I wake up to the sound of my kids in the kitchen, the morning sun peeping through my window. I immediately cringe at the thought of having to parent today. And why? Because my anxiety and depression is so strong that I want to curl up in a ball and cry.
I start thinking about all the things I need to get done, and then I remember that one child has baseball practice for two hours tonight. The other child won’t want to go and will pitch a fit. I roll over to get the sun out of my eyes. “What am I supposed to do to keep them busy all day?” I whisper to myself. I feel the tears rising up in my eyes. I just want to be normal. Then I hear it. Footsteps coming toward my bedroom.
“Mommy, are you awake?” I look up only to see sad eyes staring at me.
“Yes, what’s wrong?” I ask, knowing she needs me to get up.
“I’m hungry. I need you to get up now,” she begs. I take a deep breath. My heart is racing with panic and for no reason other than now I’m awake to the world. My phone will ring, the neighbors will want to play with the kids and I’ll have to function. I step into the kitchen and begin making waffles, all the while my heart is pounding in my chest. Then I hear it. The sound of my phone buzzing on the counter. Such a simple sound shouldn’t send me over the edge, but here I am, about to hyperventilate over the phone ringing. I ignore it as best I can and feed my kids breakfast then go back to room to take my medicine.
I used to feel ashamed of taking medications to feel normal. Now I embrace it. If that’s what it takes to be a better parent, wife and friend, then so be it. I sit quietly, taking deep breaths, wishing I could just make it until bedtime. When did my life become a series of waiting for twelve hours to pass, just to feel sane? With my husband working two jobs, because my anxiety is overwhelming, I’m doing this on my own.
I take a few more breaths then walk into the living room where my kids are happily finished eating but are squirming now. “Mommy, can we go outside? Mommy, can we call friends to come over? Mommy, can we go to the park?” All these questions go around and around in my head, causing me to want to run. Then my other child won’t stop grabbing at me. I am hypervigilant. Every sound they make seems amplified. Every time they open their mouth, I feel as if I might scream. I see them getting upset that I’m not answering right away and that I keep pulling away from my youngest.
“Just give mommy a minute,” I plead. I just need a minute. A minute to breathe, to pull myself together and get out of my panicked head.
“Let’s leave Mommy alone. She needs a break,” I hear my oldest whisper to my youngest. He’s only seven. On top of my panic, now my heart is breaking. I have to be strong. I have to be that mother I thought I’d be before my mental illness set in. I follow them into his room and see them sitting on the floor at his LEGO table.
“I’m sorry. Mommy was having a bad morning. It’s over. Let’s get dressed and go for a walk. I need some outside time,” I say. That was the truth. I needed to be outside the confines of these four walls that I spend every day in. They light up and run to get dressed.
Parenting with mental illness is hard. It’s not what people glorify it as. But I do it. Everyday. Some days I am too scared to take them anywhere, and some days I find myself taking them all over town. I just hope when they’re older, they’ll realize that I did the best I could and that it’ll be enough.