Thursday, February 2, 2012

more to the story...much, much more

As you all know by now, I've been going through a big change in my life in terms of my job. It has brought about a lot of stress and anxiety over the past couple of months.

But there's more to the story than just that. I hit a huge rough patch in my life in December and January and I feel like it's time that I get it out in the open.

It all started early December. Les was just returning to 'regular' work hours after another l-o-n-g stint of being out of town during the week. It had been over 6 months of him being away Monday-Friday, and like last time I felt the need to be strong during his absence. But once he was finally home again for nights, it was the go-ahead that I needed to be able to begin to release the emotions I battled against while he was away.

It's not that I necessarily pretended that all was well over those months - I just did what I had to do to get me and the girls through it, being the only parent at home during the week. And once I no longer had the stress of being the only parent around, I guess I felt that I could allow myself to sort of lose control, knowing that Les was now around to help pick up the pieces.

So that's what started things off. Well, I guess what really started it off was the time of year. The dark (literally & figuratively) time of year known as fall and winter. That's what really started it off.

And then it just went from bad to worse. My kids had a long string of sickness that plagued our home from beginning of December right on through to the beginning of January. Now, I tend to get overwhelmed when we have sickness in our household at the best of times - nevermind when I'm already emotionally fragile. I know I don't like people giving details of illnesses on Facebook for no other reason than just to let everybody know the gory details - but this goes along with my "getting it out in the open" so I'm going to get into things a little bit here on the blog.

Joelle started things off at the beginning of December with a nasty cough that was just not leaving her alone. While this was still going on, one Thursday night, I got up to check on her after a pretty big coughing fit. As I was about to walk into her room to make sure she was okay, I saw movement in Malia's room. I was taken aback to see Malia hunched over her bed throwing up on the floor. Without getting into it further, let's just say that was a really long night.

I was determined to not let that get to me though. I felt confident that I had done enough hand-washing to keep me from getting sick, Les has a stomach of steel, and Joelle hadn't had the stomach flu in several years, so I figured that would be the end of things.

But apparently not. On the Sunday night it was Joelle's turn to be sick (after having seemed "off" all day during church and our Sunday School Christmas program). Another long night. But after that I felt myself relax a bit, thinking one of the bonuses to only having 2 kids is that it doesn't take very long for sicknesses to go through both of them.

Unless it comes back around, which it did for Malia the following Wednesday night. Ugh, 3 sleepless nights all within a week. So now not only am I already in my regular state of winter depression, I'm also incredibly anxious about what was next - including thinking that I myself couldn't possibly escape this the 3rd time around (which somehow I miraculously did!) - AND I am also incredibly sleep-deprived.

It was right about this point where I was feeling so unbelievably low. Still reeling from the effects of my many months of single parenting, now adding in the stress factor of all of the illness floating around, the lack of sleep, and the stress of my job being pulled out from under me. I was also working "double-duty" this particular week. Going into the office for my regular 2 days a week (as I still had a few weeks left of my employment at The Company) plus cleaning on my 'off' days for a few of my new clients who wanted a clean done before Christmas.

Oh right. And then there was Christmas coming up right around the bend. The girls had their school concerts on different nights, I had to provide snack for Malia's school party one day that week, I had to finish buying & wrapping all that plus working every day that week right up until the Christmas gatherings was enough to push me over the edge.

For those couple of weeks I could barely function. I did what I had to do - go to work (both 'old' and 'new' work), clean up from sick kids (with Les' help of course, but I was the one who camped out in their rooms for the nights when they were ill), doing the laundry, disinfecting the bathrooms - only to have to do it all over again a couple of days later - but that was about it. I was going to bed by 9:00 every night. I was hungry but my anxiety was so strong that I couldn't stomach a lot - especially in the morning. I could have a piece of toast with margarine on it but that was it. Nothing with any flavour; my stomach just couldn't take it.

Then there were some nights where I was so anxious that even though I was super tired, I forced myself to stay up until at least 10:00 at which point I would ask Les if he would come up to bed with me because I just didn't want to be alone. And if the girls made noises at night that needed checking on, I started waking Les up to go and check because I didn't want to deal with whatever might be waiting for me behind their doors.

I felt like a zombie. I had minimal interaction with friends and family. I didn't even participate much on Facebook - and even this blog. Like I said, I did the basics during the day and other than that I slept and cried. And cried some more.

And then I had a really, really good day on December 23rd. Christmas at my parents' house. It was wonderful and I felt truly relaxed for the first time in weeks. I had a feeling things were only going to get better from here.

Until the next day - Christmas Eve - when Joelle woke up at 6am complaining of her stomach hurting and feeling like she was going to throw up. Which she did two hours later. Seriously?! What is going on????!!!! On the morning we were going to celebrate our own family Christmas? You have GOT to be kidding me. And just like that, I sunk down low again.

See, once I've been fighting with it again - even once I think I've got it beat, one small thing can bring me w-a-y down again. Just like that. It turns out Joelle's morning 'episode' was a one-time thing and all was well after it was done, so thankfully we still got to carry on with our plans. But it wasn't as enjoyable as it was supposed to be and I was once again an anxious wreck wondering when in the world my kids were going to stop throwing up and we could be a normal household again.

Well, 'normal' wasn't in the cards for us just yet as Joelle woke up on Christmas morning (at Les' parents' place) with a sore throat, which was diagnosed 2 days later as Strep throat. And on the day we were planning to take the girls on a little family trip to the U.S. Thankfully we got Joelle anti-biotics and she still wanted to go, so we took off as planned and just hoped for the best.

And we got *almost* the best. Joelle recuperated pretty quickly on the trip and after the first day or so, we were pretty much in the clear and ended up really enjoying ourselves. I felt much more relaxed and refreshed. Still stressed about the fast-approaching end to my then-current job, but a bit more relaxed none-the-less.

We rang in the new year as a happy & healthy family in the comfort of our home. With ice skating in the backyard, games at the kitchen table and an evening of snacking and laughing. The new year was bound to get off to a good start, I was sure of that.

Turns out I don't have a very good track record for having accurate feelings on things of the future. Three days into the new year and we had yet another sleepless night with Malia making many, many trips to the bathroom (other end this time). Two days after that brought a weekend of Joelle waking up several times both nights complaining of severe stomach pains (the weekend before back-to-school).

I was seriously ready to just quit. Give up. Wave the white flag. I was finished. At this point I was an extreme emotional wreck. I don't even know how to properly explain it. But with everything all added up together - the time of year, the over and over and over again illnesses, the job stresses, etc. - it was just too much. I would wake up in the middle of the night and have massive pressure on my chest. I would have to force myself to just take another breath - a deep breath - to calm down. I was on the verge of panic attacks on a daily basis.

And I couldn't imagine the thought that after only one more night, Les was going back to work. He had been off work for 3 whole weeks over Christmas and it was seriously the biggest blessing of all-time to have him home with me throughout all of this. He wasn't going to be heading out of town again (yet), but just the thought of having to do the morning/after school/supper parenting alone again while still dealing with my depression & anxiety at such an extreme level was enough to make me want to hyperventilate.

I don't even remember the first week of back-to-school (and work); it's all a blur. But somehow I managed to make it through. This first week of back-to-school - and work - was also my LAST week of work at The Company. So as you can probably imagine now that you've heard how the previous month went for me, it was an especially difficult time. And of course, following right on the heels of my last week of work was my first week doing my new job.

And I can't forget a phone call that opened up a door that I have tried to keep firmly shut for almost 3 years. It ended up being not all bad - kind of therapeutic, actually - but it was still one more thing to add to my already over flowing plate. It's something that I still need to fully process, but for now it's sitting on the shelf until I am in a more proper state of mind to be able to deal with it. I know when that time comes, it will bring about many emotions and it will be extremely it's not healthy for me to delve into that at this point.

It was literally one thing after another for weeks and weeks on end. And I don't even know how long it took me to be able to relax at night-time; to not be wondering who was going to be waking up with what sort of ailment. To not wake up at every whimper, frozen in fear as I waited for the possibility of running footsteps to the bathroom. To finally get a good night's sleep.

So, now that it's February, how are we doing? Well, I was given a slow transition of Les going back to work (he was off for a day here and there over his first few weeks back to work after the Christmas break before the full-time - and then some - work started again) to allow myself to get used to him being gone again. I am slowly getting adjusted to my new job - although I still miss my old place of employment something fierce and would take that job back in a heart-beat if I could. The girls and I all were fighting coughs/colds this week but are otherwise fairly healthy for the time being.

I don't break out into tears anymore - although some days I feel them right on the surface. I still have periods of anxiety (to many different strengths and degrees) but haven't felt close to a panic attack in a couple of weeks. I am starting to socialize again - in very small amounts (so as a side note: please don't take it personally if you have felt me pulling back me, it isn't you!). In short - I feel like I might be on the mend. For now.

With depression and anxiety, the thing about it is that you never know how long it's going to last. And when it's going to strike again. Or what will bring it on. It is a battle that I am continually fighting. For the last while I thought I was losing...but now I feel just a tiny bit of hope. And that hope is carrying me through.


Jenn said...

I'm so sorry you've had such a rough go of things. Mothering is hard enough without those wild emotions. You're doing a great job - praying things continue to move in a positive direction for you!

Leeann said...

I'm sorry you've been struggling, my friend. Things pile up and you feel like you are suffocating and can't even scream...not good feelings. You know that I know what you're talking about. I love you and pray that your tumultuous months are over and you can move into a new period with some peace.

Kathy and Carl said...

Sending many prayers and love your way.

jen said...

Thinking of you always....

Kelly said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I dealt with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks for the first time this winter. It started as postpartum after having Carlie and spiraled from there. It was never anything I had felt/dealt with before. I completely understood everything you said and found it helpful to know I am not alone. I hope you can feel that too.

pam said...

Andrea, I admire you for being willing to write these difficult posts. It's hard to admit that we don't always have it all together, that things aren't always "fine". However, I think it gives courage to others to be real, to face their own struggles, rather than just trying to pretend everything's okay. Thank you for your honesty, and I will definitely keep you in my prayers, dear friend.

Melanie said...

I suffer from anxiety too. I never know what is going to set me off. I get to the point where I am so anxious I can't eat because just the thought of food makes me gag. It's a horrible, horrible feeling. It made me feel better to know I am not alone in this struggle.

Roo said...

i'm sorry it's been hard andrea! love you. xoxo

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TammyIsBlessed said...

I'm sorry things have been so rough for you lately. Praying things will continue to be on the upswing - and thankfully we're well into February and the days are getting longer!