We have all been there: the point in life when we think we have it all together, and then we don’t. We are moms, and by definition, that means superhuman at times. We juggle a million different things at once — work, home, carpools, daycare pickups, birthday parties, sports activities, relationships, laundry, and doctor’s appointments. We are armed with planners, schedulers, and Google Calendars, and sometimes at the end of the day, we look like we have it all together.
Until we don’t.
My life was mapped out exactly as I planned it. I graduated from high school, went away to college, fell in love, got married, got my first teaching job, and then got pregnant with our first child. My life was going exactly as I had expected it to go. Until it didn’t anymore.
My husband and I unexpectedly moved back to my hometown right before our daughter was born. We sold our house. I left my job and returned home — except it didn’t feel like home anymore. Most of my friends had moved away at that point as well as my parents. Here I was living in an apartment with no job, no friends, and a brand-new baby.
Cue the unexpected.
I delivered my beautiful, healthy baby girl and returned home to resume life like I had planned it out. Life, however, had other plans. Over the next several years, I found myself in a downward spiral that I couldn’t control. I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety that I was not prepared for. I started drinking more to relax and calm my nerves. We mothers (and fathers) understand just how difficult being a parent of small children is. I see Facebook and Instagram posts about how we need to “take time for ourselves.” The pictures of the mothers in their yoga pants with their feet up finally enjoying a glass of wine after all the kids are tucked into bed. I was invited to moms’ night out with other women who were feeling exactly the same way as I was — tired and overwhelmed. They could enjoy a glass of wine (or two) and chat with their friends and go home feeling refreshed and ready to tackle another day.
It wasn’t the same for me.
I am one of the people who found themselves in a place they never thought they would be — unable to stop. I found myself drinking and couldn’t stop. Not that I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t. I was in a very dark hole, physically, and emotionally, and all I wanted to do was to be normal. To be like my friends who could laugh and cry and lean on each other and go on with their lives. But I couldn’t do that. I needed help.
It took me a long time to admit that I needed help, and when I finally did, I was shocked at the response I got from many people. I was met with judgment and criticism and lots and lots of whispering. Women are not supposed to have a problem with drinking, especially not mothers. I was educated and successful to many, and that somehow meant that I couldn’t be like “those people.” I was told to go away and deal with my problems and come back and resume life. I was expected to get help and then somehow pretend that it didn’t happen because talking about my drinking somehow tarnished my reputation as a mother.
Um, sorry. That’s not true. The fact that I have struggled does not make me any less of a mother. It is a part of who I am, and I am not going to feel bad about it. I unexpectedly found myself in a situation where my life and my livelihood were in danger. I somehow found the courage to ask for help and to start to put one foot in front of the other. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been so worth it. I am able to be a mother today, and all the stresses that go along with it, because I faced my problems. Because I was willing to say that I needed help.
So, if you are struggling out there, I understand. I might not be in your shoes, but I get you. You are not alone. Whatever you might think or believe at this moment, I know you are doing the best that you can. You love your children probably more than you love yourself. If you are scared, I get it. But you don’t have to be scared alone.
As hard as it may be, ask for help. You don’t have to do anything alone. Things can get better. They do get better.