What I'd Like My Family to Know About Depression and Anxiety
This is what I would like my family to know.
I see the looks I get. Sometimes anger, mostly disappointment. They see me in the same spot on the couch, wearing the same thing I did yesterday. The laundry is piled on the chair, the dishes are piled in the sink. Dinner’s not planned, let alone made. Toys and papers cover a Cheerios- and Cheez-It-encrusted living room carpet. I can hear what they’re thinking. “What did she do all day?” And instead of telling them about the pain, or exhaustion, I mumble, “I’m sorry, it’s been a bad day. The baby…” and just leave it at that while I make the futile attempt to put dinner together or pick up the living room so it doesn’t look like a Toys R Us crack den.
If only they knew how hard it is to sleep when your brain won’t shut off. You think of your past, present, and future. Are you a good mom? Will the kids get into good colleges? How will we pay for college? We don’t even have savings accounts for them. We really should do that. But we already use every dime we have. Hope they get scholarships. How are their grades? Should I get their eyes checked? That cost almost $500 for all of us last time. Maybe that’s why I’ve been getting these migraines. I hate migraines. The only way I can get rid of them is sleep. Sleep. Yeah, that would be good. If I fall asleep now and if the baby stays asleep, I may get three hours tonight. Scratch that. He’s crying. Again. Well, off to the WII room. It’d be great if I could sleep in my own bed with my husband. My poor husband, how does he deal with me? It would be nice to be able to have some kid-free time with him. How long has it been? How long has it been since I had a shower, or brushed my teeth? That’s bad, I can’t remember. Ok, he’s done eating. Where’s the binky? Under me, all right. If I fall asleep now I may get two hours.
This is the cycle that goes nearly all night. Each night. For two years. I wish I could say my day starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends at 10:00 p.m. But in reality each day just melts into the next like two scoops of ice cream on the August sidewalk. You can’t tell where one scoop ends or one begins. Eventually you can’t tell there is two scoops let alone what flavor they even were.
I get out of bed at 5:30 so I can get the kids awake and ready and on their buses for school. This is sometimes the hardest part. I’m not sleeping, but I’m not ready to be awake. At least in my bed no one expects anything of me so I can just lay there in a semi coma, conscious and unaware all the same time. It’s like Shrodinger’s cat.
Once the kids are on the bus another round of insecurities and worries and fears creeps up on me. Did they get all their books? Did I need to sign anything? Did they brush their teeth? I need to brush my teeth. I should really try the oil pulling thing again. But I’ve already had coffee. Ooh, coffee. I think I drink too much. Maybe it only looks that way because at least one cup will get too cold to drink. Why is he a Velcro baby? Did I hold him too much as a baby? Do I hold him too much now? Have I ruined him and now he’s never going to sleep on his own or in his own crib or room ever? But if I don’t hold him I’ll feel bad and I’ll be a bad mom because you shouldn’t let them cry for too long because it damages their psyche and emotional intelligence and puts them under too much stress. But I need to do laundry and dishes. My gods, I’m tired. I really need to start getting more than two hours of sleep a night. Sesame Street. Yay for Sesame Street. I know I’m using the TV as a babysitter. I really do have the TV on too much, and the girls are addicted to the tablet, and I have so many apps on the phone for the baby, but my family needs clean underwear and socks. Let me slide and get this load on—and what is that noise? What is that smell? Great, the belt is going again in the washer. No spin cycle today. We really need to get a new washer. And a new dryer. Seriously there is so much that needs to be fixed and replaced here that it may be easier to just get a new house. It’s not that I’m ungrateful. I’m totally grateful. It just seems a near Herculean task thinking of replacing and fixing and repairing. And the money. Oh my gosh, the money. Taxes. We really need to get the taxes done. I can’t wait for warmer weather so I can take this stuff outside to drop and the sun and bleach out there. Thank goodness we have this vent thingy so it stays warmer in here when I run the dryer. Wait, Sesame Street can’t be over already! Naptime, yay. Wait he didn’t even eat any breakfast. The doctor says he needs to eat because his weight is low, he’s short, and he needs to grow. What if he isn’t on track on his next appointment? No, he doesn’t want to sleep in his bed. On my chest again. Maybe I’ll vacuum when Hayhay gets home. I should really try to catch some sleep. Ooh, but there’s a new curriculum I want to check out. Oh, he’s awake already. I’ll just put him down, and nope, he said no can do on that. Maybe I’ll get the dishes when Hayhay gets home.
This is what goes on in my head. Actually, there’s a lot more. It’s fairly difficult to keep track of each and every single thought. Consider what I’ve given you as a 1:5 ratio. Interspersed through all that is thoughts of my friends and family here in Joplin, in Springfield, in Philly, and elsewhere. I worry if I’m a good mom, a good wife, a good daughter, a good friend. I worry if the last time I spoke to my grandparents will be the last time I ever speak with them again. I worry about what will happen when one of my parents passes. Will we move the surviving parent out here? Am I over protective or not protective enough? Will the King get tired of coming home to a wrecked house and even-more-of-a-wreck of a wife—with so much extra baggage it has to be shipped because the airline said no more carry on. I worry if my kids will be thirty years old on a psychiatrist’s couch, talking all about me. I worry about my parents being alone. I worry about losing the few friends I have. I worry about being alone.
My brain is so full some days I wish I could just touch a blank book page or computer and do a brain dump—to unload all the noise and clutter. It’s hard. I try to listen to my family, but it’s already loud in my head. Every different version of every various scenario playing in my mind while real life commands attention. It’s daunting and exhaustive trying to listen about algebra and gymnastics while you cook dinner and you’ve got your dad’s voice in your head telling you about plans for your next Disney trip and dave Ramsey tells you how to save for it while a Pinterest list of what to pack and what pictures to take pops up like a virus on your computer.
Think of it like this. You’re in a room with a hundred people all talking at the same time. You listen as best as you can to everyone’s stories. You have one hour to listen to every single person. At the end of the hour you need to remember what five of those people told you in great detail.
Do you get it now? Do you see how it all just gets so burdensome? I’m Atlas and I bear the weight of the world on my shoulders because for some stupid reason I got it in my head that if I don’t think about these things no one will.
I need help. Not professional doctors and medicine kind of help. I need understanding and patience. I have good days where I get junk drawers cleaned out and organized. Huge bags of trash and donations have been known to leave the house in a single day. Other days, I really am lucky if I can get up off the couch to get a cup of coffee.
I need my friends, but mainly my family, to understand I’m not trying to be rude or ignore them. I’m not trying to shirk my responsibilities off on them. I need a little help and a lot of patience. I want to hear all about their day and experiences and feelings. It’s the brain clutter I can do without quite happily.
I want my loved ones to know they are just that. Loved. It hurts me seeing the confusion and disappointment on their faces. I need them to know I’m trying. When I say I’m doing the best I can, that’s not a flippant response. Some days are better than others, but I always try to do the best that I can.
I may need a lot of patience and understanding, but I have a lot of love. And if I could get a little help with the laundry and dishes that would be greatly appreciated.