To this day, the memory continues to haunt me. The year was 2014, and I was home alone with my 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. With the New York weather so dark and gloomy, I was in the midst of seasonal depression.
It was late. Way past their bedtimes and they could not settle down. I didn’t have the strength to even ponder where all that energy came from. My husband Brian was working late, and I knew there was no chance of them calming down anytime soon. Brian would not be home for at least another half hour. Slowly, I was losing it.
I was overwhelmed.
I was exhausted.
I felt as if I could barely breathe.
I was done.
Desperate for a moment of peace, I locked myself in the bathroom and lay on the cold floor.
“Mommy! Mommy!” the frantic little voices screamed.
I didn’t even answer them. I so desperately needed this time to myself.
Minutes later, unable to withstand the noise, I silently walked out of the bathroom. I grabbed my coat. I started to count down the minutes so I could bolt out that door as soon as Brian walked in.
It looked up and it was then that I saw it. My precious children had tear-stained cheeks and panicked faces. Not only were they terrified of being alone, they thought I was going to leave them, too.
The image of my sobbing little boy frantically trying to tie his shoes so he can come with me is forever etched in my mind.
They were only kids.
They were only kids who thought I was leaving them.
I was ashamed and heartbroken.
I didn’t want them to see me falling apart like this.
I have been anxious since I was a child. I always attributed a lot of my anxiety to my dad. As the firstborn child, he parented me as the human equivalent of grandma’s special china that could never ever break.
In 2008, after suffering the loss of our firstborn son to a congenital heart defect, a part of me died forever. As one could imagine, my anxiety and depression came back full force. Fortunately, with the birth of my subsequent child—a baby girl—I began to feel happiness again.
But I worried.
What if something bad were to happen again?
In 2012, after the birth of my third son, I experienced postpartum anxiety. It got so bad that I was also diagnosed with OCD. My mind was on constant overdrive. All my thoughts were negative—and very scary. Everything around me was doom and gloom.
It was then that I started to think of my own upbringing. There was no way I was going to let my kids be affected.
It hasn’t been an easy process.
There have been times when I’ve melted down and yelled a little too loud.
There have been times when they’ve seen me cry.
There have been times when they’ve had to witness me laying on the couch rubbing my temples in order to alleviate a debilitating migraine caused by anxiety.
I am a mom who struggles.
In other words, I am human.
In fact, I am in great company.
In my mommy groups anxiety, isolation, and depression continue to be popular topics.
This motherhood thing is hard.
We are not perfect and will all, at one time, have a breakdown.
Or maybe a few of them.
Really, it is.
I promise you.
Recently, I was snuggling in bed with my dog and now-8-year-old son. I became emotional and teary-eyed.
“Are you sad, mama?’’ Owen wanted to know.
“I’m not sad, I am crying because I am happy,” I answered. He nodded and I knew he got it.
It wasn’t the first time we had talked about emotions.
It was the perfect moment. I had all I could possibly ask for.
I knew full well it wasn’t always going to be this way. However, slowly, I’ve made the decision to take one day at a time.
And I always knew that if another breakdown day were to come, I would handle it the best way I could. It wouldn’t be pleasant, but I would get through it.
Just as I had always done before.
Mama, don’t ever forget you are strong. And remember you can get through these storms.
We all will.
It’s a tough journey, but we will.