Updated: Mar 1, 2021
How My Breakdown Led to a Breakthrough
August 11, 2017 was the day that life changed forever for my mom, siblings, and me. It was the day we lost the patriarch of our family, my beloved father. My dad was a quiet man, but he dropped rare gems when he spoke. He was a man who facial expressions were hard to read sometime, but when he smiled, he lit up a room. My husband, children, and I spent a lot of time with my parents. From weekly dinners, traveling together, going to Walmart, and finding deals at the flea markets, we really enjoyed each other’s company. He was the person that my entire family depended on for everything. My dad was never one to scream “I love you” all the time, but it was easy to tell that he did because of how he would treat you. In fact, the first time my dad told me he loved me without me saying it first, I was in my mid-twenties. One night, I had stopped by my parent’s house one day to drop something off. On my way out, I cracked a joke, he laughed and said, “I love you.” I have read stories about how their loved ones reveal a secret or say something that they do not normally say right before they die. I literally thought that one of us was about to die that night. Like I said, my dad never said “I love you” first. Anyway, neither one died that night. I realized that he was just becoming comfortable verbalizing his feelings.
In November 2016. My dad was diagnosed with cancer. Although I was scared, I never believed that I would be burying my dad. To me, he was my superhero who could withstand anything. He survived a badly infected leg, that doctors said needed to be amputated; he was able to keep his leg and it never stopped him from shopping or playing with his grandchildren, or working in the yard for several hours at a time. He survived a brain tumor that doctors said would kill him if he did not have it removed immediately; God healed him, and he lived for over 25 years after he was healed. I could give many more examples to show why I believed whole-heartedly that this was just another sickness that he would overcome.
Up until we got the phone call that my dad had transitioned, I refused to see the signs that he was declining. Even on the day my family and I were scheduled to view my dads shell before the service, I was still trying to convince myself that he was not physically gone. After I saw him lying there, I developed a temporary nervous condition that cause my neck and head to twitch uncontrollably. My depression and anxiety worsened. It became a struggle to get out of bed. But I know that God was carrying me through because each day I got out of bed, I was able to finish my bachelor’s degree program, and was able to help care for my children and mom. Unfortunately, I was not caring for myself. Over the next one year, my depression and anxiety got so bad that I ultimately had a mental breakdown and my husband, children and I had to move back in with my mom so she could with the help of God, nurse me back to health. I could not feed myself; I could not clean myself. My mom was unwilling to have me admitted to the hospital because she felt it would cause more harm than good. My husband helped me find a counselor and on my first appointment, I began my quest to improve my mental health. Even though I was receiving help from my counselor to address deep rooted issues, I knew that I needed more to sustain my sanity and it would be a journey meant for only God and myself. I began to research on routines that were meant to help people with depression and anxiety. I picked activities that fit my personality and interests. Not only was I dealing with anxiety and depression, I was dealing with an immeasurable amount of shame. I was so ashamed that my children had to see me in such a horrible state. It took almost 8 months of trial, error, and consistency to develop a routine that worked for me. I do my routine each morning as soon as I wake up. When I do not do my routine, I feel it. It sets the tone for the day. Consistently following my routine helps me to deal with life stressors including grieving for my dad in a healthy way. I am not saying that the grieving process is predictable; it is not. Sometimes a memory of my dad makes me smile and laugh, and at other times, that same memory makes me shed tears. Self- reflection is a part of my routine. It has taught me to not be ashamed that my children saw me so messed up. Self-reflection has changed my perception of that. I had to tell myself, that yes, my children saw me that way, and there is nothing I can do to change that. They also saw me fight like hell up out of that dark hole I was in, while I tried so hard to walk with God. For that, I am grateful. I am human and my children witnessed what you can do with faith, hard work, and consistency. Do I perfectly control myself in every way? Absolutely not. I am still a work in progress. Sometimes, I take one step forward, then 8 steps backward all in one day: yikes! However, that does not stop me from trying again. It takes a lot to keep from trying again. My routine has taught me to allow myself the space to feel what I feel but does not shut me down to the point that I cannot function. If I need a minute, then I give myself a minute. If I need a self-care day, then I take it. Whatever I need, I give it to myself. It has taken my dads transition to teach me to take care of myself the way I care for my loved ones.