Confession: I’ve been quietly angry the past 3 weeks. Like raging angry. That anger was starting to fossilize into rock hard bitterness and I was scared the remaining imprint would be a snapshot of me, permanently stuck in the past….in pain….in fear….the parts of me that have malfunctioned forever encapsulated, leaving behind an incomplete view as to the person I really am.
The anger started after a therapy session before the holidays. I left my therapist’s office realizing that above anything else, I had spent the past 20+ months being robbed; robbed by a depression that started just before my pregnancy with Alex and mutated into PPD, anxiety, and now BP since his birth nearly 21 months ago. I can’t even say that I was allowing myself to be robbed because it’s not like I had a say in it. I didn’t ask to suffer from these illnesses, I definitely didn’t want to. All the bootstrap pulling in the world couldn’t pull me out of the quicksand I was in. I know you might not like this, but I would even go so far as to equate it to being raped or sexually abused. I feel at liberty to say that because I’ve experienced both. As a child and as a young woman, both left me feeling like parts of me were being ripped & stripped away, leaving behind a hollow shell of myself, my sense of safety and identity crushed. Both left me feeling ashamed, lonely, unworthy, unclean, unlovable…and powerless to make the abuse stop. For me, my recent battles with mental illness have been exactly like my experiences with abuse. I’ve struggled. I’ve drowned. I’ve been unable to walk away no matter how much I may have wanted with everything in me to. I aided in the ruin of a relationship that I thought was going to last, and in the breaking down of someone I loved but couldn’t be or do better for. My relationship with my oldest, Brennan took a major hit and he saw a side to me I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t always hide from him.
The robbery that has hurt the most, however, has been my struggle to bond with Alex, my youngest. Sometimes it feels as though everything I learned & knew about motherhood dissipated when he made his appearance into the world. As the doctor laid him on my chest and I looked into his eyes, I remember feeling bewildered and twinges of panic choking any blooms of love that were trying to blossom in my heart. After an exhausting and intense 5 days of labor, his delivery happened so swiftly it’s mostly a blur of confusion & haste for me. He was on my chest barely 30 seconds before they took him away, saying they needed to warm him up-“He’s too cold to cry,” I remember the nurse saying, and seeing worry etched across my ex’s face. Those first moments of his arrival were tense and anxious, and although he warmed up and his cry eventually came, the panic and confusion that settled into my mind during that time didn’t leave. It stayed with me in the hospital that first night and moved in with us when we went home. It has always been there, lurking in the shadows of my mind, gripping my heart every time he makes the slightest noise. Those feelings of belonging, of “he’s mine,” those seeds of love that grow for most mothers when their children are born…all of that has been an uphill battle for me to obtain, or even catch a glimpse of when it comes to my relationship with Alex. He feels like my firstborn instead of my second…mothering him at times is down right confusing, leaving me clueless as to how to care, comfort, or even love him. It’s not a struggle I’m proud of, one that is fraught with its share of guilt, but it’s the truth. I haven’t been healthy enough to give him all that he needs and that’s been a hard pill to swallow. A good, healthy start is something we weren’t afforded and that had me angry-with myself , my malfunctioning mind, and my inability to enjoy and savor the first year of his life…His smiles…his laughs…his personality…his milestones. There’s a part of me that’s been there, with the happy face on, trying to fight through the quicksand to get there, to be all that he needs..but then there’s the hollow part…
So leading up to the new year, I was angry. Bitter. Resentful for what was taken from us. Feeling defeated despite some small gains, wondering if we would be able to recover all that was lost. Feeling robbed.
Then yesterday while playing with Alex, I took some snapshots of him laughing and smiling….and I remembered how impossible it was a year ago for me to do this, to play with him. To laugh and not feel on the edge. I looked at the photos of him, of us, and I just started crying the ugly cry. Each tear cooled the anger and soothed the pain burning in my heart, and I finally felt the shame and inadequacy I’d been feeling as a mother for so long just lift. The more gratitude I let fill my heart, the lighter and freer I felt.
And it was in those moments of gratitude that I felt myself stealing it all back…giggle by giggle.
And that’s WINNING. Eat your heart out, Charlie Sheen.
- How to Use Gratitude to Re-Center Yourself (gettingatwhatmatters.wordpress.com)
- Teaching Kids the Importance of Gratitude (everydayhealth.com)
- Self Love Saturday: Thank you, 2011. You’ve Taught Me Well (butterfly-confessions.com)