My shaky hands got worse, not better. I could not work. Would I ever be able to practice dentistry again? All that school/training/money. Even if my hands did stop shaking, my anxiety was so out of control that I could barely leave the house. I could barely interact with Lindsay and the kids, let alone another person.
I had struggled with occasional suicidal thoughts for years at this point. But now they were really regular. I never got serious about planning or attempting. But would have the idea pop in my mind. Then I’d beat myself up for even thinking it.
I would go into deep depressions, feeling helpless and out of control and like there was no way this could ever get better. If I felt good, I would sabotage myself thinking it would slip away at any minute.
The doctor said it can take 4-6 weeks to see if a medication helps or not. Trying different medications, playing the waiting game, and all the transition time was hard. I found something that worked eventually but it was really challenging for me.
I’d never struggled with social anxiety like this before. I couldn’t go into parking garages without freaking out. Talking on the phone was terrifying. Interacting with someone at a store was out of the question. Feeling so limited in ways that I never had before was humiliating to me.
I thought I was letting everybody down around me. I thought I was weak and flawed in an irreparable way and felt so ashamed. The way loved ones rallied around me and my family was incredible and will always stick with me. So many people so willing to help.
I felt so bad for my husband. You don’t know what it’s like to be close to someone with non-functioning mental illness until you know. I began to see everything in a different way, with a lot more understanding. I could see—physically see—him struggling.
He’d wake up in buzzing in panic-mode and need reassurance. I have memories of nursing my baby in the middle of the night, and then coming to bed and helping Danny fall asleep only to wake up hours later for another feeding or to wake up with the older kids.
I remember making sure that my “find friends app” was working so I could check in on him when he would go for a longer run. This lurking thought would arise on occasion—what if he doesn’t come home? His suicidal thoughts freaked me out at times, but I was grateful for his honesty and openness. There were a few times I questioned whether he needed to be checked in somewhere, but I knew he’d never go so I didn’t push it with him.
He needed me to drive him to therapy, doctor’s appointments, and more. It was a very strange time. At this point not a lot of neighbors/friends were aware. Danny was still feeling ashamed and didn’t want a lot of people to know. I respected his wish but it left me in a conflicted state. I needed support but couldn’t talk to anyone about it without his consent.
I couldn’t even leave the house to work out due to his anxiety (of the thought of being home alone with the kids). One of my ‘approved’ confidants really pushed the idea of me going to therapy. I didn’t feel like I had any time—and how could I get a sitter when there was a 30 year old man lying around in the house somewhere? Thankfully, she came when she could to give me much needed breaks.
Within a month (of everything coming to a head) I could tell he was not going to be functioning any time soon and started to entertain thoughts of re-entering the workforce. I was not excited about this. I was content being home with the kids. What would this mean for my family? My kids? My husband? My marriage? I didn’t want to find sitters, I just wanted to be home with my littles!!!
When in a depression, if I could just get in the mindset that “good days always come” it was more helpful than anything in terms of weathering the bout of depression. Learning to ask for help and that I was worth helping worked.
Resisting, reacting to, and avoiding my emotional state did not work. I gained 40 lbs from overeating. I thought anything is better than looking at porn. So I would find other ways to numb out from my emotions. Netflix. Video games.
The best work I did during this time was practicing mindfulness: learning to increase awareness, acknowledgment, and acceptance of thoughts and emotions. Learning to allow emotions for long enough to start to understand them.
Practicing meditation worked. Lots of people think meditation is about getting away from the negative emotion. It is actually about allowing ALL the emotion in the moment and learning to accept it. This was not natural for me.
Because the mental illness was the priority, my thoughts about his porn usage waned while I focused on what seemed to be more important —helping him get the best healthcare possible and keeping all of us alive.
I still continued to put everyone before myself, which does not work. It’s so easy as a mother or spouse to slip in to this “selfless” place, but what I can’t stress enough is the importance of taking care of yourself as a caregiver. It was easy to not deal with my emotions because I had so many other “more important” things to worry about. But they didn’t just go away. They waited, as they always do, until I was compelled to work through them down the road.