“The couch of pain”
Depression paid my family a second visit.
Parenting has its peaks and valleys. Seven years ago my family was challenged to the max. Severe depression and anxiety paid us a visit, completely unannounced, and chose my innocent 9-year-old daughter. I wanted to switch roles so badly, and spent many hours wondering why her? And not me? What did I miss? What did I do wrong?
Later I learned there were signs, but I just could not or would not see them.
Mental illness does NOT discriminate and both of our families have done a great job feeding the stigma in the past generations. In the dark, it only grew bigger and bolder.
MENTAL ILLNESS KNOCKED ME OUT!!
I am a Registered Nurse; it’s in my bones to always problem-solve from a scientific and nurturing viewpoint.
I surely was not an RN at that point in time. Simply a scared mom. Later I did draw heavily on my nursing experience and knowledge. I found out that advocating for your child means knowing everything about their disease process, in order to have success in the education system.
I could not find any tools, and I wanted to run away. I was in a state of panic.
I fumbled my way back in the dark and slowly led my daughter to the light of recovery. Together with doctors and therapists, our whole family resurfaced forever changed, and I knew I had to share my story as a parent. More importantly, I had to push power to the light for others to follow.
The light is bright from all the other mental health advocates I have come to meet, and I could clearly see it the second time depression came around for a winter visit. Instead of running away, I stayed in what I have come to call “The couch of pain."
My daughter sounded the alarm as the depression came closer, loud and clear. I am beaming with pride at the level of self-advocating she produced as she felt the pain encompassing her. Listen to your children; they are often smarter than us adults.
I knew with the right medication, therapy, and all the calming tools we have integrated into our life the past 7 years, the pain would not last.
“The couch of pain“ took the shape of a metaphor: a place of surrender and a place for me to recharge my batteries.
But don’t get me wrong. The pain still hurt deep -- into the bone kind of pain.
I still cried, and I still wished so incredibly deeply that she would be free from the suffering. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to watch your child hurt so much.
Self-care became my armor -- my most important tool and my surrender -- to the pain of depression. My daughter needs a mom who can fight, advocate, and stay present. My family needs me, and I need my self.
When the school bus left, I sat on the couch in my pain, and the longer I sat there it got less scary and hurt less. At one point I thought about why I did not want to run away as I had wanted 7 years earlier. I became acutely aware of the light; the light to recovery and the strength in knowing recovery was possible. Knowing I had a huge support network of mental health warriors around me gave me peace of mind.
I dragged myself to the gym. The yoga room was such a nice place to simply be present, and I surrendered to a restorative nap every afternoon.
SELF CARE IS NOT A LUXURY. IT’S A REGULAR TUNE-UP FOR YOUR SOUL, SPIRIT & MIND.
Recovery came around and these days I use the couch for hanging out with my kids, laughing, knitting, and counting my blessings. I am still a work-in-progress on self-care and continue to find new tools for my mental health-parenting box.
But the hours I spent on the couch of pain has taught me an awareness about the pain that’s a whole lot less scarier than panic/running away.
Tuning in to my own awareness has provided me with an empowerment and strength, which I hope my children will absorb per osmosis.
To all my fellow parents who fight daily for their children’s mental health, you are NEVER alone. I see you, I hear you, and I fight alongside of you.
Anne Taylor is a Danish educated nurse, CEO & founder of Scandic Health living in NOVA. Her family’s mental health challenges pushed her to advocate, share and shine the light for other parents to see. In recovery she was introduced to the evidence based MusiCure - music as medicine as a way to calm the mind. As a CEO she promotes a calming sound environment to improve healing and lower anxiety in healthcare.