Once my show is over I’ll calm down and start sleeping better.
I just need to get through the end of this session of class.
I’ll feel so much better when school is out for the summer.
When the broken arm trauma isn’t so fresh, my anxiety will get better.
I just need to make it a few more weeks and I won’t be so irritable all the time.
And then suddenly it’s the first day of summer break. I’ve had ten hours of sleep. I go to yoga class and feel, like, fixed. I mean, a real, true reset. I leave that class and I could not be more relaxed. I drive home, it’s a beautiful day. My window is down, I’m singing along to the radio, my body feels wrung out, calm, and yet invigorated.
It takes less than five minutes inside my house to unravel.
Her sling fell apart and I can’t figure out how to get it back together. How can I possibly be that spatially incompetent? I yell at her sister, who wasn’t even around when it occurred. “How did this happen?” I am out of control. I run inside the house, prepared to Google a YouTube video of how to assemble a fabric sling.
But before I type in the search, I run up the stairs and call my doctor’s office instead. I tell them I need to make an appointment. I’m having anxiety. I can’t sleep. I don’t say that I’m angry all the time. They ask if I want to see my regular doctor and I say yes and of course she’s not available for two weeks. I reply that I can’t wait that long, and agree to see a PA I’ve never met after the weekend. (Because these things always happen on Friday, yes?)
I exhale, feeling better already. And yet terrified. I’ve put this off for so long, borrowing Xanax for the hard nights, sticking to my CBD routine, adding Melatonin when I need to, having a hot toddy before bed no more than once every three days or it isn’t effective.
I’ve made excuses, pushed back my deadline of “once this, then that” until I reached the end of the line. Then the broken arm, the frantic drive to the hospital, the misshapen limb, the Ketamine and hallucinating and then the intrusive thoughts and hyper-vigilance I knew would follow, that I’d expected to linger for a while. Of course I was reliving it. Of course my nerves were shot. We’d all been through a trauma and I was trying to hold it together for everyone. But I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
The past week looked like me going from zero to sixty with little provocation. I was a live wire, snapping over ridiculous triggers. I was sad and pissed; summer is my favorite time of the year—I live for it—and now we couldn’t even go fucking swimming. At night, I would brainstorm activities we could do that wouldn’t be impeded by my 7-year-old’s broken arm. We could take a gentle hike! Then my brain delivered the image of my 2nd grader being swallowed up by a bear. Because, bears often eat people on trails, right?
I hadn’t been able to make an appointment for myself—after all, we didn’t know when we would need to schedule a follow-up X-ray and I needed to keep my schedule clear! My daughter was my first priority. There just wasn’t time to deal with this yet. I had to be a mama first.
But finally, I had run out of excuses. Not just this past hectic week. Not just recovering from the broken arm. Not just building up to the show I produce. Not just this year. It had been a long time coming, and I knew it. And that’s why I was terrified.
Because what if I got a prescription for something, and it didn’t help? What if, essentially, I was just a bitch?
And worse, what if it did help? What if I felt so much better and had to look back at the last decade of parenting and know that I could have avoided the road trip meltdown, the ruined birthday lunch debacle, the “our periods are synced up for the first time what the actual fuck” screaming match, and that other road trip meltdown? How many horrible outbursts, regretted words, sleepless nights, intrusive thoughts, and dark nights of the soul could I have prevented if I had gone in and gotten help sooner? God dammit.
I went in. The PA was fantastic. I cried, she hugged me. I apologized; my answers on the index they make you fill out felt inadequate, like my issues were more tepid than I imagined. Clearly, I wasn’t in that bad of shape—what right did I have to be here?
She prescribed me something daily and something for those spinning thoughts nights. I’m not going to tell you what she gave me because I don’t want this post to seem like some kind of advertisement for a specific SSRI, but hey, please feel free to message me and I’ll happily tell you.
I’m a month into my new medication, and it has truly been exactly what I needed. I don’t feel like a different person, or medicated, or foggy, or weird. When I was on Zoloft for PPD after my first daughter was born, I remembered that it “took the edge off” and that’s what this medication has done, too. I rarely overreact like I used to. That’s not to say that I didn’t say ALL THE BAD WORDS and make my daughters cry when my youngest tumbled down a few stairs with her broken arm last week and I went straight to my panic place. Yes, yes I did do that. I’m not perfect. And some nights I lie in bed and the thoughts start tumbling and I take my other pill and then sleep.
Two weeks after my appointment, our house flooded while we were out of town. It’s been a whole month since I’ve slept in my own bed, having bounced around hotels and at family members’ homes, but that’s a blog post for another time. My point? Thank God I went in and got some help before I had to deal with this situation, the insurance hassles, the repairs, the asbestos, my traumatized and irritable children. I can do it. I’m not worried about crossing over to the dark side every five minutes. My daughter worries, “What if someday I need medication too, since I’m so much like you?” (GULP.) Maybe she will. Maybe she won’t. I don’t know what will be best for her as she grows, but I do know that I’m a better mother to both of my daughters with medication, at least right now.
Maybe you don’t need an SSRI. Maybe you don’t need an as-needed anxiety med. Maybe you need a therapist (full disclosure, I have one of those, too), or a physical, or some supplements, or edibles, or Ayurvedic herbs. Maybe you need marriage counseling or a retreat or a best friend or a meditation practice.
If there’s something you need, something you’ve been putting off because everyone else’s needs are more important or you don’t have enough time, or once you clear this hurdle or wrap up that deadline you’re sure you’ll feel better, or you don’t really want to look at it because you too are worried you’re just a bitch or you’ll have wasted years of your life when you could have felt better, ENOUGH. Just do it. Enough is enough. Get yourself help if you need help. Be brave. I am so glad I finally found the courage.
This is such an important post. Guessing you’d be the first to tell others to put self care first, but the last to do it yourself. I’ve been feeling the same way and appreciate the reminder to put my oxygen mask on.