Have you ever had a secret you were ashamed of and didn’t want anyone to ever know?
But I don’t care about the secret anymore. It needs to be out in the open. I want it to be okay and for others to do the same thing I did and feel good about it.
No more shame.
As background, I went through a rough bout with the baby blues following the birth of my oldest daughter in 2012.
Crying all the time. Hot flashes. Feeling lonely. Wondering if I was crazy. Becoming a person I didn’t recognize.
I called my baby blues The Gremlins and wrote about them here.
Once they became a distant memory, I never wanted to see The Gremlins again. Not ever.
My second pregnancy started out rough. While I didn’t have the morning sickness that I experienced with my first daughter, I became an insomniac as soon as I discovered a positive pregnancy test.
I never had trouble sleeping before, but I saw a pink “plus” sign and suddenly had to learn to survive on 4-5 hours of sleep.
This was on top of caring for a toddler, managing a household, and having a stressful career as an attorney.
Now I can see why sleep deprivation is a form of torture.
(I continue to struggle with insomnia to this day.)
Then came the tipping point.
I vividly remember sitting in front of my computer at work, three months pregnant and exhausted from lack of sleep, and making up my mind that while I couldn’t predict whether The Gremlins would creep up on me again, I was going to be prepared if they did.
I wasn’t going to die on that mountain.
It was time for me to do myself a favor and take control of the situation.
I got on the Internet and did some Google searches.
“Downtown Tampa” “Family therapy” “Female Therapist.”
I kept scrolling down the search engine results page until I arrived at the photograph of a nice middle-aged woman named Ann Witt. The picture was taken outside and I thought she looked welcoming and had a pretty smile. (I completely judged a book by the cover. Thankfully, it worked out.)
I called Ann, made an appointment, and saw her twice a month through the duration of my pregnancy.
Ann provided me with resources on how to manage stress and respond to hormonal changes. She provided tips on how I could respond to feelings of hopelessness. She helped me create a schedule for after the birth of my daughter that would help me keep my focus off my feelings, if the situation warranted. She gave me the idea of hiring a Mother’s Helper to take the pressure off by assisting with cooking and household chores.
I didn’t meet The Gremlins following the birth of my second daughter. I’ll never know whether its because I went to therapy and used what I learned or because I didn’t have the same hormonal surge that I had during the first pregnancy.
I’ll never know but it doesn’t matter.
I still go back to Ann every so often for some brain-picking and fine-tuning.
In fact, Ann also served as a career coach by encouraging me to start a “Mom Blog” (The Champagne Supernova!) and making a LeaderShift by finding part time employment so I could have more time for my family. I don’t know that either of those would have come to fruition without the nudge.
(I still remember when she threw out the idea of a Mom Blog, I thought it was nuts. Until that point, I thought mom bloggers were middle-aged women who lived in America’s Breadbasket sitting around in their pajamas and curlers all day writing about shepherd’s pie and homemade aromatherapy oils. Not me!)
The therapy helped. A lot.
But here’s the thing.
I was scared to tell people I was going to therapy.
It even took me a while to tell my own husband.
Therapy has a stigma.
Can’t control your own life.
Something is wrong with you.
You have mental issues.
I was ashamed and didn’t want people knowing about it. Even if these people were my close friends and family members. Not because they were not dear to me, but because I told myself lies that I would be perceived as weak and would be rejected.
Then came a point where I had the opportunity to share my experience with other people who were going through rough times.
Divorce. Death. Anxiety. Depression. Post Traumatic Stress.
I told them my story.
They called a therapist. They got the help they needed.
Life can be brutal.
We need to be able to lean in with others without feeling judged.
We need to start being vulnerable and we need to start showing up. Nobody wants fake and everyone, deep down, knows who the fake people are. People want real.
Does this mean we need to be Debbie Downer and constantly air the dark sides of our lives on the Internet and real life? No.
It does mean that we should create a zone where people show up with each other and are not be afraid to be vulnerable?
We need to be able to acknowledge, without shame, that we are experiencing a rough time in our marriage. We need to be able to say that we are having issues with our self-image. We need to be able to be honest about feeling lonely and insecure. We need to be able to talk about not feeling a sense of purpose in our careers. We need to be able to discuss problems we’re having with our children. We need to be able to own up about having poor money management. We need to be able to be honest when we are having difficulty overcoming grief.
We need to be able to admit to seeing a freaking therapist.
We need to be able to ask each other for help.
Sometimes in life, you must unashamedly “Cry Uncle.” And if you do, its perfectly okay. You will still be loved.
Courage asks for help. Weakness does nothing.