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.