Cassanda and I have designated Friday to be a day to reminisce about things from the past. At first we tried to reminisce about things in the future, but it got a little boring. Today I wanted to talk a little about my mental health and how it has played into our family. I plan to get a little personal here in the hopes that someone reading and going through the same thing will not feel like they are alone.
A couple of years before I met Cassanda was the first time that I learned firsthand what depression really was. Before this time, I was unfortunately under the impression that depression was something that you could just snap out of if you were a good enough person. I quickly learned that I was quite wrong. For a couple of weeks at the end of my Sophomore year in college, I had a mild depressive episode. It was at the end of the semester and I began to feel like I was a burden on all who came in contact with me. Luckily for me, it went away after a few weeks and I had a depression free summer.
After returning back to school the next fall, I began to get depressed again, this time was much worse. I started taking online depression tests every night, and most of them said that I needed to get to the doctors immediately. I thought, I’m fine, I can handle it, until the suicidal thoughts began. I mainly felt that I needed to get away from everyone, so as not to be a burden on them, I thought that if I could go out into the wilderness somewhere, that everyone would be free from my presence and then they could all be happy. When not in a depressed state, that seems silly, but when you are depressed, it is very real. This time it lasted for 2 months. It finally let up when I started to get some better sleep, sometimes ear plugs can save the soul.
As the depression faded away, a constant anxiety stayed in its place, I’d like to say that the anxiety stayed around for a while and then left too, but alas, he has been my constant companion ever since. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live anxiety free, even for just a minute.
Ok, so fast forward another year and I meet this wonderful friend, Cassanda. We get married, graduate, have a baby and then I start back to Graduate School. Steven, our first, was a pretty good baby, but got into the habit at about 9 months of the bored screech. I don’t know if you know what that is, hopefully not, but it is basically a loud screeching scream out of nowhere at random intervals throughout the day. This for me was horrible. I went from being an anxious young man that was able to cope to a very anxious old man that had frequent panic attacks when the screeching would explode out of Steven. I’ve often wondered if the panic attacks that I have are really panic attacks as I’ve heard others describe panic attacks as a slowly building panic that stays for a half an hour or more. These were more of a very fast building explosion which usually culminated in me breaking whatever I had on hand, hitting myself in the head, or both, not fun. Over the years I have destroyed several cell phones, put holes in multiple doors and walls and given myself a load of headaches. I wanted to note that these panic attacks have never been aimed at anyone but myself.
So we somehow make it through graduate school and I’m on my second post graduate school job when we find out that we are having a set of twins. The only problem is that I don’t have the mental ability to care for the 2 we have, by myself. For example, every Wednesday before the twins came, Cassanda had a 6:00pm meeting. The boys had an 8:00 bedtime. Each Wednesday went something like this, Cassanda leaves at 6:00 and Jacob immediately goes and hides from the boys. At 6:30, a full hour and a half before bedtime, Jacob puts Steven and Christopher to bed. This goes on every week.
So we are expecting twins now and Cassanda, being the smart woman that she is, insists that I go to the doctor to get onto medication, so I go. After a couple of weeks the anxiety drops down to a bare minimum. I wondered how in the world I had dealt with this for so many years. Unfortunately, after about 6 months, the anxiety came back. Fortunately, the panic attacks only happen 1 or 2 times a year, instead of multiple times a week, and now the father that couldn’t even watch 2 kids at home can take 10 kids to the grocery stores and live to tell the tale.
For those of you out there suffering, I understand, it is hard. I have setbacks too, like the time our family was at the store and I was so depressed that I handed Cassanda my wallet, keys and cell phone and headed off walking down the street with the plan to keep walking until I died. But overall, I have learned to cope with the constant anxiety, maybe not cope well, but cope. Fortunately my anxiety is not linked directly to the kids, having more kids has not increased the anxiety, it has increased the tiredness though. I know it may be little comfort now, but things can and do get better. Keep your head up, if you can, and know that there are others out there dealing with the same things. You are not alone.