It’s been a long winter hasn’t it? And even though spring has officially sprung, these cloudy, cold days of late have brought back thoughts of winter and a longing for summer.
I don’t know about you but I need the light to feel good. it doesn’t have to be warm but I need the sun, maybe it’s because I’m summer born…perhaps not. But when the days are dull and grey as they have been so often lately I have to work that much harder to find the light within.
It’s been like this my whole life and over the years I’ve learnt those things that help to keep my light shining, regardless of circumstances. Thankfully I am in a place where there is more light in my life than dark, most of the time, and have the steadfast support of my husband who has known me almost all my life and understands. Some days inevitably are blue days and I guess we all have those.
Sometimes there are black days.
I’ve always been a really good student, quick to learn and quick to implement. One of the things I learnt really early on in my life, was how to be really, really good at being depressed. Not just the mopey, angst ridden depression some of us need to go through to find our center and define ourselves growing up, but rather the ‘dark night of the soul’ terror of utter desolation. The kind of desolation that leads to isolation, self harming, role playing and self denial. I had some really good teachers and of course being a dutiful student I took my learning to new levels…but we’ll let my therapist worry about all that.
In my work, both professional and personal, over the years I have made it my mission to understand the true nature of well-being and its many adversaries.
Being a mum supplies endless opportunities for happiness and true joy. It can also be a quagmire, lying in wait to drag us down into the depths of slimy darkness. ( I was also a pretty good drama student so do have a penchant for the melodramatic :)) Basically it brings up our crap…if you’ll excuse the expression, and that is fertile ground for seeds of loneliness, self doubt and low mood.
Birthing our babes brings up our own birth trauma, whether we are aware of it or not. Defiant toddlers can push our buttons and ignite the spark of unresolved anger issues. Having someone who needs our care and attention almost 24 hours a day can bring unwanted resentments and create conflicts of values and that’s just for starters. Seriously!? if we knew all this before hand would we ever choose to be mothers? Well in my case I pretty much did expect all this (insider information from having worked closely as a therapist to parents as well as my own personal development work) so I spent several years psyching myself up to prepare for it and it still hit me like a truck.
Whatever your circumstances as a mum there are a whole load of new considerations you have to factor in to maintain the right balance for your own well-being and that of your family. It’s not even as if once you figure it out you can just get on with it. Oh no, that would be waaay to easy. If it was that easy they’d give the job to a man. (Just kidding – men rock).
The parameters change, sometimes daily, especially if you have really young children. As they grow and develop, so do their needs and expectations, and you need different energy levels for different times. Just managing the transition from one stage to another can take all of your mental and physical energy.
It’s no wonder some of us find it a job to be cheerful let alone truly, deeply joyful. But this for me is one of the wonders of life and particularly of motherhood. This opportunity for growth and a deepening of the understanding of ourselves. It also gives us the opportunity for 3 very important things.
I’m not taking you on this journey to be melancholic, but I know I’m not alone in this. Clients, friends and relatives over the years have shared their experiences of these dark times. There is a common vein in each story and that is one of loneliness. Of feeling isolated and cut off, as if this is only happening to them. That feeling of separateness feeds the black dog like little else, so I hope it can only help to know that you are never truly alone. That others have gone before and there is a way out of the dark, there is wisdom to be sought and peace to be found.
Over my years of intimate courtship with the dark rogue of depression I have come to realise that when the days are at their blackest there are 3 key things that are absent. If we can bring these things into our lives daily then we can bring the light of spring to even the dullest of days.
These three simple things are, to my mind, essential for our well-being and that of our children:
If we can find compassion for ourselves when we are not perfect, when we fall down at the smallest of hurdles, when we find ourselves unlovable then we set the best example for our children, and any wound can be healed.
If we can bare ourselves and connect deeply enough for another to be able to say to us ‘me too hun’ or ‘I understand’, then we are never truly alone. If we can build strong connections through honest communication, through both laughter and tears, through clear and murky waters then we set an example to our children of steadfast friendship and nothing can ever be lost.
If we can keep even the smallest seed of a dream alive for tomorrow, even if it is the simple surety that the sun will rise (even if it doesn’t shine) then there is the possibility for growth, there is hope. We must be willing and daring enough to have a dream, a vision, bold enough to believe that we can be all that we are capable of being…and if not today then one day.