These words go hand in hand in my world. I remember when Alex and I started thinking about having kids, I spent 18 months in therapy trying to prepare myself for motherhood. I needed someone to tell me I wouldn’t loose my mind and leave my kids somewhere or walk out of the house when things got hard or any of the other things that could happen once I was responsible for the lives of others. Have you seen the movie or read the book “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”? I was petrified that would be me. I thought for sure that the first time I had to deal with a puking child I would just walk out of my house never to return. I could not get a grasp on what would convince me that would not happen. So I sought therapy, I thought for sure someone would just give me a handbook and make sure that I wouldn’t do that. At 25, I should have known better. I had been in therapy for the better part of my adult life, and even though my brain understood that wasn’t how therapy worked, its what I wanted so that’s what I looked for.
I had a wonderful therapist, but here’s the thing… when you can speak intellectually about your mental health, it often seems to get dismissed. Even though what I was searching for was somewhat unreasonable, I was still able to articulate my fears. I was able to say I’m terrified and I know I want children and I know I want to be a good mother and here is the list of things I don’t want to do, and he would just look at me and say “Then don’t”.
To my logical persona, that was a great answer. Then just don’t. Don't give into your fears. It’s just like conquering a fear of spiders or heights right? But then my illness would whisper quietly and remind me that “just don’t” is not a real solution. It sounds great to logical me, but I am not always that person, sometimes my illness is running the show... so I have to remember that I am not the illness, I am a person with an illness, but the illness is not WHO I am.
In the 8 years I have been a “full time parent” - we have a 17 year old but that’s a story for a different post - I have found that I never really wanted to walk out… or at least I have been able to control the feeling when it arises. The most interesting thing I have learned about my mental health and having children, is that I have been able to talk with them about it. We really do not give children enough credit in being able to handle real information. We think of mental health (among so many other things) as a topic they must be sheltered from until they’re older… but I have been able to silence my guilt and say directly to them, “mommy is sad and needs a minute”. And they are rock stars for hearing that. I have been able to erase a bit of the societal stigma that comes along with admitting that we ALL have mental health issues and that its OK to say things like “I am sad and need a minute”. I have been able to talk with my daughters about coping mechanisms and treating your mental health the same as you would your physical health. It has opened my eyes to how to treat them better and acknowledge their feelings when they too are sad and need a minute. It’s a statement I wish more of us could make, I wish we could all say to each other things like “Do you have the mental space for me right now?” and if the answer is “No”, I wish that it wasn’t seen as a personal attack. I wish more people offered to help like they do when you have the flu or a cold, cause asking for help is nearly impossible when the sickness you have cannot be solved with a trip to the drug store.
I think I could go on and on about this topic, and I am sure this won’t be the last post about it, so I guess always remember:
We are in this together, even if we don’t talk about it.
Kindness goes a long way.
Mothers need to be there for each other, admitting this shit is hard does not mean you love your kids any less.
If you try talking to your kids, its amazing the things they can understand… they could benefit from your being honest and open with them.