An open letter to the people who think I’m a Facebook addict, trying to shove my family photos down your throat:
You probably see my name pop up on your newsfeed and subconsciously roll your eyes, or even hold your finger over the Unfollow option next to my name so future posts will be hidden.
You probably wonder if I’ve ever actually seen my family through anything other than my iPhone screen. I have, for the record. You’re undoubtedly not interested in reading about where we went this weekend, let alone seeing photos that capture nearly every moment of said outing. Sorry, but your disinterest means nothing to me.
I don’t post status updates, photos or videos to see how many likes, loves, or laughs I get. I do it to remind myself in my worst, most depressed and anxious moments, that I am, in fact, making positive memories with my family. It’s my proof. It’s my lifeline on the darkest of dark days when I find myself criticizing everything about my own existence.
Still, I try to push through the bad and see the good.
I love that my daughter shares my bouncy curls, even though I’m sure she’ll grow to resent them on days with literally any humidity. Looking into her big brown eyes and seeing my own in them is an out of body experience that fills me with both delight and despair. Her outgoing personality and love for dancing come from her Daddy, and I hope she never loses that unstoppable, fearless spark (one I’ve always lacked).
She’s so little right now. Too little to understand her mommy is so far from the superhero she paints her to be. I’m the one she cries for when she’s scared or just wants to be held. She adores me, and I her. I hope she remembers on the worst of the worst days that Mommy tried her best. She tried to be some version of perfect for her princess. I try to be her hero, but sometimes in life, the bad guy wins. Anxiety is the monster (not so well hidden) under my bed. He is the most sadistic villain I know, and much too frequently, he steals my joy, sanity and strength, leaving me crippled, and questioning my worthiness of her.
A friend of mine gave me a journal right before my daughter was born. I’m talking ready to pop, weeks away from her miraculous entrance into this world. She told me to write down each and every childhood experience, to document it. To tell those stories and later pass them on for my grandchildren to see. This friend said to add as many candid moments of happiness, sadness, triumph and even self-doubt as possible. To document everything I possibly could. That pink book is still wrapped in ribbon; a gift more for my daughter than me, which other than hospital bands, a birth announcement, and monthly growth stickers, has gone mostly unused. I’m sorry for that.
It seems counterintuitive that I can sit and write like this but not take 10 minutes each day to document something funny my daughter did. The thing is, I need to be in the right mindset. More often than not, quiet time like this when I’m alone with my thoughts is just bad. Toxic, even. The wonderful trifecta of diagnoses which for me include: adjustment disorder with high functioning depression, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are my crosses to bear. I own it. Still, I don’t want that to be what I’m known for as a mother, hence the social media flurry that is simply me reminding myself I’m not all bad.
My husband deserves a better wife, I tell myself. Like one of the women I see on television whose hair and makeup are always on point, who manages to keep the household running like a well-oiled machine, and still finds time to get in the humorous, sarcastic punchline at the end of the day, making him smile.
Instead, I can barely make it past dinner before plopping on the couch and praying my daughter sticks to her bedtime routine so he and I can enjoy some semblance of adult time for an hour or so before bed.
My kids (I have a beautiful stepdaughter as well) deserve better too, I insist. Are there worse moms out there? Of course there are. My children are not abused, neglected, or unloved. They want for nothing. The thing about “mommying” though, is that you never feel you’re doing a good enough job. You’re always worried that someone else is out there doing it better. That your children deserve better. That you need to be better.
So, for every perfectly posed photo (coordinating outfits and all) that I share, please know it’s simply part of my process. It’s part of something so much bigger than social media and the self-gratification people typically associate with social networking.
Mental illness is a real bitch, and sometimes your brain can be your own worst enemy. Whether I’m on the floor, rocking back and forth, unsure of when, if ever, I’ll stop gasping for air, or I’m verbally vomiting all over someone (usually, my poor husband) because I feel the jolt to let it all out before I explode.
It’s so unfair. It’s so debilitating. Psychological issues are maladies people too rarely discuss. It’s “taboo,” and often those suffering are labeled and judged. At the end of the day, it’s truly no different than cancer or diabetes. No one chooses to have a chemical imbalance in their brain that causes them to struggle with everyday tasks. No one wants to rely on a prescription to keep their own brain in check. No one asks for the debilitating pain sufferers feel, or the equally debilitating guilt they experience over what effect these diseases have on their loved ones.
I say things I don’t mean. I immediately feel guilty. I want to take it back, but am usually too “in the moment” and angry to apologize. Then the situation continues to spiral out of control and, suddenly, I’m not even sure why I was upset to begin with.
Most days I’m not sure how my husband puts up with me. Sure, he has his own flaws, but he has control over his brain. He isn’t dumbfounded by the words that come out of his own mouth the way I am with mine at times.
Since my diagnoses 14 years ago, I’ve had bouts of great joy and others of great struggle.
Moving forward, I like to think of the rainbow at the end of each storm. Cliché as is it may sound. I’m very happy right now with my beautiful family and having just purchased a new home, getting a job transfer that I know will alleviate stress and so on, but I’m not naïve. I know there will always be another storm or storms. I’m just trying to focus on the rainbows that follow.