In high school, I probably had some slight depression and anxiety. Back in the day, there was no social media though, and no one really talked about mental health in teenagers. In retrospect, after my first baby, I probably had some postpartum depression and anxiety, but having a baby and staying home to take care of that baby after working for 10-plus years are two huge life changes, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know, back then. Postpartum anxiety and depression were only something I was vaguely aware of, and it never occurred to me even to ask my doctor about any of my feelings, or that some of them may have been beyond my normal. After the baby came, all that mattered was her, not me. I sucked it up, went back to work (which was a huge help to my mental health), and got mothering done.
Fast forward to almost 10 years and a few kids later. One day after work, I was unloading the dishwasher. I was also cooking dinner, helping with homework, and making lunches, all with crying toddlers underfoot. My hands began shaking, and I couldn’t breathe. I realized I needed to ask my doctor about why I’d react this way to just a normal evening in our house, and I did at my next appointment. With his questions, I began to realize it was too much — that I had finally reached my breaking point, and my normal was now a struggle. Maybe it was the ages of my kids, the multitasking I was doing, the few challenging months at work I was going through — maybe the confluence of all of it. I realized this isn’t going to get better or go away. I needed help.
Help came in the form of a small nightly pill.
And it worked. It worked great. Sure, the side effects kinda sucked (weight gain and drowsiness). But I was calm. The frantic static in my brain silenced. I could handle the tantrums and meltdowns and dinner and working and making lunches and all the other chaos that came with being a mom to multiple young children without feeling completely overwhelmed. I could breathe. My hands stopped shaking. The anger I would feel as things quickly spiraled out of control every evening (as they do in households with little kids from about 4 p.m. until bedtime) no longer made everything seem like a crisis. I could giggle with and appreciate my kids. I didn’t yell (as much). When they acted out, I handled it rationally — even laughed — instead of immediately snapping or giving into an exhausted rage.
There is too much of them, too much to do, too much to think about and plan for and prepare and take care of at this point in my life. I have a caring, helpful husband and generally good, kind children. But the confluence of everything going on in my life is too much to handle. Eventually, our situation will change. The kids will be older and able to dress, bathe, and eat on their own. The tantrums will be fewer (please please please!). When the time does come, I’ll talk to my doctor and figure out a plan. I will also thank my friend who mentioned she had started on anxiety meds for being so open about it. Without that conversation, it’s quite possible it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to talk to my doctor at all, even with shaking hands. Right now, while my normal is more than I can handle, this works for me. I want my kids to have the best of me in the healthiest way possible. And there’s nothing wrong with that.