There was a time that I wanted to be a “perfect” mom. I structured my existence around watching everyone else and attempting to one-up them. Perfectionism and motherhood aren’t great bed-buddies, yet most moms I know confess they are absolute perfectionists. Everything about me relied upon someone else’s feedback/approval. I spent my life as a mirror of everyone else’s opinions.
Everything came to a head the first time I snapped. For about 6 months prior, I started feeling the cracks behind my painted Stepford Mom smile. I was in sales and I was working 60 or so hours a week. It was not enough to be a perfect mom, I needed to be a career woman too. Through a series of unfortunate events, I was cold turkeyed off Lexapro while at the hospital for bronchitis. Combine that with a massive amount of steroids and albuterol, and I enjoyed my very first psychosis. I started having panic attacks non stop, and ultimately went to the mental hospital for the first time.
I ended up hospitalized almost all of that summer. My diagnoses changed with every hospitalization, so it’s irrelevant. The most important part of the mental hospital was not the meds or the labels; it was learning, for the first time, that I needed to take care of myself. It was the first time I meditated as an adult, I began journaling again, and I began connecting with Yoga again. I had always struggled with anxiety and depression. It never occurred to me that I could or should do anything about it.
Prior to the hospital, I knew I was not happy, but I generally had accepted that happiness was not something that was inside me. I turned to my kids to make me happy as well as my husband. I was always convinced, by making everyone happy, I could “catch” their happiness. I attempted to create this amazing life for all of us, racked up a hell of a lot of debt, and ran myself into the ground. Jack always says that I set expectations for myself that no human can reach. Inevitably when I or my family could not achieve my expectations, I’d grow distant and cold when my depression overcame me. The internal clouds of my unhappiness would leak out over everyone. Behind that Stepford mask was a very angry, miserable woman. After the hospital, I finally learned that there is no perfect, so I became focused on being “normal”.
If I’m honest, sometimes the mental hospital felt more peaceful and natural than home. I felt able to be myself without applying filters or appearances. Once I came back to the “real world” I found it hard to stay with all of the good things I had connected with. Luckily, music stuck with me. Re-connecting and igniting my passion for music helped me start climbing out of the hole I was in. I genuinely am grateful for my hospitalizations. Without them, I wouldn’t have begun my journey inside. After Jack and I separated, music and misery were all I really had. My life and emotions were schizophrenic. “Free” from the kids, I started feeling this resentment of all the time I had “lost” by worrying about everyone else. With the kids, I became distant because I was overwhelmed by trying to “make up” for failing them. I allowed my guilt to let them railroad me behavior-wise. After I lost myself in another guy and let him chew me up and spit me out, I realized that I had to get my shit together.
I started writing. Thanks to writing, I opened up about my binge-ing, purging, and anorexia. I then started writing about feeling crazy all the time, my toxic relationships, and how I could not seem to be happy on my own. I realized it was not being a single or married mom that made me miserable, it was not the kids’ behavior that made me miserable; I was making myself miserable. I was not necessarily wrong in attempting to venture out and find interests, hobbies, and people, but I was wrong in obsessively using everything to escape my pain – from my marriage, trauma, and the fact that I could not quiet my brain.
I began to see the mirrors and microscopes I forced me and the kids to live under. My constant focus on perfecting the outside was an obsession with hiding the messy inside. I accepted the reality that my brain is different from everyone else. Everyone I have loved, at one time or another, has called me crazy, and in truth, love hurt me. The truth that there is nothing I am afraid of more than love and being crazy, and I attempt to hide that every day of my life by attempting to act like anyone else. I was nothing but a bunch of reflections. That is why I enmesh with people, because I want to escape me. Inevitably, every relationship – even the ones with my children – become toxic.
I committed myself to meditation and Yoga in October, because I knew I had to make changes. I made phenomenal growth, and I finally started feeling happiness and peace. I realized that it is impossible for me to make my children happy, nor is it a measure of my abilities. I realized it is my job to give them the tools to find their own. I kept digging in myself to heal past pain and forgive present problems. I started teaching the kids what I was learning, and together life started changing. True to my nature, I became addicted and obsessed with my journey.
In January, after being unable to sleep for more than 15-30 minutes at a time for 3 or 4 weeks, I had psychosis. I do not think I have ever felt more afraid in my life. I am confident that I terrified everyone who knew me, cared about me, and interacted with me during that time. I was essentially terrified of and for my kids. I convinced myself I cannot be a decent mother, and that I was crazy. In those weeks, I felt how painful it was growing up and struggling as I did when no one really focused on anxiety or depression. I never developed healthy coping skills; I am an escape artist. I have repressed so much that I believe I went volcanic. I had finally connected to the last fear that had been eating me alive – I am hurting the kids.
The mirrors I had abided by became every thing I saw in the world, and it was as if I finally realized how badly I treated myself. I’ve always believed very strongly that everything happens for a reason. It gives me comfort to believe that everything and everyone in life teaches you a lesson that you needed. I believe that my psychosis was my self imposed suffering coming to a head. While I had made changes, I still was not allowing myself to love myself, be happy, or be forgiven. I carried the burden of the past and future on my shoulders. I allowed myself to believe that because I was afraid of love, I did not love my kids, and they were going to “be like me”.
I hated myself for every failure, as I imagined all of the ramifications on my kids as adults. The fears I lived under ate my mind, but shattered all of the mirrors as well. It is hard to care what other people think when you are convinced that, if you don’t heal yourself you will die. I went to the mental hospital for the 5th time and spent weeks afterwards attempting to regain some sense of self. About a month ago, I started staying with Jack again, because I accepted that I needed help in my recovery. It’s only now I’ve regained my footing. Remaining consistent with meditation and mindfulness, Yoga, writing, and music, I’ve found myself returning to a more balanced center vs. the schizophrenia I was living under.
I am finally moving away from being afraid and feeling like a failure. My kids have watched me fall and get back up many times over the past few years. As with my prior hospitalizations, I’m grateful for everything that happened. It forced me to knock down the painful beliefs I’ve held in my psyche. It forced me to see that I am a strong woman who must fight as hard for herself as she does the ones she loves. Feeling the pain of all the years concentrated into a few weeks made me see that my capacity for pain is dwarfed by my capacity for love, acceptance, peace, understanding, and happiness. My journey started with Buddha’s “Expect Nothing, Appreciate Everything.” after my psychosis, I finally embraced that I hold on to my suffering, and the only way to live in happiness is to live in love. “The root of all suffering is attachment” Ironically, I was attached TO suffering.
Yesterday, my little voice in my meditation told me “Love yourself so much that it spills over to everyone else.” Coming back to all of my coping skills has made me see that I will never be a normal mom, and in truth, I would never want to be. This morning, as I listened to them sing Head Like a Hole by NIN, I thought the happiest, simple truth. I am the perfect Mom. I’m theirs.
If you’re looking to get your kids involved in meditation or yoga, the following are great:
Cosmic Kids Yoga – My gang loves the routines, zen den, and Yoga Disco
For overworked/tired/stressed out Moms, I recommend:
Weightless – Marconi Union <<This is said to relieve anxiety immediately, it was music perfected for anxiety
There are also several apps on iPhones/iPads for coloring Mandalas that my gang loves!
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