90 MINUTES

Written and submitted by a fellow Rebel Mama.

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I’ve got a guilty little secret. I say guilty because it sometimes feels like an indulgence…

Twice a week for 45 minutes, I get to sit and sip coffee and talk about myself.  And although on occasion I have been known to talk to myself (there is a female genetic trade in our family for talking to oneself), in this case, there is actually someone on the receiving end listening to me.

Listening. Listening only to me. Attention undivided. Judgement held back. No rush to comment about a personal experience.

My secret is that I’m a mom in therapy. The guilty part is that it’s 90 minutes a week away from my responsibilities; away from my kids.

So, how did I end up in therapy? On the surface, I’ve got my shit together. I have two amazing children conceived with no trouble, a great marriage, true friends from many walks of life, the support of my family, a fulfilling career, financial stability, a healthy lifestyle and a busy social life.

Believe me when I say I know how fucking good I have it. That’s why I spent the last three years wondering why the hell I feel like I’m losing my shit despite of all that. Why do I feel that at any given moment it could all unravel? And for god sake, why the fuck can’t I sleep at night? And I mean every night – not just the occasional bout of insomnia.

It took seeing the effects of my anxiety on my kids, to realize that my feelings of melancholy and tension were not actually what a theoretically happy woman should feel. I’ve always known this angst to be there, but had somehow managed to bury it.

I know that life is not a cake walk. I saw it growing up in a war torn country, immigrating and starting over with nothing, living in one of the city’s more colourful areas as a teenager and knowing that death comes to the young just as easily as it does to the old.

I also see it every day at work in the eyes of my patients who have been robbed of their former selves and reduced to a physiological mess on the brink of death. You would think that all of this may have triggered a little signal in my mind that I might be at risk for anxiety. But it didn’t. Add to this that I suffered trauma as a young child. Still, the red flags were ignored.

I mastered a way to repress my anxiety at a young age. Sure it always reared its ugly head when I was alone, but on day-to-day basis I was fine. I excelled in school, I was socially adjusted, and despite being on the shy side as a teenager and young adult, I went through high school and university with little trouble and easily made life-long friends. I managed to earn three degrees, got a job within my profession, got married and had kids shortly thereafter.

I rode the hormone-induced pregnancy high with my first. Cue in newborn needs, mom with repressed anxiety and a series of sad events during my three trimesters, post-partum stress hit me like a truck. Luckily it lasted only three weeks, and things quickly became positive. I felt so good in fact, I had a second child 19 months later. 

The second time around, I was prepared. Scared – but prepared. The newborn stage went by easily, followed by a few tough months with the two babes, but overall – life was alright. Until my daughter was about 9 months old.

It was then, I began to cross the bridge over to troubled waters which eventually led me to therapy last Spring.  I was having a particularly bad sleepless week and my anxiety was at an all time high. My son had a play date at friend’s house one street over from us. The friend’s mom, someone I know, was to pick to the boys up from school and take them over to her house.

This simple playdate arrangement kept me up for several nights because I was convinced that my son would be hit by a car on the way home from school if I wasn’t with him. Ridiculous doesn’t even begin to cut it! Especially because our nanny walks both kids to and from school, four times a day. That didn’t matter to me. I changed the plans and had my nanny pick him up and take him there. It was all so embarrassing for my son, and when I went to pick him up, it suddenly became clear as day to me. My fears were affecting him, and I knew in that moment I had to put an end to it.

Like most first timers, I was reluctant about therapy.

I was hesitant to share, and emotional about going to the sessions at all. The task ahead of me, getting to the root of my emotional instability, was utterly overwhelming. I would have rather gone back to my most hated days in university cramming for exams than open up to complete stranger.

I didn’t understand how this person would ever understand me. I wanted to give up right after the first appointment, but didn’t because I knew deep in my very being that the only way I could be the mother I wanted to be, was by slaying my own demons first. So I went – week after week. I joked about it with my husband to relieve the gravity of what was happening and how much work I had ahead of me. 

My first few weeks in therapy were daunting and tumultuous. But about 6 weeks in, I started to feel “normal” – or what I always wished I could feel. Stable. Peaceful. Confident.

Before I knew it, I started to sleep and with that, started to lose the weight I put on from eating my feelings. I was no longer overly-emotional, fatigued and on the brink of a mental break-down every week. “Fuck,” I thought, “is this how emotionally-stable people feel on a daily basis?” Wow.

Yet I know that many people don’t feel that sense of stability, as much as they’d love to. We say it all the time, don’t we? There’s no shame in getting help for yourself? But yet it’s not the shame that haunts us, it’s the guilt. The guilt about missing out on time with my family. The guilt of leaving work an hour early. The guilt of not working on so many other to do’s on my list for that precious 90 minutes a week. 

Here is the thing is though, those 90 minutes allowed the rest of my time to be spent free of racing thoughts and knots in my stomach, and most important of all, those 90 minutes allowed me to properly sleep, like I always imagined I could.

I wrote this piece to remind myself, and all others who struggle to make it through he day, that it’s OK to let it go. It’s OK to unburden yourself to someone else and let them guide you through your emotions. 

Getting help does not label you as broken, even if sometimes it feels like your inner self is scattered astray in a thousand little pieces.

Everyone has a story. Each of us come to know that story at different times in different lights. Sometimes we need to tell someone our story to really hear it for ourselves.

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Featured Image via French Toasts / Original Source Unknown

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