You Are Not Alone: Getting Support
When my daughter Brittany was about five years into her disease, I remember my husband calling me one morning, asking if I could take the garbage out to the curb, as he had forgotten. Now, on any “normal” day, this is no big deal, right? Well, not today… I LOST IT. Like cuckoo-crazy, someone-didn’t-have-her-morning-coffee kind of lost it. Oh boy!
I was screaming at him: “Leave me alone! I can’t do this anymore! Just leave me alone!”
I then jumped in my car and drove. I drove and I drove and I drove, trying to navigate the road through my tears, in the pouring rain, with no destination in mind. I just wanted to run away to a place where no one could ask me for another thing, ever again.
For so many years, I had tried to fix my daughter, trying new treatment centers, new medications, new doctors; navigating insurance, tracking her cell phone activity, hunting her down at a dealer’s house, getting my jewelry out of the pawn shop—you get the picture—while still trying to maintain my “pretend happy life” to the outside world, working full time, being a wife and a mother to my other daughter, and managing all of the normal responsibilities of life.
I was exhausted. Lost. Spent. Broken. While I was driving, irrational thoughts were coming through my head of wanting to drive my car right into that tree over there. I didn’t want to die, though. I just wanted my pain to go away. I wanted my ENTIRE FAMILY’S pain to go away. I felt like a failure. And very, very alone.
Do you feel me?
I stopped doing the things in life I once loved, like bike riding and spending time with friends. I had gained weight, and most days it was really difficult to get out of bed, as depression was slowly sinking in. As the day went on, I couldn’t wait for it to end, so I could go to bed, even though sleep was hard to come by most nights.
Over the years prior, I was told that I should seek support. In my head, though, I felt, “I got this. No one needs to know.” I am also type A, so that didn’t help. I am a fix-it person by trait. I love to help others—why couldn’t I help my own daughter?
I was not only losing myself, but my husband and youngest daughter were affected as well. I was present for them, but not really there, you know? My mind was usually focused on Brittany, consumed with worry and fear.
Somehow, my husband found me that day, sitting in my car, wailing in pain, in a grocery store parking lot. I will never forget his words that day.
“Katie, if anything ever happened to you, I don’t think Brittany could survive.” I knew what he meant. He didn’t mean emotionally; he meant in life. Because I was doing literally everything for her. That’s when I realized, What kind of a mother am I really being? What am I actually teaching her? I was so driven by my fear of her failing that I was actually driving myself to cuckoo land.
“Please, please get help. Go to a support group. I need you. We all need you,” he whispered, with tears in his eyes.
I knew he was right.
A few days later, I drove to a support group meeting I had found in an online search. I pulled into the parking lot of the church where it was held, slowly put the car in park, and sat there for the entire hour, sobbing, not getting out of the car.Stupid, right? But I think at the time, getting out of the car and walking in meant it was REAL—that this wasn’t just a phase my daughter was in, that I wasn’t able to “fix” her, along with my fear of anyone knowing.
The next time though, I DID walk in. I couldn’t speak, as I was so overcome with emotion, but I listened, and as I looked around the room, I remember thinking, Wow—they look just like me. I’m not alone.
That’s when my healing journey began. Learning, embracing, and engaging with those going through a similar crisis in life is the BEST thing I have ever done! Slowly, I started becoming stronger—emotionally, mentally, and yes, physically as well. I was getting my life back and my family back—and you know what the crazy thing is? Once I started to get educated and become stronger, my daughter started becoming stronger as well.
I share this with you, as I want you to know I truly understand. This can be such a very isolating disease for families, but I can promise you this: once you reach out, you’re inner transformation of healing will begin. It is time for you to get your spark back.
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