The Care and Feeding of Canary Moms
The biggest struggle I have writing this blog is to tell my own story and not Megan’s story. I know you’ve read her blog posts and know this: the girl is a master storyteller. I would never be able to do her story justice. But oh how much easier is it to tell someone else’s story and not do a deep dive into your own.
When I talked to Megan about this post (I was afraid she would feel guilty over this – or somehow responsible) – she said “Mom! This is the shit we need to be talking about!” She is so freaking smart (she gets that from me).
When Megan came to me for help at 15 years old, I called upon my best Type A personality traits – take charge, rally the troops, find the skills needed to solve the problem and put everything you have into it. Control all of it and you control the outcome. Most of what I did was positive; she needed me to rally the troops and help her navigate this new reality. Some of what I did - not so positive. I cut my husband out of most of Megan’s recovery. I significantly reduced my group of friends. I told family only what I wanted them to know. I can do that better, I told myself. I know what I am doing and I am better at it. Stay out.
“I will shoulder the entire load myself.” Said no healthy person, ever.
In hindsight, this had nothing to do with Megan. It is a common theme in my life. New job? Put your all into it to the exclusion of everything else in your life. Diet? Make the weight loss so dramatic your family starts to worry. Off the diet? Eat everything and gain back more weight than you lost. You get the idea. Be the best – at everything. Control. It. All.
When Megan got ready to go college, I could feel the control slipping away. So I held on harder and tried to control every aspect of the transition. I even ordered the refrigerator for her dorm because she didn’t do it on my timing. I was driving her farther away and I was making myself sick. And I completely missed her trying to tell me she needed some support.
Several weeks into college, we got a call from student services that Megan had asked for help. It was 8 am. At 8:05 am I was on the bathroom floor in a heap. All the appearance of control came crashing down. Over the course of a few weeks, I went downhill.
I stopped eating.
I walked miles. Every day. I couldn’t stop.
If Megan didn’t text me back immediately I created outrageous stories in my head.
I bombarded her with questions about her mental health.
I got to have my first experience living with crippling anxiety.
Megan was kicking mental health ass and taking names. I was failing miserably. It took a trusted friend to tell me I needed help. He didn’t mince any words – you’re sick. Find a therapist. Now.
I did. My daughter is my role model for how to work like hell to get better. Do I have moments where I go down the rabbit hole of anxiety? Oh yes. Yes I do. Lets face it, it is scary to be parents - extra interesting when we have kids with wacky brain chemistry.
I am learning the skills to recognize emotions and share them, tell shame it can go to hell, and climb back out of my rabbit hole.
Take care of yourselves Moms. I believe in you and your ability to show everyone around you that asking for support when you need it is the strongest, bravest thing you can do.