I have had enough! I am fed up with all that perfection which is presented probably everywhere! That is the end of feeling wrong, bad, unworthy…
On Tuesday morning I woke up exhausted after a night when I was awake maybe hundred times and crying for hours the previous evening. I did not feel like getting out of the bed. My memories of months and years after giving birth to B. flooded me with all their power. My body was in pain, tensed and I was about to cry all day long which really happened for a few times. I know these feelings very well. They were re-activated by several events of previous days. If experienced separately, they would cause no harm. However, they happened in three days and added up…
- Social media. Perfect photographs of perfect people with perfectly happy families in perfect surroundings… Am I the only one struggling? Then a friend writes me about her struggles. What a discrepancy between social media reality and real reality… Few months after giving birth I became a member of a local postpartum depression Facebook group. Women wrote about their experiences and struggles and they finally felt real, like people… After reading someone’s struggles I checked a profile of the particular person and I was back to perfect photographs of perfect people with… It was not the right place for me. From the very beginning, my personal Facebook profile included many links to articles about postpartum depression. From the very beginning, I try to write my blog posts about everyday struggles which are always woven into ordinary days with extraordinary moments. Obviously, not enough!
- Oprah with Meghan and Harry (2021). A much discussed interview opens many themes and problems, however there were few that are related to my own and struck me hard. All of them were concentrated in a part where Meghan talked about her mental health and a photographs from an event she and Harry attended.
- Media. Media present just small segment of reality. Each and everyone of us completes the reality with his or her story. I consider it very important that everyone can identify with someone or find someone with a similar “story”. Meghan said: “I know how important representation is. I know how you want to see someone who looks like you…” It serves as a “reflection of the world today…” Meghan had a skin color in mind, but representation of people with mental health issues is important too.
- Others and us. In the interview Meghan talked about how differently she and one of her friends perceived photographs from a particular event. A friend saw Meghan and Harry looking “so great”. Meghan saw how tightly they were holding each other’s hand after a very difficult conversation and how she was “just weeping” off camera. They were doing their job. “And that’s I think so important for people to remember you have no idea what’s going on for someone behind closed doors. You have no idea. Even the people who smile the biggest smiles and shine the brightest lights.”
- Mental health issues. Causes may vary, but how clearly and understandably Meghan stated what many people with mental health issues go through… “Look, I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry especially… But I knew if I didn’t say it that I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”
- Expectation about ourselves. People with mental health issues have probably never thought of wanting to have mental health issues. They can creep in stealthily and gradually without us realizing it. “As I said I was ashamed. I am supposed to be stronger than that.”
- Courage. “It takes so much courage to admit that you need help, to admit how dark of a place you are in. It takes so much courage to voice that. I share this because there are so many people who are afraid to voice that they need help. And I know personally how hard it is to not just voice it but when you voice it to be told no.”
- Pandemic. Last week local statistics about age distribution of the virus were published. It showed that M. and I belong to the category with the highest risk of infecting and that children become more and more in risk too. I felt getting ill and was so scared about it. I had an anxiety attack.
How I coped
To cope with the day I just needed to do things I did not feel like doing, as doing things made me going. That is why I was unstoppable, did not know how and could not rest months after B. was born.
Luckily, when days like this one come now, I know now it is just one or few days out of many good or acceptable days. Years ago, every day looked like that and I could not find the way out. Now I am more rested, aware of the stuff going on, I found ways how to feel at least slightly better. I did my morning routine – got dressed, combed my hair, washed my face, brushed my teeth, stretched my body. And I felt a tiny bit better.
B. was shocked with my state of mind, he wiped my tears and hugged me. I tried to explain him that today I feel really sad and I will get better. I did not want his kindness to become my sad mood saver, because it would put him to a very difficult and unbearable position. He is not responsible for solving my sad feelings. And this was quite hard for me, because for months I relied on external support as I did not have enough capacity to do it myself. But I moved on and I can do better now. And I did – the flood took just one day!
I have decided to take photographs of myself that morning. I gave myself a permission to capture moments when I do not feel well. And it means that I gave myself a permission to not feel well. Looking at photographs after B. was born is an unreal experience for me. I do not remember most of the situations – I usually look happy and smiley and there is huge discrepancy between what is captured in the photographs and how I remember feeling at that time. Of course, we took pictures when we had time, everything was calm, B. was sleeping or playing, everyone fed, we were not handling big emotions… Probably many parents do it like that. But then it does not represent the reality…
It takes so much effort to find words and express my inner reality even for myself and it takes so much courage to tell a close person or a friend. It took me a long time, because I was scared of misunderstanding, shaming, downplaying… My silence protected from other people’s unhelpful reactions, but it also prevented me to air things out. Now I am being courageous as I have never been. I work on changing my expectations of motherhood, parenthood while making it public at the same time. It is not enough!
My next step
I have decided to be more active in presenting struggles and imperfections of my everyday life. In addition to my usual posts containing these elements I am going to post short posts about it everyday next week. I am going to use #ParenthoodInProgress, so if you are willing to join me, it would be fabulous! I think it has a possibility to help many people.
With #ParenthoodInProgress I intentionally chose positivity evoking statement creating space for hope, improvement, movement, change… Good luck everyone!