How come talking about the loneliness, guilt, resentment, anger and shame that comes with motherhood isn’t a thing?
How come when we try and reach out for help, we are told, “Oh, it's not that bad.” or, “It’s just your hormones dear, it will all level out soon enough,” or my ultimate favourite, “don’t worry about that stuff, your babies are only babies once, sit back and soak it all in and just cheer up.” How isolating is that? We have just confessed we feel like we are drowning, and we are told to swim better.
What people should say (in my opinion) is, “yes, I get it! I remember when I felt like that; it was overwhelming and scary. Don’t beat yourself up; there’s nothing wrong with you; this is hard! Am I right to think that maybe this means you aren’t getting the support you need? How can I help?”
Our struggles are so commonly swept under the rug as not that bad. Or perhaps we are just overdramatic, too sensitive, irrational and hormonal. Heck, just being a woman already tethers us to those emotions! Not surprisingly, none of this addresses the real issue at hand, which needs to change.
We shouldn’t feel ashamed of our big ugly emotions. We shouldn’t be fearful of speaking up in case someone calls us unfit mothers. We shouldn’t be scared of being cast out as a bad mom who needs to get it together.
We should have people in our lives to support us, and to remind us that becoming a parent is an enormous transition. We should feel safe enough to open up about our struggles without pills being pushed in our faces as the only solution. “Take this, don’t think, don’t feel, and everything will be ok.” How is sweeping away our emotions ever the best solution? Don’t get me wrong, I know medication saves some people’s lives, but what if we had a support system before it even got to be that bad?
Just imagine if we had a community where we could authentically be ourselves and share our struggles, fears and worries and are shown healthy ways to work through them. Maybe then we could start ending this cycle of unspoken shame.
What if I told you that science has a huge part to play in all of this? Would you feel more empowered, more hopeful that there could be a way through it?
I had no idea that the area of my brain (our amygdala) that controls my emotions also manages the threat response: the fight, flight or freeze. So, when I talked to myself negatively, I didn’t know that my brain couldn’t tell the difference between a made-up threat (lies I was telling myself) and a legitimate threat.
For example, when I would tell myself things like, “I’m a lousy mom; who am I to try and raise these kids? What’s wrong with me? Why can I be happy? This is too hard; I can’t do this.” My brain would start believing I was faulty, my kids were better off with someone else, or that I wasn’t worthy of being their mom. My negative narrative put my body into a fight, flight or freeze mode just the same as a real threat, like being trampled by a crazy bull. As a result of my inner mean girl, I would feel guilt, anxiety, fear, stress, and shame because my brain believes those lies to be a real threat.
I relate this to those moments when I have an almost out-of-body experience; I see myself completely irrational, getting extremely upset over something so insignificant, but I can’t stop myself. Knowing I was angry and short-tempered with no real reason, yet I still couldn’t rationalize my brain to make the switch.
My negative self-talk had put me into either a fight or flight mode and everything felt like a threat, even actions with good intentions.
Did you know this already? I sure didn’t. I had no idea that dedicating time and energy to improving my mindset could drastically change my entire life. I had no clue that learning to speak to myself differently and how I wanted my life to be could help the feeling of being out of control.
If we had support during these overwhelming times in our lives, where we had people we could open up to, reminding us that we aren’t faulty, then maybe the self-talk wouldn’t get so bad. We could then start taking back control and changing our inner narrative before we became lost.
Learning this all after the fact is why I want to share this with you, just in case you didn’t know.
You are not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. There is a way out!!
If you’re looking for a community that is a safe haven for sharing struggles, getting support, giving and receiving encouragement, and learning ways to silence that inner mean girl, I’ve got just the place for you.
See you inside, my friend. 💜