I'm ready for the sun to shine and to find myself again.
I miss myself.
I miss being the fun and funny person I am. The one who laughs easily and heartily. The girl who cracks jokes and speaks sarcasm fluently.
I miss being happy. And excited. And confident, energized, empowered and optimistic.
I miss feeling normal emotions.
I'm so tired. Tired of the blah, gray hue of my days. The constant feeling of exhaustion and fatigue. The lack of life in my breath. The slump of every day. The disconnected feeling in my relationships and actions.
Everything is happening around me; I'm in the background. An extra in my own life. When did things change? When did I unplug from my life? When did my life unplug from me?
I know the answer.
A year and a half ago was the beginning. The trigger of sorts. That's when my daughter developed a debilitating chronic illness. Her entire life changed ... and so did mine.
Now, everything we do revolves around managing her condition and dealing with the constant emotional and mental stresses with it.
It's hard enough just being a fourteen-year-old girl; it's a whole new thing when you're fourteen and you have health issues so significant they affect every aspect of your day-to-day living.
Similarly, it's hard being a parent; it's a completely different scenario when everything you think and do is impacted by worry and stress about your daughter's physical health — and then doubled with concern about her emotional well-being.
I'd been struggling for months but wouldn't allow myself to validate or verbalize any of it. It seemed selfish. She is the one dealing with the life-changing physical and emotional challenges; she is the one who's mourning the loss of her "normal" life.
She is the one who feels like a shell of herself. Not me. I'm not the one who should be falling apart.
But I was. I was coming apart at the seams, feeling inadequate about everything I tried to do. I couldn't keep up with housework, grocery shopping, maintaining relationships, making appointments. There were no tasks, no matter how big or small, that I felt I had a handle on.
Our house was a constant mess. My marriage was on the back-burner. Bills weren't getting paid. Dinner was rarely planned. Messages went unanswered.
Everything felt monumental; each due date, line on the To Do list, reminder on my phone — even simple notifications from Facebook or emails coming in — felt like one more boulder on my shoulders.
And I felt crushed under the weight of it all. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't function. I just couldn't do it.
I turned to a few good friends and cried as I shared a watered-down version of how I felt.
"I have this big ball of I-don't-know-what in my chest that sometimes makes it feel hard to breathe," I continued. Yes, Jen, that's called anxiety. She and depression are BFFs; they moved in at the same time. Didn't you notice the huge amount of luggage?
I ended my message with, "This felt really hard to 'say out loud', but I felt like I needed to say it somewhere. And I think I ought to make myself an appointment with the doctor."
Without telling my husband — because I still felt selfish to be so affected by what my daughter was going through — I made an appointment with my family doctor. Tears fell as I shared how I'd been struggling.
She was understanding and sympathetic as I talked. She handed me self-assessments to complete. My scores were in the severe category for both depression and anxiety.
See? Moved in, unpacked, and furniture rearranged. We discussed which medication would be best to help me and she wrote the prescription. A glimmer of hope and help. Maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to kick out these new roommates and find myself after all.
For months I'd been trying to sit down and write about this, about how depression and anxiety can suck life out of our lives, how all-encompassing it is to be weighed down, that it can happen to anyone at any time, and that it can take a while to even realize and accept that the haze and fog have settled into your own life.
I sat down at my laptop probably two dozen times to write this, but I just couldn't do it. Each time, I stared blankly at the screen, felt an empty and overwhelming sense of nothingness, and walked away, clearly not yet in a place to find the words.
Today I sent a message to two of my friends. I simply said, "I miss you." And then, with a pause and some tears, it came out: I miss myself. I miss feeling like me.
As if the cosmos had been waiting for that realization, another friend almost simultaneously messaged me simply to share affirming and positive thoughts. I mentioned how interesting the timing was that she'd randomly reach out to me.
It was just what I needed, exactly when I needed it: a reminder of who I still am under the heavy, gray blanket of anxiety and depression. As we chatted about our different challenges and the difficulty that comes in recognizing, verbalizing, and moving forward, I knew I was ready to get the words out.
Finally ready to share my story, I'm hoping it will be therapeutic and freeing for me, and that the words I'm able to put together will reach someone who needs to hear them right now.
I know I'm still here, somewhere inside under the cloud cast by depression and anxiety. I'm ready for the sun to shine and to find myself again. It'll be so nice to just be me.
I miss myself.
If you're struggling with depression and/or anxiety, know you're not alone. There's help for you. Talk to someone, see a counselor, make an appointment with your doctor.
We'll get better. We'll be better. We'll be ourselves again.
This article was originally published at Real Life Parenting Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.