I walked down the stairs carrying my sleepy 21 month old son. My foot hit the tile at the bottom and all the synapses in my body rushed to compute what was happening. The cold wet puddle of water surrounding me triggered a moment of panic. I set my son on the couch and ran back upstairs for an armful of towels. I called my in-laws again. My mother-in-law came right over. The plumber was called.
It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, 2018. I had just proudly served my first Thanksgiving dinner. I was living my dream as a stay-at-home mom while nannying. It was a good arrangement. My good friend and her husband lived 5 minutes away. He worked at our shop and I babysat the kids. My life was finally going in a good direction after my near death postpartum experience the year before. Things do get better. You will get through this.
Oh my was I wrong.
That Thanksgiving weekend I opened the cubby closet underneath the stairs and I took a step back. Then I looked a little closer. Mold. Dark green mold. I called my in-laws (the owners) who said they’d come by soon. Here we are on Monday and my mother-in-law rushed over. My cute little charge arrived. I now had two boys under two in a flooded, mold-infested house. This would be an interesting week.
That night my husband, Andrew, came home and told me about a really difficult conversation he had with our employee. He had been slipping in his duties and attitude. Andrew warned me that things might not go well from here.
In the next few days I had to flex as the loud dehumidifiers drove me and the boys to my friend’s house. The mold test came back as safe (not that any mold is a good thing) but half of the downstairs would be gutted to see the extent of the damage, so we moved in with my in-laws.
As things remained rocky at the shop I started to wonder about my babysitting pay. We all used the same bank, so they had set up a bi-weekly transfer. I am a trusting person. This was one of my closest friends after all. I hadn’t been keeping an eye on our bank account assuming the money was getting transferred. It hadn’t been. I was too trusting. I hadn’t been paid in more than two months.
Andrew approached our employee (my employer) the next day and he tried to cover it up. He called me from work and suggested I warn my friend that things weren’t going in a good direction. I called her at school.
“So sorry to bother you at work but I need to let you know something.”
“Ok…” she responded slowly.
“Did you know that I haven’t been paid in more than two months?”
“Yeah. And things aren’t going well with your husband at the shop. I just want you to be prepared.”
That night Andrew called me from the shop.
“Um, ok,” I stammered, my heart starting to quicken.
“We talked all day long,” Andrew explained and gave me some details about their conversation. “I’m told that our babysitting agreement was $xxx as they were able and you knew that they couldn’t pay you right now and you agreed to it.”
“Um, no. It was starting at $xxx and they would increase as they were able.”
We discussed further. There was also significant pay due on some vehicle repairs Andrew did. They owed us thousands. We had no one to work the office. I was suddenly out of a job myself.
The next day I prayed. “What am I supposed to do?” The answer was obvious. I knew the business. I had worked in the office prior to our son’s birth. I needed to go back to work. Full-time.
No time to think. No time to set up childcare. On Monday morning I arrived ready to work, leaving my son in the care of his grandparents as my mother-in-law juggled homeschooling Andrew’s youngest sister.
Within a week we lost our only employee, I lost my job and we had moved in with my in-laws because our house was being mitigated for mold. Christmas fast approached and many relatives came into town and kept my son occupied while I searched for a long-term childcare solution.
My tenure at the shop was to be temporary – just until we found another employee. It would take more than a year to employ someone. Our time with my in-laws would be short. We were there for four whole months.
In the coming months I would have a major fall-out with said former employee over the non-payment among other things. His wife would ask me to stop contacting her, though she believed I’d done nothing wrong and considered us still friends.
Crisis on top of crisis on top of crisis. I powered through. I did what I had to do. I kept up hope. I embraced God’s word.
But one can only survive for so long before they stop surviving. I started to fall apart.
In March we finally moved back into our newly tiled, carpeted, and dry-walled house. Things weren’t in the rooms they should be. Pictures needed to be hung. Boxes unpacked. I was working full-time and caring for my two-year old. It was going to take a long time to get back to normal.
In June I experienced deja vu. Walking into my living room one morning, I see a large puddle on the opposite side of the room. Not again! Another month at the in-laws. I still hadn’t unpacked from the first flood.
We were attending the same church as our former employee. The pastor told us not to return unless we “hugged the necks” of our unrepentant fellow believers.
By this time my mental health was on a steady decline. It had been so long since I had taken medication for my anxiety and depression that I didn’t have a psychiatrist. My GP tentatively diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and put me on a low dose of a mood stabilizer. It helped but not really. I kept getting worse. By August I was full-blown manic-depressive confirmed by my doctor, counselor, and new psychiatrist. By November my psychiatrist’s office told me they’d call the police if I didn’t leave because I was bawling and had a few rightful words with them (and maybe one curse word) over an unfair charge.
I was no longer surviving. I needed serious help. I needed a break from working full-time and caring for a 2 ½ year old who was struggling with the separation. There was no break. When you run a small business you can’t just take temporary leave. You can’t just leave your husband to fix the cars, work with clients, estimate jobs, order parts, do the admin and run the business. When dealing with a severe mental illness you can’t just pray more, read your Bible more, pull up your bootstraps and power through.
Every year around my son’s birthday, in early February, I begin experiencing PTSD triggers from my postpartum trauma. In early 2020 my medication refills were running out, and with PTSD flashbacks popping up, I was finally pushed to find a new psychiatrist. We also hired a new employee.
Then the Coronavirus hit. My son’s school closed. I had just reduced my hours to part-time focusing on marketing our business, so I was able to work from home and care for my son. I was able to get the mental, physical and spiritual rest I needed, spend time with my son, and lose the weight I’d gained due to stress and medication side-effects.
It’s now my PTSD season again. My medications are still being tweaked but I’m fairly stable. I’m physically more fit than I’ve been since 2009 when I was running half-marathons (ok, I’m not that fit). I’m doing work that I like for our business and I’m pursuing my longed for writing career. My relationships with my son and husband are better than they’ve been in a long time.
Starting in 2017 with the birth of my son I’ve been on a twisting rocky road of unbearable crises. In 2021 I feel I’ve come out of the darkness and into the light.
For many people, 2020 was the beginning of a season of crisis. It seems like it’s never going to end. You’ve cancelled weddings, lost jobs, lost loved ones, had COVID, been in isolation among other things. I grieve with you. Please know, it does end. Ask for help. Receive help. God does care. Jesus is there.
If you don’t have faith right now, please let me know and I will lend you some of mine. I can’t tell you how much faith I’ve borrowed from others over the years.