I was doing my best to make the early morning as seamless as possible. It does not take long for my patience to run thin when asking someone to do something to help us get out the door. When panic starts to creep in. I sometimes forget the expectations I put on toddlers. I know that they do not intend to frustrate me. I bring it on myself, especially when I am unable to take a deep breathe and gather emotion before I lose my mind. Yesterday my daughter innocently said,”mama, why don’t you get a new job so you can have a break.” Well, that hit hard and I adjusted my mood.
Rushing to get out of their daddy’s space so he can focus on work. I cherish the world they live in where money, status and ego doesn’t exist. That is when the storm starts to roll in. I get inpatient, one gets defiant, one asks for another snack while I am packing their lunches, I am waking in circles packing backpacks, cleaning up, starting laundry, trying to get one to pee on potty, but keep getting “NO,” yelled in my face. then my chest starts to get heavy, my jaw starts to clench, and I wonder where I can find an umbrella to protect me from my anxiety that is creeping in. For someone who does not have to battle anxiety, depression, mood disorder and ADD, may have a hard time relating to the chaos that seems to be of my own creation. The pressure to be out of the house, to keep toddlers quiet while our number one guy can talk to his client’s without the background distraction sometimes sends me back into the spiral. I cannot just take a breath and stop to look around. I’m stuck in that same storm over and over even though we have the same routine nearly every day. Being a mama brought a new level of anxiety that I was not ready for. Two months into a first-time mama, my dad, my best friend lost his battle with cancer. At least he got to receive our sweet Havana’s soft breath and sleep on his chest. Me, my father’s daughter and my daughter got to lay together when he took his last breath. She’s the one who got me through the initial grief stages, my angel baby. If not for her, I would have slipped into a massive puddle slowly sinking. Simultaneously, my fur baby, my first love, decided to bolt off the porch to follow her instinct to chase a squirrel. Snapping her Achilles’ tendon. How was I going to handle all this? Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it alone. We had the means to get her the best care and have an amazing support system. Could I see all that? No. Instead I just medicated and tried to make it through the day. The panic would start to set in when I had to rush to get a baby in car seat, a 55lb dog w/ three functioning legs, in the car and to the vet for a bandage change. Once a week this as well as separate checkups & therapy. we did this for 6mths, and the vet techs watched one baby heal and the other grow. After every appointment I would cry a few tears of release before leaving the parking lot. Take a deep breath and move on from being stuck in morning hustle. Looking back now I wish I would have been able to share how the nerves inside were brewing. Fast forward four years you’d think I’d have found a way to avoid the circles of my dark side. I call it the dark side because I’m still searching for the light. Our family grew a little more along w/ my debilitating anxiety & depression. Finally getting into a routine with feedings, naps, walks, music, dance, gymnastics & swimming. I found a way to fit in morning workouts where I could get one hour to not here, mommy or tears. It was glorious. I found community, closeness and peace. The sky was starting to clear and rain clouds fading. Our state shut down quickly in March. Like most, we hunkered down, watching the world change and counting our blessings. We did not have to worry about losing a job or home. The sudden shift of WFH, working out from home and homeschooling was a challenge accepted. A new routine needed to happen but what was it going to be? Increasing my meds to help handle the unknowns was an early request. Oh, hey fear, is that you I’m starting to hear? Yes. Here is another new chapter of loss, grief, and change. I could not get out of the car half the time when I’d go to store. Shaking, crying and holding tightly to steering wheel while in park. I was stuck inside my bubble of terror. I was experiencing every soul’s anxiety that was in eye shot. I felt their fear in every fiber of my body. Allowing this in slowly brought the storm clouds back in. On the outside others often view me unshakable to the rain drops that keep falling. I am a healer and I want to help everyone, but I am struggling help myself. This isn’t a secret I try to hide from friends/family. I am more open than ever to share my battles, my medication exp, my dark side. 6mths into the global pandemic I decided to change my meds. I had been taking celexa for the last 2yrs and Zoloft prior to that during pregnancies/breastfeeding. I shared this with my FP and therapist. My therapist knows me the best and I’m not sure where’d I be today without her. She does not prescribe meds, but I should have taken her psychiatrist recommendation the first time. My practitioner, who’d I only had phone appts with (bc pandemic) listened to my history & agreed to switch to Wellbutrin since I was maxed dose on other. Others in my family have had success w/ Wellbutrin so I was eager to try something different to feel better. I followed the weaning/introducing of new chemicals into my body per doctors’ orders. At first, I felt like superwoman. I had so much energy, still scattered and insomnia visited me for a couple weeks. I knew that there is transition period, and I was committed. We took a covid family road trip to a mountain town that was quiet, warm, and had all outdoor activities out our front door. Still following guidelines wearing masks, social distancing, no dining in, etc. the first couple weeks were a breeze. Feeling good, vibing with my husband and fully engaged with our kids vs going thru the motions of my groundhog day back at home. The sunshine on my face, hikes, rivers, and mountain biking dates with my husband was giving me all the feels—healthy, happy (somewhat) stable ones. I started to feel numbing, pins and needles all over my face and left side of body. I had a feeling it was the detox from (NSAID) celexa. I could feel a knot of chemicals stuck in the base of my neck where our spinal cord begins. I let 24hrs go by and the tingling worsened, and I could not turn my head left or pick up my left arm. I thought I was having a mini stroke. I called my GP office, but no one called back. We called an ER doctor friend of ours and he stated that it was most likely the detox from celexa. Why was I not aware of this process? I was freaked out but thankful I had an answer, and my husband was right there to support me. This did not help me feel less crazy. The next couple weeks were a rollercoaster of emotions. I would have to hide in the bedroom to scream into a pillow. I would punch and hit the mattress so no one could hear that either. I hated myself and hated that I had people depending on my for my natural happy, easygoing self. I had extreme guilt for having a “breakdown” while surrounded by mystical mountains and fresh air. I could not make eye contact with someone without crying. I could not speak in full sentences. I could not get out the door with not having one or two crying meltdowns-in front of my little girls. My 4yr old would ask why I was crying and why I was sad multiple times a day. Initially, this sent me into another level of depression because I was not consumed with guilt for potentially harming their emotional development. I now know how resilient they are. Instead of crawling in a dark hole of sheets and blankets on the bed, I decided to have conversation. I used the moments of feeling into moments of healing. Talking to my daughter about how its okay to feel different moods, acknowledge them and share if you want to. I was able to express that its not healthy to keep them all locked up inside our precious bodies. My belief that if we allow anger, resentment and shame take over our insides, it can kill us. I do not want to die from negative emotions. This belief of mine did not ring true to me during this uncomfortable time. I had repeat horribly harsh thoughts on hating myself, my body, my mind, my everything. I could not look at myself in the mirror. I could not look at my husband without crying. I chose to keep it all in and grit my teeth. I was punishing myself for my mental health and was at the lowest point in my life. It was overwhelming and exhausting. I could not see the rainbow that can come after the rain. Even writing about this now brings flicker to my mind, body and spirit. When we got back home, I committed to a healing process. With my therapist, psychiatrist, new meds, NSA chiropractic care, yoga, meditation and new trust in myself I slowly began to see the light. Now a couple months into a new routine and more self-care, I feel like a different person-a better version of me. The girl that I had lost with years of emotions buried under antidepressants exploded this summer. I am not sure how it would have been if I would have properly detoxed from NSAIDS. Weaning off other antidepressants/antianxiety meds does not have to go this way. I hope someone can learn from my story and ask more questions when getting prescribed meds. I now believe that you should see a specific doctor for a specific issue-that is what they specialize in. I still get frustrated, upset, impatient and irritable, of course. I am not numb like before. I am more present and learning how to live with my mental health issues rather than stuffing them in a shame, guilt and fear buckets. Focusing on what brings joy, peace and calmness into my life. If I can choose calm over chaos, calm will always win. Just last night, after a long day and not feeling emotionally supported, I went for a walk. I put on a podcast from the phenomenal Brene’Brown on anxiety, calm + Over/Under-functioning. It felt like she was talking directly to me, sharing experience and wisdom. Her voice wrapped around me like a bow and I was ready to open after it was over. Relating to being an over-functioner, I now know the signs to look for when I start to spiral-bring it back down. I do not want my anxiety to spread in my household or out in the world. I shared this my husband and kids when I got home with hope. I want to commit to being a calm parent. Involving everyone around me in my newfound perception and allowing them to tell me if I am “over-functioning,” I believe it will strength our bond. Maybe it will help them process their emotions easier as they grow as well as deepen their relationship with themselves and the world around them. Maybe they will know that there is always a rainbow above them even if it feels like a storm on the inside. If you choose calm over anxiety, calm will always win. Always.
Roopa Swaminathan. I write real and fictitious stories about life, issues, love, loss, g…