When I became a mother four years ago, I was a hot mess. Spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I was in the throws of an eating disorder, battling severe postpartum depression on top of my already-existing depression, and I truly felt that life was working against me. I wasn’t the best version of myself, and it was killing me inside knowing that I could be something more.
In 2014, I moved to Pennsylvania with my son. We moved in with my parents, and let me tell you, all of our old unresolved issues came to the surface. It didn’t happen like in the movies where over time you slowly resolve all of your old issues and come to a place of happiness and peace. Instead, it all came at once. The anger, resentment, sadness, and hurt seeped into our everyday conversations. It settled in our bones so that we carried it around with us wherever we went. I knew I had to get help and fast. I could see myself repeating the same cycle of abuse I had grown up with, my mother had grown up with, and her mother had grown up with.
You see here’s the thing — family pathology trickles down from generation to generation. Nothing opens our eyes to this more than becoming a mother. We notice it in the way we speak to our children, the words we use with them, how we handle their temper tantrums, but most importantly, we feel it in our gut. Our intuition tells us that we're following the same old cycle that’s been handed down from generation to generation. There’s only one thing holding us back from breaking the cycle and growing on our personal journeys: our duty as a mother. It’s hard to focus on yourself while you’re raising a tiny human being.
Motherhood requires us to give everything we have in every way possible, and if we decide that we are going to take the time to focus on ourselves and continue forward with our personal growth, isn’t that selfish? I mean, we have kids to take care of, so where’s the time to do all of this? Let me tell you some things that I've learned while on my own personal growth journey.
First and foremost, it is an act of pure love to want to better yourself as a human being. We are mothers, not superheroes. We are flawed, messy, lovable human beings who need to continue to grow, and learn, and change, because that’s what we're supposed to do. It’s in our DNA to keep changing, to better ourselves when we know we could be so much more.
For me, this meant seeing a therapist. It was nerve-racking at first, and I didn’t truly open up to her until at least four months into our time together. I also had to go to residential eating disorder treatment for a month in Oregon; that was quite possibly one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. I’m a mother, I can’t just leave my son with family for a month while I go get help. It’ll ruin him for life. You know what would really ruin him for life though? If I stayed sick in every possible way and handed down my own dysfunction to him. I used to display my disordered behaviours in front of him, and I still carry the shame of that with me most days. Yes, I am a mother and my first obligation is to him. That meant that I needed to get myself on track.
I wouldn’t have been able to teach him how to feel his emotions, express them in a healthy way, and most importantly understand that’s it’s okay for him to feel how he feels. How can we possibly teach our children to live their lives with self-acceptance, self-kindness, and self-awareness if we're too caught up in our 'stuff' and never give ourselves permission to focus on ourselves? You know the old saying: 'we can’t give what we don’t have'.
I completed residential treatment because I knew that it would help me on my personal growth journey, and ultimately help my son. I do therapy and book clubs as well. I take the time to read a little bit in the mornings and try to centre myself. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t work at all. And that's okay.
You are worth becoming the best version of you. You are worth taking the time to grow spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It is an act of love to want to better yourself. It is an act of love to say yourself, you know what, I value my myself enough to take some time to better me. What do I need today? I’ll tell you honestly that the 'mum guilt' will still be there, regardless. We all feel the 'mum guilt', and somehow it always seems to creep in when we least expect it. Your job as a mother is to be who you are, to show your children that it's okay and healthy for them to take the time to better themselves. It’s better to give yourself permission to work on you, than it is to keep everything bottled up until you're depleted. You are worth it, and I’m with you on this journey every single day.