Dear Moms Recovering,
I need you today. I have uncovered the truth, the emotional trauma of my childhood. Early on I was told not to talk about my feelings and taught the lie that they did not matter.
In recovery, I am learning I can tell my truth and ask for what I need.
The truth is that I am mothering while recovering. It feels like the scope of the work in this season of life has just doubled. Every day I am “on” as a mom and I am also standing front and center on the stage of my pain. When I am “off,” I am working feverishly “behind the scenes” to heal. I feel so tired and terribly lonely.
I need to know you are out there. I have been looking everywhere for you. Maybe, like me, you are just now beginning to feel ready to share this part of your story and perhaps we simply have not found each other yet. I am not ready for you to know me by name, but I need your support to be the mom I want to be. I have a plan and the professional resources I need, but today I need the ear of a mom who can relate.
Here is what mothering while recovering is like for me.
Most days bring a joy that breaks the pain and soothes my soul. I walk with my daughter in a garden and we stop to notice a pair of dancing butterflies. We sit on the front porch and she twirls around, strands of her long summer-blonde-streaked hair glistening in the afternoon sun. We sing along to her favorite songs in the car. In my rearview mirror, I see her making funny faces and bouncing along in the backseat. In her eyes and smile, I see a little carefree version of myself I cannot remember.
Some days I am so worn out from the bouts of depression. I lay in my bed, almost immobilized. I cry often. I explain “taking breaks” to her and invite her to play quietly beside me. It is not how I imagined it, but I am doing the best I can for us.
Creativity, playfulness, and being present for every moment is both energizing and draining. I see her holding an old toy and flashback. In my body, it feels like the past is happening right now and a thick fog covers my mind. When I come back, I wonder what wonder with her I just missed. Playing all day long feels hard and it also helps me cope. I paint with her, put my feet in the sand, and ball up the play-doh. It settles my nerves.
When she struggles, I visualize that I am her “emotional backboard” deflecting every emotional and physical blows. Her tantrums trigger old feelings of helplessness and rejection. I do everything possible to regulate my emotions. I take her natural need to practice independence personally. I lose all cognition of its developmental appropriateness. I study up on boundaries and setting limits, the hardest parts of mothering for me. I am working on calmly and confidently offering her guidance and discipline.
I let things go and I nap when she naps. I need that time to recuperate and to gear up for any possible next round of depletion. Then I lay awake late at night recounting all my offenses and tabulating my performance score for the day. Any mistake is felt as a failure, not an opportunity for growth. Anything less than perfection feels equal to the ultimate failure of repeating the past.
Often I obsess about not repeating the past to the point I am blind to all the ways I already am the mom I want to be. I forget that I have taught her that her “yes” and her “no” are both always welcome. That every day she is given room to express herself. I forget how I show up with empathy tirelessly to help her learn to manage her emotions. When conflict arises, we talk about it. When mistakes are made, I tell her about “do-overs.” When she declares that she both is angry and does not love me, I softly explain how love works.
In loving her unconditionally, I am re-raising myself. I am not perfect, but I am a good enough mom most of the time.
That is the truth.
To all the moms recovering, thank you. I needed to need you today. I am here to shoulder this with you and remind you every day that you are a good mom too.
Thinking of You,
This post is part of a series called the True Life Series, where we share stories written by Milwaukee area moms, but posted anonymously. By and large, these stories are more sensitive in nature or cover topics that may be triggers for some readers. Publishing the piece does not suggest an endorsement by MKE Moms Blog.
However, we want to give these writers the chance to share their stories in a safe space, in the hopes that someone else might resonate and realize they are not alone. Topics in the True Life Series are likely to draw a lot of opinions, but we want to be clear that, out of respect for the writers of these pieces, we will be monitoring comments carefully and deleting anything that is shaming, hurtful, derogatory or otherwise abusive.