My car needs a service and I’m not ok.
Let me explain
A little while ago I had a traumatic experience. Just staring at those words they seem so cold, so undescriptive of what actually happened, but there it is. for Privacy of this person I’m taking out gender and any identifying details, and vaguing it up a bit but here goes.
I found someone very close to me unconscious on the floor of their house. They had been there for 2 days and they were going through horrible withdrawals from prescription drugs and alcohol. When they later woke they didn’t know where they were, or who I was. The drs told me if I went later that day, I would have found a dead body. I was truly a devistaing experience.
This person was in hospital for a week that first time. The subsequent relapse the day they were released, and the following 3 hospital admissions meant I was now in charge of keeping that person alive. There simply wasn’t anyone else.
I had to administer medication, every 3 days, organise bills to be paid take over finances and drs visits, and make sure there was food in the house.
It was as if another heaping of stress was piled upon the plate of my life and I couldn’t eat it all. But I did, I had to.
Joel’s just started a new business so he’s been flat out and helping a lot less than usual, working long hours and I’m doing my best to keep any pressure off him.
There’s The stress of building a new house while ours is on the market, so walk throughs and keeping the place clean at all times is a must. Money is tight and There’s always paperwork and forms to be filled out, schedules and visuals to make for ella.
More washing to be done after another night of headbanging has lead to a morning of blood stained sheets for Ella, or accidents that nappies don’t hold in.
The stress of Ella’s appointments and meltdowns are just as they’ve always been and then this.
I took on this extra ‘job’ – this extra stress. I Told myself
I can do this
I got this
Sentiments that were echo’d by friends and family
You can do this
You’re doing amazing
But I couldn’t, I wasn’t and I’m not
The Stress ate at me, slowly but surely – as I went days without eating, followed by days of binge eating.
From the second my eyes opened in the morning I could feel it, the exhaustion, an overwhelming sense of doom at another fucking day.
I could see it in the numbers creeping up on the scales after days of eating snacks.
It manifested itself in sleepless nights and dissasiosiating from friends.
I felt it when I poured that second (and third, and fourth) glass of wine.
I could hear it in my voice as a snapped at Joel or at the kids.
When Ella would meltdown and I would want to melt down right along side her.
I felt it in my lungs like I couldn’t take a deep enough breath, tightly strung, like an elastic band pulled to extreme, constantly on edge, feeling like I was about to break.
Hell, I could even see it in my reflection in the mirror, the dark circles under my eyes and the lines on my face, looking hollow and feeling empty.
I felt like I was staring down the tunnel of forever, with nothing but blackness, there was no end in sight, only darkness.. and more stress.
And then my car needed a service.
I was driving home from that persons house when it popped up
And that was it. I cried. I pulled the car over to the side of the road, and I couldn’t catch breath – the sobs overwhelming me. When?! When am I supposed to book my car in? How can I do all this?!
A panic attack. I’ve had about 3 in my life, and now here I was, on the side of the road, having a panic attack over a car service… really Mel? Really??
Of course It wasn’t about the service, It was the straw that broke me.
I would tell myself over and over again over the last few months that I was overreacting, that things weren’t that bad, that there were lots of people that have it much worse than me.
That voice in my head telling me not to be so weak, to put my chin up and just
Mental health be damned.
But here’s where it gets tricky
It doesn’t actually matter how many people have it worse – If thats your limit, then that’s your limit!
And this goes for everyone. There are always going to be people that have it worse, and it doesn’t take away from the fact that you are struggling.
Your feelings are valid, and very very real, and that’s all that matters.
I eventually pulled myself together and went about my day not mentioning my mini breakdown to anyone. To be honest I was a bit embarrassed about it.
I think we’ve come a long way in the conversations we have about mental health and how important it is, there’s are you ok day and mental health awareness campaigns but I still think there’s a long way to go.
What do we do once we recognise that a loved one isn’t ok?
What do we do once we recognise that we’re not ok?
There needs to be a conversation about that too. How to help them, or yourself.
Over the last few months I have made jokes about not being ok, Laughing as I cut all my hair off in my ‘mid life crisis cut’ Joking that I’m about 2 days away from having a breakdown.
I have flat out told people that I’m struggling, only to be brushed off, or reminded that ‘you don’t have it that bad’
The conversation needs to go on. We need to talk about what comes next, and when to take it seriously.
So Today I did a thing, I did a thing for myself, completely out of my comfort zone.
I went to a healthy mother healthy families workshop designed for mums of disabled kids. It was pure dumb luck that I got the email a few weeks ago about it, right at a time in my life I needed it.
Suddenly so much became clear.
I am doing too much. It’s ok that I can’t do everything. I need to prioritise myself and my health FOR my family. All Mothers, and especially mothers of disabled kids, are at a higher risk of depression, anxiety and a number of health issues. Because we always put someone else first.
So that’s what I’m doing, I’m putting my mental and physical health first for a while.
I have a plan to get myself out of this darkness.
No one is going to come up to me and just GIVE me an extra half hour a day to put myself first, I need to take it.
The first part seems pretty simple, little steps for me.
I’m going to start walking again. I’m going to cut out the excuses, and MAKE time for me to do so.
It makes me feel good and it clears my head.
I’m going to start reading again, and make time to have a bath, with my book and a wine at least twice a month.
I’m going to make time to have coffee with friends.
I’m going to enjoy my time with my kids.
The next step is a little harder to admit, but I’m going to see a GP. I recognise that I can’t do this alone, and I need help. I’m taking the step to get a mental health plan and see a counselor. There is no shame in that. It doesn’t mean I’m not strong. It’s not something I should be embarrassed about.
I guess the main point I want everyone to take away, is that if you’re struggling, don’t look at someone else’s life and think just because they have it worse you’re not allowed to struggle. Everyone’s limits are different, and there’s no shame in admitting when you’ve hit yours. So If you find yourself not getting joy out of anything, feeling like it’s helpless, feeling like you can’t breath. Take that leap and Get help. Talk to someone. Force yourself to take time for you, because you are important, and your feelings are important.
And after all that, I can promise you, I can see a little light at the end of that tunnel after all.