By Crystal Cook of The Qwiet Muse
It could be a funny story, but it isn’t. I’ve only shared it with a few, and while I’ll admit to putting a humorous spin on it a time or two — you can make something sound less awful if you sprinkle in a few laughs and some self-deprecating humor — that’s like putting extra sweet icing on a dry cake. It goes down a little easier, but it’s still an awful cake.
So no icing this time.
This is a story about the day I realized I needed help. The day I acknowledged I wasn’t okay. Period.
I had a home I was happy in, four amazing children, a husband I adored; there was no reason not be happy — I had so much to be thankful for — but I was coming undone inside, and no amount of positive anything was changing that. There were times I felt unworthy of my blessings. I felt I wasn’t enough. How could I feel that way in the midst of so much joy?
I’ve always been good under pressure because — well — falling apart was never an option. There was stress and uncertainty and fear and sadness. My husband was in the military and often away, my oldest son had been diagnosed with autism, and his brother was being assessed for developmental disabilities. Physically, I was suffering from the effects of what I would soon find out was undiagnosed diabetes, and I was tired. More tired than I had time to realize.
I’ve dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember, but it was slowly taking control of my life. Everything filled me with dread. But the day our home was broken into — the day a stranger came into my refuge and robbed me of so much more than “things” — was the day I succumbed to the anxiety I’d been fighting for so long.
It became the catalyst for what was to come.
I became obsessive about our safety: about locking doors and windows, checking closets, and looking under beds…repeatedly. My obsessive monitoring of these things was as intrusive as that stranger who had walked unwelcomed into my home. I looked out the peephole on the front door a hundred times a day. One of those times, not long after the older kids had been dropped at school and I was home alone with my youngest, I saw a young woman making her way up the driveway. I watched her. She came to the door and I held my breath as she reached for the doorbell.
I should have just ignored it. I should have just waited silently until she walked away, but I was unnerved and annoyed — especially since there was a no soliciting sign right above the doorbell.
I opened the door, and she began her well-rehearsed pitch for a home water delivery service. I interrupted with a polite “No, thank you,” but she continued, and I could feel my heart speeding up. I pointed to the no soliciting sign and said, again, “No, thank you.” She rolled her eyes and I closed the door, but I didn’t walk away from it. I watched her through the peephole. I watched her reach out and peel the sign off my wall and walk away. I didn’t see a young woman. I saw a monster. An intruder. I saw someone violating my home and my peace and my privacy, and all the anxiety and anger and fear I’d been trying to contain broke free from its chains and that last bit of frayed thread within me snapped.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Page 2″ ]
I remember feeling so angry, and I remember trying to calm myself down, but I felt like I was boiling from the inside out. I don’t remember grabbing my keys and my son. I don’t remember getting in the car, but I do remember stopping in the middle of the street when I saw her at someone else’s door.
I got out of the car, left it right there — running, with my almost two-year old son in the back seat — and crossed the street to confront her. I can’t recall just what I said, but I know it was angry and ugly. When she denied the deed, I got angrier and uglier. Neighbors on both sides opened their doors to see what was happening. I know I promised to get her fired. I know I told her I wanted the sign back. I know I told her she had ten minutes to return it.
I don’t remember going back to the house or going in, but I do remember thinking I was going to lose what was left of my mind. I do remember the anger turning to fear. Fear of myself. I felt physically ill trying to piece together what I’d just done, realizing I had left my child in the middle of the street in a running vehicle. I was sitting on the kitchen floor in a puddle of tears when the doorbell rang.
She’d actually come back. She could have easily left the sign on the porch, but she rang the bell. I was embarrassed and mortified and unable to stop shaking or quell my tears, but I opened the door. She was shaky as well, and her eyes were wet with tears, too. She handed me the sign. She apologized. I did too, but my crazy was still showing, and I tried to explain things to her. I suddenly felt very maternal towards this young woman. I told her it was foolish to do things like she’d done, that there were crazier people than me out there. I extended the trauma I’d likely caused her with an unexpected hug. This is the part of the story I actually do find sort of funny, in a totally twisted and sad way. That poor girl. I scared her to death…and then I hugged her.
When all was said and done, the reality of it all hit me: I was not okay.
I am now. I take medication to even out the chemical imbalance that can wreak havoc in my life. I talk to people. Sometimes I’m more okay than other times, but I recognize it now. I don’t ignore the warning signs, and I take action to keep myself from falling back into that dark place. I have a greater understanding of my depression and anxiety and OCD, and I know without a doubt I am worthy of my blessings.
It took time and hard work to get here, though, and I didn’t do it alone. Reaching out and seeking help was difficult. In the beginning, admitting I needed it was like admitting defeat — especially since I’m not a big fan of talking to people or asking for help. And while I still struggle with reaching it, I do it because I never want to be that out-of-control woman who stood in the middle of the street screaming again.
There are moments, days, and even weeks that I struggle. Times when I have to rely on faith and facts to keep me moving through the darkness. Sometimes I forget or simply choose not to reach out when I’m facing that storm, but thankfully, I have some faithful storm chasers in my life who keep me from being swept away.
Depression is a misunderstood disorder. I certainly didn’t understand it. How could I be depressed when I was happy? I smiled, I laughed, I did things. I hadn’t taken to my bed or lost hope, and yet fog followed me: sometimes I wore it like a shroud, sometimes it was simply a shadow that followed me.
Once I learned it had nothing to do with my strength, my capabilities, or my fortitude, it was easier to fight. I had many weapons in my armory — faith, family, friends — but I still needed armor. Medication served as a shield, but it didn’t fight the battle for me; I had to do that.
It’s been sixteen years since I took up arms and began fighting back. There are days I grow weary of it, but even on those days, the sun still shines and I find my strength. I am the hero of my story.
This post originally appeared on The Qwiet Muse.[/nextpage]
ABOUT CRYSTAL COOK
Crystal Cook — otherwise known as Qwietpleez here on the interwebs — goes by many names, most notably “Mommy.” Proud wife and mother four, she is an Autism Warrior Momma and an advocate for those with special needs and their families. She writes about about life and love, the good and the bad, the serious and the silly over at theqwietmuse.com, and sometimes to make some spare change for Venti iced coffees, she writes about other things. She is new(ish) to blogging and socializing, and is a recent and reluctant hashtag user, which she stubbornly maintains should be referred to as an octothorpe. Her hobbies include sleeping in and defending the oxford comma.