People may call what happens at midlife “a crisis” but it’s not. It’s an unraveling—a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are. Clearly the universe decided motherhood would be the perfect time for my unraveling… Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are…Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief. I wish someone showed me that label during pregnancy. It would have said: “Severe postpartum depression and crippling anxiety…”
When we believe “we must be this” we ignore who or what we actually are, our capacity and our limitations. We start from the image of perfection, and of course, from perfection, there is nowhere else to go but down…At some point, most of us begin to believe the expectations about who we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to look like, what we’re supposed to do, how much we’re supposed to be and how little we’re supposed to be. We also develop fear of rejecting those expectations. We constantly see evidence that if we do reject these expectations, we will experience very painful disconnections and rejection. So we internalize these expectations and they become an emotional prison. Moms aren’t perfect? I was supposed to be the perfect mom. Thank you, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. Emotional prison equals one year of postpartum depression…
Many women struggle to ask for help or support. So often, we are the caregivers and helpers—we convince ourselves that we shouldn’t need help so we don’t ask for it. Getting help saved my life. It taught me how to say “fuck off” to the mom I thought I was supposed to be and accept the mom I was. Now, I always ask for help when I need it. It really does take a village…
When I asked women to share examples of how they recovered from shame, they described situations in which they were able to talk about their shame with someone who expressed empathy. Women talked about the power of hearing someone say:
- “I understand—I’ve been there.”
- “That’s happened to me too.”
- “It’s OK. You’re normal.”
- “I understand what that’s like.”
Therapy helped me realize all the above. But why didn’t I know that before I got sick? Where were these moms hiding on social media?
When we zoom out, we start to see a difference picture. We see many people in the same struggle. Rather than thinking, “I’m the only one,” we start thinking, “I can’t believe it! You too? I’m normal? I thought it was just me!” Once we start to see the big picture, we are better able to reality-check our shame triggers and the social community expectations that fuel shame. There are hundreds of thousands of us in the postpartum depression club. I’m not ashamed to be a member anymore. If I don’t hide, maybe others won’t…
When we tell our stories, we change the world. I know that sounds dramatic, but I believe it. We’ll never know how our stories might change someone’s life—our children’s, our friends’, our parents’, our partner’s or maybe that of a stranger who hears the story down the line or reads it in a book. On January 1, 2016, my second baby was born—my blog, The Medicated Mommy, a place to own and share the real, raw details of my postpartum depression journey and my honest thoughts about the rollercoaster of motherhood.
If we think there’s someone else, a group of women, a city full of women, a country full of women, a world full of women, struggling with the same issue, the concept of shame becomes bankrupt. There is a world full of us. I’m talking and sharing and writing to give others the courage to do the same. If we all tell our stories of postpartum depression, the stigma and shame can’t survive.
When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up and say, “Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again.”—my gut reaction is, “What a badass.” I like to think kicking postpartum depression’s ass, sharing my experience to help others, and owning who I am as a mom makes me a badass!
Once we fall in the service of being brave, we can never go back. We can rise up from our failures, screw-ups, and falls, but we can never go back to where we stood before we were brave or before we fell…Courage is contagious. Rising strong changes not just you, but the people around you. I can never go back. I don’t want to. Writing my truth is freeing. Staying true to who I am is empowering. Being able to say to others, “Me too. You’re not alone. I feel like that too,” is powerful. In return, I’ve received so many messages from both moms I know and strangers bravely sharing their struggles with me after I first admitted mine.
When we combine the courage to make clear what works for us and what doesn’t with the compassion to assume people are doing their best, our lives change. There is no room for shame and judgment in motherhood. If a mother acts like she is perfect and happy all the time, run! We are all just doing the best we can. And we are all in it together.
My story matters because I matter. A movement where we can take to the streets with our messy, imperfect, wild, stretch-marked, wonderful, heartbreaking, grace-filled, and joyful lives. A movement fueled by the freedom that comes when we stop pretending that everything is okay when it isn’t. I’ve joined the movement. I’m sharing those stories. I want to read and hear about those stories. I’m not interested in the pretend.
Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends. Amen!