Have you ever come across an image that stops you in your tracks? One that resonates so deeply within you that you can’t stop thinking about it?
This week, while I was scrolling through social media I came across one of these images. I felt unequipped to deal with its message and it completely took my breath away. I still feel emotionally haunted, and absolutely cannot stop thinking about it.
There is supposed to be a natural order to life, children outlive their parents so that no parent ever has to go through the ultimate tragedy of losing their child. But we know this is not always the case. Life can be cruel and devastating, and parents don’t always outlive their children. Unfortunately, some of us live in a constant state of fear, some of us have had a time stamp on our child’s life since they took their first breath and some of us will inevitably have to face this ultimate tragedy.
As a mother of a child with different needs, I put an unbelievably large amount of pressure on myself. Pressure to know everything I can about Ethan’s rare diagnosis so that I can educate health care professionals who have never heard of it. Pressure to take every deviation from the norm, seriously. Pressure to spend all of our free time working on therapy goals. Pressure to give him the highest possible quality of life, and pressure not to miss anything. I’ve been told I tend to think about the worst case scenario when it comes to Ethan’s health, but these reactions stem from an unparalleled place of fear. Fear of overlooking something, that will inevitably lead to the loss of my baby boy.
Not long ago, I started to feel like two completely different people. One half of me… a pillar of strength, cheering on every one of Ethan’s accomplishments and milestones. But the other half, was crippled with this anxiety and fear. That half is dark and lonely, like a bottomless ocean, and the fear still comes in waves threatening to drown me completely at times.
I’ve come to realize that it’s natural for a parent with a different needs child to live with some amount of anxiety and fear, it’s almost like a right of passage. Something that is permanently stamped on our heart. But with each passing day, I began to notice that I was drowning in that ocean of fear. I was becoming so crippled with dark anxious thoughts the positive side of me was being chipped away one day at a time. Sometimes when I would take a step back and look at myself, I didn’t even recognize the person in the mirror. It’s like I had become a shadow of my former self.
I truly thought I was coping… that I was handling the difficulties of being a different needs mom, but I wasn’t. I came to the realization that I needed some help, and that I couldn’t handle my “dark ocean” alone anymore, and from there I started my mental health journey…I truly didn’t realize how horribly I was suffering until I wasn’t suffering anymore.
I still haven’t found the perfect medication, or the perfect therapist, but I am a work in progress, attempting to take steps to overcome the anxiety and fear. To keep it in the back of my mind, instead of in the front.
I wanted to write this post intentionally on “mental health awareness day” to shed some light on one person’s mental health struggles. While the world is evolving and becoming more accepting of mental health issues, there is still so much stigma around them, and my hope in sharing my story is to try and normalize some of these struggles. If this post can help even one person recognize that they may need to reach out for some help, or that they shouldn’t feel ashamed about their own issues, then it has done what I intended it to!
Through all the darkness and fear, that I have suffered over the last couple of years, and through this dramatic personal change, my heart has also grown more than I ever thought possible. I have gained a new sense of purpose by becoming a mother to two beautiful children, and that love is truly unparalleled to anything I have ever experienced before.
I have said before that my love for Ethan is a devotion to his struggles but it also includes a personal vow and commitment to him. One where he will never live a single day of his life without being loved unconditionally. One where I will do absolutely everything in my power to ensure every one of his days is filled with happiness…And in order to do this, I needed to accept help, in order to better myself. Because it is not only my personal vow to him, it is what he deserves.