I know this girl. This woman, actually. My heart breaks for her. The things she’s told me—they make me want to throw up. I question how she has made it so far in this life. How strong she must be. The life she’s been given, it’s incredibly sad. It’s painful. And it’s really unbelievable.
Can you imagine questioning every single thing you’ve done for the past 23 years? Seriously, every single thing? Every thought you’ve had, every decision you’ve made, every word you’ve said? She questions herself about them. Over and over and over. She panics about what the consequences could possibly be and if she or her family will be the one in a million that they happen to. She worries day and night (because unless she’s heavily medicated she can’t sleep) about her family, her children, her husband, her parents. How awful it’s been for them. How unfair. How they didn’t ask for this life. For this mom, for this daughter. How they deserve so much more.
Yet her main job is to care for these people. She loves them so deeply, so intensely, and wants nothing but the absolute best for them. As she’s going through her day-to-day, their day-to-day, she wonders: Why didn’t they sleep well? Is something wrong? Why is she so tired? So quiet? Did I cook the meat long enough? Did I wash the fruit enough? Are they getting enough nutrition? Is she drinking too much milk? Is she lonely? Why am I her best friend? I’m afraid if I have a bad thought, it will come true. Did I turn the flat-iron off? I’m not sure – better turn the car around and go check. Are there heavy metals in this? What about the fragrance in this detergent? I saw on the news it could be dangerous. Yuck, don’t touch that, it’s germy. This dressing room/bathroom is sending me into a full-blown panic attack. When we’re at the doctor’s office, don’t touch anything. Don’t get too close to people. I’ll have them use hand-sanitizer when we leave. Is the dog okay? What was that bump in the road? Did I just hit someone? Did I just hit an animal? I didn’t see anything. Did I make sure they know I love them all in case I never see them again? Do they really, really know how much I love them?
She feels constant guilt about past choices and constant fear about present ones.
She prays to God and her guardian angels several times a day, giving thanks and asking for protection. She’s afraid if she doesn’t do it right, if she is not devoting all her attention to the prayers, they won’t be answered. She’s afraid that any decision she makes may result in God punishing her or her family.
She feels excruciating guilt because she knows she is blessed with so much. She has a wonderful family, a supportive husband, and two amazing, beautiful, wonderful, and healthy children. They have a roof over their heads and food in their tummies. She has talent and people who care about her. And, still, she is depressed. That depression, it never goes away, it’s always lurking there somewhere and she feels so badly because she feels she is taking everything for granted and that everyone, including God, will believe her to be ungrateful. She’s not. She’s extraordinarily thankful, more so than she could ever put into words, but, honestly, she knows she’s not fully enjoying her life. She knows that, if she’s telling the truth, she can’t. She physically can’t.
But she carries on. She puts on a smile the best that she can, even when she’s terrified to get out of bed. She drives to the school, the park, the playdates, and involves herself as much as she can. She plays with her kids, tries her best to make them feel special, and makes sure to spend special times with both of them. She plans family vacations and makes sure the family sits together for dinner every night. She constantly reminds them how special they are as people and how special they are to her.
There are days that she is convinced everyone in her life would be better off without her. She rationalizes that, if she were to just go, just rid her loved ones of this, of her, their lives would be so much better, so much easier. Her husband and children wouldn’t have to see her scared, panicked, frightened, sad, tired, or worried. They wouldn’t have to live with this shadow over their lives as well. She feels like it would be like when a very sick loved one passes on—there’s a sigh of relief, and the family members can go back to living, to not being worried all the time, to not having such negativity and difficulty in their lives. She sees that this could be the answer because she loves those beings so very much. And she wants nothing more than their happiness.
This woman, she’s gone through this torture, this absolute hell on earth for 23 years. On top of all that, she’s been told by multiple professionals that she will never get better, that this is as good as it’s ever going to get. She’s been through years and years of medications, counseling, and treatments of various kinds. Very intense measures have been taken to save her life because, at one point, she was so overtaken by this beast that there was thought she wouldn’t make it out.
Still, she’s not free. Every day, no matter how incredibly happy she wants to be, or actually may be feeling (no matter how fleeting), or how wonderfully everything is going, there is a dark, dark shadow over it. She can never fully be present because her mind never slows down, never shuts itself off. It’s always in the past or in the future and she misses out on so much because of it.
Yet she continues. She fights the fight.
This woman suffers from lifelong, chronic Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
She’s humiliated, embarrassed, and incredibly shamed that she lives with these illnesses. These titles. This stigma. She lets very few people in and tells almost no one of her struggles. You should feel very honored should she choose to share them with you.
I know all of this, all of her pain, all of her stories, all of her struggles, because this woman, this warrior, is me.
Sheri Schooley is a sarcastic, witty, self-deprecating, (almost) middle-aged, hilarious wife to a hot hubs and mother of two incredibly amazing daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as making people laugh. She currently resides in the way-too-hot State of Florida and is phenomenal at complaining about it. Sheri expresses herself best through the written word and hopes that you’ll be able to connect with her through her stories of relationships, parenting, and neuroses. Some of Sheri’s recent work can be seen on Tribe magazine, Parent.co, and BLUNTmoms.com. She can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mommyopoly, on Twitter @mommyopoly, and on her blog at www.mommyopoly.com.