13 March 2020 was nothing special. Aside from it being my sweet sister in law’s birthday with my brother’s (her husband) following the next day. Life was full of the usual ups and downs with a lot of laughter thrown in the middle. And I expected life to continue on in this way.
That Friday, the kids came home from school, as usual, we talked about the day, and they scampered off their separate ways to play with their friends and begin their weekend.
“No School!” was Keith’s battle cry.
That evening, I received an email from the school stating that until Spring Break was over, 3 weeks later, school was temporarily shut down. I was very surprised, not being an avid news consumer. I had only heard whisperings of a deadly virus half a world away. I was not aware that said tiny virus could be so intrusive and disruptive of the gentle rhythm of our lives.
The kids relished the extra time away from school while I adapted to the sudden surprise of having them all home all of the time. The school offered free breakfasts and lunches, which was a wonderful and much needed excuse to leave the house daily.
3 weeks turned into 3 months of adapting and learning. When it was apparent to everyone that this wasn’t just going to go away, we all had to learn a new normal.
And the weight I had so valiantly been carrying quadrupled over night. Not that I was carrying an excessive amount, but having all 5 kids home all day, trying to help the older 3 to get their school work done, suddenly becoming aware that my girls most definitely have attention problems, juggling class calls and teacher calls two-three times a week per child, and not neglecting the 2 and 3 year old kids was very difficult. But in this house we adjust and adapt, and that is what I did.
Jeffrey started working from home, and that was incredibly helpful. He could take 10 minute breaks here and there to help me with the little boys. But the truth is, they were woefully neglected as the needs of the older kids were a little more pressing and time sensitive. Beth was the hardest to help. She was in first grade and some nights we stayed up until 9:30 trying to finish her homework because I just couldn’t make her sit still long enough to complete the daily 4 pages she needed to do. It was so hard for everyone because their school is very hands on, and they don’t really have worksheets in class so it was all very foreign to them.
But the neglected and ignored 2 and 3 year olds, they are the most amazing, most adorable, and most ingenious antagonists in this narrative.
Whilst doing school time with my 3 very adhd children, Vince and Kip became feral children. It seemed that every time I turned around, they had made another mess. I can't tell you how many times they "made it snow" in the living room with our 5 gallon bucket of flour that I kept in the closet for bread baking. They did it enough times, that I don't think I have made bread since the pandemic began, because of the ptsd associated with it.
I think there has been quite a lot of ptsd building going on here, honestly. And I am not saying that in jest. Those boys really did a number on me.
The pandemic dragged on. And on. And on.
I did my best to juggle all of the balls in the air. We scraped by and ended the school year with huge sighs of relief from everyone except Keith. School at home was his JAM! That boy was so happy doing school work from home. He could get a week's worth of work done in a day, and then spend the rest of the week happily doing whatever he wanted. He really thrived at home with his personal study. I debated for a very long time whether or not to let him do home school. He really wanted to do it. But the fact of the matter is, Keith is far too much of an introvert. He would very happily never leave the house if he could help it. He needs to be out, amongst people, forced to be social and to learn interactive people skills.
Summer flew by, the next school year began, things were weird, but we pushed through it. Vince started preschool. He loved it. I loved the time I had together with Kip, and I tried to reclaim him from his feral state. Things started to get better, except the boys were getting better at being curious and making messes because that is what they do.
Except January 2021 began.
And with it, a deep dark cloud settled around my head, like a halo of darkness. I had trouble seeing anything outside of that cloud. I was suddenly living inside of a black hole, nearly suffocating from the constant unbearable pressure. I felt completely overwhelmed and broken. On Valentine's Day, I tried very hard to make things nice for an evening with Jeffrey. I straightened my hair because the weirdo prefers straight hair, and carefully applied my makeup. I felt pretty. And then I left my bedroom.
I think this was the defining point. The point where I realized that reality was slowly ebbing away from me and if I didn't act fast, I might never regain my faculties again. I became a mom-beast and shouted at the kids to get to their bedroom and to not come out again the rest of the day. And then I collapsed on the rug, sobbing, feeling like I had utterly failed. Jeffrey came up and coaxed me through my meltdown, we cleaned up the ketchup.
***side note: Did you know that shaving cream can get ketchup out of carpet? I was a skeptic at first but am now an amazed believer!***
*****Side side note: When I was finally calm enough to ask them, I learned that the kids were playing detectives. Every good detective gets to solve a murder. Every good murder has lots of blood. Obviously the only thing that would work for blood is ketchup. Obviously!*****
I eventually called my sister that night and she suggested I was dealing with depression. Because I was tired all of the time. Because I so often felt overwhelmed. Because of a lot of things. I reached out to the mental health specialist in my ward, and she confirmed depression. She also suggested I was dealing with some ptsd that I need to work through. I talked to yet another counselor who had the same diagnosis. 3 times depression and 2 times ptsd. For the record, my sister is a licensed therapist, as is her husband. The lady from my church works for the county behavioral and health department, so these weren't just random people, they are people I trust, who have degrees and credentials.
After grappling with this for a few months, I finally made an appointment to see my doctor. He confirmed depression. Except I have never felt like I have depression. I just thought it was part of having 5 kids, two of which were slightly feral. I bounced around from medication to medication for a while, never finding one that actually worked.
And then I took Keith in to see him because Keith has some pretty intense anxiety. While talking, the doctor suggested I have ADHD...
... and suddenly all of the pieces fell into place.
A lot of the signs of depression are also signs of ADHD, apparently. Always being tired is contributed to a great many things, one of them being mental exhaustion which completely tires out the body. A feeling of overwhelm is another sign. Feeling like you just can't do your job (for me it was to be a good mom) is often attributed to something called impostor syndrome, which again, is a sign of ADHD. The more I learn about it, the more I can plainly see how much I have been trying to do, completely taking the wrong approach, and making things so much harder on myself! Today was an exciting day, because I finally got to quit the depression medication (which I honestly feel made things worse)! While that diagnosis still hovers over my head, I 100% believe that it is incorrect because all of the things that people think are depression, are really just signs of ADHD that have been misdiagnosed.
Life is still teetering on the brink of a black hole, it seems. But I would much rather be teetering on the brink than crushed within it! However, I am now better able to see my triggers and to understand what is going on, and so be able to counter it. Sometimes.
Other times, I just feel like I am going mad.
Baby steps, you know?