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!!