Struggling to the Surface

It’s been a really rough couple of months folks. We have been stressed and sad and broken down. Between the terrifying threes that Cedella is exhibiting, Isora’s Curious George phase and Michael going off his medications, I am one over-worked and stressed out mama.

This year on our 4th wedding anniversary Michael went missing for 12 hours after posting some very freaky and scary stuff on his Facebook page. In order to protect his privacy I won’t go into detail about what happened, but I will say that I was terrified that I was never going to see him again and that I was going to have to tell my girls that their dad was gone. It was one of the most difficult nights of our life together. Thankfully he made it home dazed but injured.

Things had been slowly degrading for a month or so before that day, including several freak-outs leading to Isora’s first birthday. We were just hanging on by threads and trying our hardest not to bite each other’s head off during every waking moment.

The hardest things is that I feel like I’m just treading water over here. Not really getting anything done. Not really working on anything of my own. It’s all I can do to keep the girls clean, dressed, fed and engaged every single day. Let alone all the stuff that has to be done around the house. The dishes. The laundry. Grocery shopping. Pay bills.

It’s all I can do to crawl into bed every night. No blogging. No phone calls. No photo editing. Just exhaustion and more work.

Michael is working to get himself back in better mental health. But with the stress of his job and the stress he creates for himself by dwelling on negativity it just seems like he takes two steps forward and three steps back.

I am trying, really truly trying, to be supportive and helpful and to keep my complaints and frustrations to myself. But then something happens to really upset me, be it the way he’s speaking with Cedella, or the way he’s speaking about himself, and I let it all out. And it’s not pretty folks.

These days have been made all the more difficult by Cedella’s Terrifying Threes. She is challenging nearly every second of every day. Her sweet and silly temperament is seen in rare glimpses and in one-on-one situations. When the 4 of us are together she is the Wildest Beast of them all.

She is pushing and hitting her sister. Punching and hitting me. Arguing and screaming at her dad.

And the saddest thing is that I know why this normal three year old moodiness is so intense in her.

Ella the Sponge is absorbing all the negative energy and strife which surrounds her and is directed at her. It crushes me to know that during this hard time, this time when she needs our love and patience the most, we are constantly angry, frustrated and irritated with her, and all while praising Isora’s latest milestone or funny moment.

I feel for my sweet Monk, I do. And I’m trying to keep in mind how much she’s struggling, how much she’s hurting, but it’s so HARD. Especially when I feel like I’m doing all the parenting on my own.

But there is light on the surface of the water and I’m beginning to kick and claw my way up to take a breath of fresh air.

School is out in E. Lansing so the students are leaving town and business is going into summer calm mode. Which is perfect for Michael since he worked three 17 hour days in a row this past week. How he didn’t go postal is anyone’s guess…

And tomorrow we are getting in the car and hitting the road and heading out East to Cape Cod to visit with good friends and to take some much needed time away from the madness here at home.

I know that this is only a short phase in a long life, but it has taken it’s toll. I am a tired, tired mama. I’m in need of some help and a break. Hopefully this trip is just what we need to get back on track.

There is one thing I know for sure though — mental health issues should not ever be ignored, put off or minimized, because mental health issues are no joke. The more we, as a family, as a society, as a world, pretend that depression, anxiety or psychosis are not serious health issues, the more devastating problems the human family will experience.

Just like we would expect and encourage someone diagnosed with cancer to seek the best treatment possible and to take their medication and continually check-in with their doctor, we should encourage this type of behavior from loved ones with mental health disorders. Perhaps in families like ours if we talked more about these issues there would be less conflict, less miscommunication, more love and more understanding.

We must get beyond the idea that depression is something that someone can just turn-off by ‘thinking differently’ or being ‘thankful for the good things they have’. That is simply impossible for someone who has a mental health issue. Their brains function differently from ‘normal’ brains. Instead of insisting they handle things the way you or I would handle them, we need to try to be open to helping people find what works for them.

By really listening and opening our hearts with love and compassion we can connect to someone who really needs it, whether they’re 3 or 35 or 70. Maybe, just maybe, build a bigger and more loving family and community. Give someone you love a hug today, won’t you?

Also we need plenty of good vibes and thoughts as we embark on a 14-hour road trip…here’s hoping we all survive!!

 

Comments

  1. I read this through tears. My heart is filled with love for you and your family. It is amazing how often we, as women and as mothers, struggle in silence until we break. We have put so much stress on ourselves that we much portray the vision of perfection to others. Please know that we may all be struggling at some point or another, but don’t have the strength or bravery that you have exhibited today in writing this blog. I pray that things will get easier for your family and that peace and calm will enter your home. You are an amazing woman and mother! I strive to be much like you and you have inspired me to reach out more to others with my own fears, frustrations, and anxieties. Bless you!

  2. Leah says:

    Your honesty is admirable. I always enjoy reading your blogs and I hope this vacation for your family is renewing, relaxing and gives you some time to reconnect as a family. My heart goes out to you Alexia. One of my ex’s had mental health issues he refused to address, and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I can’t imagine handling that on top of mothering 2 young children. Hats off to you. Hugs. Leah

  3. Kasey says:

    Please let me give you a mommy break sometime soon. play. is super slow now that it’s warm out. I’m there on Friday’s with my kids. You should drop the girls off in the morning and let me watch them while you get a few hours to yourself. You are amazing, Alexia. Many of us give up on our relationships/marriages when things get rough and most of us aren’t honest about how difficult things have become until it’s too late. I admire you for working through all of this, I hope you have a fabulous vacation! You all deserve it!

  4. Danielle says:

    A,

    My heart goes out to each of you, especially Mike right now. When I was diagnosed with Depression my family did not understand. There is the stigma that you’re crazy if you see a Psychiatrist. And some ridiculous belief in the black family that Shrinks are for white people. Old black folks are from the school of “just pray, all you need is Jesus” Church folk would say, “you just don’t have enough faith that God can heal you.” What none of them knew was that I’d been praying for healing as long as I could remember. I prayed at age 6 for God to “make me not sad anymore” long before I heard or understood the term ‘depression.’ I spent most of my teens suicidal and punishing myself for being depressed;cutting and toying with eating disorders. When I did get help some family members were convinced the Dr. was planting ideas in my head! My mom was the only one who believed me. The fight to get help and get healthy was so hard because I was dealing with it alone with no support. No one wanted to talk about it nor did they want to talk about the trauma that may have caused it or the fact that mental health issues were already present in our family. I educated myself and started to talk about it with people who wanted to listen. Many were apprehensive at first, including my dad and college roommate. And it turns out that many of those people over the last 20 years have seen or experienced mental illness first hand. My old roommate called me a few weeks ago and thanked me for my openness all these years; I was the only one who spoke candidly about mental illness without shame, she said. She was diagnosed with depression after years of denial now she and her daughter are finally on meds and getting help. Those of us who know must keep sharing and educating and loving so more people will get help. Silence is so dangerous. Thank you so much for your openness and sharing this with everyone. Know that you, Mike and the girls are loved, you’re not alone and you will get through this. Hugs, good vibes and have a peaceful trip; May both girls sleep for 7 hours, watch movies for 4 hours and gaze quietly out of the window for the remaining 3. It’s a long shot but it’s a nice thought!

    Stay Encouraged!
    Love as always,

    Dani

  5. Teresha says:

    As someone who is the battle with depression, I thank you for writing this! People with mental health problems have an invisible illness, and worse, they are stigmatized by society. The thing about depression is that we get stuck in cycles or a bad groove like a skipping record. Something or someone needs to push the needle, so don’t feel bad when you confront Michael. Stress is like drugs or alcohol for someone with depressive tendencies. I also encourage him to try alternative treatments like yoga, accupressure, ebt. I don’t know how you do it woman! You have the strength of a thousand bulls. It’s okay to just tread water for awhile.
    Teresha recently posted..Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for the Conscious Mom

  6. Bobbi says:

    Hi Alexia…I feel compelled to write this, even though I only know you through one activity we share, I have felt a friend connection from the start. My husband began his “big depression” in 1987 and it lasted the better part of 2 years. There is a history in his family and I thought I had seen him down before. A business that he had run for 12 successful years took a nosedive in year 13, through no .fault of his own.(though he blamed himself). He went awhile unemployed, hiding out in the bedroom, not really speaking to anyone. He finally did get a job, but the depression continued, with only negative interaction between him and the rest of our family. My 8 year old daughter got so mad at him and she asked me, “why did you marry a jerk?” I told her that wasn’t the man I married and that I hope he would be back soon. He wouldn’t go to counseling or take meds. I went to our priest who was NO help at all, and finally out of desperation, I called Common Ground. The woman listened to me as I poured out my hurt, disappointment, ignorance, and love for him. She explained depression to me and told me why he could not ” just get over it” as i had brutally suggested a few times. Then she turned her questions to me…she said “I know you called to find help for your husband, but do you know how angry you sound?’ “How do you think your anger is affecting the dynamics in the household?” I listened as she told me that he was not only blaming himself for the failure of his business, but also grieving for its loss. That he had to come up with a new life plan and he probably was drowning in insecurity. I went to him (scared shitless), because I thought he would be mad at me for sharing his problem. I talked quietly, he laid on the bed as always, not commenting. I thought that it had not helped at all. But within a few days there was an improvement, and he asked me to make an appointment to see the family Doc, who put him on anti-depressants. Within a month, the girls and I picked him up from work one Saturday and he suggested A & W for dinner! He laughed, we rented a movie (remember it was beetlejuice) we folded out the sofabed in the living room & watched the movie, just like old times. My daughter whispered to me “this is the guy you married” and I nodded happily. He doesn’t like taking meds, but when he or I feel he is headed down the rabbit hole, we get him back on the meds, promptly. I know this probably doesn’t have a whole lot in common with your situation, but I guess I am trying to say is don’t give up on Michael, even when you think they are not listening, they just might be. I like your comparison of mental illness with cancer…you wouldn’t leave a man suffering from a physical disease…and I am sure that mental illness causes just as much suffering for the victim. I hope I have not overstepped the bounds of our friendship by commenting, but, dear, you have a lovely family, and I believe you have the strength to see this through.
    Best wishes for a good trip and improved family life.

  7. Kori says:

    Well, the first step is done. Bringing light to the situation! I am pretty sure most people can relate to Mental health. I can, as my brother has an illness, that is undiagnosed. It is so much easier to seek and rest upon others that have been there. We all help carry each other, whether we live by each other or talk to each other(or facebook). You are at a rough stage of rearing children, who said “it is all fun.” Not ever one person. Remember all those days of me pulling my hair out at the library. One kid went up the elevator and the other is running around. You will make it. Cherish your beautiful family time, even those crazy moments in the car with them. YOu will be together and that is the journey! Prayers and love to you and your family!

  8. Natalie says:

    I’m so sorry you and your family are going through such a difficult time. I don’t have any advice or words of wisdom to help you or offer you. I can only pray that things will get better for you and offer you my most sincere sympathy.

  9. Tracey says:

    Your honesty and strength in the light of what’s been happening is truly something to admire. And though you’re going through a hard time, I know there’s good things coming. Your persistence and tenacity WILL pay off, and in the end, you and your family will be stronger for it. Stay with it. Try to enjoy yourself on this vacation. Take pictures and laugh and try not to stress. And if its a disaster, so be it. Most vacations are, in a way, a disaster.

  10. Erika Z says:

    My heart broke for you reading this Alexia. You are such a strong and caring momma, wife, and person. Your compassion and ability to see outside of your situation is incredible.

    I haven’t wrote much outside of those fitness Fridays, and honestly I’m having a pretty rough time dealing with some similar issues (long hours at work for hubby and the negativity that comes with that even without mental health concerns, as well as the same issues with Dylan that you mentioned with Cedella). You hit the nail on the head here: “this time when she needs our love and patience the most, we are constantly angry, frustrated and irritated with her, and all while praising Isora’s latest milestone or funny moment.”

    Praying for you on your trip today beautiful momma! I hope it’s restful and exactly what you need!
    Erika Z recently posted..New beginnings with a side of cute

  11. I pretty much just want to say that I love you and your family and that I’m here for whatever you need. Hugs. A listening ear. BOOZE. I hope you have a wonderful trip – can’t wait to continue on with our “training” program when you get back!
    Leslie Arends recently posted..I Need to Work on My Exorcism Skills

  12. Oh, Alexia, I’m so so sorry to hear all this. And I feel like a clod because I have no words of advice to offer, but I just wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you and your family. I really hope Cape Cod is the relaxing break you need!
    Jocelyn ¦ ScooterMarie recently posted..They think I’m WAC-y!

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