Taking Care of Me Makes Me a Better Mom

This post is part of an ongoing series titled Things That Have Improved Your Life.

In this series, I welcome readers of this blog to share an improvement they’ve made in their life. This improvement could be anything – from a new diet or exercise plan to a certain place visited or person they’ve met.

I then ask questions as to how their life has improved, and whether they would recommend others try to make this same thing possible in their own lives.

Today’s interview takes place with Colleen Wildenhaus.

Colleen tells us how her life began to improve when she opened up to self-care, seeking help from others and acknowledging to herself that she cannot fix everything.

Introduce Yourself

Hi. I am Colleen Wildenhaus, a mother, wife, and teacher living in Central Ohio.

Originally from Ohio, I spent most of my adult life living out west before returning to Ohio two years ago. I love the beach and the mountains equally, yearning to be in either location whenever possible.

Dressed up and ready for a fun wedding

Life has taken me on unexpected journeys, raising a child with severe anxiety and OCD. Focusing on myself and my needs started this year when I hit rock bottom trying to do it all and yet feeling like a failure when I couldn’t “fix” my daughter’s health issues.

What Improvement Have You Made to Your Life?

I have improved.

I have learned the importance of self-care, of seeking help from others, of making mistakes and learning from them, of admitting I cannot “fix” everything.

My 13-year-old daughter has struggled with severe anxiety and OCD for 8 years. Over the course of these 8 years, we have been on a rollercoaster ride as a family. My entire life became dedicated to finding doctors and treatments, going to therapy, and meeting with the school, all while still working full time, taking care of our home, parenting my other child, and managing my daughter’s health issues at home.

If I wasn’t actively dealing with an issue, my mind was going a mile a minute, unable to slow down. I hit a point at the beginning of 2017 where I knew I couldn’t continue but I didn’t know what to do.

Why Did You Decide to Try Helping Yourself the First Place?

I was sitting in bed sobbing more intensely than I recall ever happening in my life. I was talking aloud to myself, begging for life to get better. At one of my daughter’s first therapy appointments with a new counselor, she pulled me aside and explained that I needed to help myself. She could tell from my interactions with her and my daughter that I was hurting.

I explained my reluctance to pay for therapy for myself, knowing that money was tight and my daughter’s needs were high. She reminded me that just like you always put your oxygen mask on before helping a child, I needed to help myself before I could help my family.

I left my first appointment, feeling immensely grateful that I had someone to talk with who offered no judgment, only support.

How Has Your Life Improved Since – Can You Give an Example?

I now understand more clearly, that my role and responsibility as a parent is not to “fix” my children but to love and support them, providing what they need.

My daughter’s health issues are intense, but I realize that I cannot cure her anxiety, however, I can offer support, take her to appointments, advice the school on options, etc.

I have also learned that I should not judge myself on decisions I have made or actions I have done. There is no real “right and wrong” in parenting. We all do our best with situations that arise. What works for one family may not work for my family.

Enjoying one of our favorite places, Rocky Mountain National Park

I’m happier knowing I am doing my best. I see the good in what is happening around us. I enjoy the small moments and take nothing for granted because 1 year ago, we were floundering in a mess of sadness and anxiety.

For once, I am ok with not knowing what the future holds but knowing that right now, we are doing what we can to make things work well.

Would You Recommend Other People Give This a Go? If So, How Should They Start?

I have always believed that we all could benefit from therapy but was unwilling to make the time and money available for myself.

I saw it as selfish.

Counseling allows an unbiased, nonemotional perspective on your thoughts and feelings. It has allowed me to see things differently, and most times in a better light. Life is so crazy in our world and more and more people admit to suffering from guilt, exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.

Finding help to reshape your perspective of life can make it so much more enjoyable.

To begin, if you are comfortable, ask your friends and acquaintances if they have a recommendation for a local therapist. If not, start with Google. Seek therapists in your area who specialize in the type of counseling you need. It took us several tries to find a therapist we really connected with so do not give up if the first one doesn’t “feel” right.

In order for therapy to work, there needs to be a positive relationship between you and the counselor. Never be ashamed of reaching out and asking for help. I promise you will feel better.

You will be a better parent, partner, and friend.

Where Can We Find out More About You?

Good Bye Anxiety, Hello Joy is a blog I created as a support to families parenting an anxious child.

When we started on this journey 8 years ago, I felt incredibly alone, which is a scary place to be. I thought that we were the only family dealing with these issues and I had no hope. Since getting our daughter treatment, talking openly about our journey, and joining various groups, I have found that thousands of families are dealing with similar health issues.

My site offers information on our journey, support, and resources. www.goodbyeanxietyhellojoy.com

Anything Else You’d like to Share?

Mental health issues in adults and children are a real health condition. They should be treated as such.

Please, never think that it will go away on its own or that something is simply “wrong” with you. There is still a stigma attached to mental health. We must all work to make others aware of the realness of anxiety.

There is no cure for anxiety, but there are treatments that make it possible to live a happy, successful life.

I’d like to say a big thanks to Colleen for sharing her life improvement story with us today.

My takeaway points:

  • You must help yourself first before you can effectively help anyone else. Put on your own oxygen mask before supporting others.
  • Be happy with the fact that you know you’re doing your absolute best.
  • Do not be ashamed in reaching out for therapy. Getting help to reshape your perspective of life might be the best thing you ever did.

Have you made an improvement to your life that you would like to share? Check out this post and get involved. Your story could end up being featured in this series.

You can find the rest of the reader interviews in the series here…

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