West Michigan mom: “When did I become broken?”

Mental health struggle fuels journey to overcome the stigma

sarah-wright-featured

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of WOTV 4 Women, its staff and/or contributors to this site.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)-  Life does not come with an easy button or a manual. Life is an encounter, one where we are provided limited direction and multiple roads to choose from. The roads are either too easy and result in going nowhere, or they are bumpy, and difficult resulting in either a life lesson, reward, or both.

I believe it’s safe to say that everyone goes through challenges, and that there are some people who handle it better than others. There also are people who face these challenges head on and others who remain in denial. Some people become comfortable in their patterns, feeling safe, giving them limited reasons to change their ways so they maintain as is. My story is no different from others who have their own stories. It is though my story.  I made the decision to change and face my fears, overcoming the odds.

Where it began….

I became a divorced single Mom of two highly active boys each with their own special needs. My marriage crumbled due to incompatibility and having different life goals. I put my home up for sale which it sold within two months, got a new job, and moved to a new town where I knew no one but my boys. I ran like a freight train, never pausing to think, or stop to grieve.

I did what I felt was necessary, and what I felt needed to be done. Life took a course of its own. I reached out to my parents and sister for a lot of support during that time. I connected with spirituality and connecting with a higher power to see me through the difficult times.

Sarah Wright boys
Pictured: Sarah’s sons Credit: Sarah Wright

My oldest son is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. His umbrella is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, sensory deregulation, anxiety, and mild autism.  My youngest was a happy baby so it was made easy to focus on my oldest. I mutually lost full time employment to my oldest needs and therapy, and was in financial distress as a result.

My support was limited. I had reached out to many different organizations and services for my son. My life had become spending time in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and therapy sessions for my son. My youngest was evaluated and is considered to be typical; it was noted that he does environmental mimicking and is considered to be behavioral, attention seeking, which I am working to shape. I feel my job as a parent is to show and teach love, acceptance, safety, and how to be a good person.

Getting screened for mental health

In the summer of 2014 I went in for my annual physical with my primary doctor after a series of questions she suggested I be screened for mental health. This took me by surprise, but I agreed to have the social worker come in and screen me. It was determined I had moderate depression. I was spending a lot of time sleeping, having family step in to watch the boys, and neglecting myself.  I was seeking temporary relief, but any road I traveled lead me back to feeling depressed.

Choose your personality that matching you
Credit: Thinkstock

I had a childhood diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and during my teen years I was labeled as having a co-occurring mood disorder. In my mid-twenties it was confirmed that Attention Deficit Disorder had followed me into my adult hood, and I was susceptible to depression, and anxiety. There were years that I self-medicated and sought the thrills of life with little regard to danger or following my gut instinct.

“There were years that I self-medicated and sought the thrills of life with little regard to danger or following my gut instinct.”

I worked with therapist, doctors, and psychiatrists to help manage these symptoms and continue pressing forward with life, and yet in 2014 I did not recognize the depression. I did not notice what everyone else around me saw. I had gained 48 lbs in five years span, and had dumped my parenting duties off on my family as much as possible. I retreated into my own space and world, escaping life as much as possible. I took residence in my emotional mind.

Once I bounced back I would do well for a while. I was involved in social activities, continuing to try and improve all areas of life. I was able to lose 40 lbs of the weight I had gained. I was known to be a confident, strong, kind, loving, compassionate, passionate, advocating woman. On the flip side I was known to be impulsive, obsessive, unsettled, ambivalent, too strong, and moody. It was difficult for me to separate events; to me life was a snowball effect and affected me as such.  I was not making wise mind choices in regards to dating or parenting, and was still neglecting me.

Searching for me…

mental-health-quote

 

I spent the end of 2015 searching for me. I was beginning to be aware, and seeking positive change. I was going to cognitive therapy on my own terms, and involving my family in church. I was not yet ready to be completely honest with myself, or accept this is where life was at. I was battling an ongoing inner struggle.

In winter of 2016 the wave came in, but did not tide back out. I made an impulsive, reckless decision that caused a downward spiral not only for me, but my sons as well. The significance of this downward spiral was that it caused impact in every area of my life. It caused my sons to deregulate, placed my job in jeopardy, and was burning bridges with close friends and family. This wave was not improving but only getting worse for all three of us. I had to swallow my pride and become a consumer of services. My son was receiving case management services through the Montcalm Care Network (Community Mental Health in Stanton, Michigan) and I had to go in myself and seek treatment. I remember feeling scared, sick to my stomach, unsure, and yet at the same time relief. This was my cornerstone, and opportunity to change.

“I had to go in myself and seek treatment. I remember feeling scared, sick to my stomach, unsure, and yet at the same time relief. This was my cornerstone, and opportunity to change.”

I went through a two-day assessment. I remember the clinician saying, “Are you ready to hear what I am putting down as a diagnosis?” I was hesitant. She explained that my Axis 1 diagnosis would basically stay the same except instead of continuing with co-occurring mood disorder she was stating that she was seeing major depressive episode disorder. I agreed with her. She continued, stating that she was adding an Axis 2 diagnosis. I was not prepared for this. I was coming to get services for my family, counseling or medications, not a new diagnosis.  She told me she saw a version of post-traumatic stress syndrome that would require dialectical behavior therapy (learning how to regulate emotions), and in place of case management we’d now receive intensive family services.

I remember being angry, frustrated, and upset. At first I wouldn’t allow her to go over the diagnosis with me. I just remember thinking, “How can this be possible? Why this diagnosis? When did I become broken?”

I remember being angry, frustrated, and upset. At first I wouldn’t allow her to go over the diagnosis with me. I just remember thinking, “How can this be possible? Why this diagnosis? When did I become broken?”

She asked me why I didn’t like this diagnosis. I remember telling her, “because there is no pill to cure this, it’s going to take work, and there is a lot of stigma associated with this diagnosis.” She assured me that I had already started doing the work as I was at Montcalm Care Network to receive services.

I was taught I had disorders, and deficits. The disorders I had were physical, and neurological, and yet in reality I had to come to terms with my own stigma that I did have a mental illness. I had been impacted by genetics, environment, and life’s ups and downs. Now it was time to do the work that it takes to heal, and precede into recovery.  I recognized as if in a flash that I had made many significant life changes in a short period of time, and never took the responsibility to grieve or care for myself. I had taken care of everyone else, and retreated to escape when it came time to process these transitions.

Where I am now…

Currently; I am in dialectical behavior group therapy once a week, and receive individual therapy once a week and family therapy once a week. We also work with a family support aide two times a week to help connect the relationships between me and the boys; I consider her to be like Nanny Jo off television she coaches me and teaches me love and logic techniques.  I spent those beginning years not present and dumping my parental duties on others, due to what I know and recognize now was depression.

stay at home mom
West Michigan mom and her two boys

It has become time for me to take back the control of my household and show my children love by giving them the discipline and boundaries that they crave, and resist at the same time. I am continuing to work part time, and manage my life in a positive manner. I have my days that set me back, but now I have skills that will help me precede forward. I have access to D.B.T. phone coaching with an on call therapist 24 hours a day if needed, all services provided through the Montcalm Care Network.

I am overcoming odds; healing a mental illness, being a single mom, caring and advocating for my boys, and improving my own self-care by working, and finding joy in life, building relationships, recognizing awareness, and acknowledging that I am capable of a full and healthy life. I am knocking down walls that I put up, and realize I have love and passion inside of me, and that I can find the courage to share and take chances to experience life. I can be my own worst enemy and hardest on myself. I am learning how to be patient and that none of this comes with a quick fix, but with effort it will in time.

“I am knocking down walls that I put up, and realize I have love and passion inside of me, and that I can find the courage to share and take chances to experience life.”

Overcoming the stigma

The truth is I am doing the best I can and am learning to do better. I am becoming mindful and less taking up residence in my emotional mind. I am realizing life does not always have to be filled with chaos, stress, or uncertainty, but rather it is okay to be doing okay, and that it’s okay for things to go well and allow happiness, and peace to occur.  I am taking my boys out into the community and spending time with them both together and individually, celebrating all of our successes. I am learning to release the guilt and shame I have felt, and overcome the stigma I allowed myself to have. I recognize that we as a community need to normalize mental illness and receiving services. 1:4 have a diagnosed mental illness, it really is time to stomp the stigma and continue to educate the public about mental illness.

West michigan stay at home mom
West Michigan mom and her boys.

I am finally being honest with myself so that I can reach my life goals. I am feeling a lot of support and encouragement through this process. I have people in my life who accept me for who I am.  I encourage anyone who is struggling to please not feel guilt, ashamed, or allow fear to cripple you from seeking help, there are resources available for any difficulty you are struggling with, and every county has a community mental health and services waiting to serve you. You too can overcome the odds and discover the purpose you have to live a healthy life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s