The Struggle to PretendMental health can be tricky business. Those who’ve never faced the battle tend to deduce that we use our time ‘pretending to be sick’. I’d argue the opposite. I spend countless exhausting hours pretending I am well, laughing to mask pain, and becoming a master at hiding true feelings from even those closest to me.
I feel like I’ve been in a never-ending game of pretend since I was a kid. Always the one who went against the grain, refusing to succumb to status quo, I wrestled with my natural desire to feel loved and accepted while wanting to remain true to who I felt I was: a hard-core, handle things herself, badass who was going to take the road less traveled even if it killed her.
I was a three year old strutting it in a polka dot bikini and I was the later adaptation of hair rebellion–shaving the under part of my long hair in middle school. I dropped out of sports in high school and opted for drama where the people felt more authentic.
I was friends with everyone, but trusted only myself.
I chose a college based on rebellion, then switched colleges in the name of marching to my own drummer, then back to the first college. I left a killer job in the city to move to the mountains and do what I felt passionate about, which-big shock-paid significantly less.
I traveled and lived in different countries and eventually moved three states away with only what would fit in my car. I’ve never been afraid to do what I felt was right at the time, but the affront of strength, fearlessness, and general bad-assery was just that–pretend.
After over thirty years of this fierce, resilient, empowering (and completely made up) behavior, it’s only now that I realize I’ve spent more time pretending I am strong and ‘together’ than I ever have being truly honest with anyone, let alone myself.
TRUTH: I want to empower other women, specifically mamas, to believe in their whole selves and be exactly who they are in each moment.
FEAR: What if someone finds out that I am secretly terrified that other women will realize that I am basically afraid of everything–success, failure, and everything in between so I convince myself if I just work harder, longer, that somehow no one will notice?
TRUTH: I sincerely hope that other women will find themselves encouraged by my words about true beauty and that their worth is far greater than the size of their pants (or, in my case, leggings–always leggings).
FEAR: Even though I am blessed beyond measure to have a hella foxy husband who sincerely thinks I am as beautiful as a 2X as I was in a medium, I fear nearly every second of everyday that I am cheating both he and our kids out of a wife and a mom they deserve. As if, somehow, the circumference of my waistline determines how well I can love my family.
TRUTH: I ruthlessly advocate for my extreme child and have devoted my career to furthering the education about being an extreme parent and offering equity for our kids.
FEAR: With every meltdown, every toy thrown, everytime I’m hit or kicked or called a name, I feel a part of me break away. What if these parents who come to this community for resources and support find out that most days I feel like a shell of my former self?
Friends, no matter who we are, no matter what we strive to stand for, we are all just out there doing the best we can. Some days that feels like success at being our best selves. Other days it feels like autopilot survival mode and we aren’t even making it through that.
As a mom with anxiety, parenting a child with invisible disabilities, just trying to encourage other people to show up and be kind, I think we have to stop playing pretend and start telling the truth.
It’s okay to not feel okay. It’s okay to need to cry. It’s okay if you feel too numb for tears. It’s okay to have insomnia and it is okay to want to stay in bed.
We just can’t set up shop and live in these broken places.
We need to be brave enough to tell ourselves the truth about what is going on inside, strong enough to reach out for support from a loved one when we know we need it, and-in time-courageous enough to share our story to offer hope to the next woman who is in the pit, thinking she’s alone.
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