I Didn’t Give Up

I think the hardest thing after surviving a mental health crisis is justifying all the work you have to do after just to keep going.

Life is kind of boring often, and after a mental health crisis it can feel like every bump in the road is life trying to tell you that you should have quit when you had the chance. But it’s not giving up that is important and every time you stand up to the monster in your head you get a little more confident that you can handle the bumps life will throw.

My life has been relatively boring the last few weeks, but in a good way. I shouldn’t be surprised but it’s sooooo nice to not be lurching from crisis to crisis but like, I really can’t overstate how much it helps my mental state to not be worrying about how to keep up with everything. Be they genuine mountains or molehill with lightning and camera tricks.

I even faced a fear.

I asked Sadie if he would want to stay a week night at his dads to spend more time with him since he wanted to stay at the after school program longer on a day when his dad picks him up, but he declined since he likes routine here.

I was proud of myself for asking because I faced feeling rejected and fears of feeling like an inferior caretaker. When their dad was willing to have them any time Sadie would prefer him on Saturday evenings and that was really hard on me, I would cry, feeling rejected, while Sadie left but I dealt with my feels because I wanted Sadie to be happy.

I can’t play some video games that Sadie likes to watch and I don’t know about cars, he misses those things when he’s not around his dad and that’s just his natural areas of interest. It’s not a reflection of my caretaking, it’s a reflection of Sadie’s interests and who he shares those with.

Even though it’s more work for me to have them more often, having them benefit from the routine of having a home base helps me feel it was justified to be so insistent on them having a “home” that they mainly operated out of instead of having to hop back and forth all the time. I know some kids do fine with this kind of an arrangement but I remembered hating never knowing where my stuff was, not being able to make plans or see friends because that was the other parents weekend, and always being far from one parent.

I wanted to have it be different for my kids, we made a plan that I would keep primary custody but their dad would get a place across the street so the kids could go see him whenever they wanted.

Then everything changed when he got serious with a girl and he moved out to her place. I honestly was just hurt and in panic mode for years. Trying to figure out how to keep up with everything.

I didn’t even want the house, I just wanted to be allowed to stay in the basement till I would be able to set up my own place but that was going to be at least a year. I begged but it was a firm no so I tried to figure out ways to manage the transition till things got easier.

I had planned on using money from the refinance of the house in my name to pay off other bills and make it work but then the bank wouldn’t do it for 6 months and there was a lot of stress of watching my bank account dwindle.

Turns out chronic stress over money was bad for my mental health.

I had already planned and paid for a trip for the kids to LEGOland but of course there were unexpected costs. I just wanted to make sure they had happy memories.

That’s how I got to experience what paralyzing anxiety is like. I had cornered myself into a place where crisis was inevitable shy of something changing but nothing did.

I had to ask the kids to stay with their dad long enough for me to sort myself out. I didn’t know he was planning on coming after me in the courts since he knew I would be screwed on the house if I didn’t have 6 months of payments to refinance and have a mortgage I can afford.

When I first got the news I felt so broken, I had planned on starting to transition them back more but now I had to do it all at once or give up everything I’ve been working on making a sense of place for the kids.

I know it doesn’t seem to matter to those who have family who makes them feel cared about but when you feel alone all you have is a sense of place, your environment becomes the thing that can soothe you. I guess it was just as much for me as the kids but I wanted them to feel the psychological comfort of a Home.

Deciding I was ready to fight for it was hard. I always resented my parents for how much money they spent on legal battles and hating each other. I wanted to avoid that so badly, but I was giving up a lot if I didn’t. I know I have had good fortune in some aspects of my life, I know on the surface it seems like I should have just moved or given up custody since I was struggling with it before. But that would have meant the kids might have to change schools, and be far from their friends, and all the medicaid stuff for Sadie would have to go through his dad. I would have been giving up on so many experiences with the kids, while the burdens of parenting had been overwhelming the joys were crushing to miss.

We got through the transition phase, made some changes to avoid friction points. Figured out how to have a full time job, a part time job, and kids. It’s actually much better now, the structure helps a lot. The transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy and my new medication have definitely helped with my anxiety, my chiropractic care means my back isn’t constantly in pain. It’s actually been weird finding myself with time where I’m not “supposed to be” doing anything because I am not in school anymore and the kids have gotten to the point where they find things more interesting than me. I’m even encouraging them to call their dad if I could use downtime since it would help me out and that’s helping me let go of my anger.

I’ve been living with anger as motivation for a long time, it’s survival and when you face major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder with suicidal ideation, life has an uphill slope against you. I finally found it was being more of a cost than an asset so I’m trying to let it go.

I do want to note the large difference between suicidal ideation and homicidal ideation, not wanting to live anymore does not make people a danger to anyone else so let’s not stigmatize mental illness any more.

I cried some nights, mourning what I had dreamed of being possible, trying to figure out how we had gotten to where we were in life. I felt bad for the kids if I was out of sorts and wondered if I was doing the right thing but then I experienced something magical.

Hazel gave me a single MnM

You might not think of it as a grand gesture but I assure you, it was.

She had finished her dinner without me needing to keep promoting her and had selected a reasonable amount of MnMs as her dessert, then voluntarily disclosed to me that she was doing that. That’s some rock star good functioning human.

She then came back to give me one. Hazel is not great with sharing but she had recognized that I was sad and she had something making her happy so she offered some of it to me. My heart melted and I felt good that my baby is a good human who shows she cares, and I knew everything would be ok somehow.

I am very grateful to have kids with enough impulse control that I can leave candy accessible. I’m able to leave candy and can trust them not to ask like dogs in a shipwreck and that is not something I take for granted.

That’s why I was in hyper mode all those years, I know exactly how damaging it is to a baby to go without having their needs met. It creates life long problems with things like reduced impulse control. There are things called critical windows where failure to get the right sensory input will create life long problems and having those myself I was not about to have the kids go without. I surely went overboard, must be the first time anyone has overcompensated.

Things are pretty good now but there are also times when Hazel’s “I don’t want to monster” takes center stage.

Truly though, I’m glad Hazel feels comfortable throwing a tantrum around me, as much as I could do without having to talk her through how it would be better to get ready than throw a fit if she wants to be on time, I’m genuinely glad she feels comfortable letting all her feels out with me.

I read once that “stubborn” kids are just testing to be really sure if something is true and that them being what could be described as “their most obnoxious selves” is actually them showing how much they trust you and know they are loved because they know you will continue to love and to some degree put up with their most intense feelings. So yay for all the parents who have made their kids feel safe to be assholes to them 😂

Most inconvenient to have a tantrum when she needs to get to school and I to work, but we talked through it and even all made it to school and work on time. It actually feels extra good to know our mornings can survive some turbulence without derailment.

It’s a weird celebration but it feels like motherhood to have kids get “irrationally” upset about the prospect of being late because they are throwing a fit, so they keep throwing. It’s where I can be a 3rd party to offer a hug and some guidance/boundaries to help her not spiral like I had because I didn’t have that 3rd party to help step my brain down from seeing red and not being able to pull out of the spiral but I get to be that person.

I get to train her at a young age what I had to train myself at a … less young age. Being a mom really feels like time travel to me with all the things I get to help them understand so much earlier in life.

Sadie is 8 now and I can remember my life at 8 so I’ve been mentally comparing notes. I was already running away from home, engaging in self destructive behavior, and generally unhappy with my life from what I remember. I used to tell myself how much better it would be when I got older, if only I knew how much worse it would get first.

I have very different worries about Sadie, he marches to the beat of his own drum and the divorce was really hard on him, me trying to shield him from it unfortunately left me depleted when I thought I could change others. I try to be a good example of admitting I’m human and fallible.

There are still struggles with Sadie’s neuro diversity. Things where I am still struggling with helping him adapt to the world and the world to him. Adapting my own expectations as he takes his path in life. He struggles understanding a lot of “Normal” kid things, and it’s hard on me to see him struggling to connect with his peers.

I didn’t realize how amazing it would be to hear him sing, I hadn’t even consciously processed that he hadn’t sung before, but Sadie was singing, and like well, with confidence It’s probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. I feel hope, that all the therapies I’ve gotten him into and early advocacy and intervention, will mean he lives a happy life, and that he won’t feel lost like I always did.

I get to make their lives better from what I’ve learned the hard way, and I’m slowly rebuilding myself, finding some semblance of myself that survived. Keeping what works and changing what doesn’t every day. That’s a not a bad place to be while I figure out what is next in life.

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I still wanna figure out what I want to be when I grow up

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Maria Dickmann

Maria Dickmann

I still wanna figure out what I want to be when I grow up

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