Saturday, June 10, 2017

My White Flag

This morning while doing my hair I felt the intense need to write a story that has been bouncing around in my head for some time. Immediately I thought, na, I don’t have a point or a good tie in yet, but again the thought came, it’s time to share.

So here I am, over-sharing again for no apparent reason because I guess that’s just who I am.

I’m sure you’re all keenly aware, and borderline annoyed at how often you’re reminded that my son was sick and had brain surgery.

Come on Amy move FORWARD already.

But I promise don’t want to talk about that.

I want to selfishly, and unapologetically talk about me.

Really, really about ME.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terribly uncomfortable but here goes:

You see a lot occurred in 3 years that I wouldn’t consider normal or easy, but it also isn’t the worst thing people experience. People endure far worse, and people often do so with grace. So I don’t think my story is unique or some amazing feet that the world should be proud of, but I think what happened to me on a personal level happens all too often.

I was 21 when a baby was placed in my arms that would spend the next 2.5 years chronically ill. I would spend 100s of nights up rocking a screaming infant, then toddler, then child, who was in chronic pain. I would see multiple specialists a week, endure many tests, debate with several doctors, and spend countless hours on google. I would spend many nights crying, pleading, begging, and breaking.

The funny thing is that when I look back at just those moments I am proud and I feel peace. I rallied for Camden. I rallied for the baby in my belly (Kyra) who kept trying to come too early in the middle of it all. I relied on my savior and I blasted through it all full speed with positivity and the ability to manage it all. I killed it!

Who I didn’t realize I needed to rally for was me. 
Now when I look back I can see what I didn’t see then. As a coping mechanism, I began to just turn certain needs off, because it simply wasn’t convenient for me to need them.  

Somewhere along the way I wasn’t taking care of myself, I guess I figured I would do that later.

I can’t pinpoint when the decline started honestly. I remember going to lunch with my sisters and watching them talk and laugh and feeling completely unable to authentically participate. I was spent.

To put it plainly, Amy wasn’t there.
Camden’s and Kyra’s mom was there.
Garth’s wife was there.
I was not.

They asked me if I was okay, I told them I was tired, and that’s honestly the last time I remember putting in the effort to be present beyond when my family needed me to be during it all. Unless I was experiencing raw deep emotion, like stress/worry/fear, I wasn’t present. I would attend girls’ nights for a while and answer a million questions about Camden, and then I would sit in my head, going through the motions of being excited about things like hot chocolate and dessert and the things girls do when they go out.  Except I didn’t feel excited. I simply didn’t feel anything, and it was exhausting to keep pretending like I did. I told myself that it was simply because I had bigger fish to fry at the moment.

Eventually I stopped going, and I started hearing a lot of questions/passing gossip about why I didn’t have time to come to things, what I did with my time, etc etc. and I just moved on. Part of me wanted to scream, do you realized what I am dealing with all day? But instead I turned the social part of me off, and turned in more to my family.

Obviously, you know how the story goes. We did surgery, Camden recovered super well, Kyra managed to stay in my belly til near her due date, and life was tied up with a pretty bow.
The next year (this past year) would be the first year in my mom life my entire family was healthy and there were no trips to the ER. We bought our first home. Garth graduated and got a job that he loved, and life was SO GOOD.

But it didn’t feel good.  And boy did this make me so frustrated with myself.

Plainly and bluntly, last year was the lowest year of my life, and I  still hate saying that. But it is TRUE. It SHOULD be when Camden was sick. It SHOULD have been when he had surgery. It SHOULD have been when I was in chronic pre-term labor. But it wasn’t. It was last year. The pretty bow year.

It took me a long time to realize/accept because the decline in me was gradual and to me completely illogical.

I would get up and put on my workout clothes, only to walk to the basement gym and stand there with no drive to get a workout in. I excused it for the fact I take care of three young kids all day. Eventually I stopped even trying.

I didn’t keep in contact with anyone. I never texted people back, and I didn’t reach out. I was always exhausted.

I was walking in a fog I couldn’t navigate or figure out how to fix.

Eventually I completely stopped sleeping. Instead of laying in bed unable to sleep I just started being productive at night and excused away my lack of sleep for the fact that I was so busy. I was averaging maybe 3-4 hours on a good night. I just told myself you’re so busy! When you’re less busy you will sleep more.

I couldn’t make Amy be present.

One day while cleaning the bathroom I stood up and I looked in the mirror. I barely recognized who I saw and I wondered how much I weighed. So I got on the scale for the first time in a very long time and realized I had lost nearly 15 lbs. Which put me at a very, very low weight. I thought about the day and wondered, did I eat? Did I eat yesterday? The day before?
 It was in that moment staring at myself in a mirror I realized I was truly physically ill.

It still took me weeks to tell Garth, but by the time I did I was barely functioning. I was functioning on a level that I met my children’s basic needs but then I spent the rest of the day accomplishing nothing and feeling horrible about accomplishing nothing. Finally one night I managed to simply blurt out “this has been the worst year of my life”.

At first, Garth didn’t understand. I started telling him about my sleep, my weight, my lack of joy in anything, etc. We went back and forth trying to find a common ground. I started researching depression so I could find better ways to explain it to him and we had to work really, really hard together to get on the same page with it.

Depression has never, ever been something on my radar. It took me so long to admit that it could be an issue for me because I have never even had an inkling of it. I’ve always felt like a positive person, and when I looked back at the previous year I felt like I had handled it all with realistic positivity so how could I possibly be depressed now?

The problem was that I had fought so hard for everyone else, I had nothing left of myself in the end. Which forgive me for how dramatic that sounds! But it’s the truth. WE are important. Our needs are important. When we put them on the shelf too long, we break. It’s as simple as that.

I broke. I broke in a way I never would’ve imagined possible for myself.

Long story short, a while ago I was diagnosed with trauma-induced anxiety and depression. I have learned SO much from pulling myself out of such a deep hole. Somewhere along the way Garth helped me get the courage to fight, and I started pursuing every avenue I could to fight to understand and to manage it.
My bishop was wise and told me that first I would need to accept that this could be a life long struggle, not to just assume I could fix it and close the door.
That was hard for me. But because I am a mom I knew that I needed to learn everything I could about where I was at mentally so that I could have tools to cope and fight it should it ever creep in again.

When I look back I still get frustrated. I was so NOT present that the past year is foggy. There are things about Kyra’s newborn days I flat don’t remember. I remember SO much about Camden’s, but with Kyra’s I just can’t and that hurts me still. There are SO many people who I shut out and unintentionally pushed away because I just didn’t have the emotional stamina to reach out. There were so many people I COULD have reached out to, but I didn’t know how. There are a million apologies I probably owe, but will never be able to give.

I am doing really well at the moment, and I have really learned how to slow my mind and just take things a day at a time. Initially it made me feel so weak to be struggling, but I have come to learn that the people battling for the light at the end of the tunnel are SO strong, and they come back into the light that much stronger.

All that I know is that my one new years resolution was to feel like Amy again. A simple, mildly pathetic, goal. And I am so happy to be able to say I’m getting to know her again.

The season of life I am in right now is good. I feel good, my family is doing good, and we have great health all around. However, I have come to learn that everything truly has its season.

There will be times of triumph, times for the battles, times of peace, and times where we are low and we need our neighbor. The tricky part is that our seasons don’t all happen at the same time.

So if you’re in the midst of a battle, don’t be discouraged by someone's season of peace. When you’re low, don’t be afraid to reach out just because it seems like everyone else is so triumphant. We all have our seasons, some of us have every season in one short year.

Sometimes I think we get so focused on this comparing, we either miss the needs of those around us or we hide our own in order to keep up. We could help lift and encourage each other so much more if we weren’t always competing.

So this is me waving my white flag of surrender. Lets not compete, lets not compare, and lets not be ashamed of where we are at in life.  

I fell apart and I broke and I hid it so well that I was completely alone.
So maybe I’m writing this for me because I have this ever-obnoxious need to try to be as authentic as possible. Maybe it’s so I force myself to not feel any sort of shame about it. Maybe it will help someone realize that we don’t all have it all together. Maybe it will inspire someone to reach out to someone who could be struggling. Maybe it will inspire someone to smile more and just be kinder to his or her neighbors. Or maybe it will remind someone who is struggling that they’re not alone.

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