When Life And Mental Health Collide.. It’s Not Pretty.

Honestly, I’m not even sure where to start..

Let’s go back to November 2018, when a car drove into the front of my parents’ apartment. Luckily, no one was hurt. Down side? There was a huge hole in the front end of the apartment and there was no way that they could stay there until it got fixed. Cue the next few days of chaos which include my parents (ages 70 and 90 at the time.. yes, I know they are old) spending a night on the couch at a family friend’s home, a night in a hotel and then the nursing home. Why chaotic, you ask? Let me paint you a picture: my parents are elderly, disabled and in my Mom’s case, not in the best health. They’re homebodies that rarely ever leave their apartment. The stress (both mentally and physically) was not something they were prepared for and it kinda snowballed from there. Over the next few weeks, while the apartment was being repaired, my Mom’s health took a dive and she was in and out of the hospital multiple times.

Let’s fast forward a bit, shall we? It’s now Spring and my parents have spent most of the time since the “accident” in the nursing home. Why, you ask? Well, each time they were cleared to return home, my Mom refused to take proper care of herself and kept ending up back in the hospital/nursing home (which by default meant my Dad was back at the nursing home as well since he can’t be alone). I love my Mom, but she is the least motivated human being you will ever meet. Take something as simple as physical therapy, which is only asking you to get out of bed and into a wheel chair.. Nope. She doesn’t want to get up because *insert excuse here* and she will do it tomorrow. The nursing home staff are very supportive and encouraging and just want her (and my Dad) to be healthy and happy. Nope, doesn’t matter.

Now let’s move on to July. Yes, that’s right, they’re still there. My Mom still refuses to do therapy and is now at a state where her muscles don’t even know how to work anymore. She can’t get out of bed without the use of a lift to get her upright and into a chair. At this point, she is scared and angry and trying to blame anyone but herself.. especially me. Cue guilt trip phone calls about me not being there (not that I can do anything to change her behaviors or health, plus the fact I don’t live close by) and the conflicting reactions of “I give up” or “I’m just gonna let myself go”… this is my Mom, talking about not caring if she lives or dies. Here comes one of my first mental health breakdowns, which leads to last minute work coverage to have an intervention of sorts at the nursing home. I contacted my brother (who lives in the same town as my parents) as well as my therapist that I used to see when I lived in CT. We were going to have a little group therapy chat at the nursing home to see if we could figure out wtf is going on with my Mom. What’s up with my Dad during this time? Oh you know, just having anxiety attacks on and off soo bad that he’s mumbling and shaking and on the verge of another stroke. Yea, fun right? At first, I thought our little meeting went really well and for a few days my Mom started at least trying to get better.. or so I thought.

Friday, July 19th aka day one of my complete breakdown.
My brother called me to update me with everything that was going on. Long story short (yea I know, its already long) with everything that has been going on, my parents were no longer going to receive their state and government money (because it would go to the nursing home due to their prolonged stay). That meant no money to pay their bills, more specifically: their rent. Oh, and this already started so July’s rent was never paid and they are going to lose their apartment. Oh yea, and lets add in the fact that my Mom’s health just keeps getting worse instead of better. Dad? Yea, his nerves are shot and now he’s losing weight too.

Let’s recap: my parents have no money, no home and poor health. Cue atomic bomb going off in my head. Tears are streaming down my face uncontrollably, my heart is racing, my blood pressure is through the roof, I can’t catch my breath.. its all too much too fast. Through the kind words of a manager from work, as well as the support from Josh, I find a way to calm down but I’m in no way ok. My head is spinning with the fact that my parents have nothing and they are dying. I’m 37 years old and about to get married, and now I don’t even know if my parents will be around to see it. (Note: my anxiety is making itself present even now as I write this).

Saturday, July 29th aka the day it got bad, real bad.
Since it was my day off, I did my best to sleep in a bit after a very stressful evening. With everything still weighing heavily on my mind, I decided it was time to call my Mom and give her a reality check. If I was going to have to live with the realization of what was going on, so was she. The call started out very calm. I kept a very low tone and told her everything that was going through my mind and how terrified I was. Somber and serious turned into crying and semi-hysterical, on both sides. After I ended the call, I had Josh come upstairs into our room to attempt to comfort me. Little did I know, my mental health was about to take a terrible low. I could feel the chemicals exploding in my head, Imagine your brain feeling swollen, pressed up against your skull, and there are poprocks lining the inner edges and going off constantly. Now imaging that similar feeling traveling through your veins, throughout your body. No matter what I did or said, I couldn’t get rid of the pain. That’s when it happened. That’s when I did something I had never done before in my life. I cut myself.

I made it seem like I was going to be ok and told Josh he could go back downstairs. Within seconds, I had a small knife in my hands and all I could hear was my brain telling me that I had to release the pain I was feeling and that this was the only way. It made no sense to me and at the same time seemed like the only answer. It was then I made a small cut on my arm. What scared me about this the most was that I immediately felt release. It felt like I was back in control and that the pain was leaving my body. I finally understood why people felt the need to do such a thing. And then, I felt ashamed. Ashamed that I let myself get to such a bad mental state that somehow this was the answer. I immediately called Josh upstairs and explained/showed him what I did. I have never seem him look the way he did in that moment. It was an expression mixed of anger, confusing, worry and sadness all wrapped into one. Seeing him like this hurt me inside as I never wanted to have my mental health affect someone soo deeply as this was clearly affecting him. After a very serious talk, I promised him this was a one time thing and I never EVER want to get to that point again. I spent the rest of the day/night lost in my thoughts and feeling numb. Side note: Stabbing Westward is fantastic to listen to when you’re in a weird state of mind, as I was.

Sunday, July 21st aka the day the straw broke (me).
I was still feeling very emotionally weak and fragile but I did not want to abandon work. A very sweet coworker was kind enough to cover the first couple hours of my shift for me so that I could attempt to get a little extra rest in hopes it will make the day easier. Within minutes of starting my shift, I was hit hard with an anxiety attack like no other. Josh was standing next to me, rubbing my back, as I fought to catch my breath. I couldn’t stop shaking, tears were streaming down my face, I felt like I was going to pass out. Nothing I did would calm me down. I informed my boss that I might need to go to the ER and she told me to sign off immediately and go take care of myself. Deciding to go to the hospital for mental health reasons is a very hard and scary decision to make, but its also the right one. On the car ride there, I was terrified that they were going to think I was crazy and hold me for 24 hours or longer. I cried to Josh, begging him not to let them hold me and that I was scared, not crazy. I was going to the hospital because I was having a mental health breakdown which triggered an anxiety attack that I couldn’t come down from and needed help. The hospital staff were very kind and considerate. After assessing that I was not a danger to myself or others, the doctor talked to me a bit more about what was going on with me and then made the decision to give me Valium in hopes it would calm me down. At first, it worked, until I started to worry about getting back to work the rest of my shift which triggered a mini attack but I was able to calm back down thanks to the help of the medication in my system as well as Josh being by my side at all times. After a little bit, the doctor came back to check on me and felt comfortable releasing me as long as I promised to take the rest of the day to relax and heal. As we were leaving, I reported back to my boss and she insisted that I take a small leave of absence until the following Sunday so that I could heal and tend to the issues with my parents. I am beyond grateful for having such a brilliant and caring boss. She is one of the strongest females I know and I am honored to call her a friend.

The next couple days are spent visiting my parents and getting a game plan together with my brother and another family friend regarding the apartment. My brother and his amazing wife had already done a very very large portion of the work (seriously, I don’t know how they did it all soo fast). Sorting through boxes and bags that had accumulated over the 10 years of living in that apartment (most of that time I resided there as well) was both therapeutic and sad. While we were in town, I also had a therapy session with my former-but-kinda-current therapist to discuss everything that had been happening over the last few days and the things that laid ahead of us. Therapy is very underrated. Once you find the right person, like I did, it can be a life changer and an enhancer. Don’t be afraid to see a therapist, just do your research first to find the right fit.

On Friday, we took one last trip to the old apartment to pick up a few more things that I would be bringing back to our apartment. Seeing the place empty felt hollow in my chest. Soo many years, soo many memories. Everything was erased, as if it never happened. As if we never happened. But I was ok. We were ok. After a deep breath and a tear or two, I locked the door one last time and closed that chapter of my life and with it went some of the pain I had been holding on to.

Before heading back, we visited my parents for a bit. They were both in good spirits and seemed more like their old selves again. It was a relief to feel like life was coming back to them, even if their health was still the same. It’s hard coming to terms with the fact that your parents are aging and getting to that stage in their life where every day is a gift. In the back of my mind, I’m always worrying I’m going to get “the call”. I’m not ready to lose my parents, but then again, can you ever really be ready? For now, I need to focus on the good things and the tiny improvements here and there, no matter how small they may be. My parents are safe and being well taken care of at the nursing home. It’s ok to breathe.

As I write this, it has now been a week since those three rough days have passed. Am I better? No, but I am healing. Am I going to be ok? Perhaps, but with mental health there really is no way of knowing. All we can do is live our best life, take deep breaths and focus on better days ahead. Shit gets dark and scary sometimes, but there is always a light.. you just have to look hard to find it. Sometimes you can find it instantly, other times it can feel like you’re never going to find it and then slowly it starts to appear. It’s ok to be afraid. It’s ok to be confused. It’s ok to not be ok.