Three Tiny Blue Pills Make Me A “Functional” Mom
What’s your cocktail? Mine is three little pills. One oval blue — Abilify to help my “ups” not go so “up” and my “downs” not go so “down” — to keep me even-keeled.
One round white pill— Lexapro to help with anxiety and depression.
And a third pill, recently added to the mix, a blue and white one that sounds like a tiny maraca when you shake it next to your ear. Methylphenidate — a stimulant designed to calm down my ever-wandering, ever-pondering ADHD brain.
And somehow, all three pills are supposed to work together to turn me into some sort of functional human and functional parent. (The jury’s still out on that.)
From when I got pregnant with my first son until the demise of my marriage — a span of five years — I lived somewhat successfully on just one of these little pills: Lexapro was all I thought I needed to navigate and handle life.
But under the surface, my hurts, habits, and hang-ups were piling up — so fast and so powerfully that at the age of 33, I found myself being voluntarily checked into the psych ward, chaperoned by my older sister, as my world fell apart and I lost the will to live.
What caused my world to crash down around me? Was it my untreated ADHD? My untreated bipolar disorder that had been mislabeled as depression? Was it years of living with my husband’s active alcoholism? Was it being hurled into surgeries when my second son was born with a cleft palate? Was it my own inability to make wise and healthy choices for myself?
Yes — and also no. And also, who knows? And quite honestly, who cares?
My reality right now is a cocktail of medications, an ex-husband, two children, a demanding job, and a trauma therapist to see me through it all.
I’m in uncharted territory I never planned on exploring, living a life I never planned on living, and questioning a God I never planned on questioning — which I think makes me … human?
A human, of course, whose brain doesn’t work quite as society demands it should. But I’m still standing and still find life worth living, even if it’s not always easy or pleasant.
Living as a divorced, single parent with active mental illness is not a road for the faint of heart, but it’s a road I know I don’t walk alone. And so I get up every day and continue to walk it, even though it often feels like I’m drowning.
My biggest motivation is my kids. They’re a constant reminder that no matter how dark life seems, there’s always a sliver of life that shines brightly.
On the days and moments, I want to give up, and the darkness starts to take over, a little voice pulls me towards the light in the form of my responsibility to create a world where they feel safe, known, and loved.
Also, I do the work. The really hard work.
Since leaving the psych ward a little over a year ago, I’ve followed the directives of my psychiatrist and found a trauma therapist to work with.
These amazing professionals force me to investigate the places of deep hurt in my life and grieve the broken dreams that make up my life. Grieving means I take time out of every day to intentionally be sad: To be sad that my marriage fell apart. To be angry that my brain simply can’t function without medication. To be scared that I’ll fail my children, or worse, that one or both will inherit a brain that misfires like mine.
When I choose to face the sadness head-on, it doesn’t have as much of an opportunity to surprise me. It puts me on offence instead of defence.
I’ve also had to learn to embrace simple forms of self-regulation. Getting to the gym isn’t an option for me as it might be for others. It’s a necessary habit that eases anxiety, releases endorphins, and helps release my brain from the fog that is ADHD.
Journaling isn’t a hobby, but a discipline that helps me to unravel all the racing thoughts that come with my mental illness. Some days I really don’t want to do either of these things and instead hide under a rock and cry. But I know my body and mind work better when I do these things, so I persist.
Finally, I practice radical acceptance.
I accept that I can’t change the past, no matter how hard I kick, scream, cry or fight.
I accept that a part of living in my mind means that there will be moments of extreme darkness and extreme ecstasy, and instead of trying to get off the roller coaster, I buckle myself in and hang on tight.
I also recognize that I’m not the only one on this roller coaster we call life; I share the ride with friends and family who are also navigating their own regrets, pain, fears, and failures. Together, we all take a deep breath and hold on.