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When it’s more than just feeling down, sad or having a bad day.  When it’s more than just a normal worry of is my kid going to have a good day at school.  When it becomes problematic.  When it lasts for a long time.  When you can’t see yourself as happy.  When you see yourself as a failure, not good enough, or just not at all.  You may be experiencing depression and/or anxiety.

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Pardon a couple S-words in this post.  It’s much cleaner than my 4-year-old dropping the F-bomb at dinner the other night.  More on that later.  You’ve been warned!

Where She At?!

Haven’t noticed me posting lately?  Yeah… about that. No new blog posts, not too much on the Facebook page or Instagram.  No new products in the store.  I thought I was burnt out.  I took a “momcation” last week with some amazing ladies and saw Ed Sheeran.  That was a wonderful time and such an incredible concert with my clan.  #clangoals

When You Realize There’s a Problem a Little Too Late

Me: Fake It Til You Make It. Look closely, I’m fried, frazzled and coming undone.

What I didn’t expect to happen was that I’d feel even shittier when I got back from my little 3-day outing. I was prettier sure I was going to be recharged, full of energy and just ready to get back this page, get back to creating my holiday collection (coming soon!) for the store, and rock it at work.  What actually happened was the opposite.

I felt worse.  So let’s go back to just before my mini vacay and give you an idea of what was happening.  I was angry, sad, not interested in, well, anything.  I just wanted to be left alone and sleep, or watch Voltron on Netflix.  (I know, that’s weird in itself, but hello, Shiro… that’s all I have to say about that.)

I didn’t want to have anything to do with work, family, my kids, my husband.  Now keep in mind, other than at work, no one has done anything to deserve me avoiding them.  With work, it’s work and hasn’t been that enjoyable lately, most likely due to my lack of interest in anything.

Depression: The Crying Game

I cried… a lot.  In the shower; pretty much every 45-minute drive to work and back home; alone in bed at night (while my husband studied); sometimes at my desk (quietly and hopefully no one noticed); just about every time I was alone. You get the picture.  Reasons for crying ranged from fears, disappointments (in myself), failures, not being able to see a future, sadness over whatever happened to enter my brain at that time, sitting here writing this post.

Originally, I thought this was all due to a formula change in medication, and temporary addition of prednisone.  The timing of it all just seemed right.  The more I think about it, though, it’s me.  Or is that the depression talking?

Special Needs Parenting is Hard

Then on day 2 of my 3-day girls midweek trip, Riley’s school called, she was having a seizure.  They were calling to let me know they were going to administer emergency meds and call 911 if it didn’t stop within the next 30 seconds.  Luckily it stopped, but there were some serious communication issues in the description of the seizure.  She has multiple kinds, but one that we typically describe as an unresponsive panic episode, she requires emergency meds if it lasts more than 5 minutes.

Remember When?

The last time I felt this shitty was roughly 3 years ago.  Queue the Golden Girls “Picture this…”

Momma and Riley a couple hours before the second brain surgery.

Life was building up, in the explosive kind of way.  I had just gone through a very rough 34-week pregnancy, lost my angel, Laila, during that pregnancy, and had been given devastating news of Riley’s “quality of life” and we were going through a second brain surgery for her.  Let me tell you very clearly right now: I was not in a good place.

Read the Quality of Life Post here.  Get some more details on Our Story here.

In addition to home life, I was also taking a lot of crap from people at work who thought I was overreacting to an employee who literally slept at his desk (there’s video), would go to other people around the company to bad mouth me for wanting him to do his job.  There was a lot more, but the point is, life at work sucked.

Depression: A Lonely Battle

I wanted to run away, cry all the time, scream, and just be left alone.  I wanted to makes sure my kids had what they needed, I was able to provide for my family, and just be alone.  I kept to myself at the office.  I hid in my room at home when I couldn’t handle being around anyone anymore.  My relationships suffered, my family suffered, this wasn’t just happening to me, but they could handle it better, they weren’t shutting the world off.

Rejection Doesn’t Help

We have an EAP program at work.  I went to talk to our coordinator, was given options on paths I could take.  I started with the list of doctors, started making calls to get myself help.  There’s nothing quite like admitting you need help, going through with reaching out to people to assist you with getting help… and getting rejected by each doctor you call.  OK, so maybe rejection is a bit harsh, but every single doctor I called said they weren’t accepting new patients or wouldn’t even call me back.  When you’re already on the edge, that really doesn’t help the situation.

I never did get help from a professional.  I did gradually get better.  Getting better had a lot to do with the fact that Riley’s life got “stable”.  She does have a lot going on, and like any other special needs mama’s know, life sometimes just sucks.  This life is hard, and sometimes depression can sneak in without you knowing.

Depression: The Symptoms

How would you know if you are experiencing depression?  Here’s the list of some of the symptoms:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed.

*The above symptoms were pulled from the ADAA: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression/symptoms

Be honest, how many of these do you have?  I can admit to almost all of these.

Depressions Partner: Anxiety

What about anxiety?  What is anxiety? Anxiety is your natural response to stress. If your feelings of anxiety are extreme or last longer than 6 months and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder. Check out https://www.anxiety.org/what-is-anxiety for more information and a handy 7 question quiz to learn more.

The bottom line, if you think you may benefit from the help of a professional, don’t wait.  There’s a stigma on mental health, even though these days’ people are opening up more and more about it.  For instance, if you work in the corporate world, a sign of weakness may hinder your growth.  It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s showing your strength.  There’s strength in self-awareness.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, feel confident in your decision to help yourself to become the best possible version of you.

If you’re not ready to take that step yet, but you know you need to help yourself, download the attached printable PDF to help. No strings attached.  You don’t have to tell anyone what you’re going through if you don’t want to, I won’t know who accesses the file, you don’t have to sign up for the mailing list, though I would love to have you on the mailing list (I promise, I rarely email anyone, but would love to share news and store discounts with my loyal readers).

What has helped me?  Writing, my friends, writing.  This blog is therapy for me.  Special needs parents are always operating at a different level.  I’m not trying to alienate those who have not experienced the world of special needs parenting.  We just tend to always be on, there’s very little downtime.

Life is a struggle no matter what parenting you’re doing. Some get through it easier than others, some struggle more.  I find ways to try to snap myself out.  Photography, for instance, is another outlet for me.  I also like making things, graphics, printables, t-shirts, crafty things.  Are you seeing a pattern?  Creativity helps me.

That may not be your answer.  Find something, anything, that makes you happy, gives you fulfillment and joy.  Do you like sitting outside reading?  Do it!  Like dancing around the house with the music up?  Have a dance party with the kids!  Like cooking/baking?  Make your co-workers some cookies, cupcakes or whatever your heart’s desire.

The point is to find your happy.  It may not look like mine, your best friends, your sisters, your neighbors and that’s because you’re unique.  Find what works for you and give it a shot.

And just because…

If you laughed at this, you too, are not broke. Battered and bruised maybe… but not broken.

Remember that 4-year-old F-Bomb Dropping Kid of Mine?

And for more humor, I took my 4-year-old son to his favorite restaurant, McDonald’s for dinner one night.  A quiet mom and son date night.  We were on my phone playing Pokémon Go, he almost dropped the phone and said “What the F*!!”  I was impressed by his correct usage.

I asked him if he said “what the what” because I tend to say that from time to time.  He said very clearly and calmly, “No. I said what the f***.”  He emphasized the f-word.  I bit my tongue and then said, “AJ, we don’t say that word.”  AJ: “OK.”  End of discussion, he hasn’t said it since.

Moral of the story, when your kid is buckled into the backseat of your car watching his iPad, DVD, or whatever, and you get road rage… they listen.  Learning experience for all.

Find the humor in life.  Find joy.  Find yourself.

Sara Signature

Want to continue reading more on this?  Head over the Part 2: the Grandmother POV for a slightly different perspective, from my Mom.  She watched while my life unraveled.  This strong and amazing woman could only sit back and watch, offer support and an ear while I struggled to find my way.  Sometimes while you suffer from depression, you go blind to what others are going through.

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Sara is a mother of two, wife and full-time employee. She's also a parent of a child with special needs.