I live two lives. One that the whole world can see: mother of two, wife, household CEO, daughter, friend, part-time writer, and full-time, successful communications professional. And one that I live only on the inside. This one I share in bits and pieces on my blog Coffees & Commutes. This is the one that, until recently, was mostly hidden behind a curtain of shame and self-doubt, to avoid judging from others.
When I finally allowed the curtain to lift, to open my heart and share my struggle with sadness and anxiety there was shock and surprise from many of the people who know only my public life. I had locked this part of myself away, holding tightly to the illusion that all was well and I was managing. I had been deep in denial, focused on painting a pretty portrait, on living up to the expectations we place on ourselves as mothers, that we can do it all, and do it well.
Until then my sadness was my own, isolated and hidden to all but my husband. In sharing my darkest secret so publicly, I worried. I felt vulnerable. Some said: From where I’m sitting you seem to have it all together and You are doing a great job to But you seem so happy. Others felt they should tell me that I’m a strong person who wouldn’t let it get me down. While every sentiment was meant to be reassuring and supportive, what it really did was to reinforce how tightly I had protected myself, how closed my life had really become. What people didn’t realize is that is the image I had created of myself. That is what I wanted them to believe. I was protecting myself from judgment by hiding all of my insecurities and struggles.
I decided the only way I could really come clean about the depths of my struggle was if I shared my story at Coffees & Commutes. As I laid myself bare, I wondered how it would unfold. I wanted to be honest. I wrote about my sadness because we don’t talk of this enough. It was my hope that my honesty could help in some small way to lift some of the stigma associated with depression. To open discussion about all the ways we struggle as mothers, to march toward a more honest reflection on the realities of the pressures we all face without judgment from others.
In so doing I discovered kindness—the kind of kindness that provides a lifeline to a person deeply in distress and compassion that can come only from one mother to another to another. I was overwhelmed and buoyed by the support, the generosity of spirit and the wise encouragement.
There were many who reached out in a very personal way, who gave me permission to struggle. In their compassion they offered me access to a window that had previously been sealed shut.
By taking a moment to send a few kind words, so many helped me press forward, securing an acceptance that I was doing the right thing. Words are powerful things; they can be gentle and kind and truly make a difference. That is the magic of kindness, the power it has to help even just one. It is also the magic of a sisterhood of mothers. We understand each other; can make a difference, not only to our children but to each other. We have the power to move beyond judging others to a place of compassion and empathy. Whether through a few kind words, or a phone call to a fellow mother facing her darkest hour, it only takes a moment, a few words of kindness to make a difference to another.
If my battle with depression and anxiety has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t really know the heart or struggles of another. Among mothers, this is particularly evident. Motherhood can be a difficult and lonely place. Add to that all the other roles we play as women and it can be easy to lose our way.
Asking for help, admitting our challenges is tremendously undervalued in our society. We think of asking for help as a weakness, admittance that we can’t do it, a reason to be judged for our perceived failures. We forget that help is about asking for what is needed, for getting support to help us along, when things may be just a little harder than usual.