In life, I try to strike a balance between transparency and over-sharing. Motherhood is a blessing and a joy but it's messy and scary, too. Life is messy and scary.
I don't try to pass myself off as a parenting expert or a front-runner for mother of the year. Puhleeze. I try to be a good mom ... sometimes I succeed but like all of us, I have days where I suck at it. My kids occasionally watch too much TV (and by occasionally I mean every week). Sometimes they sass and I have to get my husband to talk to them in his "man voice." They hear me drop the F-bomb more than I'd like and sometimes, I open wine before 5 o'clock. I suspect I'm really no different than most moms out there ... maybe more willing to publicly admit my imperfections, but not different.
I am struggling with life, parenthood, and change. I've always been a high-stress, high-anxiety person. Some of that is probably genetic and some of it has been shaped by various life experiences.
My anxiety went into high gear in 2002 when I was a front seat passenger in a car accident. My ex-husband was driving. We rear-ended a semi-truck going about 80 mph. We got out of the car just in time to see a second semi-truck crash into the back end of my car. My full-sized sedan turned into a shredded metal cube before my eyes. I'd probably gotten out less than 30 seconds before impact. I walked away with minor injuries -- broken bones -- but that began my journey with therapy and various lifestyle changes to help me manage my anxiety.
I'm anxious. Tightly wound. For the most part I've managed it by being self-aware and living a reasonably healthy life. Running helps immensely and I have a breathing app on my phone that helps chill me out when I get too keyed up. I'm not a big fan of medication and I was always quick to say no every time my doctor suggested it.
And then menopause happened.
For those of the penised persuasion and those women whose time hasn't come yet: I wouldn't wish how I feel on my worst enemy. Well ... maybe on The Donald but seriously ... my mood swings are kicking my ass. I have about six hot flashes a day and the best way to describe them is a body temperature spike of about 800 degrees. Okay, I know not really 800 degrees, but that's what it fucking feels like. How anyone can be expected to act like a normal human when their brain and internal organs are boiling ... well, I'm not really sure.
And then there are the crying jags and the rages. Sometimes I scare myself. It's like puberty, pregnancy hormones and the very worst case of PMS imaginable all rolled into one -- on steroids. For a control freak who normally keeps a close hold on her emotions, this is hard to handle. Rational me knows crying in the grocery store because they've moved the yogurt isn't cool ... but I've been feeling like I'm losing rational me. I get angry without too much of a trigger, like not being able to find a parking space or a toy being left in the middle of the living room floor.
I hurt and I'm not really sure why.
I'm not sure if I can blame menopause, pre-disposition or adjustment problems. Blame is unnecessary.
A couple of weeks ago, I was yelling at my kids because they couldn't find their shoes. We were about to go somewhere and sometimes, it's a struggle to take them places by myself. Two 5-year-old boys: need I say more? I told them to get their shoes on and they each showed up ready to board the van with one shoe on ... on the wrong foot. Not their shoes.
I lost it. I yelled, I raged. After tearing apart their room, I found their missing shoes at the bottom of the laundry hamper. I let them know just how upset I was using a few four letter words.
They cried. Of course they cried.
I apologized, because naturally, I felt like shit. There was no need to lose my temper over shoes. But I did.
And then the kicker: one of my boys looked me straight in the eye as tears ran down his face.
"I don't want you to be in our family anymore, mommy. You always have a mad face."
You could punch me in the gut a thousand times and never hurt me as badly as those words did.
I took the meds, feeling like I was admitting defeat. It's not a miracle drug and my body is getting used to it ... slowly. At first I felt dull and foggy, like I was moving underwater. The mood swings are less severe because my senses aren't as sharp. My brain is active but it's hard to get words out. My speech is slower and I have to think really hard, to concentrate on what words I'm going to say.
I'd feel like a failure each time I swallowed that pill. I felt like I sucked at parenthood and life in general because I needed medication to feel level and normal. I was ashamed and didn't want anyone to know I was struggling. I felt deflated because I couldn't cope.
Today, I feel better. Not perfect and still a little uncomfortable with the way the meds make me feel, physically. I have no expectation that drugs will solve my problems but for now, I am going to take them without being ashamed, without unproductive self-talk such as "you're weak and you suck at life because you're taking anti-depressants."
I'm not weak. I had the guts to help myself and I'm finding a way through this, to the place where I don't lose my shit when my kids lose their shoes. I'll get there.
And while I'm not mother of the year, I don't need to be. I'm a damn good mom. I have good days and bad days. If you have more bad days than good ... don't be afraid to reach out to someone. Taking that step is hard ... all of this is hard ... but so, so worth it.