I'm a mom who had to be in inpatient care. Asking for help saved my life.

·4 min read
Ava Truckey sitting on stairs
Courtesy of Ava Truckey
  • At the end of 2020, I left my husband and the father of my children.

  • Initially I felt free — but with the stress of being a working single parent, I lost myself again.

  • Asking for help saved my life. Now I'm healthier and a better mom.

Somewhere among the multitude of messes around me, I lost my ability to cope.

I would lie on my back in bed after dropping off my children at their respective care, and the only way I could regulate was by focusing on the tears that rolled down the side of my face and pooled inside my ear. I would try to count each tear, typically giving up around 30.

My sadness from whichever dumpster fire du jour only made me sadder.

I felt a euphoric pride when I left my marriage and the father of my children in December 2020. After years of being a stay-at-home parent, I had worked hard and leaned on my community enough to afford my physical departure in 2 1/2 months. No matter that our apartment was empty and then slowly filled with whatever would make do. No matter the long hours I worked while still caring for my infant son and then-4-year-old.

I felt free and safe for the first time.

I stopped choosing myself

I wore my hyperproductivity as a badge of honor, pouring energy into my microbakery, my blog, and my podcast. I wrote and basked in the reality of being compensated for doing what I love most.

I convinced myself that my tiredness was my identity. This is what I had asked for, and I was simply paying the price for my freedom.

I slipped into my first serious queer relationship — and it swiftly unraveled, leaving me anxious and panicked. The lack of consistency and safety I experienced in my marriage had become my day-to-day once again. Every time they were unable to choose me, I stopped choosing myself, and the cycle played on repeat.

I found my creative self slinking back against the wall, my patience and softness for parenting — and for myself — disappearing, my sense of self gone as quickly as I thought I had regained it.

It's amazing, in the worst of ways, how a lack of support, whether it's financial or community-related, through a partner or from your friends, can impact your nervous system.

I felt outside of myself most days, phoning it in as a business owner and as a mother.

When I counted the tears pooling, I imagined what it would be like if I went to sleep and never woke up again, and I let the faces of my children bring me back to reality. I could never. They needed me, even that version of me, and I clung to that.

I scared myself with suicidal ideation

The day came when the tear-counting stopped working and I thought, "Maybe they're better off without me," and I knew something had to give. While my suicidal ideation left me feeling temporarily warm and relaxed, I scared myself. I called my friend, and the sound of my own voice startled me.

"I'm scared of myself."

I arranged care for my children, knowing it would be the longest I've been away from them, and for good reason. That night, cloaked in both fear and relief, I fell asleep with their Polaroids on my pillow.

On a rainy late-winter morning, a close friend of mine dropped me off at an inpatient clinic — the kind where you think you're trading bits of your dignity for no-slip socks in hopes of regaining yourself again. I let my tears roll down vertically this time, hot and heavy as I answered the nurse's questions.

"Would you say that you're suicidal?"

"Yes," I said shakily, "I am."

I went to each class and activity, promising myself to utilize the support while I was there. I let myself be evaluated over and over, took the meds they gave me to sleep, and, finally, after more than a year, allowed myself rest and stillness.

While a lack of support can exacerbate burnout, especially living in capitalistic hell under the American ideal of hyperindividualism, when we experience support we begin to heal.

I set down what needed to be left behind in order to be a healthier me, allowing me to be a better mother, creative, business owner, and friend.

I asked for help, and it saved my life.

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