When it’s Really Hard

I think I just had a true emotional breakdown. In car with Anderson. Not listening ad nauseam. Can feel my stress level reaching cataclysmic, desperate, absolutely miserable levels. I raise my voice, deep, gravelly, shaking – it doesn’t even sound like my own – desperately pleading with my 4-year-old to be quiet. I feel helpless and truly tortured. I have to leave the car.

We arrive at the park. I get out of the car, pacing back and forth in the parking lot, trying to pull myself together. I’m so thankful for my dark oversized sunglasses. I start sobbing, shaking, leaning against the car. I can’t pull it together. I can’t fake my way through lunch or the park. Thank god Aaron is there. He takes both kids while I sit in the car and force myself to eat a sandwich. Numb, depleted, in a haze. I immediately start googling emotional breakdown. Turns out the stresses of motherhood and added female hormones can be the perfect recipe for feeling emotionally flooded. Absolutely overwhelmed. Though I’m sure that emotional breakdowns aren’t limited to parents of young kids.

It’s hard to talk about, but I wonder how many mothers before me have reached this frantic, dizzying breaking point. How scary, how isolating to feel like you can’t even acknowledge your big overwhelming feelings, for fear of being judged, demonized, gossiped about, as less than “totally together”

Excuse my French, but F- that.

Sitting in the car, I text three people. My babysitter to help take the pressure of parenting duties off Aaron as I recover from whatever the hell just happened to me. My therapist, to get in to see her as soon as possible. And my friend who I know will always keep it real, will never listen to serious even scary problems I’m having and pretend she hasn’t been to equally dark places. So many people pretend…I’ve done it too. We listen to other people’s trauma and drama, we absorb the juicy details into our bloodstream like oxygen. We bury the most human parts of our selves that could actually offer true empathy in return – our own shame, our own fears, our own shortcomings.

We all have them. Why do we pretend?

I’m writing this because I refuse to feel like I should be silenced, or pitied, or outcast for having a very human, probably long overdue reaction to the mounting stress of parenting that can chip away at the fault lines of a parent’s spirit, until an emotional earthquake rolls over your entire body, your whole being.

I am a warrior. As is every hardworking, ground down parent out there. We would go to battle for our kids. Sometimes we go to battle against them. Today I encountered a battle that brought me to my knees, tearing off my armor, admitting defeat. The circumstances were nothing out of the ordinary, trivial, forgettable really. Potty talk and yelling and shrieking. But I just reached a breaking point. My soul was screaming for a break I couldn’t get. I couldn’t come up for air.

If that happens to you, tell someone. It’s ok to cry and it’s ok to load up your husband with all the kids and sandwiches and explain that you have to – need to – be alone. It’s ok to sit in the car and cry and dab your raw red eyes with Subway napkins and text your therapist and a good friend and reach out because we all need to be reminded we’re not alone. Young children have the ability to wear us down and chip away at us in a uniquely painful way that demands our attention and self-advocacy. We are no good to anyone else if we can’t at the very least acknowledge that.

I will be ok. Because I’m speaking up for myself, because I’m supported, and I have learned to have faith many times over in the resiliency of the human spirit. I do not feel hopeless in any sort of ultimate sense. Because I actually know, without a doubt, that many of you reading this will reach out to me to tell me that you care, that you’ve *been there,* that parenting is the hardest job on the planet and AMEN for admitting it gets the best of us and brings us to our knees once in a while. If you are a parent and have never felt it truly kick your ass or bring you to tears, I am happy for you. You’ve won a special kind of lottery. To the rest of us – be kind to yourself. Take a breath, insist when you need a break. You are doing the very hardest kind of work there is.

6 responses

  1. Beth, your capacity for eloquence in the wake of having the wind knocked out of your sails, is Inspiring to say the least I was there years ago. Trust me when I say I didn’t handle it with nearly the dignity that you have — Dad

  2. I wonder if we were doing this at exactly the same time? Two emotionally depleted wrecks at the end of our ropes, each dangling from a string spanning 2000 miles, yet (with the strength of the mightiest cable) holding us together.

  3. “We listen to other people’s trauma and drama, we absorb the juicy details into our bloodstream like oxygen. We bury the most human parts of our selves that could actually offer true empathy in return – our own shame, our own fears, our own shortcomings. ” Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability! It’s needed.

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