I was treading water with my head above the surface because typically it's fine as long as it's fine... until one day it's not.
There are days I wake up so happy I can feel it in my bones. But on other days I wake up feeling out of sorts, like someone trying to find a light switch in a darkened room.
A year ago, I decided to seek help from a therapist. I never thought about therapy before. I never thought I needed it. I had feelings buried deep inside me at the pit of my core for years that I never talked about, but that's where they lived, and I was okay with that—or so I thought.
Then I became a mother. And my heart cracked open, and a whole flood of emotions and new layers presented themselves.
When my second son was born, I was depressed, anxious—I was falling apart at the seams. Up until that point, I was treading water with my head above the surface because typically it's fine as long as it's fine... until one day it's not.
My therapist was gentle. She guided me. She taught me how to live with my realities and how to work through problems in my life. She helped peel back those layers to reveal why I was feeling what I was feeling and how I could deal with it on a daily basis—and that has saved me.
I had to stop listening to the negative voice inside my head.
We all have that inner voice inside of our heads that makes us question every move we make. That voice creates doubt and insecurity that gets in the way of how we live our lives and it can make you feel like a failure as a mom.
Your house is a complete disaster, fail.
Your baby isn't sleeping through the night yet, fail.
You yelled at your toddler for accidentally spilling milk on the kitchen floor, fail.
All these little moments stack up, and in return you blame yourself. You criticize your mom abilities and from there it snowballs.
But instead of turning those destructive thoughts inward, I practice mothering with a purpose now. I've learned to allow my challenges to serve as lessons—to help me parent with patience, strength and kindness.
I take a breather and walk to the other room, I count to 10 in my head, I journal my thoughts—anything to transfer that energy elsewhere. And when my mind starts to shift, I remind myself that I'm more powerful and that I'm in control of my thoughts.
I had to learn that the other voice reflected my true self.
This is the voice that counters the negative. This voice speaks the truth when I have an opinion and makes the decision when I'm being indecisive. It's my gut feeling and first instinct. It's also the voice I used to question most.
As a mother who struggles with depression and anxiety, I often overthink problems and carry around a guilty conscience— even days after making a mistake. My therapist helped me discover what my triggers are and how my voice can help me through it.
I've learned to be willing to explore things in my past in order to identify how they've affected me today. By strengthening this voice, I've been able to connect with my authentic self and become more mindful of my thoughts, fears, and truths.
Instead of second-guessing this voice, I listen to it now.
I had to learn that my feelings are valid, too.
My therapist doesn't like labels, but she often refers to me as being a protective people-pleaser. I tend to drift through life protecting my loved ones with a shield tied to my arm. I think that's part of the innate nature of a mother though, to take away the worries from her family. To pile the pain. To stack the struggles.
There are days—weeks even—when I feel like I'm taking on water. When I feel like I need to set down the bucket and just float there for a little while. Eventually, the weight becomes unbearable to carry and I've learned that it's okay to empty that bucket.
It's okay to confess that I'm struggling.
It's okay that I'm having a bad day, and it's okay to admit that motherhood is hard. My feelings matter, too.
I remind myself that it is the sum of the days, not just today, that shape my children.
I had to learn the healing power of self-forgiveness.
This was difficult for me.
I was unfairly blaming myself for something I was not responsible for. I was ashamed and I often interrogated myself about things that were all stemming from childhood trauma. Why did this happen to me? Why didn't I say anything? And like other survivors of trauma, I found myself stuck along the way toward healing—in a place where shame and guilt seemed to be blocking the path to happiness and recovery.
Even years later, those feelings crept into motherhood. Talking through these problems with my therapist helped me understand that what I experienced was not my fault. I learned that I needed to show myself compassion and empathy. Self-blame and shame can be toxic, and self-compassion has been the antidote.
I had to learn to be true to myself.
This means putting yourself first sometimes, which has always been tough for me, but it's even harder now that I'm a mother.
This means being completely honest with your thoughts, feelings, and values regardless what others might think of you. This means communicating those feelings wholeheartedly to others, allowing you to be your natural self.
If something is bothering you, speak. It means not allowing others to define you, sway you, or make decisions for you. It means being open-minded and sincere with your intimate thoughts and beliefs. It means standing up for yourself and standing down to no one.
Oftentimes there is a misconception that therapy is for those with bigger problems than our own. While others suffer from much greater issues, ones that require prescription medication or hospitalization, anyone can certainly benefit from talk therapy. Therapy can be painful, uncomfortable, overwhelming and exhausting—but it can also be a lifeline. I know it was for me.
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