’t really believe depression and anxiety was a disease. I should have been able to push through it in his eyes.
I cancelled things. A lot. Family events, meetings, appointments… if the kids hadn’t slept, weren’t feeling well, or were fighting and misbehaving, I didn’t leave the house alone with them – I refused.
I burned a lot of bridges, business and personal, but I had to take care of me. Ultimately I’m a much better mom, wife, and friend if I’m not frazzled before even leaving the house, never mind doing groceries, shopping for a gift and a full-blown family affair an hour away with three cranky kids in tow, by myself.
It got better. I got better. Clients got booked, the kids & I went out more, groceries got done. I would put my foot down and insist on running errands on my own – I was entitled. Dads do it all the time!
I learned to communicate my anxiety with the kids; I couldn’t live with myself if they grew up thinking I was angry at them all the time. To the oldest, “I’m in a really bad mood right now. It’s not you. But this is what I’m feeling. You can help me by giving me a bit of space for 15 minutes.” To the younger girls, “Mommy is really cranky / has a bad headache. Its not your fault but I need you to help me get better by behaving / not screaming / etc”.
Today I can tell you the crazy thoughts are buried deep. I still get anxious, I still get overwhelmed, but that’s when I step back and take time to decompress, to clear my head.
Almost every aspect of my life is better…. almost. Ours is the picture of marital strife and my husband is of the impression that my need to decompress, to have alone ‘down time’, means spending time with him doesn’t make me happy. He’s right – I make ME happy – but I still want to spend time with him.
He thinks my delegating and insisting that everybody chip in is selfish. Between down time and delegating tasks, I’m a horrible selfish person who puts herself first above all else. That is what breaks my heart.
He loves me more than life itself but does not want to be with a self-absorbed selfish woman who prefers to decompress on her own, daily, before canoodling or other marital activities. The woman I am today, exactly as I am today, is not enough.
I’m raising independent girls with strong opinions. I’ve told them – and showed them – that it’s OK to be you. If someone – friend, lover, superior – doesn’t accept you for you are it’s OK to keep being you. If they can’t handle it, it probably wasn’t meant to be. Granted it doesn’t mean they have a behavioral free pass – respect for self and others is a must – but they shouldn’t change who they are at the core for anyone or any job… it’s not worth your happiness.
I don’t want to change, and shouldn’t have to. Also, what kind of message would I be sending my daughters? I must lead by example.
This * is * MY kickass life. And the woman I am today isn’t going anywhere.
I’ve played my cards and chips fall where they may. I love my husband dearly but if this brings us at an impasse I will be OK; I’ll survive.
Because I am a kickass woman living a kickass life.