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Take Off Your Super Mom Mask

Today’s post is from Reno Moms Blog guest contributor Mandi Holden. Mandi is a poet, blogger, wife and baby mama of two in Reno. She is one part ginger and two parts “gangsta.” She spends her days counseling women who are going through transitions in their spiritual practice, and is currently dreaming of writing her first book. Keep up with Mandi on her blog. Realology: The unexpected study of me.

As moms, our hands are full and busy and constantly in use. On a typical day, you won’t even notice how often you slam and bang your hands and fingers on things. Countertops and drawers. Smushed in a door jamb trying to slide by someone.

Recently, though, I must have cut my fingernail too short or sustained some kind of cut, because yesterday I awoke with half of my finger swollen and radiating with pain. Right next to the nail, the skin is tight and red. Ouch! And let me tell you, when one of your fingers is swollen like this…you notice EVERYTHING. Every bump. Every bang. I tried putting pressure on the wound to clean it and relieve some of the pain, which seemed to only make it worse. So, for the past day or so, without even realizing it, I’ve been doing all my chores and errands with my finger sticking straight out. All in an effort to adjust and get on with my life while the damage heals.

This is sort of what it’s like dealing with the pain of depression as a mom. It sneaks in and festers before you even realize what is going on. This is how it happened to me.

Three years ago, I woke up feeling this way and it took me a long time to climb out of it. My depression wasn’t specifically post-baby but rather had developed over time as life simply got more hectic. With two young children, a husband, a home daycare business and a household to run, I thought it was just ridiculous to tend to myself. I thought I could just push through these feelings; I thought I was just feeling sorry for myself and tried to shake it off.

I felt like I was a failure because I had all these self-prescribed expectations as a mom/wife/homemaker that I wasn’t meeting.  I felt like a fraud because, to my friends, I acted like I was the Super Mom that had it all together.  Over time, I adjusted to the pain so I could still come across as having it all together; so that I could go on with my life and get stuff done. I didn’t have time to fall apart.

I did the best I could to get through the days so my kids wouldn’t suffer, but I’m sure the cracks showed through.  My husband, who is very supportive, picked up a lot of the slack and never made me feel worse about myself.  But he did begin to feel stressed because I was stressed, and he just wanted to “fix” it; but it couldn’t be “fixed”.  I had to work it out.

So often as women, we hate asking for help. I don’t know about you, but it is really hard for me. We want to be a valuable and irreplaceable commodity in our workplace. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to reach these expectations, and it’s no wonder we start to crumble.

We want our friends and family to think we’ve got it all figured out like our family portraits show us. We want to be the mommy who makes the homemade birthday cake pops that we see on Pinterest. We want to cook like a comfort food champ while looking like a goddess for our husbands. Instead, we race around and clean our house and try our best to hide clutter before a visit with a friend, only to apologize for our messy house right when she arrives. Why do we DO that? Why do we mask, ignore and pretend like our messiness doesn’t exist? What if we really opened up to each other and talked about all the ways we are hurting? I think we would be surprised to find we are not alone.

If you are struggling with feelings of depression, talk to someone! You might start with a friend, or even your doctor. Either way, please don’t ignore it. I have found that talking about it out loud takes the power out of it. We can’t be the moms, wives and women we want to be without taking care of ourselves. We are worth the same care and concern we give our loved ones.

For myself, I’m happy to report that I found that writing and poetry started to help me open up and be honest about the dark cave in my heart I had crawled into. I am fortunate enough to have been able to spend lots of intense time talking with dear friends and mentors from my faith community who hold positions as counselors.  Without help, my poor husband would have been navigating this ship through a storm on his own, because I was near giving up.

I no longer feel the despair that had me bound. It’s not easy, but every day gets better.

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