2017 was the absolute worst year of my life. Plain and simple, I would never wish my experiences from that year on the worst of my enemies. As a parent, I made decisions and witnessed medical procedures that still haunt me to this day. Of the 365 days in the year, the hospital was our residence for more than 120 of them. I won’t bore you with the details, but trust me when I say, I never in a million years would choose to live that year over again. However, there was a silver lining. I found strength inside me that I never knew existed. A strength that would eventually lead me to say, “Enough is enough! I need help. I can’t do this on my own. I am NOT ok.”
I remember the day vividly, the day I decided that something had to change. After months, you read that right, MONTHS of not sleeping, not eating and daily panic attacks, I dialed the number for a new doctor’s office recommended by a fellow mom. I was sitting in my car on my lunch break, my hands shaking as I dialed. I cried through the entire phone call to make my appointment. Why was I crying? I was scared. Scared people would find out I needed help. Scared people wouldn’t think I was strong anymore. Scared people would finally see through all of my lies every time I smiled and said “I’m fine” with a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes.
The week that followed was a blur. “Hold it together, help is on its way” was my mantra. Having that appointment on the books was comforting, but nonetheless opened a whole new can of worms of things to be anxious about. Will the doctor think I’m crazy? What if they can’t help me? So many what ifs. Finally, it was Monday. The office was peaceful and serene. The doctor was much younger than I expected. After the usual formalities, the doctor looked at me and said: “So tell me what’s going on, why are you REALLY here?” Cue waterworks.
After 20 minutes of filling him in on the events of the past year, we decided on a course of action. Sleep and medication. I was prescribed a medication for anxiety and depression. He offered to prescribe me a medication to help me sleep but at the time that was not a viable option. As much as a heavy sleep was appealing to me, due to the monitoring devices my toddler was on, I needed to be easily alerted in the middle of the night if there were any changes in her vital signs. I left the office and called my husband. He knew how much I needed this appointment, how much WE needed this appointment. After all, I didn’t face that year alone. He was right by my side through every single moment. Every night in the hospital, every day I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, every day I came home from work and broke down crying or went straight back to bed. Not only did my children deserve to have their mother back, my husband deserved to have his wife back.
At the beginning of this journey I joined a group of women on social media that would end up being my backbone and my strength during my darkest days. Looking back, I can say for certain that these women are how I found the inspiration to seek help for myself and to advocate for other women and mothers of medically complex children to make their own mental health a priority. I recall reading stories from women who were feeling the same emotions I was and women who were afraid to seek help for the same reason as myself. It was then I decided: Enough is enough.
NEVER will I judge another person for making their mental health a priority whether that includes hospitalization, therapy, medication etc. NEVER will I allow myself to feel ashamed or judged for making my own mental health a priority. NEVER again will I feel ashamed for being a medicated mama.