How I Confronted My Depression Head On
I believe it was around the one month mark of Jackson's stay in the NICU when I finally broke down.
Up until that point, I had been bottling up all of my emotions. Because of his aspiration issues, all of his feeds had to be given via his feeding tube, which meant no breastfeeding, so I was pumping like a mad woman, and getting practically nothing. That was incredibly frustrating, since it was the one thing I should have been able to do, as a mother, to help him deal with his medical issues.
In addition, I was getting no sleep. Either I was at the hospital with my son, missing my daughter, or I was at my parents house with my daughter, missing my son. The guilt: wow. The guilt was overpowering.
My husband and I would see each other for 20 minutes at most as we switched off shifts in the hospital lobby. A quick update on the kids, a long hug, and a peck on the lips; that was the extent of our relationship at that point.
Each day they seemed to find new things wrong with him: a malfunctioning airway, a small nerve causing slight paralysis of his face … the list kept getting longer and longer, and my capacity to handle everything grew weaker and weaker.
One afternoon, after my husband had kissed me goodbye in the lobby, I trudged through the parking garage to my car. As the door swung shut, and I was alone, out it came. All of it. All of my fears, my guilt, my anxiety, my frustration, my exhaustion; it came tumbling out of me in one giant sob-fest. I was ugly crying, and it wasn't because I was reading The Fault In Our Stars.
My own life was causing me to ugly cry.
I sat in my car for nearly an hour and let the tears pour out of me. I came to a stopping point and sat there, catching my breath, before putting the car in reverse. When I reached the parking attendant booth to pay, she asked, in a deeply concerned voice, “Are you okay?”
I looked at myself in the rearview mirror, and my image shocked me. Mascara darkened my cheeks, and my eyes were puffy, red and round. I looked like someone had just given me a beating, and, to be honest, I felt like it, too.
That's the moment I decided to seek help. Clearly, this was too much to handle on my own, and I couldn't continue on like this. Both of my kids needed me to be strong, and that wasn't something I couldn't do anymore.
So, yes, I saw a doctor and was prescribed a combination depression/anti-anxiety medication. It took a few weeks, but I slowly began to feel more balanced, and less roller coaster-like.
That's not to say I still didn't have rough days, or that I didn't cry. The medication didn't numb me; it just helped me get up each day knowing that I would be able to push through whatever came our way.
Last week, my Jackson had open heart surgery, and, I won't lie, it was the roughest day of my life– and my husband has been to combat zones three times, so that's saying a lot. I cried, I was anxious, and I thought those torturous hours while he was under anesthesia, his chest open and exposed, would never end.
But, I kept it together, and my husband and I, as a team, stood hand in hand as they wheeled him past us to the cardiac ICU after surgery. We had made it.
All I needed was a little bit of help to get my emotions to a place where I could manage them.
And, there is absolutely no shame in that.