Digging out of the Darkness

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I have felt the loneliness of motherhood several times since first becoming a mother almost 12 years ago. We all find ourselves in the darkness at some point. Whether you suffered from postpartum depression, stayed home with babies while your friends worked, or worked when they stayed home, the many opportunities that arise to be on different footing than our peers is the foundation of loneliness.  Our motherhood stories are all so different and yet I am willing to bet that most of us have experienced so many of the same raw emotions as one another. It is in thinking that we are alone that we allow the loneliness to take hold and manifest itself.

I have just passed the one year anniversary of the hardest and darkest moment of my motherhood story thus far. It was in that moment that the climax of my loneliness hit, although it was months before and still moments now that I feel it.  It was one year ago that my husband and I had to make the decision to put our son, only 10 years old at the time, into a psychiatric hospital.

My oldest child suffers from ADHD and anxiety, and from the time he was in Kindergarten it has been a steady stream of working hard to get it under control or at least managed.  School life was difficult for him. He is incredibly bright and yet terribly immature on top of his learning disorder. From an early age he was labeled as “that kid” by parents, friends and teachers.  I quickly became his advocate and his defender, but it was a battle fought many times alone, and even sometime against those I love and hold dear. It was in my child being different that my loneliness began.

As we approached the dreaded tween years, when hormones start to wreak havoc on everything you think you know about your child, things began to change. Where my once happy yet impulsive child once stood, there was now a sad, irritated and irrational one.  Arguments, anxiety attacks and crying fits suddenly ruled our daily lives. And they weren’t just from him. I was beginning to sink and get carried away in his wave of emotion and desperation.

We found ourselves walking a road that was paved with eggshells. One wrong step and an explosion of emotional turmoil would erupt. A misstep in our morning routine regularly caused a two minute drive to school to become a 45 minute battle to convince my child that he could make it through a day of school.  There was even one morning that the anger, frustration and anxiety overcame him to a point that he jumped from my car and ran all the way home. Discipline and reasoning didn’t compute, and our only weapon left was patience, and it was in very short supply.

We all have some idea of what the transition to adolescence can do to our precious babies. Given the recounting of my own mother’s experience with locking herself in her closet away from a certain 12 year old, I knew that karma was going to slap me in the face.  I was not prepared for the reality of what it can do to a child with ADHD and anxiety and the effect it could have in combination with any medications we had chosen to give him.

In all of this darkness we had assembled a team of family, therapist and doctors working to guide us through these rough waters. Decisions were made with the best intentions but with no baseline for comparison and no crystal ball with which to foresee future effects.

If we had a crystal ball, we would have seen that medications meant to calm, relax and soothe our child were going to do the opposite. The anger and the sadness were going to be compounded and get so far out of our control that a desperation so deep would take over my 10 year old.  He was functioning on the most basic level, and our family seemed to be in a process of disintegration. We would make it day to day, but just barely, and the scars that were being left on all of us were beginning to show. With the help of our parents and his doctors, we made the call I pray no one ever needs to make, and we checked him into an inpatient psychiatric hospital for a seven day stay.

It has been a year since our struggles culminated in a final need to hit the reset button and allow a bigger, more experienced team to take the wheel with our son. His stay in the hospital was just the beginning of our road to dig out of the hole we had sunk so deeply into.  

At the time I remember thinking to myself that I should write about our experience. I should find a way to share our story, if only to connect to one other mother who was going through the same thing. I wanted so desperately for someone to connect with me, for someone to see that behind the mask I put on each day was a mother that was absolutely feeling at the end of her rope.

Embarrassment coupled with my own deepening depression kept me from sharing beyond a small circle of people. Opening up, while leaving me vulnerable to the judgement that I so feared, showed me that I am not alone. We will all have a moment of motherhood that will strip us down to our core, leaving us raw and exposed. It is these times that we need each other most.

Our experiences as mothers will all be different, as will the ways in which we choose to cope with them, but if I have learned one thing over this past year, it is that we are stronger together than alone. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to step outside of the comfort of our loneliness to begin to connect and then to begin to heal.