I am writing this to you all from my death bed…
Okay – that was a little dramatic. But, my entire family has the flu (as in myself, my husband and all four girls), so its basically the same thing. I’m going back and forth between comforting sick kids, refilling juice cups, keeping track of times for tylenol and then falling asleep myself on the couch….
Its been, a little overwhelming….
but you know what I haven’t been doing?
Having a panic attack. And that’s huge for me…
This time last year (and I mean EXACTLY this time last year – the timing is insane) we were all home nursing a TERRIBLE stomach bug. And, I really mean TERRIBLE. We replaced every blanket and sheet in our house after that week since most of our kids weren’t able to understand how to NOT throw up on EVERYTHING. It lasted ten days and I was a wreck.
See, it was coming up on Holy Week and I had a million things planned for making Easter a big deal in our house that year – and none of them involved the Easter bunny. I had spent weeks prepping and preparing these fun activities that taught my kids all about what Jesus had done for them, and why and I was SO EXCITED.
So when the bug hit, I was livid. I was sad. I was freaking out. My plans were ruined. My kids would have a horrible Easter. I tried everything that I could to end our stomach bug sooner. I cleaned floors, counters, furniture and beds again and again – even though I was just as sick as everyone else, in an effort to make us better in time for Easter weekend.
When I failed and Easter came, I melted into a puddle of anxiety and sadness. I had the first panic attack I had had in months, and that panic attack led into a month long anxiety relapse.
I was confused. I thought that I was healed from my struggle with anxiety. I felt defeated, broken, and back to square one.
What I hadn’t realized, was the amount of self sabotage there was during that week, and how much I still needed to learn from my battle with Postpartum Anxiety.
For some reason, letting go of everything that week and not being able to make my kids have a memorable Easter in spite of being sick made me feel like a failure….
On top of that, I didn’t make any of my own needs known that week. I didn’t try to make sure I was getting better. I wasn’t willing to just back up dirty laundry and wait until I was done throwing up every ten minutes to take care of it. I didn’t hop into bed the second everyone was sleeping. I didn’t ask anyone to drop off fluids, juice, medicines or food. I didn’t make a plan to trade off sleep with my sick husband so we could both heal…
I just pushed forward. I kept going, taking on everything myself and then falling apart when I couldn’t.
Self care has been a huge lesson I have learned over the last year. The first year of recovery from PPD was all about not being anxious anymore, but this last year has been me learning what different things may have triggered it, or made it worse…
One major thing is this notion that I need to do it all, and do it all alone. I CHOSE to have a big family, and I chose to stay at home. This is what I always wanted, and I LOVE almost every second of it.
But, it doesn’t make me weak to learn when I need help. It doesn’t make me a failure of a mom if I don’t run myself into the ground trying to do everything on my own. I am not less of a woman if I say I need to take a break, or I am too sick to take care of my kids on my own…
So this time around, from my hospital bed I texted friends and family and enlisted help. I lined up overnight sitters, allowed people to drop off goodies from the grocery store, I let the mess pile up for a few days and I slept…
Did I miss my kids?? Yes – a lot, it was harder than I thought.
Did I feel terrible that we didn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year with green pancakes and some Lord of Dance? Yes! I may have even cried a couple of tears…
but it wasn’t the pervasive, overwhelming anxiety and sense of failure that came with the PPA attacks, but the normal “I am a mom and I’m sick and hate being away from my kids anxiety…”
Now all of my kiddos are home, and all of them are at some varying stage of flu illness, but I’m not overwhelmed. I’m not panicking. I emailed the co-op coordinator and let them know we won’t be in class on Monday, church knows we won’t be there on Sunday, and I’m just going to play it by ear next week to see how early in the week we can leave the house….
I have some fun Easter activities planned, but I have low expectations of getting them all done and I am okay with that.
I don’t ever want to go through PPD again, but I am so thankful for the testimony that it has given me. Had I never battled debilitating anxiety, I don’t know if I would have really learned how to take stock of what I need in order to be healthy. I may have continued running at 100 mph, without asking for any help, without taking care of me, and may have missed out on all of this great life in front me.
I am thankful for the occasions now that cause us to slow down, that allow me to stop and check in on how I am feeling and figure out what I need to do in order to make sure that I am the best me I can be for my family….