Friday, October 17, 2014

Reflections Coming Out of A Meltdown

Dearest Daughter,

At the time of writing this, you have been screaming/crying for almost the entirety of six hours since I have been home from work. Before that, you spent the prior four hours that I was away screaming/crying at your father. And the 24 hours before that were more of the same.

You have slept less than three hours in the past day, and your entire body and mind have been pushed to their absolute limits.

You are enrapt in a complete physical breakdown, overwrought by your weakened immune system, and have worked yourself up into a frenzy of panic, exhaustion, discomfort, pain, and desperation.

My poor, darling child. I have never seen you this sick.

And yet, at this moment, you are not in my arms.

You are away, with your daughter, in a car…being driven around in the desperate hope that you will finally fall asleep.  You are strapped in a car seat, and are likely angry, hurt and confused as to why your Mama isn’t there with you.

I don’t blame you.

I would be angry with me too.

In fact, I am angry with me. And I am ashamed. And guilty. And very very sad.

And still, this is the right decision for you. And for me. And for our entire family.

Because in this moment, I am not able to be the mother that you deserve. The mother that you desperate need me to be.

In this moment, I too have been worked up into a frenzy of emotions. I am also overwhelmed. I am also in the midst of my own physical, emotional and mental breakdown.

You see, my brain works different from most people I know. It’s a lot like Sam’s. (It’s possible that it might be like your brain too, but I can’t tell that for sure since you are still so young.) It takes in sensory information more fully, and has a hard time processing it and making it all work together.

Colours are brighter. Smells are stronger. Things I touch feel more intense. Tastes can be completely overwhelming.

And sounds…

Well, sounds are the most powerful sense of all.

And sometimes, in completely unpredictable ways, these senses will all work together in such a way as to make the environment come alive in ways that other people could never comprehend.

Did you know that different colours can have different tastes?
Or that certain textures can have smells?

I do.

I also know what it is like to see music dance.

There are few things more hauntingly beautiful.

They tell me this is called Synesthesia and that it is a Sensory Processing Disorder.

I don’t really know anything about that. All I know is that this is how my brain has always worked, and that this difference sets me apart from many of my peers.  Sometimes, this difference is a gift. Sometimes, it is a disability. Sometimes, it is both at the same time.

For the most part, I am fortunate. The times in this life where I am genuinely disabled are few and far between. I have been blessed with a body and a mind that are able to navigate almost every social and environmental situation that I am subjected to. I have grown accustomed to needing an extra few minutes to adjust my eyes to the lights, my ears to hums, and my nose to the perfumes that can overwhelm me.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it all becomes too much. Sometimes, my senses become so engaged, so saturated with information that my brain simply can not keep up to the information and it completely overcomes me.

When this happens, I have a hard time making decisions. I have a hard time controlling my emotions. I have a hard time controlling my body. And I have a hard time keeping a grasp on what is happening around me.

Sometimes, I melt down. This happens in my mind, not in my heart. But that distinction is one that can be very hard to see from the outside looking in.

When I am melting down, I am not able to be a good parent to you. I am not able to be a good parent to Sam. I am not able to be a good wife to your daddy, or a good friend or a good daughter or a good sister.

When I am in meltdown, the only thing I can focus on is getting myself through it.

And that, my darling daughter, is why you are with your daddy right now.

Parenting is an intense experience. It is one that requires your full attention- physically, mentally and emotionally.

Parenting a child who is in a state of crisis- whether this be because of illness, injury, emotional need, or otherwise- is even more intense. It requires a state of parental engagement and alertness that exceeds the every day, as well as a resilience and fortitude to stay strong during the emotionally difficult moments.

Most of the time, I am able to be that parent to you. Most of the time, I am able to navigate that intensity, and live up to my responsibilities in caring for you.

But tonight- probably due to the fact that I am also sick, or the fact that it has now been three days of almost incessant screaming, or maybe just because the temperature is changing and my body feels the snow crystals starting to form in the sky above us- tonight, I just can’t.

Tonight, I felt my body start to shake. I felt my eyes start to blur. I could smell the anxiety in the room, and the entire room started to spin.

Tonight, I knew that my brain was about to get the better of me. I knew that I was minutes away from a meltdown.

And I knew that you deserved…that you needed…me to step away.  I knew that, even though you would not understand it in the moment, the safest and healthiest thing I could do for you would be to acknowledge my own needs and recognize my own limitations.

The best thing I could do tonight was hand you over to your loving daddy’s arms and walk away.

Sometimes, the greatest gift that we can give to another person is the self-awareness to know when we have exceeded our capacity to give. Sometimes, acknowledging weakness is the most courageous choice you can make.

Since I have started writing this, you and your daddy have come home. You are now in your room, and I can hear you breathing over your monitor. You are sleeping (for now, at least) and you are safe.  My heart is exploding with love for you, and I know that I won’t be able to resist creeping into your room later to kiss your cheeks and whisper that I love you.

And as I listen to your rhythmic patterns, I feel a sense of renewed resolve and commitment. Tonight hurt your feelings. Tonight hurt my feelings too.

But our sadness and hurt feelings will heal with the understanding that some decisions in life are painful, even when they are right. 

Tonight, as I pull myself back from the dark abyss that is my mind in meltdown, I know that I can say with an increased sense of confidence that #iamnotkellistapleton.

I choose humility and self-acceptance in the face of my disabilities.

In the face of my own mental health struggles, I choose self-awareness.

In the battle between my needs and yours, I made sure your needs were safely addressed before dealing with my own.

In the midst of a crisis, I remembered that I am the adult and that you are the child.

And that no matter what, my responsibility is to love you unconditionally and care for your needs above my own.

And, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how overwhelmed I feel, no matter how little more I think I can can take…never would I dream of hurting you.

Tonight, my first thought was of how to get you the best care I possibly could.

And I believe that I did that.

I love you unconditionally. And I am so sorry you are sick.


  1. I have no words for how much I love this post. And your blog . Everything I've read.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this blog. I feel as if I am right there in Venice. Do you really think you would ever regret going? I don’t think so. The only things I regret are the things I didn’t do. I love the way you write this whole thing in a proper manner. Bravo!! How was your experience?

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