Seizing the Seizure

I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ve always been a light sleeper, waking up each time my sister would move around in her bed next to mine or when I’d hear someones heavy footsteps on the wooden floor of the stilted house I grew up in. Four years ago, it got worse. When you bring home a baby who can’t cry, your instincts are piqued to do what is necessary. The smallest rustling of his blankets would have me sitting straight up in bed, squinty and blind, shaking Arick and saying “look at Avery!” Sometimes, he’d pull his oxygen tubing down and try to suck on it. The almost silent swishing sound the air would make even woke me up. So, I’ve been sleeping badly for a while now. The past few days though…it’s become not sleeping at all.

We’ve had plenty of reason for sleepless nights with Avery. In the beginning, it was “will he make it through this night?” When would he gain weight? Will he have a brain bleed? Then surgery. When he’d stop digesting and go back on TPN. Infections. Fevers. Aspiration. Choking. Pneumonia. Pain. RSV. Then CP. PMG. Will he ever sit up? Crawl? Talk? Walk? Will he, like the majority of the population with PMG, have seizures?

Wednesday morning that question was answered for us, and not in the way we wanted it to be. “Avery had a seizure.” God, no. Please, no. Don’t let it be true. Let this be a dream. Wake up, Steph. But it wasn’t a dream, and it has cast a dark shadow on every moment since then.

An hour ago I heard a loud sound from his room so I yelled his name. He didn’t answer so I panicked and ran that way. There he sat, in the middle of the room, grinning at me. Gosh, Avery! You have to answer me. “Okay my Mommy!” Ten minutes ago, another loud thump. In my mind I see him on the floor, seizing. This time I don’t call him, I just run. Relief floods over me when I see him sitting there, softball in hand. I’ve had a hundred mini heart attacks a day since Wednesday. I told myself it’d get better as the days pass but it’s actually been the opposite. The more time passes without another seizure is the less time there is until the next one. That’s a pretty messed up way to see it, huh?

I’ve been waking up every thirty minutes or so at night, breathing fast and overcome with worry. I look over to see if he’s okay. Most of the time I can’t see and I wake Arick up to look at him with me. He assures me that he’s fine but if my anxiety is too bad I have to get up. I’ll walk over and look down at him to see the gentle rise and fall of his rhythmic breaths. That’s usually not enough, though. I reach down and put my palm between his narrow shoulder blades and I feel it. I feel the breaths. Only then do my own breaths calm.

I’m so scared. What happens when he has one in front of me? Is it a blessing that his first was at school so I didn’t witness it or do I wish I’d have been there to hold him? (Yes.) When we are alone will I panic or handle it? What happens if he vomits? If he has one in his sleep and I’m not there? How do we process all of this on top of what we already struggle with?

Then it hits me: it’s never been easy! We brought home a baby that used to weigh a pound. Gave him 9 medications around the clock and cared for his oxygen needs. Watched his monitor. Handed him to surgeons and healed his scars. Spent thousands of hours in therapy learning to crawl, then walk. Cried with each diagnosis. We’ve done hard. We know it well. So, he had his first seizure. Now we have the answer to that last question, the hardest question. It isn’t the end of the world. Just another thang. Yeah, it’s scary as hell. But who’s more qualified to deal with it than me and Arick? We’re freaking special needs parent rock stars at this point. So bring it on. We’ve got this, too.

Ultimately, us accepting it and managing to keep going is going to allow him to do the same. The last thing that I want is for him to live in fear of the next one and let it dictate his life. There’s too much life to be lived! If he sees us scared, he will be. We have to be strong so that he can be strong. Although I don’t see that being a problem. He’s the strongest little boy in the tiniest little body I’ve ever seen. And he always has been…

Avery enjoying a popsicle in this hospital the afternoon of his seizure.

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The Trouble with Avery

This one isn’t going to be easy to write. I know, because I’ve set down and tried multiple times over the last few weeks. For years now I’ve taken pride in my ability to make the best out of the worst. No crying, no complaining and minimal begging for help. These days, though, I find myself doing all three, often simultaneously. Why? Because sometimes, our lives are beyond difficult. Life with Avery is anything but easy, and his behavior lately has only exacerbated an already growing problem. I don’t want sympathy, or even help. In fact, I don’t want anything except to get these feelings out. I’ve never had a problem expressing myself through words but writing this, which amounts to little more than complaining about life with my son…isn’t easy. So, here goes.

Avery cries for about an hour when he wakes up. Every day. When he wakes up he can’t walk and has to stretch his legs to get them to work. His muscles are tight and if he stands up he falls right over. He generally stops crying right before we have to leave for school and is fine once he goes into the classroom. He’s there for five hours before I pick him up for therapy three days a week. Cue another bout of crying because his nap is interrupted. Sometimes he will calm down when he gets to therapy because it’s the thing he enjoys most. Other times he doesn’t. When this happens it usually results in him crying on the floor, kicking for 10-20 minutes. Meanwhile his therapists are down there with him, cajoling and attempting to placate him. So I just stand there. Embarrassed. Humiliated. Ashamed. Feeling like a failure with an uncontrollable child. You’re probably thinking: he needs discipline. Yes, he certainly does. But what?

Am I supposed to hit a disabled child? He lives with chronic pain. Do I inflict more? It’s a constant struggle of “what do I do” vs “what is appropriate for him?” We’ve tried time out. Taking toys away. Taking TV away. No YouTube. No sweets. And, yes, spanking. With every attempt he’s remained defiant and becomes even more impossible to control. Discipline for Avery has been a complete defeat. Days like today have become normal- me sitting in the therapy lobby with red, puffy eyes from crying because he once again showed his rear. They tell me: we’ve seen worse, don’t be embarrassed. But how? How do I not see his insolence as a personal failure?

He struggles so much. I know it has to be frustrating. His peers can dress themselves, feed themselves, walk up stairs. He can’t. He can’t use his left arm at all. Imagine going through your day using only one hand. Having another one but it just won’t freaking work. That’s his life. I can’t imagine how it feels to be a child on the verge of realizing that they are different from everyone else. In my heart, this is what I fear is happening. I’m so scared that he’s acting out because of the many things he’s finding out are so much harder for him. I’m even more frightened because I can’t fix it. There is literally nothing that we can do except love and help him.

In many ways, Avery is still a baby. He still has to drink from a cup, be changed, dressed, cleaned, fed. We’ve had an infant for over four years. Sure, he does have some independence because he plays alone and spends time with Abby. But I’m tired. Running here, running there…so many therapies and appointments. Drop him off, pick him up. It’s all necessary to ensure that he always has the best chance of success. Of this, I can’t complain. I’m only thankful that it is available to us and that despite his behavior these people continue to love and nurture him.

The fact is, there’s more that scares me. I’ve done my fair share of research and I’ve read nearly everything I can on prematurity. So I knew…I knew 4 years ago…about the link between prematurity and ADHD. Extreme prematurity- between weeks 23 and 28- puts babies at the greatest risk of developing ADHD. Some research has indicated that the risk for these babies is greater than 60%. I see it beginning. I know the warning signs. And I’m scared. Not because that diagnosis is some terrible, formidable thing. But because it’s a lot to add to an already extensive list.

I know what you may be thinking. He’s so cute! How can he be bad? There’s no way! For a while, it was funny. I’d laugh with people when they said it. Now, I struggle with him so much that hearing it angers me because it just shames US. Makes Arick and I feel like not only are we inaccurately vilifying Avery but that we shouldn’t even say anything to begin with. When your every day is a struggle, that’s the last shit you want to hear. Frankly, he listens and understand now. Your “he’s not bad” is entirely less effective than an “Avery, you should try harder to be nice/not cry/not hit” would be. Because we aren’t lying. He’s bad. He throws tantrums and hits and breaks things- like TVs. These are facts. But he IS also cute. And sweet. And so damn smart. It’s a balancing act. It’s what kind of day we are having.

With that said, I love this little boy more than life itself. All three of us spend every day doing for him so that he is all that he can be. I’ll continue doing just that, even on the hard days. Even on days like today when my nose is still running from crying and I feel like a failure. Because later on, at home, Avery is going to crawl up in my lap and hug me. He’ll snuggle his head into my chest and say “I sorry, Mommy.” And I’ll know that he is. I’ll accept it and tell him that making up for the wrongs you do is necessary and the most important step towards gaining forgiveness. If I didn’t teach him that, THEN I’d be a failure. And I’m not failing. I’m learning. Just like he is.

This goes out to all the Mommas who are struggling to hold it together right now. The ones who haven’t had time to shower in days, who eat their kids leftovers instead of making a meal and don’t sleep at night. I see you. I am you. I know how hard you work. It isn’t going unnoticed. You’re an amazing mom and you should hear that more often!

Abby

She’ll be 13 this year. I look at her now and find myself in awe that she’s so close to being grown. She opens her mouth and humor and quick wit pour out and I realize that my days of having a little girl are quickly drawing to a close. We’re on a runaway train towards the teen years and the distinct possibility that one day soon she will wake up and decide that she hates my very guts. So while she still loves me and I don’t have too much that I can hold against her, there’s a few things I’d like her to know.

She’ll always be my baby. In essence, we grew up together. I was 22 when she was born and I learned more during those first six months than I have during any other period of my life. She, like her brother, had terrible reflux. Unlike him, though…she also cried nonstop. For six entire months. I’d turn the TV to static, turn off all the lights and cradle her. Rock her. Put her across my legs. And cry with her. Nothing soothed baby Abby. Those six months were harder than Avery’s NICU stay because I was so alone and isolated. There was no support system or help. We pumped her full of medications but nothing worked until that one magical day at six months she started sitting up and stopped crying. She became this fat little cherub. She laughed, giggled and played. I finally felt like her mom and not like the person who couldn’t fix her. There was just nothing better than her fat legs and all those chins! I learned my first lesson of motherhood: it’s okay to not be okay. It’s perfectly acceptable to cry and completely normal to feel not good enough. You know why? Because the ones who really aren’t good enough aren’t asking themselves if they are.

We were alone for most of her early childhood. The first and only experience she has in having a father is when 21 year old Arick entered her life when she was almost 8. And she was NOT happy. She’d had me all to herself for so long. Involving her in our growing relationship- when we were both ready- wasn’t enough. She made it implicitly clear that she did not approve. Boy, if she could go back now she’d probably take him, get rid of me and live happily ever after. (He’s much more easygoing and forgiving than this Momma is!) I hope she always remembers all the pre-Arick trips to the movies, the zoo and out shopping that we so often enjoyed together. The movie nights and slumber parties, nail painting and coloring. Even more than that I hope she remembers that when she met her Daddy it didn’t stop. We just gained a 6′ 4″ partner in crime. If anything, he accentuated our good times. Nowadays they both make me laugh until I can’t breathe and beg them to take it down about a couple hundred notches!

She’d asked for a sibling for a few years before she actually got one. I still have moments of guilt about the hand she was dealt. She so badly wanted a brother and when she got one she didn’t get to see him for four months. When he came home he was attached to machines she had no way of understanding. He couldn’t play with her like little brothers usually do. It didn’t stop her love, though. In third grade for show and tell she talked about prematurity. She brought one of Avery’s tiny diapers to show the class and endured little boys making fun of her for it to show them how special her brother was to her. Looking through her graded papers I found an essay she wrote about him. I still have it, tear stains and all. Avery’s problems never stopped her from being proud of him and loving him as much as a big sister could love her little brother. This alone makes me feel proudest as a mother.

Today at nearly 13, her level of maturity and self actualization amaze me. Little glimpses of myself come out, 13 year old Steph who spent all of her time with her tiny baby nephew, and I’ll hear her say “be careful” or see her just change a diaper or clean his face. Her life with him isn’t easy. She helps a lot with him. She runs baths, draws out medications, keeps him company. He truly is a full time job and he makes sure she puts in her hours, too! I watch her tying his shoes or putting his gloves on and realize that one day she’s going to be a pretty amazing mom if she chooses to be. I hope that, looking back, instead of being resentful of the difficult years she endured having such a high maintenance little brother she can be grateful for everything she learned.

I spend a large percentage of my time on Avery. Therapy, doctors, stretches, sandwiches and trips to the potty to please Jesus try and pee! I know she doesn’t feel neglected. We’ve been totally transparent with her from the beginning. We told her: if you ever feel left out or forgotten, hit us over the head. She’s never needed to. Whether that is because she’s too much like her Momma to make a fuss or because she’s too busy learning to be selfless, I can’t say. I just know that I’m watching her blossom into an amazing young woman who will without a doubt do great things.

She’s silly. Squishy. She never stops talking. Ever! She isn’t the best student but who cares, she’s so much more than that 70 in math! Loves to draw and sing. Has wild hair. Loves scary movies and anime. She’s mature and responsible. Always tells the truth because in our house we value truth above hurt feelings. Will sleep all day and eat all your snacks. Has a serious weakness for takis.

She’s half of me, of everything I am. She’s everything we’ve taught her and every value we’ve given her. She’s amazing.

Please be easy on your Momma these next few years, Abby. I’m getting old and my hair is turning grey. Always remember who you are and what you stand for. If you do that, you’ll do well…

To My Son’s Teacher

Last October, my boisterous but tiny three year old started school. For weeks we warned him that big changes were coming with his birthday but the gravity of the day was lost on him. That Tuesday morning, the very day he turned 3, he left my side for the very first time as he entered the preschool program for children with disabilities (PPCD). In those seven months between October and May, ironically it was I who became the most educated. I learned how to cope and how to trust. I learned that my son was more capable than I ever dreamed him to be. And I learned that there are a few things I’d like his teacher to know, going into year two.

1-

He’s three. In his heart he is just a three year old boy. He sees himself as just the same as any other boy his age and, at least of yet, he hasn’t perceived himself as different. Disabled isn’t anything to him. There is no meaning in that word. He’s just a boy who falls a lot and wears special braces on his legs to make them stronger. In the same way, I expect you to not only see the braces and the clumsiness. He’s so much more than that. He’s strong, determined and brilliant. I’ve always feared his dismissal by small minded people who couldn’t see past his imperfect exterior. Don’t be that person. And don’t baby him. See him as the boy he is.

2-

I want you to be honest with the other kids about his disability. Don’t be afraid to say the words “cerebral palsy” or “premature” and to explain them in ways they can understand. Much of their initial life experiences with the disabled community could stem from their first meeting my son and playing alongside him. They’re kids- nearly blank pages who will absorb the knowledge that we give them. Tell them not to fear him or pity him. Ensure that they know that he is just like they are. He may need a bit more help than them but that isn’t a bad thing. By doing this, you can teach them an understanding and empathy that they may not get otherwise. The world can only benefit from this. Lead by example and the kids will, too.

3-

Don’t say “can’t.” Because he can! I haven’t yet failed to find a way to adapt or modify an activity to Avery’s needs. If you’re in PE or doing something physical and it requires running, let him use a scooter board and cheer him on as he goes. His little hands don’t work as well as they should, so perhaps give him a larger crayon or marker. Guide his hands the first few times. Instead of working with smaller objects, give him something big that he can manipulate easier. Know that the mess may be bigger and it will undoubtedly take more time, but it will be time well spent. Time spent teaching a little boy that he can do anything he wants to.

4-

For the love of all things holy, don’t make your room an obstacle course! He has no center of balance and he falls often. The more items are crammed into his space the more likely he is to fall on them. And bust open his eye, or his lip, or his head. Make it as toddler friendly as possible to ensure that he has enough space to move around without injuring himself. This one might seem petty, but you’ll thank me later. So will the nurse!

5-

Keep me in the loop. Send me a picture of him with ketchup or chili all over his face at lunch. Show me how proud he is standing in front of the class as they say the pledge of allegiance. That single snapshot could be what gets me through a day spent worrying about him. Text me if you think he’s not feeling well so that I can watch out for it at home. Invite me to the classroom to help with crafts or read to the kids. Make me feel welcome. I want to feel good about sending my baby to you every day, and you can make that happen. I want to be there as much as I can. If you do, I promise that you can come to me first if you need cupcakes for Christmas, candy for Valentines or a donation for class T-shirt’s. I’ll even make crafts for every kid in the class on holidays. Better yet, invite me to the classroom and we’ll do them together!

6-

This last point I want you to hold nearest your heart. Love my baby. If he falls, pick him up. Kiss his ouchie quickly but don’t dwell on it. Tell him that it will be okay. Encourage him to never stop trying just because he falls. We don’t always succeed the first time and he will learn that. I promise not to be jealous if he decides that when he’s mad at me, you’re his favorite person. That tells me that he loves and trusts you. He needs you in his corner.

One day, Avery will see that he is different. My mother’s heart knows that this is coming. With your help, we can soften the blow. Together we can better equip him to deal with a world that oftentimes will be determined to tear him down. Help me show him how special and loved that he is. How capable and strong. Help me teach his peers tolerance and acceptance.

Away from his Mommy now, you are his champion. Trust me, I know that those are pretty big shoes to fill. But you’re up to the job. You’re a special education teacher, after all. And that’s pretty much synonymous with super hero.

Harvey

Sitting here now, I wish I’d have written this days ago. I couldn’t, though. The feelings were too overwhelming and the fear took my words away. Now, however muted, I need to put them out there- if for nothing more than myself.

I’m only acutely aware that today is Monday because it is Labor Day. I can’t tell you what day Harvey first hit Rockport, or how long it hovered over Houston before it came in for its second landfall right here at home. For over a week I’ve lived having no concept of what day it’s been. Maybe today is finally the day that the calendar begins to make sense again. I can only hope.

For days we only slept in spurts between harrowing news broadcasts. I still taste the panic I felt the night I listened to an elderly Port Arthur woman call in to the news hyperventilating, water a foot up her recliner and begging to be rescued. I looked over at Arick and saw that he, too, was struggling with feelings of complete helplessness and fear. If we’d had a boat I think we’d have been on our way to find that woman. All I can think about now is that I hope she was rescued. I pray every night that she isn’t one of the growing death toll left in Harvey’s wake.

I’ve struggled so much with social media the past few days. I’ve so many friends who live in other states and seeing posts not related to Harvey left me with a strange feeling. It was almost as if the lives of every person in Southeast Texas was put on pause. Houston was on pause. But everywhere else, life carried on. 

I’ve watched as people I know and love lost everything they have. Family, like my sister, friends that I’ve known as far back as my memory goes, even NICU nurses who took care of Avery. I’ve felt tremendous guilt that we’ve only endured days with no water and hours with no power. I’ve seen houses stripped empty, down to concrete and two by fours. Belongings floating in murky floodwaters. And I’ve heard that old adage so many times…

“They were only things, and things can be replaced.” The truth is, most of it can. Sofas, tables, beds and clothes come and go. Some things, though- some things you only get one of. My children’s baby books. My childhood pictures. The tiny footprints of my first son who died. The pictures of him. Avery’s NICU mementos. The only pictures I have of my Dad. Things that I’ve picked up over the course of nearly 35 years of life. All the things that make me, me. Snippets of the lives of every member of a family. You can’t get that back. I beg you to remember this before you unintentionally trivialize a grieving persons “things.” 

And, I’ve watched people come together in such a unique way this past week. Private citizens have come together to save lives and feed the hungry. A non government organization was more prompt and prolific in the early hours and days at conducting rescues than was the government. I can’t say that this surprises me. But it definitely gives me hope. So much hope.

Today, we are all praying for normalcy. For the water to return and businesses to open again. Praying for the day that we don’t need help. But while we do, you can bet that you’ll hear a whole lot more about these neighbors helping neighbors. Whether it’s demolishing and remodeling a house, going on supply runs, sharing meals or handing out supplies. 

We aren’t going to let a little thing like a Hurricane get us down. We will rebuild, Texas strong!

Eleven Years

How can eleven years feel like both a lifetime ago and at the same time, just yesterday? For me, it’s this way. The memories of a heart broken bonds that day to every day since. A thread unraveling from July 27, 2006 to today. It will continue to do so until the day when I draw my last breath. It was the day I said goodbye to my first son.

I found out I was pregnant again the same day I ordered the smash cake for Abby’s first birthday. Six short days until my baby turned one and there I was, expecting again. After the shit show that was my pregnancy with her, I was terrified. Part of me wanted to be happy but there was a devil on my shoulder whispering: you’re tempting fate. The thoughts gave me an uneasy feeling that I never quite shook. I’d only just begun to accept and embrace the possibility of new life when it was so cruelly ripped from me.

I was 21 weeks and 3 days when I went in for my big ultrasound. That gut feeling was alive and well. As the tech began to move the wand around my belly I tried as hard as I could to determine whether she was moving or the baby was. I’d still yet to feel him move, and this made my paranoia worse. She only looked for a minute or two before she said she would be right back and left the room. I looked at their father and said “something is wrong with the baby. I know it.” Before long she was back with my OB who confirmed that my baby had no heartbeat. In that moment, I didn’t think I did, either.

I endured labor and delivery that night. Just after I received an epidural the baby was born, easily, into a silent room- still encased completely in the amniotic sac. It was 10:50 PM. The nurse asked if I wanted her to break it open so I could see him; hold him. I put my face into my pillow and refused. They took him away. 

The next morning a grief nurse came to see me. She told me that she’d taken pictures of him and that if I ever wanted them they’d be in a file marked with my name. She gave me a small pillow and lion that she said he’d laid on for her pictures. She also gave me a satin box with a memory book inside. On the front page was a set of tiny footprints, no bigger than a dime. How symbolic that I now have two sets of tiny footprints tattooed on me. I do have the pictures now. Arick and I have been together for nearly 5 years and he’s never seen them. Perhaps I will get them out today and show him the only piece of my heart that he’s never touched. Perhaps I won’t. They’ll still be there, and so will he. 

I never thought that I’d become the poster child for pregnancy loss. That I’d go on to have five miscarriages and one more stillbirth. That 9 years later I’d again endure the labor and delivery of a baby that would never take a breath. That I’d be here writing this, trying and failing to put into words how it feels to walk around every day with literal pieces of you missing. How it feels to have your husband say to you: no more. It isn’t fair. How much your heart breaks when you realize that he’s right. The need for more that will never come. 

Eleven years ago today I gave birth to a little boy. I named him Damian Alan. He existed. He was real. He lived, and he died. He was my son. Abby’s baby brother and Avery’s big brother. 

I hope that one day I get another chance to hold him. I’m sorry, my son. 

Happy Birthday. This will always be your birthday.

I have two sons…

The First Step

Last month, I broke. I cracked. There was no warning, no pebbles falling gently down the precipice in advance of the landslide. It just happened. In the wake of it, I’ve had to come to terms with things I kept buried. Feelings stuffed inside lest I have a human reaction and feel them. This is me baring the depths of my soul for the first time for the world to see. For myself to see.

I’ve often said that I was born anxious. The stories have been passed down through the years: I cried the entire first few months of my life. I couldn’t be laid down or left alone because I was too tiny, needy and loud. Mom would cook supper with me tucked in the crook of her left arm. I’ll laugh now and say “Yep, I was anxious even then.” As a small child I worried about things no child should. The evening news would keep me laying awake for hours at night. Every hurricane, tornado, unsolved murder and car accident had me convinced that we would be the next victims. I was so worried to use the school restrooms- why, I have no idea- that I’d go home in physical pain from withholding all day. I didn’t like new places or people so I’d avoid them. Adults would say that I was a quiet, obedient child. Mostly, I was just an anxious child.

I was 13 when I realized that the way I felt wasn’t normal. It was also then that I first found an outlet for those feelings. I’ve struggled with how I can explain this but beyond just saying it there really exist no words to use because it defies explanation. At 13 I started to pull my hair out. One strand at a time. I found it cathartic in, again, an unexplainable way. It was almost as if with each pull a worry went away. It began with my hair and by my twenties I was also pulling my eyebrows and eyelashes out. I know now that this is actually a diagnosed psychiatric condition called trichotillomania. That isn’t what is wrong with me though. I could stop any time I wanted. I wasn’t bald, like many of the people with it were. I was different.

Denial. That’s a hard one, right? Here I’ll present a list of my denials, arranged by age.

19- my dad dies unexpectedly.

21- my husband commits suicide.

22- traumatic pregnancy that almost kills me.

22- four year old niece dies tragically.

23- I lose my son.

25- find out second husband is a predator.

31- Avery is born at 25 weeks and spends 4 months in the NICU.

32- Avery is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and polymicrogyria.

33- Mom has a massive stroke and is no longer able to care for herself.

32-34- second trimester loss and three early miscarriages.

Did any of these things cause me depression? No, not me. I was fine.

But really, I wasn’t. I was in denial.

A month ago Sunday I woke up with a sense of dread. I could feel my heart beating faster and harder than it ever had before, like a drum inside my chest. I couldn’t catch a breath. Hyperventilating. I felt as if my world was coming to an end. I was unable to form a thought. To eat or drink. My brain was on a non-stop cycle of “you’re going to die. Everyone is going to die. Your leg pain is cancer. I think I have MS. Avery hurts. He’s in pain. There’s nothing you can do. Arick’s job is dangerous. He’s in a hole right now with a gas line.” And any other of a list of 1,000 things my brain chose to torture me with. It would NOT stop. I ended up in the hospital three times. They’d dose me with benzodiazepines and I’d feel better until they wore off. When they did, the end of the world came back.

By the middle of the week I was in such bad shape I called a crisis line. I was considering checking myself into the hospital. I wasn’t suicidal but I knew I needed serious help. The lady spoke to me for an hour and together we made a plan. The next day I walked into an office in tears and begged them to help me. They did.

How had I carried the burden of so much for so long? I know now that for years I’ve needed an outlet that I was too proud, too ignorant, to admit that I needed. I think this was always coming, just beneath the surface. I’m so ashamed of myself. I’m embarrassed that for years I thought that needing help meant that you were weak. I was so stoic, so stupid.

I’ve been on a regimen of antidepressant and anti anxiety medication for three weeks now. It hasn’t been easy. I mean, I was anxious to take the anxiety medication to cure my anxiety. No one tells you that the first pill you swallow isn’t going to miraculously make you feel all better. That it is going to take time. That it may even make your anxiety worse before it makes it better. The first week was hell. I didn’t think I would make it. I was a Xanax zombie on Mother’s Day. I feel go guilty…..  But around day 10 I woke up and I felt different. I wasn’t anxious. It was starting to work! It was like something switched off (or maybe on?) in my brain.

I’m three weeks into treatment now and I definitely feel different. I’m happier than I’ve been in years. I’m also less stressed, calmer and I don’t cry at commercials. I feel…balanced. The intrusive thoughts are gone. They no longer disrupt my life. I got lucky that the first medication that I tried worked for me. They aren’t cookie-cutter. What works for me may not work for others. Sometimes it takes multiple tries to find one that works. I’m not embarrassed to need it anymore. I’m glad I found it. Asking for help may have saved my life.

Medication has given me back a life I didn’t know I wanted to live.

If you are suffering from depression and/or anxiety, do not do it alone. Confide in those close to you and make a plan for getting help. Don’t be like me and try to weather the storm alone. It doesn’t mean that you are weak. It actually takes so much more strength to take that first step.