Thursday, November 10, 2011

Family therapy

Now that I've "introduced" myself and my husband, now it's time to let you into a little bit of our family story.

As I mentioned in my post about my struggle with depression, I always wanted to be a wife and a mom. Therefore, I thought I was most well-suited to take on marriage and motherhood as my "career." The marriage part was fairly easy for me - I love being married, and our relationship has never had any major difficulties.

It was the motherhood part that took me totally by surprise! I always want to be 100% clear about this: I LOVE MY FAMILY and MY CHILDREN ARE FANTASTIC. But nothing in my life had really prepared me for the absolute sacrifice and laying down of my life that parenting entails. I came face to face with my own selfishness in a way that I never had before. It was hard to be in complete demand 24/7 by a tiny little human being who needed me more than anyone else in the world, even more than her daddy. I think that, in a way, I realized that my life would never be the same again, and I would never again have the same "freedom" I did before I had kids.

Having 2, then 3, then 4 kids right in a row definitely drained me physically and emotionally. I lost my temper a lot. I escaped a lot into video games or TV. I even hid from my kids from time to time.

I began homeschooling my first-born the same year that baby #4 was born, and it was kind of like a fresh start. Homeschooling a Kindergartener was e.a.s.y. Even with a newborn. I loved the schedule, and everyone seemed to get enough of mom.

I started schooling my second daughter the following year. It was still fairly easy, but child # 2 had a more challenging personality. And trying to find time to love, educate and mother 2 homeschoolers, and pre-schooler and a toddler was becoming more overwhelming. It was in December of that year when I was finally diagnosed with depression. I started taking Zoloft, and things became manageable again.

Two or three years into homeschooling, as I had more to teach the kids and eventually added one more student to the mix, I became overwhelmed once again. In all, I taught homeschool for 5 years, but during the last 2 years, I was "escaping" from the kids a lot more, i.e. sleeping in late, canceling lesson plans, taking 2-3 hour naps in the afternoon while my kids ran the roost. At the time, my doctor and I were on the verge of calling it chronic fatigue syndrome for lack of any better way to define what was going on with me. In retrospect, I'm sure I just didn't have my depression under control. I had stopped taking Zoloft due to the weight gain. Effexor XR kept me at a baseline that prevented me from wanting to die or do anything drastic, but I just wanted to escape because life was overwhelming and I felt like I had no control over anything.

I was doing what I always wanted to do. And I felt like a failure at it.

And all the negative stuff I felt about myself was fairly apparent to my kids. So, my young kids had a mom who was often depressed, occasionally screamed at them out of frustration, and once in a while told them "Just get away from me." Needless to say, my kids may have learned some less-than-healthy ways of dealing with emotions. The biggest issue in our house is anger and rage. None of us have a very good reign on our temper. We are all very good at speaking our minds and expressing ourselves, but sometimes a little too well as we have let many angry words fly (in the form of yells, screams, hisses, bellows, roars, and cries). And not only has the exchange of words gotten out of control - there are dents in the walls and holes in our interior doors due to the fury often expressed by our precious little munchkins.

For years, I had asked my husband to agree to family counseling. He never really thought our issues were serious enough to warrant counseling. Until now.

Since Al's stroke in January, the kids have done remarkably well. But they have, understandably, had a hard time with the fear and anxiety that came with it. They saw Al one day as their fearless, capable, strong Daddy, and the next time they saw him, he was lying in a hospital bed with slurred speech and completely unable to move half of his body. It was a very scary time, but he often reassured them with his whacky sense of humor. He was at the hospital for 6 weeks, during which time I was a single parent.

Once Al returned home, it wasn't much different since Al rested a lot and wasn't able to handle much commotion. Our son even asked him, "Now that you're home, do we still have to obey you?" I think there was a real lack of understanding of who Dad had become. He was still speaking slowly, so it may have seemed as if he wasn't as mentally competent as he had been.

One night, our daughter and I had a long, heated discussion about Daddy helping her with her homework. She was in 2nd grade and she wanted me to help her with math. I was doing the dishes, so I asked her to have Daddy help her with her homework. I told her it would be good for him to help her. She insisted that he wouldn't know how to do it. Second grade math! I still don't quite understand if she was just a little afraid of how Daddy had changed, or if she seriously thought he couldn't do 2nd grade math.

Al has tried to become more involved in our parenting efforts, but he remains quite limited by his physical disability - he can't even physically best our 6-year-old. And he can only take so much chaos. It seems the kids still aren't taking him seriously.

A few months ago, Al finally agreed to pursue family counseling. We have only met with our counselor 4 or 5 times, the first few times as a couple, and then one time with Hope, our oldest. The counselor wanted to meet with her first, and then gradually meet with the other kids.

As of yet, we don't have much insight to share from family counseling. This is just a short tale of the journey that has led us here.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for so honestly sharing your journey. People will learn a lot from this strength you share. I can only guess what a difficult experience this is for you, your husband and your children. I wish you the best as you continue to grow.

    One book I found beneficial for our family was One Foot Now The Other by Tomie DePaola. If you can find it at a local library you may want to see if it would be a helpful for your family.