My Personal Polar Vortex

Since Owen was born, I’ve been really deliberate with my mental health.  I started writing in my journal first.  I also used CaringBridge to process the immersion into the medical life.  Since I was very young, writing was how I processed.  (I’ve burned all my college journals – I’d die if they were found).  However, with this stuff over time a personal journal wasn’t enough.  I needed to say it out loud. I needed to be heard.  My life was a combination of hospital stays or isolation at home.  Sometimes the hospital was actually better- at least I had someone to talk to.  This blog became my way of having a conversation that my life was impeding from happening.

Knowing that I needed more, in winter two I created the cold and flu season bucket list. And I went to a therapist.  I didn’t want the emotions to catch up to me.  I kept a deliberate focus staying healthy.

I’d never personally struggled with mental health issues, but I knew too well the implications of prematurity.  I’m not just a preemie mom, I was also raised by a preemie mom.  As soon as Owen was born, I suddenly understood both of my parents better.  After Owen was born, my mom admitted to me that decades after my brother was born she was diagnosed with PTSD due to her own course as a preemie mom.  I wanted to make sure that nothing like it happened to me – my diligence to my mental health was my approach to avoiding any breakdowns.

Last summer, I was something close to on top of the world.  Owen was doing amazing things; starting to talk, nearly walking, finally his stomach was doing better – still major constipation issues – but he wasn’t retching and he was tolerating his feeds and growing and the biggest deal of them all…he came off oxygen.   Kellen was doing better with his emotions and I felt closer to Kyle.  I found a job that seemed perfect and somehow got a great nanny hired in less than a week.

With all those wonderful things happening, I let down my guard.  I wrote less – I was busy living, I didn’t need to write.  I didn’t prepare for a third winter of isolation.  Why should I?  I got to leave during the day.  Well except, when I was at home, we were still in isolation.  Owen didn’t have any hospital stays (knock on wood) but we had several colds, one mild case of pneumonia and three rounds of steroid bursts and many days of nebs.  We didn’t take Owen out for any non therapy outing except Kellens birthday party.  And still he got sick several times.  I thought our days of isolation would have been over this year.  They weren’t.

As the temperature dropped below zero and stayed there for 50+ days…so did my mood.  I’ve never been depressed before for more than a day or two.  I kind of just kept hoping it would lift and that’d be it.  It took me a while to even pinpoint that depression is what I was feeling.  I expected that depression was about sadness.  Where I’d cry a lot.  I don’t want to minimize the forms of depression that does include crying a lot, but there were moments that I wished I felt enough to cry.

I wasn’t sad.  I was apathetic – completely withdrawn and cranky.  If you asked me to identify an emotion, I couldn’t.  I just didn’t care.  About anything.  Yes, I was still a mom.  In the bare minimum sort of way.  Yes, I still did my job.  In the bare minimum sort if way.  Yes, I was still a wife.  In a way that vacillated between  cranky, apathetic and apologetic for making him carry so much of the burden.

The weirdest part for me, It was almost out of body.  I could see what was happening to me – enough to make those apologies to Kyle – but I was too apathetic to care or attempt to make a change.  I couldn’t write because I had no idea how I felt.  Plus it just took too much effort and I had no desire to be honest with you all – or myself.  That’s my promise…perfect or not, this place is for honesty.

As our temperatures finally came above zero, I’ve started to feel again.  I’m far from in a perfect place, but I’ve started to be deliberate about my mental health again.  I’m no longer trying to avoid depression.  I’m trying to overcome it.

I’ve gone back to the therapist.  Wow, that was ugly.  Not in a bad way.  I feel lighter after going, but I think every feeling I didn’t feel during the Polar Vortex all came out of me.  What really came out was that I’ve been feeling trapped.  It’s an honor to be a mother, but it’s exhausting in the best of circumstances.  Being a mother to two boys who need me in both of their special ways is fatiguing and overwhelming and I reached a point when I couldn’t see a light at the end of the “I need a break” tunnel.”

I know how blessed my life is.  I do.  I also know that sometimes blessings are exhausting.  I reached my breaking point of heavy lifting.  I need to hit the reset button so I can come back and enjoy my blessings.

I don’t feel perfect, but at least I’m feeling something again.  A vacation is in the works.  More writing is in the works.  More therapy sessions are in the works.  I look forward to Spring.

If you’re going through depression…you’re not alone.

© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

10 thoughts on “My Personal Polar Vortex

  1. I hear you! I’ve been feeling very similar this winter. I think it’s even more difficult for those of us who live in cold-weather climates – the dreary cold makes it even harder to “snap out of it.” I’ve had a post about this topic sitting in my draft folder for weeks now, but I couldn’t bring myself to publish it. I wasn’t ready to admit it. Thanks for writing so honestly and for letting me know that I’m not alone in this!

    I’m glad you’re able to see the light at the end of the tunnel! Hooray for spring and sunshine!

  2. I worried when I didn’t see many posts from you, but thought maybe you just needed a break. Welcome back and thank you for sharing. I’m right there with you, but haven’t figured out my plan to overcome yet.

  3. You are not alone! The only difference we live in sunny south Florida and still have isolation. And we took our first vacation in 3 years and ended up with h1n1 in Jan. Not good for anyone but especially a respiratory child.

  4. This winter has been hard on even the unfettered optomistics. You have been through a tremendous amount in the last 3 years taking care of everyone else. Now it is time to take care of Tatum. I happen to think you deserve that. A vacay is the right idea, but also try to do at least one indulgent thing for yourself every day, even if it is small. Remember, even if you are on lockdown, your friends and a relaxing glass of wine are only a skype away!

  5. Not alone. So totally not alone. The thing with micropreemie parenting is that we never get a chance to breathe and recover. We are parenting children with their own needs and demands above and beyond the typical child’s needs and demands and that’s *after* extensive emotional trauma. Add onto that isolation and so many of the usual buffers and resilience factors are stripped from us. And overwhelming. And exhausting. I’m so glad you are able to recognize this and thank you for writing so honestly, as usual.

  6. thanks for sharing this tatum. i am convinced i have too reached that point. i am mother of preemie 3years old triplets of which one has PVL. while i am trying to stay up to date in normal parenting with the 2 “normal developed” kids, i am fighting against the “terrible twos” of one of them and the lots of care and attentions i need to give to the one that’s in need. i SO understand your feelings! i feel like i am caged in a situation from which i cannot escape, nor change in better. i must admit to myself, i need to talk about it. i had better times in my life and it really doesnt help to keep it all in 🙂 it is so nice to read i am not alone in this 🙂 thumbs up for your blog. from now on you have a new reader.

  7. Pingback: Doing it All or Doing Nothing at All | Ain't No Roller CoasterAin't No Roller Coaster

  8. I have (and still am) in the exact same spot where you are, hence my long absence from the blog. I just felt powerless and not able to come up with anything, to connect with anyone, I was sad, discontent, down.. I hope you are feeling a bit better now. Hugs!

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