Why I Broke Down Mentally While Striving for Work/Life Balance

“Maybe it’s time for the fighter to be fought for, the holder to be held, and the lover to be loved.” ~Unknown

When he bit me, I was breastfeeding my son. The bite opened the door to a greater unraveling than I could ever have imagined.

He was finally unlatched and handed to me by my husband. I then got in my car. While driving, I felt my feet and hands start to feel numb. I noticed that my vision was blurred and that my breathing became fast and shallow. Fear set in that I wouldn’t make it home. I begged for the power to permit me to pull to the side.

It was about one mile to our home, and that distance felt like an eternity. I was beginning to feel tingly and my vision began to blur.

When I got home, a miracle not lost on me, I couldn’t shake this fear. I couldn’t be left alone. Because I was scared that if I wasn’t with someone, my life would be over.

I couldn’t reconcile this. How could I so badly want to live and be afraid I’d end my life at the same time? It’s a terrifying and interesting place. You can’t trust your body to keep you alive or safe.

It turned out that I actually had a panic attack in my car and was experiencing suicidal thoughts at home.

In the middle of the night, my sister and brother in law drove to Southern California to be there for me. They insisted that I get help the next day. I was incredibly reluctant because I had a huge project due at work and didn’t want to let my team down. They didn’t care.

The next day I saw a psychiatrist and was admitted to a mental health treatment facility. I was reluctant to admit myself in an inpatient program.

Just three weeks after I returned from maternity, I had to be on medical leave. My career would be affected by this. Was that what people would think? My boss would be furious at me.  What if I was ever promoted? Even though this was truly a choice of life or death, it was still one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. It was terrifying to see the end result.

Even though I was reluctant to admit it, the treatment that I received included more than mental health support. A healthy dose of clarity and perspective was also given to me. This wasn’t just postpartum anxiety. I was trying to find a balance between work and my personal life. Not only that, but I didn’t feel worthy of taking time for myself.

It was then that I began to realize who I really was. It was impossible for me to be everything and everyone else. I felt defeated and empty. To fulfill my responsibilities as a woman in my age, I was willing to give up everything. 

This was a shocking realization, as I’m a self-proclaimed feminist. I have been acutely aware all my life about the loss of identity mothers experience when having children. I didn’t want kids for that exact reason. When I met my partner, that piece changed, but I was dead set on making sure I didn’t lose myself in the process.

It’s funny how that works. You can be acutely aware of what you don’t want in life and still end up smack dab in the middle of the exact situation you swore would never happen to you.

My idea of work/life balance was to ensure I am balancing my roles as mother and career woman. Is there any room in this for me?  My needs and my desires were not considered.

After treatment, I began working with a life coach in addition to continuing to take care of my mental health (it’s important to note that life coaches are not medical professionals). Working with my coach allowed me to bring more of myself into my daily life, and to connect with my wants and needs.

I felt loved, cared for and supported by my family. This enabled me to take care of myself and make more room in my own life.

When I had to be a parent before having children, I made the effort to reconnect and brought back that part of myself.

The list included non-negotiables I wanted to include in my everyday life. A daily walk is one example. I don’t care what. My mental health is saved by movement. It doesn’t matter what is going on at home. It’s happening. It’s all guilt-free.

A journal is also kept by me at my bedside. Every night, before I lay my head down on the pillow, I write out what I got “right” that day. It’s so easy to focus on all the ways I came up short that day. To me, the negativity is my default setting. Therefore, it’s easy for my mind to dwell on negative things. Having a list with at least three examples of how I performed that day can help me to see the positive.

Are you sure we are capable of doing all the things at the same time? No. Work/life balance seems a little misleading. I don’t think we can evenly split work, life, and self-care. Even if they aren’t by much, one will always outweigh another.

However, we can try to meet our wants and needs in order that our authentic selves can be present for every aspect of life. Being grounded allows us to be fully present. Balance is what I consider to be fully present.

Kelly Fabiano

Kelly Fabiano is a coach for moms who help them to overcome the struggle between their career and children so that they can lead a happy, fulfilled life. These are themYou are a part of it. Kelly helps mothers reconnect with their inner self, let go of mom guilt, by offering workshops and coaching, as well as speaking engagements and signature series. Here are her 21 Days of Thoughts cards. Follow her Instagram.

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Tiny Buddha published the post Why I Feeling Broken Mentally, Despite Struggling for Work/Life Balance.

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