Dark Mom Thoughts
I’m going to get real down and dirty with you guys in this post for two reasons:
- I need to write this down for my own mental processing and
- I think that it might help others to read it for various reasons.
Before I begin, you should know this is going to be a dark post, likely void of my usual banter, and I’m going to go to a place that I only just last weekend admitted out loud that I’ve been. If you’re in a dark mood, you might want to steer clear. If you don’t want to know these things about me, skip this post.
You should know that I am not putting this out there because I want pity or am crying for attention. Of course, one can never have too many hugs, but my hope is that I can help someone who is experiencing this before they get in too far. Don’t take this post as anything but sharing my authenticity with you, in hopes that you’ll understand a little more about me.
A great deal of thought and time went into composing this. I contacted my parents, brother, Clint’s parents, and a couple close friends to tell them about this so they didn’t first learn about it by reading it on my blog. I sought advice from several people about whether or not I should expose this publicly. I contacted my youth pastor, telling him that I wanted to put this out there. I expressed my concern that my youth group girls and their parents would read this and fear that their youth leader is a total nutjob. His response was one of full support, saying that if there were any concerns or dissent about me leading while dealing with this, that he would tackle it head-on.
This experience has taught me how incredible my support system is.
So, with all my ducks in a row, this is my story.
The Gradual Lead Up
I have struggled with depression in my recent past. The worst of it had presented itself as post-partum depression (PPD). Knowing this, my doctor put me on an antidepressant two weeks before the babies were born, so that it’d be in my system. It worked incredibly well. I enjoyed my babies and I didn’t find myself struggling mentally like I had with my other two. I stayed on the meds until the twins were about 10 months old, when I accidentally skipped a dose. Then two. Then three… soon enough, I decided I might as well go cold turkey and see how it would all pan out.
Needless to say, my doctor wasn’t entirely thrilled with that decision.
The best way I can describe what happened next is using my only basis for total discomfort: Labor.
To me, the antidepressant was my epidural. When I stopped taking it, it was like taking the epidural away at the end of labor: What I didn’t feel or experience while I was on the medication, quickly inundated me. Immediately, I found myself overwhelmed by everything. The even-keel feeling I had experienced on the medication was replaced with anxiety and chaos.
I took a mental step back.
You have four kids, Lindsay, I rationalized. You’re supposed to be a little overwhelmed.
So, I tuned up my coping skills. I worked on my patience level and used breathing techniques and anything I could think of to calm myself down. Initially, it worked and I felt proud that I had fixed myself.
Soon, those depression symptoms began creeping back, though I didn’t recognize that they were signs of depression. I noticed it more prevalently just before my period. Mentally, I would be worst about a day before my period. Then, the next month, it was two days, three… the symptoms stretched a little longer each month until I finally realized that two or more weeks of the month, I was experiencing some pretty severe symptoms.
All the while, I recognized that things weren’t right with me, but convinced myself that I could fix it. After all, I fixed it before, I assured myself. Because the symptoms didn’t seem to last all month, I would shrug it off. When the next month rolled around, the mental turmoil would begin again. I didn’t tell anyone about this. I didn’t divulge the disconcerting things my mind would obsess over during that time, because I didn’t want to scare anyone away. My closest group of friends right now is still pretty new and I worried about scaring them off with my very heavy thoughts. What it all came down to, however, was that I didn’t want to acknowledge that I needed help. It was exhausting to keep that all inside.
You must understand that these aren’t merely sad feelings I’m talking about. I’m not a little irritable or moody. It isn’t something a little Midol will cure. This, my friends, is where I’m going to give you a peek into the crazy place that is my brain.
If you’re doing the math (don’t worry, I wouldn’t be either), I began experiencing these symptoms five months ago. Over that time, I had tried to convince myself that I could fix it, that it was all in my head, not that big of a deal, that I was just being silly. All the while, these symptoms were getting progressively worse, to the point where I couldn’t ignore them anymore.
For me, these were my most unsettling and paramount symptoms:
- My brain was full of different things, and yet I couldn’t tell you any one thing that was on my mind. I felt like I had to be doing something at all times, but wasn’t productive when I actually did have something important to do. This all made me tense and anxious. It made me feel like I couldn’t accomplish anything, that I couldn’t do anything right.
- I became crushingly overwhelmed, very easily. If there were more than two noises happening at once, I snapped. Snapping usually involved yelling at my kids or Clint. I would get so overwhelmed, I couldn’t even process what I needed to do, who needed their scream answered by being picked up because they were hurt and who was screaming because they were simply having fun and playing. All of it made me yell. My normal self can handle things and differentiate noises. I can block out unnecessary noises or distractions to focus on the task at hand. During these 2+ weeks of the month, noises, movements, thoughts, everything inundated me and I couldn’t pull myself above it.
- I couldn’t think. I couldn’t process information, think of words, or concentrate. It was exhausting to even write a blog post, and usually this is the easiest thing for me to do.
- Without fail, I convinced myself that everyone hated me. I felt as though I were an annoyance to anyone and everyone I had in my life. To me, I was a burden to them, I didn’t deserve them, and wasn’t good enough for them. Everyone was better than me and I was privileged to have them in my life, not the other way around. This wasn’t a result of anything anyone has said or done, but somehow I established in my head that I was a completely worthless nuisance. I felt like a failure as a mother, wife, and friend. I continually convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough at anything I attempted. This emotion was overwhelming and all-consuming and I found myself obsessing over it. I obsessed over every interaction, every conversation, worrying that I said something the wrong way. This became so severe that I had to delete all text message threads on my phone or strands of emails so that I didn’t sit and obsess over them by re-reading them.
- I didn’t want to play with my kids. Our usual dance parties disappeared and I counted down the minutes to their bedtime all day. I felt burnt out by them, their needs, even their sweet moments. I didn’t enjoy them at all. Any moment I could leave the kids with Clint and escape, I would.
Each of these things on their own is troublesome, but I would experience them all at the same time. They were all at the top of my head, screaming at me for attention while my own kids screamed at me for their own needs. Holding these emotions, thoughts, and turmoil all these months has been exhausting and I have taken it out on my kids, my husband and my friends. But these things aren’t what pushed me to make an appointment with my doctor on Monday morning.
My Breaking Point
Death has been on my mind a lot lately. I don’t think Clint probably even realized how much more I started talking about death these past couple of weeks. My mind would go to thinking about anyone and everyone dying, about me dying. I would picture morbid scenarios involving people I love.
“I was thinking about something,” I said to Clint one day. “I’m the kind of person, that if I died, people would be pretty upset.”
He gave me one of those, “Yeah…” where he wasn’t sure exactly where I was going with that statement or even where the thought came from.
“I mean, I’m young, I have four little kids, and you,” I explained. “If I died, it would be like one of those things were people say, ‘It’s just not right, she was doing so much with her life. She was gone too soon.’ Do you realize that if I died now, Wyatt and Zander wouldn’t have any idea who I was?”
“Well, I wouldn’t let them not know about you,” Clint replied.
“I know, but they wouldn’t remember me. They’d have stories from my blog, though. And pictures and video. That’s a little piece of me. I doubt Lily would remember me, either.”
Clint asserted that she would and I questioned it. We spun off onto another conversation tangent at that point. I don’t know why I brought that up to Clint. Maybe I was trying to remind myself that I do mean a lot to others, that my kids need their mom. When the thought initially came to my head, I had pictured my funeral. My kids and Clint standing beside my grave, looking into it. This conversation happened about a week and a half ago.
Saturday night, I hit bottom. I’ve only been low a few times, but this was a new, deeper low.
During my chaos of emotions, I crave control. When I feel completely out of control of everything in my life, all I want is something that I can maintain control over. The way I find this control is by cleaning. Often, it starts out as a frantic cleaning, where I tear through the house, picking things up, flustered, but not necessarily angry, and hell-bent on creating some sense of calm in the form of cleanliness.
Saturday evening, after the kids were in bed, I needed that control. I set to work on our kitchen. I worked methodically from one end to the other. I was quiet and peaceful, but it was an unsettling peacefulness. Clint was in the other room. I stood in front of the stove, scrubbing it down.
I looked at the knives.
I stayed in front of the knives.
I scrubbed the same spot, even though it was clean, while I clearly envisioned exactly how I could use one of those knives to ravage the veins in my wrist. I knew which knife was the sharpest. I pictured exactly how I’d do it to make it “work.” I saw myself lying on the floor, lifeless. This all happened before my eyes as vividly as if I were standing outside of my own body, watching myself. It is disturbing to think of it now, but at the time, it somehow seemed peaceful.
The house was quiet.
Clint emerged from our bedroom and the vivid vision that had been floating before my eyes faded slightly, but didn’t disappear. He smiled at me.
He doesn’t deserve that worry, I thought. He doesn’t deserve the worry and grief of seeing that his wife wants to hurt herself.
It wasn’t about me or worrying about my well-being. It was worrying about him. That realization both comforted and frightened me, since I’m supposed to be concerned with my own well-being. The rational side of me knows I should be concerned with my well-being.
I didn’t confess this to Clint that night, but I did tell him that I wanted to die. Hearing the words “Why would you want to die?” come from his mouth, with his concerned expression behind it, I realized how stupid they sounded. And I know deep in my core, I don’t really want to die.
My descriptiveness here has been fully intentional. It isn’t for the story or the drama. Instead, it is my attempt to truly drive home an essential fact: this wasn’t a fleeting thought. A fleeting thought would’ve been, “Death would be nice.” I have experienced those. This thought was a strange dichotomy of dreamy numbness and dark, consuming emotion. That emotion and thought have created an impact on me that I wouldn’t have expected.
I never picked up the knife. I continued cleaning and the vision dissipated the further I got from the knife block. The impulse faded, but the thought didn’t go away. It wasn’t until the next night that I poured my guts out to Clint. I told him how I’ve been feeling. I confessed to contemplating suicide. I reminded him of different scenarios in the recent months that have led to me being downright awful to be around. He told me that he doesn’t want me to be unhappy anymore. He realized that I haven’t been myself in too long.
Monday morning was my usual 5 miles at 5:45am with Jenny and Dierdre. I’ve come to crave these early morning runs because they have been something of a therapy for me, for all of us, I believe. During each run, someone seems to have an issue that we can help each other tackle, or even just vent about, if that’s necessary. Monday morning, I didn’t want to talk about how I envisioned suicide. I didn’t want to confess to the craziness I had been experiencing. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay undetected if I didn’t say something during the run. I tried to think of something else to talk about, tried to chime in at appropriate times to their conversation, but I failed miserably. I didn’t have the energy or mental capacity to hide what was eating me up inside.
“There’s an awful lot of quiet from Lindsay,” Dierdre said, and Jenny agreed.
I fumbled some words out. They weren’t buying it. So, I got in a little deeper. I told them that I was intending to go see David that morning to get back on my antidepressants.
“It’s February, the darkness will get to anyone,” Dierdre had said.
“No, no,” I said, chuckling a little because I knew she had no idea what I would soon divulge. “No, it’s way worse than seasonal.”
Then, it came tumbling out. There’s something about running that causes all emotion and thought to spill from your lips, no matter how much you’d rather it didn’t. I had been talking for about half a mile when I hesitantly fessed up to the suicide thoughts. These ladies… they supported me. They encouraged me. They empathized with me.
It felt good to unveil those burdensome thoughts. I was more convinced than ever that I needed to see my doctor as immediately as possible.
As soon as the clinic opened, I was on the phone. There was only one appointment and I snagged it. I didn’t have anywhere for my kids to go and put out a plea to my Facebook friends to take them so I could go to my appointment alone. Two different friends stepped up to the plate. Then, miraculously, Clint walked through the door. Clint doesn’t come home early during tax season, but there he was. He wasn’t feeling well, but he was home and stayed with the kids.
I found myself nervous once again, for this appointment. I thought about what would make me feel less nervous, and that would be chatting over coffee. So, I picked David and I up some Starbucks and went in. For the third time in less than 24 hours, I divulged all that I had bottled up. With a resigned sigh and a quiet voice, I told him about the knives. My eyes teared up and I didn’t want to look at him, for fear of totally losing it. I blinked them away, worrying that between this appointment and the morning run, I had officially scared off three friends from ever trusting me and my crazy brain.
In the end, I went back on my antidepressants. Initially, we talked about just having me take it 8 days prior to my period and through to the end of it. His concern was that I’m actually experiencing depression symptoms throughout the entire month, but because they are so exacerbated by my period, I don’t realize how not good my “normal” times are. The more I considered his theory, the more I realized that he’s right and decided I’d like to take the medication throughout the entire month.
My antidepressants haven’t taken full-effect yet, but I already feel lighter because I have a plan of attack and my support people know what’s going on. Letting all of this go has been both freeing and scary to me. I fear that people will be leery of me or that they’ll treat me with kid-gloves, like I’m going to break. I fear being judged and unsupported and I fear losing friends, though I know that true friends will only buckle down and wade this out beside me.
There is guilt in this for me that I know I need to push aside, but I also know I need to feel.
I have spent the past few days just staring at my kids. I give them too many kisses and hugs and say too many “I love yous.” I’m sorry I thought about taking your mommy away from you, I repeat in my head while I watch my kids play, twirl, giggle, and love on each other… love on me. “I’m so sorry I thought about taking your mommy away,” I whisper into my babies’ ears. It tears at my heart to think that I had so seriously envisioned that. My kids need their mommy. No one else can do what I do, the way I do it and I hate that I thought about taking that away from them. I would’ve never expected to feel these emotions after the fact.
I’ve been reflecting on the past two weeks, since they’ve been the worst. I did everything I could to uplift myself. I went out with friends. I pumped my Christian music. I prayed. I went to church. In those weeks, though, all I heard from the music was the negative and the hurt behind the lyrics. My prayers were half-hearted. My time with friends was spent wondering if I really fit in, if they really enjoyed my presence or invited me along for pity.
Calling my family and talking to my friends before posting this has also inflicted a feeling of guilt. I’m glad to have told them, like I’m glad to be writing this now, but it hurts to tell people who love you so much that you thought about forever removing yourself from their lives. Admitting this meant telling them that I thought about hurting them emotionally, too. Every one of them wondered why I didn’t talk to them sooner and assured me that I can call any time I need to. I had to explain that I didn’t truly recognize it myself until Saturday, so I wasn’t keeping it from them any more than I kept it from myself.
I asked David if he thought I’d benefit from counseling, that I want to do anything I can to fix this. He explained that based on the way I describe what I’m feeling, it seems like I can rationalize well after the fact, so I don’t need even more insight, just better chemistry.
“You already over-think things,” he said.
A truer statement has never been said.
So, I’m going to get better. I’m not going to stop taking my antidepressants cold-turkey this time and I’m going to be honest with myself and others about how I’m really feeling. I don’t ever want to get to that bottom point again. If any of this rings true for you, I encourage you to seek help. The first time you hear yourself describing aloud what you’re feeling, it’ll be scary, but it gets better. It gets a lot better. You don’t have to carry the burden of feeling overwhelmed, guilty, and worthless, because you’re not. And you’re not the only one who has felt this way, you’re definitely not alone in that… That’s the best part of it all.