I took a break from blogging in January. I was overwhelmed with social media. I follow a lot of people and organizations that post great ideas but when just a headline like “10 Things every mother of teenage girls needs to know” can cause anxiety, it’s time for a break. I had started to feel like I wasn’t sure what were my own thoughts and what were thoughts I read and appreciated from other people. I needed time to think, to digest, to just be. That was the plan, anyway. My plan was off to a great start. Markee was settling into the second half of her sophomore year at college, Mark was in Ethiopia for six weeks and Abbie and Dannie were getting more independent. I started thinking about maybe going back to school. It wasn’t all bliss. I had to do some really painful thinking about my life, too. But I had hope for a brighter future.
That lasted about one whole month.
First there was a breakup and the next day a car was rolled. Then there was friend drama and bad grades and finally Abbie’s fragile health took a nosedive. I found myself spending all of my time and energy talking through relationships and anxiety and responsibility while also attempting to find answers for Abbie. After twenty years of pouring everything into being a mom – I suddenly felt completely inadequate and unprepared. It was as if I had been a teacher for twenty years and woke up one day having no idea how to teach anymore. One day they would desperately want my help and the next day they would tell me their life choices were none of my business. I was hurt, confused and exhausted. I felt like if I had more knowledge- like if I had read all those articles – maybe I would know what to do. I was failing them miserably and Mark was frustrated that I was expending all of my energy attempting to help them solve all their problems. Sometimes when the girls were having especially bad days, they would tell me they couldn’t keep going and that they didn’t even want to try anymore. It was heartbreaking, but even worse was the realization that I had absolutely nothing to offer to counter this opinion. I would just cry and hold them while thinking how right they were.
I didn’t handle it well. From March through May I sunk further and further into darkness. I didn’t even want to find a way out anymore.
I have been depressed in the past, but this was a pain I had never experienced before. I could barely breathe. My chest was tight and my eyes burned constantly. The only relief was to sob in my bathroom once a day. I felt like everyone was annoyed with my moods, so I tried to hide them. It got to the point that I could have more easily hidden the stomach flu. I wanted to be done with it all. I wanted to die. I seriously started trying to figure out the best and most effective route to death. I wanted relief so badly. I knew it was “wrong” to think that way but I couldn’t stop. I knew people say you need to share thoughts like this, but I knew if I did that I’d cause more headache and drama for everyone. We would all feel worse. I didn’t really want to talk about it because I knew everyone would feel obligated to talk me out of it or tell me it was nonsense to think that way.
The allure of death was intoxicating, to be honest. I could barely think about anything else. The thought of having to continue living was so overwhelming. The thought of finding a way to die was almost like my creepy light at the end of my dark tunnel.
One night I hit a wall. I just collapsed into crocodile tears and breathy sobs. Ugly crying. All I could say was “I’m so broken”. I felt like I was barely even a shell of a human being anymore. As I lay there exhausted emotionally and physically, I wondered what, if anything, could help me. In that weird foggy moment I started to understand what it means to actually take care of yourself. I thought I had been doing that. But the truth is that I had never really made myself a priority. I always took care of everyone else first. There was no way I ever would have said “Sorry, I can’t help you with that homework right now because Mommy needs a glass of wine and some Netflix tonight”. But that’s exactly what I should have done. Not only would I have had a chance to relax, but the girls would have understood that I am an actual person with limits. I’m actually not a help machine, available 24/7. That is still incredibly hard for me to grasp. It feels wrong in so many ways. But it’s so necessary. And it’s amazing how treating yourself like a worthy human can make you feel.
I’m not going to say that death isn’t still incredibly appealing. Life is incredibly hard and overwhelming. But suddenly having a new best friend that goes everywhere with me is definitely making life a little more bearable.
And I’ll take that as a little ray of sunshine in my dark dark world.