If you had met me when I was in my 20's and 30's you would have seen a young woman going to school, working, dating, marrying and beginning a family. I would have greeted you with a smile and we may have had some great conversations. You would have seen me as an educated, goal-oriented and successful woman.
You would have had no idea of the deep struggles I had and the self-imposed isolation and darkness I lived with when you weren't looking.
Keeping my internal struggles invisible was how I coped.
I didn't want to burden others or embarrass myself. I wanted to serve others and be good and nice, so I "lost myself" in that service. Being busy allowed me to set aside my internal monsters in public...and I could sob and suffer behind closed doors.
Then, I became a mother.
I had wanted to be a mother from the time I could pick up a doll and hug her. My favorite childhood game was playing house. Being a mother was a lifelong dream and I was thrilled at age 32 to welcome my little daughter into my life and then almost three years later my first son. But, parenting was much more difficult than I had imagined.
The ability to cope with depression and anxiety by shutting myself away from everything and everyone vanished. You can't leave infants and toddlers to fend for themselves for hours and days.
I tried so hard to be a sweet, patient, loving mom, but
my internal monsters would not let me and it
made me and my children miserable.
I had no idea how to get my children to "behave". I was exhausted and starting to realize that there was a medical term for the symptoms I felt called fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and depression. Even then you would never have guessed I was unhappy and in pain if you met me. If you secretly suffer, I hope reading this helps you know that someone understands.
So, What did I do?
There is not a quick answer. Through a combination of books, courses and various healing practitioners I eventually found answers to some of my questions.
I understood what to do, but usually I had to will myself to behave patiently while feeling like I would explode because how I felt on the inside did not match my outside behavior.
I felt shame and guilt and weak when I could not keep my anger and anxiety bottled inside. As a parent, I would wildly swing from too permissive to too strict.
It was after the birth of my third child who began to have obvious health issues that I began to learn how to get at the roots inside of me. Eventually my internal landscape began to mirror what I had worked so hard to make my outside look like. Bit by bit I felt more peace, calm and the ability to deeply rest.
An accumulation of about 15 years of my personal learning is found in the Holding Space Practice.
Carol Webster, Author of The Holding Space Practice