Do you ever find yourself wondering, how the hell did I get here? This thought crosses my mind quite often. Especially after a really bad Migraine attack. A few nights ago, I had one that was brutal and every one feels like the first time I have ever experienced such terrible pain. I know that it's never useful, helpful or wise to get stuck on the woulda, shoulda, coulda's of life, yet that is what I wind up harping on a lot of the time after the pain starts to subside. What I do know is that this is not the life that I saw for myself.
Aside from having a great home, three wonderful children, and a loving husband, the medical issues I have faced were never on the radar for me as a way of being. Yes, I grew up with Migraine but during those years I was always told that I would outgrow them and they would all but disappear from my life. So, I planned, daydreamed, and imagined a life full of wondrous things for myself. I would be independent, full of energy, and happy. Not to say that I don't have moments of happiness in my life, but they are not consistent. The older I became, the more severe the migraines became. Then depression crept in and anxiety became my best friend. Eventually, the migraines became chronic which led to my CNS (central nervous system) being so super sensitive that I developed fibromyalgia. Other pain conditions came along for the ride such as carpal tunnel, plantar fasciitis, and most recently spinal stenosis and bulging discs in my lower back. These things were never written into my earlier rendition of how my life would turn out. Constantly battling pain, chronic severe depression, and not knowing where my life is headed has become my narrative.
I try to find the positives and really believe that they exist. Mostly I'm just faking it until I make it. I haven't gotten past the faking it part though. I am expertly good at putting on a mask and pretending that I'm okay. It takes a lot of energy and practice to fool everyone into believing you are happy and doing well. Who wants to hear about how horrible I feel anyway? Certainly not me. Chronic illness has a way of stripping a person of their worth. It is very hard not feeling as though the pain, depression and anxiety does not define you. I mean, it is a very huge part of who I am but it can't possibly be all that I am. I struggle with finding out what my purpose is. I've felt unnoticed and unimportant most of my life, even though many have told me I'm special, talented, smart, needed and loved. I am really upset that pain encompasses most of my life. It sucks, plain and simple. On top of dealing with this regularly, my life is full of other really difficult stressors that are very overwhelming. If I could wish it all away I would in a heartbeat. There are a lot of things happening that I did not bargain for and I am having the worst time trying to juggle all of the emotions that come with them all. Pain only exacerbates them and narrows any visions of hope.
For instance, my 16 year old daughter has anxiety about school, her grades, and suffers from insomnia due to stress. She comes to me crying and upset about school often. She puts an immense amount of pressure on herself to be perfect, a trait she got from her very anxious, anal and perfection seeking mother. There are many times when I am in the throes of pain or depression and she needs me to make things better for her. It's so hard to push aside my struggle when my kids need me. I often feel like falling apart and giving in but I do not have the permission nor the luxury to do so. Then there is my 13 year old son who has Selective Mutism. He's made a lot of progress since he was diagnosed five years ago, but this year he's struggling. He hates going to school and every day he begs to stay home. Getting him to go to bed is a challenge. Getting him up is even more difficult. He resists every morning and its tough on me to go through this process with him daily. He has asked me to home school him so he doesn't have to go to a physical school. If I'm being honest, I don't think I have it in me to do it. It's a lot of work homeschooling and having so many chronic pain conditions would make it that much harder. I have put them both in counseling in the hopes of giving them the tools to cope and get better. My plan is to work with my son's counselor and his school to get him either on an IEP or 504 Plan, where he would have an education plan centered around his disorder that makes going to school less difficult and more conducive to his way of learning. He does better in small groups and hopefully he can be accommodated. I hope to have this implemented before he starts eighth grade in the fall.
I have been struggling very silently with severe chronic depression for the last three years after my last suicide attempt. I only just got the courage to go back to counseling a month ago. I beat myself up for not getting my son on an IEP plan much sooner and feel like a failed parent. It's so hard drudging through the muck and mire of depression. I have been stuck in a quagmire of guilt and grief, continually contemplating the question of why am I here. Trying to be present as a parent has been so tough for me through all of this. There is nothing worse than feeling as if you have emotionally abandoned your children. In the worst of it I feel angry and frustrated that they need me so much when I can barely keep myself together. It feels like nobody is there to help me get through those times. It is not my children's responsibility to pick up my pieces and I don't like burdening my husband with my continuing depression when I wasn't doing everything I could to help myself. The guilt I carry from almost dying doesn't help either. I am constantly keeping my pain to myself because I want to protect my loved ones from the truth of my reality. I have put them through enough and I do not want them to worry. All of this self-sacrifice only hurts me more and keeps me spiraling downward. I have a long way to go still but at least I have taken the steps to healing.
Chronic pain and mental illness are both very isolating. Having the complications, stress and pressures of parenthood on top of having these diseases is something that is not commonly discussed. We are so easily shamed and guilted into feeling like terrible mothers when we aren't able to fully give of ourselves to our children when chronic and mental illness isn't present. So you can imagine how much more shame and guilt us chronically ill moms feel. Trying to find and keep the balance between managing our illnesses/diseases and our families healthy and happy is hard. I am learning as I go and part of the lesson is forgiving myself for not being perfect or healthy or whole. Bullying myself with negative thoughts and perceptions of myself is not the answer to getting better. Getting out of my head and learning to appreciate the positives instead of focusing on what is negative will probably make coping with the more difficult moments easier.