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About nine and a half years ago, I left work in a hurry in the middle of the day. My poor boss did not understand what was going on.
I was filled with an overwhelming sense of dread and panic that I could not shake. I recall driving on the motorway, crying, and on the phone with my doctor’s nurse, Jo. Reckless, in hindsight; but that was the situation.
Jo calmly told me to get myself to the medical centre; and that she would move things around to make sure that my doctor could see that very same day.
When I arrived, Jo was waiting for me at reception. She led me to the nurses rooms and gave me a glass of water. She then listened to me blubbering incessantly about my inexplicable panic, lay me down on the clinic bed, and then dimmed the lights. “Dr. Cynthia will be in to see you as soon as she can. In the meantime, try to get some rest.”
I will never forget Jo for what she did that day. Her calm nature and her soft, yet confident, voice told me that everything would be okay.
She was right. Everything became okay… except for when it wasn’t. That was the beginning of my journey in this roller coaster ride called Anxiety.
Over the years, I realised that my anxieties actually stemmed from a number of things; but more specifically, my introverted nature.
In my recent post, Secrets of Introverted Mum, I explained that as an introvert, I need
ed time alone to recharge. I never had that. I exposed myself to many circumstances that I, as an introvert, should not have been in.
12 years ago, I became a mother. Two and half years after that, I became a mother of two. I found myself overwhelmed with fierce love, sleepless exhaustion, and worry for the future. At the time, it all seemed so normal – as if it was an expectation of mothers to feel these.
When I became a mum, I developed a strong and fierce love for my children. I was (and am) a lioness that will protect her herd to the ends. This is the moment in my life when I found a voice – a voice that could soothe, heal, and protect. I learned how to say “no”.
The sleepless nights were ridiculously hard. It wasn’t until my youngest child turned 3 years old, that I could confidently say that I had a full night’s sleep. By this time, I had not had uninterrupted sleep for 5 years. I attributed this to my role of being a mother.
I went with it. I slept when they slept; and woke when they woke. My concept of time was my own, I thought. In hindsight, I let my children dictate my time and what I did with that time.
Worry for the future
While all of this was going on, worry for the future consumed me. Before having children, I worked full-time. I was afraid of being left behind. I read articles and watched movies and programs, which highlighted the struggles of stay at home parents returning to the workforce. I was determined to not let that happen to me; so I returned to work just six months after my second daughter was born… and I performed a juggling act. I performed with perfection.
So there I was, a working mum… doing what I thought I was meant to do.
The 10 Things that Broke Me
In the years that followed, I experienced many events – as you do. Highs, lows… the whole shebang.
- I relocated to another country with a toddler and a baby in tow.
- I got a new job… and another 3 after that.
- My father died. I could not go home and attend his funeral to say goodbye.
- My mother suffered from depression and anxiety. She lived with me.
- My brother had a big fight with my mum, leaving me to look after her on my own. (They’ve now reconciled and have a great relationship).
- My other brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia (this was later retracted). He lived with me as well, and was in my care.
- My husband and I separated. I attended family court. He didn’t.
- I was left with all our debt. I was stupid enough to have all of the finances under my name, because I earned more than my ex-husband did.
- My best friend died.
- My mother’s partner took his life
Sometimes, it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have an undeniable breakthrough
When people hear my story, they say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I wish that I could hang on to that.
For years I thought I was weak – I coped with things as they came and took the medication they prescribed… but I also broke down in secret.
I grew up in a country where mental health issues were taboo – where the mentally unwell were taken, against their will to assylums located in the basement levels of mainstream hospitals. I was embarrassed to have been diagnosed with something I thought was so trivial.
Did the medication save me? Perhaps, but I think not. Sure, the medication has helped me through many a tough times; but I think there’s more to it.
Today, I realise that the circumstances that you allow yourself to be engulfed in, are what will dictate how you cope… how you survive. But before you can choose your circumstances wisely, you have to know yourself.
When my husband and I separated; and after I met my new partner… my life changed. I met someone who sees me, adores me, and accepts me for all that I am – the good, the bad, the ugly. He comforts me when I am hurting, calms me when I am anxious, dries my tears when I weep, and tells me everyday that I am loved. My children watch and see how he treats me; and I think that because he loves me, they love him too.
These days, I wake up and greet the day with a grateful heart. These days… I am unbroken. I look forward to waking up and going about my day. As the day turns to night, I eagerly wait to catch up with my daughters and my partner, to hear about how their days went. It is these moments – these seemingly simple moments – in everyday life that make us who we are… weak, strong, happy, or lonely. These moments are my preferred doses of medication.
What has broken you; and what has put you back together?