Hey friends. I know many of you have been following my struggle – both with Ryder and my hashtag #mandyshealingjourney. Some of you have reached out to me regarding your own struggles, journeys and difficulties; whether it be to offer comfort or seek solace. My sweet friend Shelly felt called to share her story with me, and I asked if I could share with you. She graciously gave permission, and I hope some of you find comfort in it, as I have. <3
So, you know that moment when you start picturing how your life will be once you are married and have kids? You have everything planned out. You’ll be the Pinterest queen, your kids will have perfectly matching clothes, your house will look like you have a maid, you will be the ultimate crock pot meal prepper. Every day will be perfectly planned out. You’ll wake up early and have your daily devotions in quiet with your cup of coffee, you’ll have a wonderful breakfast waiting for the children to get up, after breakfast you’ll have a list of activities for the children to do, then snack time, then outdoor play, then a well rounded healthy lunch, followed by a peaceful nap that allows you to get your house back in tip top shape. After nap, you’ll have a creative snack, followed by some other Pinterest driven craft, then prepare dinner, then eat dinner, then bathe the children, then read several books, give kisses and hugs and say bedtime prayers, then they fall asleep peacefully and you think how perfect your life is and you do it all over again the next day. Ok, THIS was my view of what my life with kids would be.
We were so excited, and nervous, when we found out I was pregnant with our first child, who is now three. We had a wonderful experience with our chosen birth center and team of midwives. We had an unmedicated water birth, and it was everything we’d hoped for. I did have some issues with breastfeeding, that I would eventually overcome with success, but the struggle caused some really emotional times. However, I would say my post partum experience was fairly normal. I didn’t experience any sort of depression. Fast forward 14 months, and we found out we were expecting our second child, who is now a little over a year. Again, we had a wonderful pregnancy experience, and a very successful unmedicated birth. We were over the moon with joy and love for him. We had two beautiful sons. My post partum experience right after my second son went pretty normal. Breastfeeding was no issue at all. There were some emotional days with tears, but nothing out of the ordinary. You know, the normal “Oh my baby is beautiful and I don’t want him to ever grow up,” feelings.
Our second son was born January 2015. Around late September of the same year, I started noticing some differences within myself. I was suddenly more emotional and had a slight temper. Quickly after noticing this, I started my first menstrual cycle since having my second baby. My hormones were very off and I could feel it. I chopped my emotions up to the hormonal shift of my body trying to get into balance. Unfortunately, things began to quickly spiral into a downfall. I was no longer just feeling emotional, but I was starting to have feelings of anger. Strong anger. I began to feel very overwhelmed with the demands of motherhood. I couldn’t keep up. My sink was always overflowing, my laundry was always piling up, and the kitchen table was the drop off center for everything. I was constantly yelling at my two year old for pushing my buttons. I felt like I had no control over my life at all. I would, and sometimes still do, go four to five days without a shower. When I would shower, it was a quick ten minutes before my husband left for work or after the kids went to bed.
I began to feel like I was suffocating on a daily basis. I would wake up in the mornings and immediately feel anger. I didn’t want to conquer the day. I wanted to just sleep all day. I started feeling resentment towards my husband. I’m a stay at home mom and I’ve been home since I had our first child. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a stay at home mom. This is the dream, right? Well, I began to hate my husband for the fact that he worked. Yes, I despised him when he left for work. Every day when he would get into his car, I would just stare through the door and think about how he had the luxury of driving thirty minutes to and from work in peace. Just to think. In the quiet car. Meanwhile, I’m trapped in this jail cell with children attacking me and I can’t breathe. I literally felt like I was stuck in the back corner of a tight closet, with zombies coming at me, with no escape. The thing is, I KNOW my husband doesn’t enjoy leaving us to go to work. I KNOW he works his butt off when he’s there and it’s not a vacation. No, I didn’t want to go back to work and leave my kids every day. I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but I was struggling. Struggling like nothing I had ever imagined before. Struggling to the point of not enjoying life. I was crying a lot. I couldn’t focus. I would take the kids with me to the store, and once we got inside, the aisles would be spinning out of control and I couldn’t even figure out what I needed. So we would leave. I would sit in a room of the house and just stare at the wall. My two year old would be talking to me and it sounded like I was under water. Then eventually I would snap out of it and try to have a conversation with him. I felt like there was a brick sitting on my chest and I couldn’t lift it off. Every single day. I would walk up and down the hall, pacing, with my fists clenched in anger at my husband not being home. I would be enraged when I would get all the laundry done, only to find his clothes on the floor. Enraged with such anger, I could have literally hit him. Literally. This was my life every day. I hated life. I was never happy. I never smiled. I loved my children deeply and I loved my husband deeply, but I hated myself. I tried to talk to a few close people about how bad I was struggling and how hard the days were. My only responses were, “I’m sorry. It’ll get better. Being a mom is hard. Tomorrow will be a better day.” I was practically screaming my head off, trying to tell someone that I am not me. That this is not normal. That I need help. I need someone to run in and rescue me. Pull my head out of water because I am literally drowning.
There was one day, that it hit me hard. I was having a REALLY hard day. I was crying. I couldn’t focus. My head was spinning. I felt extremely sad and unhappy, but I didn’t know what was wrong. My husband told me to drive by myself to Target and just walk around and get a drink. I was barely able to even make it to Target. I couldn’t focus on getting myself there. Once I got there, it took me a while just to get out of the car. I had to talk myself through it. Once I got into Target, I had an even harder time navigating the store. I literally didn’t know which way to walk or turn. I felt lost. Like I didn’t know what I was doing. I was literally not myself. This was not me. Something was wrong.
I decided to contact one of my midwives whom I felt really close with. I told her everything. She had me come in to the birth center and talk with her and she wanted me to fill out a depression questionnaire. It was so hard even going in. I’ve had two babies with them and they’re all like family. Of course several of them asked if we were expecting again and if I was there for a prenatal, with big smiles on their faces. I kind of put my head down and quietly said I was just there to talk with my midwife about something. Each answer on the depression sheet was worth a number of points. She informed me that anything over a nine, she treats with a medication. I scored a fourteen. I tried to talk to her and I lost it. I poured my eyes out in that room like I never had before. I kept telling her how this is not the mom, or the wife, that I was suppose to be. I’m better than this. I always have full control and I never lose myself. Why is this happening to me? How did I spiral this far out of control? Can I ever have more children? I want more children, but can I? Will I ever come out of this black hole? She was so good to me that day. She spoke to me in the exact way I needed her to. I can whole heartedly say that she was the only person who heard me out and understood my screams. She “got me.” I felt so comfortable pouring my embarrassed heart out to her. I was ashamed and humiliated and down right scared. I would have never seen myself getting to a point of not knowing who I was. I also expressed to her how lost I felt as a human being. I was watching so many people on social media doing the things they love. Having amazing experiences. Working or volunteering to do things they were passionate about. Things they were called to do in life. A few years ago, and even more so recently, I have felt called to be a part of the birth world and help mothers with breastfeeding. It’s become a huge passion of mine. I feel like it’s where I’m suppose to be in life. Being in a season of “waiting” has been very difficult. Those passions aren’t something that I’ve been able to jump on just yet, and it took a toll on me mentally and emotionally. I’ve had feelings of failure and often asked, “when is it going to be my turn to accomplish my goals?” I felt like I wasn’t being fed. I felt as if I was alive, but not living. I was simply existing, but existing for others and never for myself. Like I was slowly dying on the inside and there would eventually come a time where it would be too late for me to accomplish anything. She reassured me that this was only a phase. She told me I can absolutely have more children and I WILL accomplish the things I’ve felt lead to do. We just have to get over this hurdle.
After our conversation, and with her help and guidance, we decided it would be best if I go on a mild anti depressant. I was now going through the embarrassment of being on an anti depressant. I knew it was for the best, but I had never had to go on any sort of medication for my emotions and mood. The drive thru at the pharmacy didn’t make it any easier when they grabbed the pharmacist to have him come to the window and he asked me repeatedly if I’d ever been on an anti depressant. Then repeatedly told me the side effects and all the details with a line of cars behind me. I know this is protocol, but, “give me my stuff and leave me alone”, was all I could think.
Once I started the anti depressant and got through a few small side effects, I do feel like it helped me. I still felt like the only mother who had gone through anything like this though. I only discussed this with a few close friends, who were very sympathetic and supportive. However, as I began to open up to more and more moms about what I was battling, they all related. Many of them said they’ve had the same feelings as me and a few said they also had some sort of depression and anxiety. A few even said they needed the help of an anti depressant to get them through it. This just screamed at me. I have never felt so alone before, and yet there is a whole group of women who have experienced the same things. They all related to me. Why did I not know this? Why is this not talked about more? Why are so many women hiding behind their closed doors and windows and suffering alone? There are so many different groups for moms to attend these days. Why isn’t there a group for moms who are struggling? Where we can pour our hearts out to one another and cry with one another and then lift one another up. It could be this stigma that society has placed on us. We pay so much attention to people on Facebook and how perfect their lives appear to be and we compare ourselves. This will drive any mom insane. These perfect moments that people share on Facebook are simply a small glimpse into their chaotic lives. I couldn’t tell you how many people have said to me, “You’re such a great mom. You’re super mom. You have it all together, girl! I love seeing your posts about your boys and everything you all do.” I would usually just smile and say, “Thank you,” but on the inside I was screaming, “Actually, I feel like I’m going crazy. My house is trashed, I never cook, I smell because I haven’t showered in five days, and I feel like I’m going to rip all of my hair out. Don’t get anywhere near my face because I often times don’t even brush my teeth until it’s bedtime again.”
I battled back and forth between wanting to share my story with people. I was and still am terrified of the judgement. However, the way I look at it is, I’m either going to be judged for how I parent, or judged for how I have struggled as a parent. So why not attempt to help other moms who may be hiding and screaming to hear that another mom has/is battling the same issues? My goal with sharing this, would be that other moms wouldn’t be afraid to talk to someone. I tried talking to a couple of people, but they weren’t getting it. It took me having to seek out my midwife and ball my eyes out to her. Then I ended up discovering many of my friend moms have battled as well. I just never knew it. So if you’re struggling and you feel like your head is slowly slipping under water, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I thought I was alone, but I’m not. Talk to someone. It will do you NO good to keep your feelings and thoughts bottled up, because you’ll be battling YOURSELF, and that’s a battle you will never win.
Most importantly, if you know a mom and she is beginning to act different and not herself…I would highly encourage you NOT to judge her. You may have/might be handling motherhood in a way that appears to be better than her. However, maybe you never went through this. A lot of moms do, a lot of moms don’t. Or perhaps you just haven’t entered that difficult season yet, that she is currently in. What you CAN do, is tell her that this isn’t forever. That she WILL make it through this. You may not understand her and what she’s battling, but you need to encourage her and support her. She may be feeling extremely overwhelmed, which could make her appear to just be in a bad mood or grouchy. Have an open mind and a warm heart when you’re with her. She may not even realize she is coming across as cold. She may just be feeling cold herself, and could really use a tight hug instead of criticism and judgement.
I can honestly tell you that I do feel like I am still in this unexpected journey. This weird season of feeling lost. I take it day by day. I have no idea when I will be done with this. Some days are wonderful and some days are horrible. I DO know, that once this is over, I will owe my children an apology for not always being patient with them and not being the mom I aimed to be. I will owe my husband a major apology and a clearer insight into what I was battling. I know he has tried to understand. I know he has sat back and watched me and probably wondered who stole his wife for so many months. As odd as this sounds, I’m just not ready to have that sit down yet, but one day we will.
I’ll wrap this up with one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes from his book “Oh The Places You’ll Go.” “You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And NEVER mix up your right foot with your left.”
To my fellow moms everywhere… “You’re off to great places! Today is YOUR day! Your mountain is waiting. So….GET ON YOUR WAY!”
~Shelly Mckoin Collie