It was a personality test that broke me, a stupid internet quiz.
My Myers-Briggs had never failed me before. ENFJ all the way, baby. Every description, no matter the unique context, (“What should you read next according to your Myers-Brigg personality test?” or “What your Myers-Briggs test says about what kind of friend you are?”) had me nodding in agreement at the light-hearted fun of it all.
I read my husband’s description (INTJ) out loud to him, describing “your parenting style according to your personality.”
“Yeah, that sounds like me,” he agreed.
Then I read mine to him.
“Huh. That doesn’t really sound like you.”
“I mean, maybe when you are with the kids one on one but when you’re with all of them…it just overwhelms you.”
There was another moment of silence where no words came but a rush of emotion rose from a deep pain within my soul.
“…I know!” I whispered, my voice thick with sudden tears. “I know. They overwhelm me. I am so overwhelmed. I can’t…I’m just…
…I really think I’m depressed.”
“I think you are too.”
We spent the next three hours talking, interjected with long periods of silence while I cried or tried to find the words to describe how I’d been feeling for the last few months intensely, or if I’m really honest, the last few years intermittently.
People talk about first steps all the time:
The first step is admitting you have a problem.
The first step is the hardest.
The first step is saying it out loud and not just in your head or to Google (“Am I depressed?” “Signs of depression” “Depression in moms with special needs kids”).
The first step is also exhausting, like you’ve run a marathon and you just want to lay down and not get up for a long, long time.
But the first step also brought my fears and suspicions to light. I lifted that heavy burden out of my head, held it in front of me and said the words out loud.
I’ve taken a lot more first steps this week.
I met with a counselor for the first time.
She listened while I spoke in long quavering narratives about myself and my sons, about Autism and ADHD and the Air Force, about quitting my job, about 4 year olds with big emotions, toddlers who still do not sleep through the night, and this crazy life change that is happening in a matter of months.
I said things about my soul-struggle with motherhood, my radical journey of mothering beyond my expectations, which I had never said to anyone.
After listening to my story and asking many questions (how are you sleeping? Not well. Are you having trouble with concentration or remembering things? Yes). She said two things that struck me as profoundly true:
“You are,” she said slowly, “dealing with stressors that are beyond the normal mothering experience.”
“This is clinical depression.”
I also met with my midwife, who spent over an hour discussing possible physiological components that I may be dealing with as well. Together, this woman who walked me through my miscarriage and then delivered Eli, we made a plan to help me get better.
So many first, exhausting steps.
There’s a certain shame that comes with admitting I need help.
It’s humiliating to admit that I am weak and I can’t handle my own life.
But when I told a small group of friends what was going on in my life, they came along side me with such love and encouragement. My wise friend Lauren told me this:
“I think there is a large misconception that counseling is for “those too weak to deal.” I feel it is the opposite. I feel that counseling is for the strong ones who are committed to the simple fact that there HAS to be a better way to walk through this life.”
I am not superwoman or supermom and I am really struggling right now.
But with faith, and hope, and prayer, and Dear God, there has got to be a better way to walk through this life, I am taking steps to get better.
My counselor gave me a lot of advice about my sleep issues. She encouraged me to fling open the curtains in the morning to let the light in.
I struggle to wake up in the morning. I never feel rested and my mood is always extremely low.
But I decided to take her advice. When I open my eyes in the morning, I don’t try to hide. I part the curtains and pull the cord to turn the blinds.
The light floods in, into my room, into my weary eyes.
And I can feel myself waking up, literally waking up, as the sun fills me up.
I’m letting in the light.
It’s a first step.
It may seem odd that I am sharing such personal information publically on my blog. I know I am guilty of over-sharing (a sin of bloggers everywhere).
But I know for me, when I can read the story of someone who is going through difficulty that resonates with my challenge, it helps me to be brave.
It helps me think, “If she can do it, I can too.”
So, if you are reading my story today and you need to take the first step too, you can do it.
Stop Googling symptoms.
Talk candidly to your spouse or a friend.
Call your doctor.
Set up a counseling appointment.
The first step is the hardest but you are brave. You aren’t “too weak to deal.” You are strong because you are looking for answers for a better way to walk through this life.