Despite how painful and raw this experience has been for me on a day-to-day basis, what's worse is how it has affected my family. Every person in my life has been touched, in some way, by my failing mental health. Although my husband has been most profoundly impacted outside of myself, he has been my champion. He has managed to live with the very worst me for more than a year and he has never said or done the wrong thing, which is an amazing feat. He has never failed to stand right beside me, just in case I could no longer stand on my own, and I have needed that support a number of times. He has never echoed the ugly version of myself I have created in my head. He has never reflected my lack of effort, lack of communication, lack of ability to make things work. He simply kept going and somehow still loves me.
That's not what this blog is about though. This blog is about the three most precious pieces of me, my children. This has affected them all in different ways, but it has undoubtedly affected each of them. It has impacted the mother I wanted to be to them. Whether it's my eldest seeing me in the tears I so desperately tried to keep private or my youngest begging for "uppy," while I backed away because I just couldn't. I see it in the way my oldest asks how I am, knowing how I've been instead of believing that I was the strong, infallible person I always meant to exemplify for her. I see it in the way my baby girl covered her ears when she thought I might be angry and yell. I see it in my son who so desperately needs his Mommy, and not this broken shell that I have slipped into.
It makes me a lesser parent, not to mention a lesser person. Days ago, my son sneaked off with his Advent calendar. He opened most of his remaining windows and had a handful of chocolate when I found him. First he shoved the chocolate in his mouth, then he covered his ears. I truly rarely yell, yet they've seen it too frequently to forget that sometimes Mommy is scary. My initial reaction was not to be angry that he had done something he clearly knew he shouldn't have. Instead, I immediately wondered what I had done to make him feel like he had to sneak off. I felt like I had deprived him.
I don't want to parent by guilt. I want to parent from my heart. Sadly, my heart is so bound by the months that I have had feeling broken, frightened and alone. I find myself doing and saying all the wrong things. I cry in the dark, when everyone is finally quiet, and I think about each of my failures of the day. As difficult as this time has been, it is the moments of sadness, fear or disappointment from my children that I fear I'll never recover from. And heaven forbid our relationships don't recover. My children love me, that I know. But I wanted to be this wonderful mother, stepmother and wife and instead, lately, I have been this. I am devastated by it.
My greatest fear is that I will spend more time as this mother than the one I used to be and the one I want to be again. At some point, this is no longer something I am going through and it is simply who I am.