By Joann Fox
Mother, mamma, mom, mama, mum, mommy – no matter which way you say it, “mom” means a lot of things. She is the caregiver, doctor, psychologist, special event planner, cleaner, chore manager, baker, cook, boo-boo kisser, teacher, provider, bedtime cuddler, seamstress, artist, appointment manager, [insert one of several other mother duties here]. Mamas – if you really sit down and think about all we do for our kids and our families, we are truly amazing individuals.
But what happens when the mother juggle becomes overwhelming?
Many of us read about all the other moms out there handling their S*!t and strategies they use to keep their juggle going but what if you begin to drop those balls and don’t care about picking them back up even though they are important to you? What if you spend days or even weeks not being able to focus on any one task and then start to panic about not meeting deadlines? What if you spend multiple weekends in bed just being sad? What if your significant other or someone else close to you says “I am really worried about you”?
Sometimes it’s not about managing the juggle. Sometimes it’s about managing your own health.
Your mental health.
I’m not sure when I started to feel the way I did and to be honest, it was probably for quite some time before I really noticed that something wasn’t quite right. Any little nagging feeling was quickly dispelled by reading about how other moms are struggling with staying home with the kids or with working full-time and managing the home and its people and activities. I started to normalize the way I was feeling because every other mom on the internet seemed to be going through the same thing. Every mom I spoke to also had similar stories about the overwhelming number of things she had to get done that day, week or year. Lots of moms also had offered coping strategies to deal with the chaos – coffee, chocolate, and wine seemed to be the majority favourites. Of course for many mamas out there, just talking about the hardships of motherhood is a coping strategy (preferably over coffee, chocolate, or wine ;). I thought that this was just the way life is for a busy mom. Everything is fine because everyone else seems to be feeling the same way.
But it wasn’t fine.
I was sad – like, really, really sad. So sad that there were some weeknights and weekends that I just didn’t want to get out of bed – I couldn’t get out of bed.
I was so irritable. A smear of peanut butter left on the counter for me to wipe up would set the tone for the day as I frustratingly rattled off the 100 things that haven’t been done around the house for the last two years. Although I knew it was ridiculous to be so upset over something so tiny, I couldn’t help it. The tiniest things would make me so upset although I knew that it was ridiculous to be that upset over them.
I couldn’t focus. Tasks and assignments that should have taken me a few hours to complete were taking me days to finish and starting any new project or task was terrifying. My mind wandered endlessly between tasks and lists and projects both at work and at home that I would spend all of my time worrying about them instead of completing them.
I was forgetful. I have always been able to keep pretty good tabs on what I needed to get done but I started forgetting things after only a few minutes had passed. There were several times when I was in the shower and honestly couldn’t remember if I shampooed my hair.
I was exhausted. Even though I was getting 7-8 hours of sleep, there were more days than I could count that I would come home and didn’t have enough energy to make dinner. I was just so tired. My body was aching mentally and physically and all I wanted to do was sleep.
I didn’t care. I didn’t care if my friends invited me to go out or not. I didn’t care about baking or cooking (things I normally enjoy doing), I didn’t care about my birthday or celebrating anything or anyone. I didn’t care about me. This feeling alone (as well as my husband’s voiced concern about me) was the reason I finally decided that I needed to see my family doctor.
As I walked into my family doctor’s office, I was greeted by his friendly, cheerful smile. I immediately broke down into tears. I was so overwhelmed by all of the feelings I had been having but also ashamed. I wasn’t ashamed that I was there trying to get help but I was ashamed that it took me so long to do it. As I explained what I was feeling, he didn’t seem surprised at what I was telling him. He told me that a lot of 30-something moms come into his office on a regular basis describing the same feelings. Was it normal? No, it wasn’t normal – but I was the classic, textbook presentation of anxiety and depression. Some people in my situation might have been shocked with the diagnosis.
I was relieved.
I was so relieved that the feelings I was having had names. I was even more relieved to discuss treatment options with my doctor. I am extremely lucky to have such a great family doctor who took a generous amount of time to answer all my questions, address all my concerns, and explain different treatment options for me . We both decided on a treatment that sounded like a good start and some further appointments so he could check on my progress.
After only a couple of weeks of treatment, I could already notice a difference – subtle differences. I was getting more done and was more focused. That peanut butter smear didn’t bother me the next time it happened. I was happier and much more pleasant to be around (says my husband). I wanted to go out and be more social. I finally started my blog. I wasn’t sweating the small stuff so much.
It has since been three months since I went to see my doctor for help. I feel great. Actually, I feel better than I have ever felt for as long as I can remember. At one of my follow-up appointments I told my doctor that even though the changes are subtle, I felt as though I could have benefited from treatment years ago (like – even before kids). He surprised me by saying that quite a few people that undergo treatment for anxiety and depression tell him that. In my case, I think I was so used to feeling the way I was feeling for much of my life, I just thought it was normal – until of course my feelings became overwhelmingly debilitating.
What is my point and why am I sharing my story with you?
Because I see tons of posts about needing a venti Americano, a Snickers, or a nice big glass of malbec to cap off that awful day or week a mama has had and not as many posts about needing a mental assessment by a doctor when those awful days and weeks turn into months and years.
Because although I certainly don’t want a pity party from my friends and family (most of who will have no idea that I am being treated for anxiety and depression unless they read this post), I do want to bring more attention to mama’s mental health. Moms always seem to put themselves last and when we think about taking care of ourselves, it’s usually thought of in a physical sense. Although it is true that we should be making our physical health a priority, our mental health should be a priority too.
Because you deserve to be the best “you”. If you feel that something is wrong and you are really having trouble juggling day-to-day life and coping with your feelings, get help. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. He or she can help you figure out if your feelings are normal or if there is an imbalance that needs to be corrected.
Not all bad and sad feelings need a prescription. It’s not about living a life free from trials and tribulations. It’s about living your best life and being able to cope and adapt with whatever life throws your way. Many of us don’t need help with that. Some of us do – and there is absolutely no shame in that.
Take care of yourselves mamas.
Joann is a full-time working proud mama of two. She spends most of her weekends at the rink watching her son play hockey or taking her daughter to dance and gymnastics classes. On her spare time (what’s that?), Joann loves to cook and believes most of life’s problems melt away with a good bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. She is passionate about her life as a mom and shares her stories at themotherjuggle.com & Facebook