Interview with Carolina | Mother, Wife & Executive

Miami, Florida | October 19, 2022

Please share a bit about your background. I am Brazilian. My father is Brazilian and my mom is Argentinean. I was raised in Brazil and moved to Switzerland to study hotel management for college. I spent 4.5 yrs there and after that went to work for a cruise line and then to NY for two years. I went back to Brazil for a couple of years and then to Miami as of 2012. Exactly 10 years ago. I was 30 yrs old when I did this shift. 

At the time, I took a sabbatical of 3 months and I recently realized 10 years have gone by and I’m also making a career change and taking a sabbatical, one month this time. 

I met my husband in 2014. He is Venezuelan and was raised mostly here in Miami. We got married in 2017 in Brazil and we had our first daughter in 2019,  in Miami and then when she was 5 months old we moved to Mexico for a 2 year work assignment. 3 weeks after our arrival, the pandemic started. We were stuck in Mexico, the 3 of us, quarantined. We were found seeking for our new home and moving wearing masks and stuck for 8 months as Mexico was pretty much closed. Raising my daughter between the two of us. Even our help left the first few months of Covid. 

We were so isolated that when my daughter saw her grandparents live for the first time since she was months old, she was impressed they actually had legs, as she was used to seeing floating heads through Facetime. A year later, she started daycare and we started having our normal lives back. One more year went by, and our second baby son was born in Mexico and when he was 6 months we moved back to Miami which is where we are now. 

How do you know Carolina? Through a mutual friend Juliana from childhood who introduced us. We met here in Miami and immediately connected and we’ve been friends ever since. She introduced me to my husband and we introduced her to her husband. 

How, when and what was your mental health diagnoses? We moved back to Miami May 28, 2022 and 2 days later I was off to Brazil with my kids for a month so I could work and be with family and help. A month later, we came back to Miami and we found ourselves without a house (that was supposed to be ready but is still waiting for permits) staying at my parents 2 bedroom apartment far from school and work. We had to work and take care of the kids with no family or extra help. We went through 4 nannies in a month and I started feeling overwhelmed. My husband was back in Miami having to work physically at the office. I found myself drained of trying to do it all. 

My challenging job taking care of my active toddler and baby plus house chores and the mental load of it all was overwhelming me. I had started feeling some tingling/numbness in my back in Brazil and when I arrived in Miami the numbness increased to my arm and head. It was constant and the anxiety of not being able to see doctors or schedule exams was making it worse.  My sister has MS, so her doctor suggested I have an MRI, just to make sure it wasn’t that. However, I couldn’t schedule an MRI for a near date, and to make doctor appointments with specialists was also impossible. The bureaucracy around the medical system here was definitely stressing me out. One night, I went to sleep and woke up feeling what I thought was a heart attack. We called 911 and they took me to the hospital and it resulted not being a heart attack. The Doctors thought it was a panic attack. I saw a psychiatrist and a therapist soon after and everybody diagnosed it as an anxiety disorder from this panic attack. After that I was scared of having it again. My triggers seem to be health related. 

My medical support system is currently abroad. My therapist is from Brazil, my sister is a doctor and my psychiatrist is from Brazil, as every doctor I tried scheduling required months of wait for a first visit. Carolina Copello also referred me to her doctor, who said they weren’t taking new patients which we later found out was incorrect.

How was it to receive the news? It was shocking as I never have had any mental issues before. I am a controlling person so that made me feel out of control as I didn’t know when I’d get another panic attack. Being alone with the kids also made me afraid. Sleeping made me afraid. I had trouble sleeping as I was scared to have another one. I actually had another one two weeks after. It only got better after that. Initially the neurologist gave me medication for my panic attack – it’s very strong and I had never taken anything like this before so it made me drowsy, sleepy and feeling like I was drunk. I hated the feeling of the medication almost more than the panic attacks. I really only got better when the psychiatrist prescribed me another medication to control all of this. 

What has been your treatment so far?? I am on a daily medication – esciltalopram (Lexapro) – which I take at night as in the morning it makes me sleepy. I have 2 others to be taken as needed for panic attacks, but so far I haven’t needed to take them.

I also do therapy once a week. 

Right after the panic attacks I also started practicing a lot of meditation. I used tapping and acupuncture as alternative methods to support the healing process and I believe it’s all helped me. 

What are your Doctors next steps? Any plans on removing medication? They talk about removing it in a year by weaning off to see how I react to it. They also recommend little to no alcohol. I don’t really drink as between pregnancies and breastfeeding for so long, I just lost the appetite for it.  

Any tips or recommendations you’d give others suffering from it? Talk about it. The more I talked about it the more I realized women all around me have had some kind of mental issue. Be it panic attacks, depression, etc. even men. Very successful men. It’s a taboo for us to talk about it but the more you talk about it the more you realize you are ok and not crazy. Ask for help. Here or in your country or online and get treatment. 

I was always scared of any medication for mental health, I heard medication like Xanax in movies and it scared me. I was scared to get addicted. I know a lady who committed suicide who overdosed on medication. 

But in reality it’s been the opposite. I’ve felt controlled. However, as soon as the Doctor recommends weaning off, I want to try to stop taking them. 

Any resources you’d recommend for others struggling with their mental health? 

All these meditation apps like Calm, Insight timer, and Spotify. There are lots of options when searching anxiety and meditation. There is a lot out there to help you ease your mind. 

For tapping, I also looked it up online and learned alone. The acupuncture lady recommended I look into it and sent me a link.

Any final comments? I think the first think that I realized, was that I had to stop trying to do it all and that everything had to be perfect. What helped me a lot was for my husband to see that it was serious and that he had to step up to help me with the home part and also for me to let him do his way, not my way. On Sundays we’ve began to sit down together to look at our weekly agenda and talk about what’s going on including what we need to do and what we want to do. For example, a work event versus yoga or hanging out with friends. We plan so that we are more balanced. We also communicate more. Before we’d assume more and now we communicate and ask more questions. The balance in couples is critical especially if both are working parents. Moms will always have a heavier load but I don’t think it has to be like that. We don’t need to believe and stick to those sayings of ‘only Mom can do this or that’. It’s so much easier to just leave it all to Mom. The more you can pass on to your partner so that the burden is not all on you, the better! 

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