I didn't realize how much my job was stealing my happiness, stealing my joy.
Until the day Josh told me I could quit and I spontaneously burst into tears, I had no idea how the pressure was effecting me.
Suddenly I am a fun mom again. I'm reading a chapter book to the boys at bedtime again and we're having water balloon fights and the kids are in the kitchen making their own pizzas on movie night. I'm saying yes and laughing and enjoying them.
The pressure of getting to bed as soon as I got the kids into bed, of waking at 3:30am 3x a week, for 8 months had taken its toll, and that, coupled with dealing with sick kids (Logan's seizures making their reappearance and Wyatt's asthma hospitalization & subsequent sicknesses requiring constant monitoring and occasional ER visits) wore me down to an unrecognizable version of myself.
***I started this post back in July (hence the mention of water balloons),
but even though it's been three months, I am still finding this true.
Everyday I wake up grateful that I am no longer having to work. That I can just stay home and care for our children. I am happier, lighter, more myself.
Some of that is because of all the work I have put into it- the journaling, the counseling, the thoughts, prayer & meditation. But some of it is because my life is simpler. And that makes me happy.
I love that when Wyatt wakes me in the night coughing, needing a nebulizer treatment, I no longer have to worry about whether my alarm will sound at 3:30am to wake me to teach those sweet students in China (for those who don't know, I taught with VIPkid, teaching Chinese students English basically via webcam) or if Carly will wake crying for me during a class. It was just so incredibly stressful. And all for only about $200 extra each month.
In addition to being able to take something stressful out of my life, I have added some things into my life that have also made me a much happier mom. Walking everyday is the main one. Counseling twice a month is another. And journaling weekly is the third. These are things that I added when, in the spring, I had a sort of meltdown. Things with Wyatt's asthma had hit an all time low (he was on steroids three times back to back), we couldn't keep him well, and I was utterly exhausted from trying to keep him healthy, in addition to monitoring Logan's seizures and slowly titrating him onto a new medication for the absent seizures he had begun having.
I went to my doctor in tears, explaining that I couldn't carry on. Between the kids' actual health issues and my nonstop personal health anxiety, I was a wreck. He prescribed 20 mg of Prozac and I called to get myself in to see a counselor. We eventually bumped my Prozac up to 30 mg, which has been the perfect dose. I can really see a difference in my anxiety. I am better able to push scary thoughts aside and not focus on my body all the time. My main side effect is daily tiredness, but I just take naps when I need to. (Another bonus of being a stay-at-home mom!) I've been on Prozac two other times (after each of my two miscarriages, in 2014 & 2015) and being on it I am always fine. Coming off it is never easy, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Counseling has been amazing. I started out by talking to him about Wyatt's hospitalization and the stress of that and Logan's epilepsy diagnosis. We also talked about how, as moms, we tend to set down our plates (of all the plates we have in the air), and how that never (ever) works because as soon as we set down our plates, all the other plates come crashing down. So slowly I have begun learning how to make my plate a priority, no matter what's going on around me.
When Wyatt got sick again last week, after a four month break of no sickness (which was lovely!) I worried I would end up back where I was last spring. But the Saturday after he got steroids, I left him home with Josh and went on a nice long walk alone. I asked for help from a friend when I needed a sitter for Carly. I am doing things differently than I was then, and that's how I know things won't go back to how they used to be.
Something I'd like to start doing here on the blog is sharing what I learn in counseling.
Two of the first lessons I learned were:
1) Ask for (and accept) help
2) Monitor, Don't Control
Asking for and accepting help was hard at first, but after Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade killed themselves, I saw how serious mental illness can get, and I saw that taking care of myself was very important. I also know that when I offer to help my friends, I mean it. I would want them to reach out if they needed anything. So I am getting better about reaching out if I need something, and accepting help when it is offered.
And when it comes to Logan & Wyatt's illnesses/conditions, I have changed my thinking. I no longer try to "control" their asthma & epilepsy, but simply see myself as its monitor. I keep track of symptoms and medications, but I don't have to try and control it in any way. Changing my thinking in this way has taken a lot of the pressure off.
These two changes have made me a much, much happier mama.
It hasn't been easy (or quick) to make these changes over the last six months, but boy has it been worth it. If you are struggling, feeling like you're drowning in housework, stress, adulthood and anxiety, please know first of all that you are not alone, but also that it can change. It may take a while, but if you work at it, bit by bit, you can get better, feel better, do better. I promise.
"You don't have to move mountains.
Simply fall in love with life.
Be a tornado of happiness, gratitude and acceptance.
You will change the world
just be being a warm, kindhearted human being."