Mental health is now a trendy buzz phrase that is getting more attention as it rightfully should. Recently a close friend and I were joking about the future therapy our children may seek because of our current circumstances. Our comedic reflections made for hearty laughter and we continued to enjoy each other’s company. I remember first seeking counseling at the beginning of my motherhood journey. The newness of being a first-time mom had hit me like a freight train when I returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave. Thankfully, the awkwardness of those first visits to a counselor didn’t deter me from continuing sessions.
My journey for better mental health has had peaks, valleys, loops, and zigzags. When I get in my head-space with thoughts spiraling out of control, I have to pull from my skills toolbox in order to refocus, reassess, and navigate my mind. Oftentimes these moments involve walking to the bathroom alone for a few minutes. After the breaths, crying, screams or pep talk I need, I look in the mirror and reaffirm myself on one or all three of the following truths.
“I am present.”
As a planner, I forward think and prepare for worst case scenarios. While this has definite benefits, left unchecked it tends to run me ragged. It causes me to miss or not enjoy what is happening in the now. Give me a project and I will see it to completion, habitually sacrificing my time and my needs. Breaking this requires every ounce of intention and patience.
I didn’t anticipate how the reopening of the world post-2020 and everyone being outside would quickly force a return to fast paced living. My husband and I both work outside the home and external expectations have required us to make difficult decisions regarding the rhythms and dynamics of our home. However, these decisions are necessary and non-negotiable to allow us to be present for each other and for our children.
Where I am at a given moment is the result of a conscious choice to be there, to be present for the important people in my life. Of course the should haves, could haves, and would haves creep into the corners of my mind. However, I drown them out with the joy of being present when my son hit his first home run, seeing my oldest daughter’s exhibit in the district art show, and celebrating my youngest recognizing all the letters of her first name.
“I am a human being.”
Are you ready for this one? This simple truth hit me like a ton of bricks—I am a human being, NOT a human doing. Mic drop. I cannot do it all. I do not have to do it all. My worth is not all nicely gift wrapped in what I do. Busyness can be idolatrous. Being capable of doing something does not mean I am available to do it. My to-do list will forever be never-ending and I am learning to be okay with that.
Part of being human is resting. I remember when I was asked how I model rest to my children. I was at a loss for words. So, I took that as a challenge. This mommy started slowing down and even started taking naps. Laundry piles get left unattended and counter-tops not wiped but I’m resting more. I couldn’t help laughing when my daughter brought home her “All About Mommy” project and she’d written that Mommy likes to sleep. Learning to sit with open days on my calendar allows opportunities for spontaneous fun to happen, like grabbing sundaes from our favorite ice cream shop or spending hours at the park on the playground.
“I am perfectly imperfect.”
Comparison is a thief of joy. Using a false standard of motherhood or anything will leave you feeling inadequate every time. I have had to acknowledge I was chasing a perceived perfect prescriptive for my life. It was wearing me down trying to achieve it, not even knowing the origin of that standard. I wish I could adequately put into words the relief showering over me as that burden is lifted. It is freeing to choose to be loved exactly as I am right now. I am my worst critic and the perceived truths floating around my head usually greatly differ from actual reality. My mess-ups, hardships, and struggles are part of my story. There is a beautiful story of imperfection being played out in my life and thankfully I am not privy to see it all.
One of my favorite sayings is, “give yourself grace.” (Lots and lots of grace.) I look in the mirror and say it daily. As if I am inspiring and encouraging a friend, I am learning to be kind to myself. In turn, that kindness helps me to love others right where they are.