A Mother’s Mental Health Journey

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The Shutdown

It was the week of my birthday. I had just returned from a Dance Weekend with my Barn family,- a birthday gift from my husband who bravely stayed home with our kids. We had more plans to celebrate that Friday at the Mishnock Barn, but COVID had other plans…..

Two weeks. “To flatten the curve” That’s all it was supposed to be.  Two weeks turned into many weeks, which turned into months. (No need to elaborate further, you know the rest) We all had our own ways of coping. I was no exception.

Optimism and Caution. That is how we started the “shut down”. My husband and I were still working 40 hours per week, plus overtime. Our oldest two daughters, who were in high school, started remote learning, and our three-year-old was now at home with me while I worked. Despite the chaos we remained optimistic. When we weren’t working or “in” school we kept ourselves busy playing games, watching movies, doing puzzles, and enjoying as much time outside as we could. We were doing great. No big deal. We got this!
Or so we thought.

As two weeks turned into more weeks, our household began to unravel. The oldest children were falling into depression. They were struggling with remote learning, isolation, loss of everyday social activities & prom…the list goes on. Our three-year-old spent a lot of time on her tablet or watching tv to stay occupied while I worked from home. I had severe mom guilt. ‘This poor child should be having fun, not sitting in front of a screen while I work all day.’ My relationship with my husband and children became strained. I was struggling as a mom and wife…

The Spark

As if the pandemic wasn’t bad enough, our beloved family dog was given a tragic diagnosis: osteosarcoma. Cancer. We chose to put him on comfort measures only. He was 13 years old, not a young pup anymore. I refused to make his remaining days on this earth painful. I would ensure that he would be happy, loved, and comfortable.

September 27, 2020: It was a Sunday morning. I awoke to what I thought was our dog playing on our bedroom floor. But, he wasn’t playing. He was having a seizure. This was what our vet had warned us of. The cancer had reached his spine. We said goodbye to our beloved Coco that evening. We were lucky enough to find a company to come to our house to assist Coco in crossing the rainbow bridge, peacefully, at home, surrounded by his loving family. He was just a few weeks shy of his 14th birthday. And this was the spark that started my mental breakdown.

Downward Spiral

After losing Coco, none of us were okay. (Not that we were really okay prior to losing him either.) The house was too quiet. No more pitter-patter of his little paws, no more barking at every little noise, no more scratching at the door for potty time. A desolate quiet. I kept his bed in the same spot for many months after losing him, right next to my side of the bed where he always slept. I would wake up every morning still looking for him, forgetting that he was gone. The pain became too much for me to bear.

This grief sent me over the edge. I became unrecognizable. I was lashing out at my husband and my children, I couldn’t stop crying, and everything triggered me. What was happening to me? Why couldn’t I stay strong for my family? Why was I losing it? I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t let my children see me like this. Something had to change.

The Choice

It was in my darkest moment that I finally decided to address my depression. That choice was life-changing. I took time off of work, going on FMLA, to focus on my mental health and the well-being of my family. My doctor helped me find a medication for depression & anxiety that would work for me, and referred me to a therapist, who is absolutely amazing! My husband is my biggest supporter. Every decision that I made to better myself, he was right there by my side, cheering me on. Our little family is my support system. My older children also decided to go to therapy once they saw all of the positive changes their mom was making, and choosing to work on our mental health has made us stronger as a family.

 

I hope my journey will inspire other moms who may be going through their own mental health crises to get the support they need to move forward. Thank you for reading, sharing, and commenting!
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Jennifer was born in Providence County, Rhode Island, and raised in South County, Rhode Island, where she now resides with her own family. Along with her husband and three daughters, she lives with their 2 dogs, (Ryder & Buddy), 2 cats, (Princess & Bean), 2 guinea pigs, (Phil & Bender), and 1 bunny, (Niko). Besides being a writer, Jennifer is also a dog trainer. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys line dancing, hiking, going to the many RI beaches, and reading, just to name a few.

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