I wrote this post in honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day, although I didn’t complete it on time! That was to be expected, as I have almost zero spare time these days. Between another out-of-province move, completing tasks during my final weeks at work, managing my small (tiny) business, and grinding through the daily routines with my preschoolers, it’s a wonder that I even get time to sleep (I do, not enough, but I do sleep). I do a really GREAT job of making it all look easy, like I’ve got it all under control, but inside my head – its organized chaos. Emphasis on chaos.
I feel as though burnout has been lurking in dark places around me for about 6 months now. It’s been hiding around the corner, waiting to jump out and capture me, although it has tapped my shoulder and ran away a few times (if I had to personify burnout, it would look like The Grinch, in black).
It may have started with a personal struggle which involved not having control in a certain situation, which I am learning to let go of. I didn’t know how hard it would be to explore this part of me, and especially how long it would take to shed this inner demand to control the direction of my life. I am still working on it; it continues to be a battle for me, almost daily.
I can say I hit “rock bottom” more than once, but it wasn’t until recently that the truth paid me a visit through a stranger. While I was trying to put my state of mind into words, my kids’ new pediatrician diagnosed me at first sight. Let me tell you this story.
Back in December, I took my two kids to their blood work follow-up appointment with a new doctor. I chose to switch their pediatricians because I felt the former doctor was too lax. I had seen this new lady at a walk-in appointment and was instantly impressed by her wisdom (or what I then thought was wisdom).
As a mother who was at her wit’s end about her daughter’s poor appetite and son’s hyperactivity, this follow-up was either gonna make or break me. After weeks of intense worry over my kids’ behaviours, this meeting was crucial. I went without my husband and took the kids out of daycare at the start of nap time because I couldn’t be bothered to accommodate schedules. This was almost urgent, and I was high-strung. Fortunately, results were great. I was told things that were pleasant and unpleasant, but it wasn’t until the doctor was on her way out the door that the daggers came shooting straight at me.
She brought her fleeting attention to me for a quick minute to say something along the lines of, ‘Supermoms can have ADHD. If you don’t manage it now, it can lead to burnout and ultimately depression. You will then get treatment for depression but all along the issue is ADHD.’ As she spoke, the tears that held their ground all day came rolling out, and that was her cue to leave. She left. I gathered myself quickly and left the clinic with the kids.
I cried again once I settled the kids in the car, I cried when my husband got home, I cried after the kids went to bed, and I cried myself to sleep that night (I surely took the following day off work). It was roughly 8 hours of heartbreak, confusion, and defeat that I kept playing in my mind over and over again until I gave in to the exhaustion and called it a night. It had stung to hear those words because they came from someone who knows nothing about me, although it was precisely what I felt and feared all these months. The truth stung: I’m not supermom, I’m a multi-tasking she-beast who can run out of fuel and free fall into an emotional void at any given moment if I don’t take a break. Still 2 months since that appointment, I sometimes I feel like I’m on the brink of burnout.
At some point, wanting to do it all went from being a simple goal-getter to battling mom-guilt. This mom-guilt term is REAL. It consumed me without notice. Guilt about not being present, not being active enough, not cooking fun meals, not taking them to museums, not giving them enough extra curriculars, not working hard enough to elevate my career and be a role model for my daughter, not being “with it” enough to answer all my son’s questions, not being patient enough, picking them up later from daycare, dropping them off too early at daycare, giving them a cookie at night, holding them back from “too much sugar”, guilt for leaving them with a babysitter, guilt for not feeding or paying that babysitter, guilt for even asking that person to babysit in the first place, the list goes on and on. Mom-guilt continues to consume me at times. I’m trying to forgive myself as I tell myself to downsize my tasks and goals. It hasn’t happened yet.
There are things that I’m getting better at:
- asking for help/accepting help
- breathing – in from the nose, out from the mouth
- reading books, even if it’s two pages a week
- TALKING about my feelings
- not worrying about a messy house
Things that I still have to work on:
- asking for help/accepting help
- forgiving myself
- letting go of things that are not in my hands
- speaking to a professional
Things that have always worked for me:
- speaking to my doctor about my anxiety
- looking at my family history
- not comparing myself to others
- being open-minded and enlightened about the issues mothers/women face
Aside from my background in special needs education, the #BellLetsTalk initiative played a role in giving me courage to speak up about mental health education. Like myself, many others have taken steps to be proactive and challenge the stigma of mental illness. In fact, 4 out of 5 Canadians reported having this awareness since the start of Bell Let’s Talk.
I am no where near being the confident and balanced person I used to be pre-motherhood, but I know she’s still inside me waiting for the right moment to shine. If this post does any service to its readers at all, let it be a gentle nudge in the direction of self-acceptance and ownership of our imperfections. Let this post also serve as a reminder to be kind to others, as you never know what difficulties people face behind the scenes.