Our Biggest Sale of the Year is Here!🎄 ➔

When you have spent time parenting any children, your sanity has likely come into question a time or two. Parent a child with special needs (be they physical, emotional, or mental) and you earn your Haz-mat, Hard Hat, and CIA Clearance badges from the Girl Scouts of Motherhood in a hot minute.
After what feels like a lifetime of meltdowns, tantrums, screaming fits, broken household items, and holes in drywall, many of us come under fire. The scrutiny may come from a spouse, family, friend, or fellow church-goer. Their judgement doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of your brand of brutal survival, mama, this is hard. It is messy and tear-filled and doubt-laden and just plain hard.
Now, nearing three blissful, medicated months, I sometimes lie in bed and think to myself (as my son hurls toys across the room in a rage) Seriously! How did you survive without Lexapro!? Honey. You are a champion.
Mental health is no joke and it took my son’s Generalized Anxiety diagnosis for me to even realize my own personal volatile, obsessive introspective thoughts were not completely normal and totally happening in everyone else’s head too. Certifiable. I know. But I swear I had no idea. Lord, be a fence!Inline image 1
Briggs’ first diagnosis came at age 4. Five diagnoses later and we came to the conversation of anxiety. You may be asking yourself, “How, dear mama, did you not associate his Mach 5 morning meltdowns before school with some kind of anxiety?” To which I would remind you: clearly, I’m certifiable.
Parenting brings its own heap of doubt and guilt, but parenting extreme children should come with a guidebook or, least of all, some coupons for a respite weekend once a month to maintain parental sanity and emotional wherewithal.
“Does your son become fixated on one topic or thing?” The specialist inquired innocently.
“Does he ask a lot of questions surrounding what seem like unreasonable fears?”
“Does he have trouble falling asleep?”
“Does he tend to worry beyond reason?”
“Does he happen to usually assume the worst, even in a common situation?”
“Does he always seem ‘keyed up’ or have an inability to rest or relax?”
“Is he a perfectionist or insist on re-doing tasks he feels were inadequate?”
“Does he require an unusual amount of praise, acknowledgement, or approval, even for trivial tasks?”
Yes. Yes. Double yes. Cross the Ts, dot the Is, Sweet Mother of Mary, he has another diagnosis. I am the worst mom ever. How did I not see this!? This must be why he has such terrible mornings. I may literally never sleep again. Oh my word I have been rushing him out the door. I am making this worse! I tell him to can it on the four millionth inquiry about thunderstorms because I just can’t take it anymore and he can’t control it. Mom Fail, population: me. Aaaaahhhhhhh!!!
That entire inner dialogue took place in the span of about four seconds while the specialist spoke and I was too busy being the Captain of the S.S. Self Shaming ship to hear her.
For the next week, I questioned and doubted the first five years of parenting our son. I violently verbally abused myself for the countless mistakes I had obviously made and started mentally reconfiguring our budget to begin to save for the therapy Briggs would no doubt need as a teenager since I, his lowly, shameful mother, had ruined him for life.
Spence looked at me. He half grinned.
Clearly he is NOT taking this seriously. What even goes on in his head at a time like this!? How can he smile? Why is he not completely freaking out? And why has he not read the 49 articles on anxiety I researched, printed, and highlighted for him since yesterday’s appointment?
Jesus, take the wheel.
On the way home from that specialist appointment I had an epiphany. It was like the moment I realized Ginuwine’s 90s classic, Pony, was not actually about horses. Utter shock and horror at my complete naivety and disconnect with reality.
“Oh my gosh, Spence. I have this don’t I?”
He looked at me, unable to speak.
“I do. And this is genetic. And this is my fault. And he has this because of me. And…”
Before I could travel all the way to the Island of Misfit Moms, he interrupted to explain, in the obvious pain of a husband’s honesty, that I had pretty much been exactly like every one of those ‘symptoms’ since he’d met me. He assured me that, no, in fact, they were not normal. Just because he is free spirited doesn’t mean he is the only one who doesn’t lose sleep nightly and completely obsess over basically everything he cannot control.
I spent the next week researching every mental health article, combing medical journals, pinning Pinterest links about anxiety and self-diagnosing. It was gross and messy, a special kind of depressing only a struggling mother understands.
Finally, in aisle five of Kroger, I cried on the phone to a trusted friend and nurse practitioner.
“Honey. Come to the office. I will stay until you get here. You aren’t alone. Nearly ⅔ of Americans take some form of antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds. It is OK to ask for help.”
(*Note: I don’t do math. Don’t trust that fraction. She might have said one other person takes them. I have no clue.)
I dried my eyes and drove to see her. Even in my insanely verbose way of living life, I will never be able to tell that friend what that phone call meant to me.
The next day I began taking 10mg of Lexapro every morning. It is the lowest dose available. Somehow that notion comforted me, as if taking the lowest prescribed amount would impress the nurse at my next doctor’s appointment. “Oh she’s only taking 10mg, NBD,” I imagined her saying.
Mental health is not a joke. It is a daily struggle for many people, worldwide.
Too many of us laugh about how “OCD we are” because we had to straighten the pens on our desk or because our planner is color coded. Sister, I have legit obsessive tendencies and, while I am proud of my color coded life, my intrusive thoughts have little to nothing to do with ink pens.
I have anxiety and that’s okay. Say it out loud. It is pretty amazing and incredibly freeing. And guess what? I am not the only one. Cue the shock and awe.
As someone who would rather lose an appendage than ask for help, this step has been a mighty one. This has been one I have taken towards healing, health, and a happier family. This has helped me identify, embrace, and own things about myself that I assumed were terminally dysfunctional. This is opening communication between my husband and me on topics that I honestly never even thought about before because of paralyzing fear, and it. Is. AWESOME.
Mama, join the club. Breathe it out. Dig into some of those jacked up things you have told yourself your entire life.
Maybe you are that one mom who is just blessed beyond measure. Girl, bottle that unicorn brand of self-love you were born with because I will be your first customer.
If that isn’t you. Do some research. Talk to someone. Call a friend. You, sister, are not alone.

This article originally appeared on The Mama On The Rocks

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Brynn Burger

Mental health advocate, extreme parent, lover of all things outdoors, and sometimes a shell of my former self. Parenting a child with multiple behavior disabilities has become both my prison and my passion. I write so I can breathe. I believe that God called me to share, with violent vulnerability and fluent sarcasm, our testimony to throw a lifeline to other mamas who feel desperate to know they aren't alone. I laugh with my mouth wide open, drink more cream than coffee, and know in my spirit that queso is from the Lord himself. Welcome!

Sometimes Growth Is Tangible, and When It Is You Hold On Tight

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mom putting bike helmet on child

I never expected my sign to come in the form of a plastic bag. As a parent, you’re told over and over how fast it all goes, to cherish these times because they’re gone in a blink. You see the gradual changes in your kids as they move through milestones. One day, they can hold their own spoon. They begin stringing words into sentences. Their ages are counted in years and no longer months. You watch these things happen every day, but I didn’t realize some transitions would come in tangible ways, like a grocery bag filled with wet swim...

Keep Reading

Some Nights They Need You a Little More

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy sleeping, color photo

Some nights they need you a little more, mama. Because of the bad dreams or the bogeyman they are adamant is under the bed. Because firefighter daddy’s schedule leaves him missing goodnight tuck-ins and bedtime stories several times a week, sometimes leaving them a little needier and more emotional. Some nights they need you a little more, mama. RELATED: I’ll Lay With You As Long As You Need, My Child Because they are sick. Because they feel safe in your presence. Some nights they need you a little more, mama. It’s not always easy. It’s not always (okay, hardly ever)...

Keep Reading

Sweet Babies, I’ll Be There

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two children lying in bed, color photo

When your world is calm and peaceful, I’ll be there. When your world is chaotic like an ice cream shop on the hottest day of summer, I’ll be there. When you need a Band-Aid applied and a boo-boo kissed, I’ll be there. When you want to perform in your Frozen microphone like you’re performing for a crowd of 20,000 people, I’ll be there. When you feel lost and alone, I’ll be there. When you feel you have nowhere to go, I’ll be there. RELATED: I Will Always Be There When You Need Me, My Son When you need a pep...

Keep Reading

I’m in the Big Little Years

In: Kids, Motherhood
black and white photo of little boy and little girl standing in a window together

I’m in the big little years. It’s when you’re no longer in the tender season of babies and toddlers—those sweet, smothering, exhausting years of being constantly touched and needed . . . . . . but you’re not yet in the big kid years—navigating boyfriends and driver’s licenses and bracing your heart for the impending ache of an empty nest. I’m somewhere in between. I’m in the years of having littles that aren’t so little anymore, but still need you for so much. They have big feelings. Big ideas. Big dreams. But they have mostly little problems (even though they...

Keep Reading

1-Year-Olds Are Wonderful

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
1 year old baby smiling

Newborns—who doesn’t love them?  The captivating scent of a brand new baby, their fragile little bodies laying so delicately on your chest. Everything that comes with a newborn baby is just absolute magic. But have you ever had a 1-year-old? I used to think the newborn phase was my favorite, nothing could ever be better than having such a tiny helpless little human rely on you for absolutely everything. I could hold my newborn for hours, soaking in every tiny little detail before it became nothing but a beautifully distant memory. But I’ve realized it’s 1-year-olds who have a special...

Keep Reading

My Kids Are All in School Now and It’s a Little Lonely

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman looking out window alone

I had just dropped my children off at school. All of them. My youngest has just started full-time. It was my first full day on my own since she began, and I had really been looking forward to it, so I took myself into town to do a bit of shopping and grab a coffee. Just me. The kind of days dreams are made of, right? I could suddenly breathe again.  I only had myself to answer to.  I got my latte and something to eat. And then I cried.  My eyes filled with tears as I sat in the...

Keep Reading

I Love You Even When I Say I Don’t

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter touch foreheads

“I love you even when I say I don’t.” These words came out of nowhere from my 5-year-old. I was standing in the bathroom with her (we still don’t like to go potty without mommy standing right there), and she wouldn’t look at me while talking to me. You see, my 5-year-old and I have been in more spouts than ever before. She’s found this new attitude in her first couple months of kindergarten, coming home with new phrases including, “No, I don’t want to–you do it.” It hurts my heart, makes me frustrated, and leaves me asking myself where...

Keep Reading

Big Questions at Bedtime Don’t Require Perfect Answers

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and child at bedtime

Last night at bedtime, my son asked why everyone has to die one day. The thought of my sweet 7-year-old grappling with the weight of such a question hurt my heart. He looked so small tucked under a fleece blanket, clutching his favorite stuffed panda. How could the same little boy who just started second grade wearing a space backpack stuffed with bright, wide-ruled notebooks ask such a thing?  Perhaps my children are more aware of the inevitability of death than other kids their age due to the passing of various family pets over the past few years, or perhaps...

Keep Reading

If Someone Needs a Friend, Be a Friend

In: Friendship, Kids, Motherhood
Three kids with backpacks, color photo

“If someone needs a friend, be a friend” it’s the running joke in our family. My husband will say the phrase to our four kids when discussing certain life situations in a lovingly mocking type way. They’ll all look at me and chuckle. I giggle a little myself at the corniness of it. But I always add, “It’s true.” It’s a phrase I’ve used more times than I can count. To teach them all to be includers—the kind of kids who look for the kid having a bad day and seek to brighten it, the kind of kids who stand...

Keep Reading

I Hope My Daughter Always Hears My Voice

In: Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Toddler girl putting on sock, color photo

“Dots on bottom. Stretch over toes,” she mutters to herself while independently putting on her tiny toddler socks. I must have said those words to her about a thousand times and responded to “Mama, help” even more . . . modeling how to correctly put them on until the moment she finally pushed me away and insists on executing this task herself. When I believe I sound like a broken record, what I’m actually doing, as it turns out, is imparting wisdom . . . “Uh oh, try again,” she declares when her tower topples. “Chew first, then talk,” she...

Keep Reading