By: Echo Aspens at Finding Echo
He isn’t sleeping.
You know something isn’t right.
His behaviors are becoming unpredictable.
His mood swings are unavoidable and lengthy.
By: Echo Aspens at Finding Echo
You know something isn’t right.
His behaviors are becoming unpredictable.
His mood swings are unavoidable and lengthy.
Welcome back to this week’s Topic Thursday. Today, we will be answering the question, “Why do I have guilt over my mental illness?”
It is difficult to not feel guilty about all the struggles that come with having a mental illness. Those around us are affected by the disease, as much as we are. But, it’s important to understand that you did not
The next thing that needs to be done is to determine if the guilt that you are feeling is justified. Each mental illness is different. For example, anxiety can lead to irritability. During an episode of anxiety, it is possible to lash out at the persons around. The guilt associated with these hurtful behaviors is justified. Whenever the actions of an event create damage, we experience guilt. This is alerting us that we did something wrong. It’s vital to recognize those situations and to apologize.
However, having a mental illness within itself is not a reason to feel guilt. It is not up to us how other people react or respond when learning that you have a mental illness. Many times, having one can make a person feel like a burden because we need help. But, that’s not true. We are not burdens when we need to rely on others. Community is a key to rehabilitation in mental health. Often new mothers that suffer from Postpartum Depression are often too afraid to ask for help because they do not want to impose on another person. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help.
Mental illness is not a choice but a disease, and it requires different forms of treatments. One part of therapy is self-care. It is not selfish to put the needs of your mental health above others. It’s vital. The mind is a crucial part of mental health, and keeping it healthy means removing triggers. By understanding this, we can remove the guilt. Not only are we improving the vitality of our mind, but we are also reducing the stress that may cause irritability and lashing out.
Most mental disorders can cause disassociation between ourselves and others around us. While suffering from depression, we often feel disinterested and remove ourselves from the world. Mayo Clinic states, “this disorder causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest.” We have no control over how our brain is affected by this disorder. Therefore, there will be moments that we will become distant from the people around us. We will often feel guiltily because we feel responsible for the distance and the effects it has on our inner circle. This guilt is normal and healthy. Reach out to the people that you feel have been abandoned and explain the situation. Be honest. It’s okay to say, “Hey, I’m reaching out to say sorry that I’ve been distant. I’ve been dealing with depression.” After acknowledging this, remove the guilt.
We must recognize that we are more than the struggles from mental illness. Nobody is perfect, and we are worthy of forgiveness. While understanding that having guilt is healthy, we must be able to acknowledge it and move on. There are times that we will need to rely on others, and there will be times that we hurt others. Be attentive and apologize for the moments that cause pain, and accept the moments of help. But, most importantly, celebrate the positive personal attributes within you.
Every Thursday, we will be introducing a new topic to discuss. These topics will focus on mental illness and parenting. We hope that we can create an atmosphere where parenting and mental illness coexist without judgment and shame. For our very first Thursday’s Topic, we will be discussing intrusive thoughts.
What’s an intrusive thought?
It’s an involuntary thought, image, or idea that is unpleasant and unwanted. These thoughts often become obsessive, hard to get rid of, and distressing. While these thoughts may be disturbing, it’s essential to understand that it is normal.
You did not invite these thoughts. They happen without invitation or warning. One out of four people will suffer from an intrusive thought or image. A person that does not have a mental illness can have intrusive thoughts. However, a person with a mental illness; such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD, these thoughts can become harder to dismiss.
As a mother, that suffered from postpartum depression, and my fears trigged immobilizing intrusive thoughts. They became terrifying and realistic that it was the reason I sought treatment. After envisioning harming my child, I spiraled into a nervous breakdown. I had no desires to hurt any of them. Yet, when I closed my eyes, all I saw was this scene on repeat. At that moment, I could not remove the thought from my mind. It was impossible to move, sleep, talk, or think. My husband stayed up all night, soothing my nerves, and brought me to the doctor the next day. During my assessment, I was referred to a Center for Women’s Mood Disorders to start treatment.
It was there that I learned that I suffered from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Agoraphobia. But, most importantly, that my thoughts were not actions. Although they felt like reality during the obsessive state or it may be acted out, that is not the case. The reason why intrusive thoughts are traumatizing is the concept of the idea is not a typical action of the person that is having it. The obsessive behavior of the intrusive thought overplaying manifests into anxious thinking. To the point that we are not able to rationalize the behavior. The intrusive thought itself becomes irrational.
It’s important to remember that these thoughts are not voluntary. When confronted with one, here are some tools that can be used to help control the anxious thinking.
Although intrusive thoughts are rational, it is valuable to seek treatment if the thoughts becoming overwhelming, and you are unable to control them. Treatment options are available. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your doctor.
Parenting through mental illness can be difficult. It can alter how we view ourselves as parents. In the darkest days, we think of ourselves failures, unworthy of loving, and providing for our children. It can become overwhelming with the chaos the pain, as it blinds our ability to see the truth. Above all, the truth that you are not a bad parent.
You were not a failure when there was no energy to grocery shop, and cereal is for dinner.
You were not weak when you sobbed in the shower over fears of wanting to run away.
You were not useless when crowds become overwhelming, and you’ve missed school functions.
You were not unworthy when days went by before you replied to their text messages.
You were not inadequate when social media is bare of pictures of adventures.
You were not damaged when all the sounds around suffocate your mind, and you want to scream.
You were not horrible when each touch, tug, and pull of your body sends an irritating sensation all over.
Mental illness strips away the ability to see the radiant power that you hold. It can take away the capacity to know the worth of your life and presence. Mental illness does not define you as a parent. You are more than the moments of suffering. You have continued to fight each day, to love yourself and your children. It is human nature to falter. As parents, we teach our children the importance of endurance: never to give up. Therefore, don’t give up on yourself.
You are a force of endurance.
You are a beacon of possibilities
You are a temple of courage.
You are a collection of stories.
You are a moment worth holding.
You are a warrior of resurrection.
You are, most of all, worthy of unconditional love.
Please note that if you have a mental illness, and are having a hard time coping, please seek help. Click here for the Top HelpLine Resources.
On August 22nd, it is National Rainbow Baby. On this day, mothers share their experiences with grief, infertility, and pregnancy loss. It’s also a time to celebrate the beauty of birth after a loss.
My story with infertility began three years ago. Three years of broken hopes and a battered soul. Six miscarriages. Two dilations and evacuations. Countless ultrasounds and doctor appointments. It was the life of infertility, after having two children. A journey that I never believed I would endure.
She wasn’t the first rainbow baby that I began to celebrate, but she’s that one that stayed. Every movement, flutter, and kicks were tempting faith. I couldn’t love her until she was in my arms. It was a cursed blessing, feeling her grow but unsure if she would stay. But, here she is. Iris is my rainbow child.
The term rainbow baby is one that is born after a tragic loss; such as miscarriages and stillbirths. They are the hope and sunshine after a disastrous storm. Every time, I call out her name, I celebrate her life. Her name rejoices her birth. Iris was the name of the Greek Goddess of the rainbows, also serving as a messenger to the gods. She is a reminder of the strength and joy the universe has to offer, after the chaotic darkness.
A rainbow baby doesn’t remove the pain from the past, but it allows us to distract ourself from it. They don’t erase the sorrow, the tears, and sadness. By having a rainbow baby, they shine so brightly, and it’s hard to look behind into the past.
It’s cliche, but she has completed my story as a mother.
The day started productively. My daughter and I baked muffins this morning. I had a small snafu with my coffee. The creamer went bad. I figured this would be the most significant inconvenience of the day.
I wrote out a small grocery list: stuff for dinner, a couple of snacks for the kids, and without a doubt, new creamer for my coffee. After I finished my list, I laid out the totes to bring to the store so that I wouldn’t forget them. Before heading out the door, the dishes were unloaded and loaded.
The shopping trip was a success. I bought two succulents that were on sale for $5.99 apiece, and bought a coffee, for my troubles of the creamer debacle. To make this day even better, all my groceries fit perfectly in the totes. It’s the small things that bring joy to my soul.
I returned home, told Alexa to play music, and began unloading the groceries. Which, of course, turned into deep cleaning the fridge (hadn’t done that in six months), and cleaning out the pantries. I wiped down the appliances and countertops. Today was good.
It was almost 3 p.m., and I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything. So, I poured some hot and sour cabbage soup into a bowl and popped it in the microwave. Iris was being super chill and playing independently: a rare occasion. I sat on the couch, crossed my legs, hunched over, and ate my soup while watching the kids goof around.
Then, I noticed it: a weird sensation in my throat; as if, something was stuck. It’s been something that I have been seeing happen, after eating my soup. (Back story: I make a massive batch of it once a week, to have for lunches). It has squash, zucchini, and Asian chili paste, which all of those things have seeds. I’m beginning to think that I may have diverticulitis in my throat.
Panic ensues. I have anxiety that is trigger by medical issues. Anything medical. I tried to rationalize my fear that this is not a life-threatening issue; I can breathe and drink fluids with no problems. But this wasn’t enough. There was no rationality. I was in panic mode. The more I thought of something stuck in my throat, the tighter my throat became. Luckily, my best friend was able to talk me through the situation. She calmed me down.
However, when I began to calm and focus on other things, I noticed that I felt like checking out for the rest of the day. After all that productivity, I wanted to climb in bed and shut off. It’s as if I have no more stamina to continue the day. And, that makes me feel ashamed and weak. I feel embarrassed about my anxiety, and it’s triggers. I feel embarrassed that I can’t snap out of it after an anxiety attack. I don’t want to shut down and remain in a fog of numbness for the rest of the day. I want to cook dinner for my family. I want to sit outside and watch the kids play. I want to drink a cup of tea and take a bath. Yet, here I am, in bed, writing this story, hoping it’s enough to remove the fog and breathe.
Do you ever feel as if you need to step away for a couple of days after doing something mentally exhausting? Say, no social media, or cleaning, or even cooking. Simple tasks but ones that seem cumbersome in the moment?
Monday, one of my kids had dental surgery. Cue PTSD triggers for both of us. He’s had a long history of medical procedures and hospital stays, that when something remotely medical is needed, it brings along trepidation. A month before, we meet the dentist and nurses for a consultation, and he was able to familiarize himself with his surrounding. The nurse was incredible. At the end of that visit, she told him that she would make sure to be his nurse during the procedure. It was such a simple gesture that would be a game-changer for him.
Yet, I was preparing myself for the daunting and exhausting part of tending to his needs. I knew, going in, that he was going to struggle a lot and I had to be his comfort. For the consultation, he cried days before, became angry and frustrated, and had a meltdown in the examination chair. The day of his procedure would be worse.
The one thing I’ve realized that when we talk about parenting, is no one talks about the mental toll being a parent endures. All the worry, uncertainty, pressure, anxiety, frustration, and so much more, add up. These emotions weigh on us. They drag us down. We are their protectors. Yet, we have to watch them go through pain, accept it, and comfort them. But, seeing your child gasps for air as they hyperventilate in fear of having surgery isn’t what I thought being a parent would be.
The day of his procedure was here. My husband took off work to be there, knowing that his presence would provide another level of comfort. It was a two-hour drive to the doctor’s office. So, we decided to drive in the day before, stay at a hotel with a pool, and make it a fun family getaway; anything to distract his mind from what was about to happen. Shockingly, he woke up that morning without crying. He ate breakfast. He laughed. He talked. Whereas, I barely slept. My bones ached. His sister became sick in the night. My focus was being pulled into two different directions, which both equally needed it.
We pulled into the parking lot and walked in. He went straight to the games to play as I checked him in. After five minutes, they called his name. He didn’t even look back and wave just walked to his nurse. He was okay. I sat back, rested my head against the wall, preparing myself for one of the nurses to call me back. Shortly, I hear someone call out, “Carson’s mom,” and my heart hit my stomach. I looked over to see him with her. He was done. He climbed into my lap as she went over aftercare instructions. My husband and I were surprised at how fast the procedure went and how well he had handled it. But, it wasn’t over. We had a two-hour journey back home.
I sat in the front seat, ready to close my eyes and restore my inner peace. An hour into the ride, he began to cry and cry and cry. He’s numbing medication was wearing off, and he didn’t like how it felt. We pulled over, and I climb into the back seat to let him rest his head on my shoulders. I sang “Everything’s okay, everything’s alright,” over and over. His sister began to cry, and I could tell she was starting to feel bad again. So, as he rests on my shoulder, I twisted my free arm to grab her hand. My contorted body ached, and as I sang, I was counting down the miles until we reached home.
By the evening, I felt weak and down. My mind and body had been overwhelmed by the chaos and worry. I put my phone away and crawled into the imaginary hole of seclusion. My mind needed to shut down. I didn’t want to be responsible for any decisions. All I wanted was the comforting bubble of my family being at home, with no plans or responsibilities.
For the first time, I didn’t have any guilt about wanting to stop the chaos from entering our door. The procedure might have been small, but it was hard on our family. We take on all the burdens without focusing on maintaining a healthy mental foundation. The longer we continue to neglect our mental health, the harder for caring becomes. Remember, it’s okay to stop and step away.