As a teenager, I was suicidal and received intensive counseling for my depression and anxiety. I also tried medication for a time, but my experiences were not positive, and it left a bad impression on me. As an adult, I managed any mental health symptoms with short periods of counseling, but mostly I just tried to tough it out. I didn’t want to spend the money on long-term therapy so once my health benefits ran out I gave up counseling. For years, I did well and my depression stayed at bay.
Then came children.
We adopted an almost 4-year-old who could swear and threw amazingly spectacular tantrums in shopping malls. While we fell in love with him, he taxed us to the brink every day. Still, I tried to use willpower to make it through. Many a day I would lock myself in the bathroom to cry.
I felt so alone. Little did I know then I was likely experiencing adoption postpartum depression.
One day at work, I blew up at a co-worker, and I knew it was time to get some help. I went back to counseling until the coverage ran out.
Things got better for a while, and we adopted again. This time a busy 18-month-old, wise beyond his years.
Our oldest was diagnosed with several mental health diagnoses and became quite ill. Our family was in crisis, and we searched for years for the help we needed for him. During that time, I was anxious each day, I would ruminate about things I had said or that had been said to me. I worried that I had messed up or that I would mess up. I worried about my job, I worried about my children, I worried about my marriage. It felt like all I did was worry.
The only thing worse than the worrying was when I stopped worrying. When I stopped worrying it meant the depression was so bad I was becoming suicidal. I was seriously considering taking my life and had begun to formulate a plan to do so when my youngest son who was five at the time said to me, “Mom, why does your mouth smile but your eyes are sad?”
It took me by surprise that he had noticed. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me.
I stayed up late that night and thought about that sweet, sensitive, young boy. My son’s question to me made me realize my reluctance to get help was putting my whole family at risk. My 5-year-old was living with a clinically depressed and suicidal mom. I was not meeting his needs, I could barely function. He was constantly complaining of feeling sick, he was up worrying until all hours of the night, and he was majorly emotional throughout the day. My son was struggling because I was struggling.
I needed to push aside the shame I felt in admitting I needed medication, I needed to take action.
The next morning, I called my doctor and my therapist who I had not seen in a few years. I went on medication for my anxiety and depression, and I went to counseling and stayed in counseling until I was feeling better and able to function. It was amazing when the medication worked–I experienced a quiet mind which had never happened for me before.
Most importantly, I was able to refocus on my children, especially my youngest who had lived through so much upheaval while we got help for his brother and then later with me. I am not saying everyone should go on medication–just that it was right for me. It was necessary for me, and it saved my life. My willingness to reach out and ask for help . . . I believe it saved my kids.