The lovely Lauren from dilanandme.com has written a powerful but beautiful guest post for Just The Three Of Us.
I have always admired Lauren for her positive outlook on life and beautiful writing style. Head over to Dilan & Me to read some fab posts such as ‘To The Mother At The Park On Her Phone – I Understand‘. Lauren is also featured in a post I wrote recently ‘My Favourite Bloggers‘.
TRIGGER WARNING – This post contains references to attempted suicide.
I’ve never done vulnerable very well. When I was younger I didn’t do struggling, or not knowing. I didn’t ask for help and I’d never admit I wasn’t okay. Crying was a weakness to me, it was pathetic. Showing any kind of emotion was something I’d rather avoid. I liked being the one who had things under control, the one who knew what to do, who always knew the answer.
It always seemed to me that emotions and feelings become burdens to other people. That it was selfish to not be okay because it affected them. Other people who had bigger problems, other people who needed me to keep it together. I liked being strong even when I feel weak, and I liked to seem like I had it all together even when inside I was crumbling. Often I struggled to ever admit I needed help, because not being able to do it alone meant I’m wasn’t good enough. I liked being the one who survived.
Recently I’ve been thinking more and more about what has made me this way. I grew up with a mother who suffered from severe depression. With a mother who was sectioned repeatedly during my teenage years. I grew up unsure of how to display emotions in a healthy and constructive way, and saw them only as destructive. My childhood was just an example of the damage they could cause.
At several points in my life I have walked in through the front door of my parent’s house, arriving home from school or from a friend’s. On a few occasions I had a friend or my father with me; one time I think I was alone. The memories from those days have become so foggy. Some details I can’t remember at all, and some I remember in precise detail.
Several times as I walked through the front door of my parent’s house, of my home, I would look into the living room and I would see her. Lying on the sofa, motionless, mouth wide open. An empty bottle of pills and a scribbled note beside her. I can’t remember what I felt; I can’t recall any kind of emotion. Looking back I just feel numb. I remember calling for an ambulance, and standing calmly outside waiting for it to arrive. I remember on a different day, riding in the back of the car as my father drove us to the hospital, begging my mother to stay awake. Begging her to keep her eyes open. “Please Mother, for me.”
Now that I’m a mother myself, the hard exterior I’ve worked hard to build is cracking. I have come to realise that my avoidance of emotion and my determination to never show weakness came from my desperation to never become her. My inability to express my true thoughts and feelings in case I seemed pathetic is something I have finally accepted is just as unhealthy, and just as damaging, as the wildly emotional and overly sensitive attitude I grew up hoping to never develop.
The definition of strength has changed for me. I am now surrounded by amazing mothers, amazing women, who battle through difficulties I can only imagine. These women can hold their hands up with their heads held high and say “this is hard, I need help” with no fear of appearing anything other than genuine and real. These are the women who represent strength, and this is the strength we should be striving towards. The old me thought she was strong, but she was too weak to tell the truth. Too weak to admit she was crumbling, too weak to admit things were hard. She didn’t understand that it’s okay not to be okay, and it’s okay to struggle. Being strong isn’t about finding everything easy, it’s about carrying on even when it’s not.
I’m not that person any more. I have a little person watching every move I make. I am determined to show him that there is strength in emotion. Even though he is little, he knows. He knows when I’m hurting, he knows when I am low and he knows when I struggle. He has seen far more of it in his short life than I ever would’ve wanted him to, but I’m not afraid of him seeing it any more.
I know now that sadness isn’t a weakness, and I’m slowly learning that vulnerability is actually empowering. That the willingness to take a risk and open up, to accept life for what it is and all the feelings and emotions that come with that, makes you a better person, and a much stronger person, than I ever was before. I know now that asking for help shows how brave you are, and that admitting you’re struggling is something only a strong person can do.
Passing these lessons on to him is essential. Teaching him how to cope and survive, acknowledging that it’s ok to experience these feelings honestly will ensure he grows up with the emotional balance that I never did. Showing him that by being truthful and avoiding an unnecessary front, you can open up and communicate with others much more effectively. That you will build closer relationships, find people who will truly understand and support you, and begin to truly understand yourself by accepting that it’s okay not to be okay.
I am not only a mother, I am a teacher. I’m also a mentor and a guide. I am my child’s whole life and I am showing him how to live his. I am showing him how to feel, how to think, how to cope and how to survive. Not by what I say, not by how I tell him it should be but by my actions. By what I do, by how I act and by how I feel. So for him, and for myself, I will practice these lessons. I will allow myself to feel the emotions I spent years bottling up, I will allow myself to break down my tough exterior.