Do you ever feel as if you need to step away for a couple of days after doing something mentally exhausting? Say, no social media, or cleaning, or even cooking. Simple tasks but ones that seem cumbersome in the moment?
Monday, one of my kids had dental surgery. Cue PTSD triggers for both of us. He’s had a long history of medical procedures and hospital stays, that when something remotely medical is needed, it brings along trepidation. A month before, we meet the dentist and nurses for a consultation, and he was able to familiarize himself with his surrounding. The nurse was incredible. At the end of that visit, she told him that she would make sure to be his nurse during the procedure. It was such a simple gesture that would be a game-changer for him.
Yet, I was preparing myself for the daunting and exhausting part of tending to his needs. I knew, going in, that he was going to struggle a lot and I had to be his comfort. For the consultation, he cried days before, became angry and frustrated, and had a meltdown in the examination chair. The day of his procedure would be worse.
The one thing I’ve realized that when we talk about parenting, is no one talks about the mental toll being a parent endures. All the worry, uncertainty, pressure, anxiety, frustration, and so much more, add up. These emotions weigh on us. They drag us down. We are their protectors. Yet, we have to watch them go through pain, accept it, and comfort them. But, seeing your child gasps for air as they hyperventilate in fear of having surgery isn’t what I thought being a parent would be.
The day of his procedure was here. My husband took off work to be there, knowing that his presence would provide another level of comfort. It was a two-hour drive to the doctor’s office. So, we decided to drive in the day before, stay at a hotel with a pool, and make it a fun family getaway; anything to distract his mind from what was about to happen. Shockingly, he woke up that morning without crying. He ate breakfast. He laughed. He talked. Whereas, I barely slept. My bones ached. His sister became sick in the night. My focus was being pulled into two different directions, which both equally needed it.
We pulled into the parking lot and walked in. He went straight to the games to play as I checked him in. After five minutes, they called his name. He didn’t even look back and wave just walked to his nurse. He was okay. I sat back, rested my head against the wall, preparing myself for one of the nurses to call me back. Shortly, I hear someone call out, “Carson’s mom,” and my heart hit my stomach. I looked over to see him with her. He was done. He climbed into my lap as she went over aftercare instructions. My husband and I were surprised at how fast the procedure went and how well he had handled it. But, it wasn’t over. We had a two-hour journey back home.
I sat in the front seat, ready to close my eyes and restore my inner peace. An hour into the ride, he began to cry and cry and cry. He’s numbing medication was wearing off, and he didn’t like how it felt. We pulled over, and I climb into the back seat to let him rest his head on my shoulders. I sang “Everything’s okay, everything’s alright,” over and over. His sister began to cry, and I could tell she was starting to feel bad again. So, as he rests on my shoulder, I twisted my free arm to grab her hand. My contorted body ached, and as I sang, I was counting down the miles until we reached home.
By the evening, I felt weak and down. My mind and body had been overwhelmed by the chaos and worry. I put my phone away and crawled into the imaginary hole of seclusion. My mind needed to shut down. I didn’t want to be responsible for any decisions. All I wanted was the comforting bubble of my family being at home, with no plans or responsibilities.
For the first time, I didn’t have any guilt about wanting to stop the chaos from entering our door. The procedure might have been small, but it was hard on our family. We take on all the burdens without focusing on maintaining a healthy mental foundation. The longer we continue to neglect our mental health, the harder for caring becomes. Remember, it’s okay to stop and step away.