Lately, this Mom Thing has been getting me down. I worry about the future and things I can’t control. I stay up after the kids fall asleep, wondering how they will turn out and if I’m doing the wrong things. How is it that other moms seem to have it together better than I do? “Comparison is the thief of joy” but I seem to compare myself not to other real people, but to some Ideal Mom who doesn’t exist.
Still, it causes me heartache not to measure up to whatever standard my brain cooks up that day.
Maybe you have the same thoughts. I do spend a lot of time in therapy and I take anti-depressants. Those things are the secrets to my success so far if this is what success looks like. I think other people see me as a strong, capable woman who is doing all the right things. Then why can’t I believe them?
It takes serious effort now for me to follow what I’ve learned in therapy. I write about these big issues and feelings I get hung up on. I sit with my emotions, allowing them to wash over me like a wave, crying if I need to. I explain to my kids that sometimes Mommy gets upset and that’s ok. Hopefully, they’ll learn that it’s okay and healthy to let out your emotions in a safe way. Sometimes it’s so painful to be present because it was easier to dissociate a little and compartmentalize my feelings, shoving them away like dust under a rug.
I make it a point to consider things I’m thankful for. I ask the children during our nighttime prayers to tell me about one thing they are thankful for that God gave them that day. Once, my son said, “An attitude!” and that brightened me up for days.
I talk to a friend or family member if I get too stuck on a ruminating thought.
They’re my barometers to tell me if I’m on the right track or not. Usually, they point out how I’m measuring myself against an impossible standard and it’s okay to take a break or ask for help. If someone really loves you, they don’t have a problem listening to you however many times you tell them what is rolling around in the hamster wheel of your mind.
Sometimes I meditate and intentionally clear my mind of everything. I focus on one thing. Sometimes it’s something tactile, like a smooth, polished rock. Sometimes it’s a prayer (usually a prayer because that’s my tradition). I squish a stress ball or doodle because touching something helps my brain unwind.
Physical activity and exercise have been their own anti-depressants, probably better than actual anti-depressants. If I’m so upset, I know if I go up as many stairs on the stair machine as I can go at the gym, then I will reach that point of exhaustion and suddenly life will feel more clear. Physically going toward something makes me feel accomplished. Climbing up to something is like stretching to reach my goals. Pushing against the weights that are getting heavier and heavier becomes my ability to defeat the obstacles within and around me.