Brutiful Honesty: “Coming Out” With My Pain

About to become real vulnerable here. Just pouring my insides out. I’m scared. A bit nauseous. But my gut tells me to share this. Even if one other Mom can relate…that’s enough for me. Deep breath. Here it goes.

A Jaded Belief

When I became a Mom, 11 years ago, I believed down to my core, that putting myself first or spending time away from my baby was synonymous with being a Bad Mom. I never vocalized this to anyone. But this is how I lived motherhood.

At the time, I had a career requiring frequent travel on business trips – which “stole” me from my baby daughter. We had a full time nanny (who was a true gift from God and one of the best humans I know), but to me, my career was stealing motherhood from me. 

My Wall

On weekends when I wasn’t working, I refused to be away from my baby. Dates with my husband, drinks with girlfriends, going to the gym…no thanks!

The guilt, sadness, and emptiness I felt being away from her while I worked, Monday thru Friday, 8+ hours a day, and more when I traveled, shut down all my desires for a social life or “me time.”

I built a wall around me and my baby girl…and didn’t need anyone else inside with us.

Full Time Mom: Zero Time For Me

Two more babies and I left my career (very happily) and became a full-time Mama and entrepreneur (a fancy way of saying I started a stroller fitness business).

I believed this was my life’s calling – to raise my children and be with them 24/7.  

I continue to believe devoting my days to my family is following my dreams. I realize now however, that my mistake was that I left myself and my needs out of the equation.

So even after leaving my career, I never shed the jaded mentality that being separated from my kids (even for a few hours), having a social life, or “me time” was selfish and made me a neglectful, Bad Mom.

Autopilot

Then we had our fourth child, and damn are we fortunate and thankful for our four babies.

I look at their precious faces (particularly when they’re asleep – talking back to me or arguing with each other), and think “how did we create such miracles?”

When “4” was born, I was in the first year of my new business, and caring for 3 toddlers. I didn’t have much time to think, let alone analyze how I was doing mentally. I was running on autopilot. In survival-mode. Just trying to get through each day. So I put on a happy face and functioned. 

Deep In The Trenches Of Anxiety

But behind the face of the seemingly successful Mom and business owner I appeared to be, my heart and soul were suffering. I was enduring postpartum anxiety…or perhaps just regular anxiety that I’d had my whole life. And the worst part…I kept it hidden deep inside me. Hidden from my husband, my sisters, my Mom, my best friends – “I’m doing great. Everything is great!”

I hid my pain so deep, I didn’t even acknowledge it to myself.  I’d think “Katie, how selfish of you to feel this way! You have four healthy children. Something so many women would give anything to have! Get over it!”

The harder I denied my anxiety, the more it wreaked its havoc on me. 

The Lies My Anxiety Told Me

Here’s what my anxiety perseverated on: fears of me dying and leaving my children without a Mom. And, constant guilt of not being a good enough Mom. 

That cut even deeper into my deprivation of self-care, denial of a social life or giving attention to anyone but my four babies. My anxiety told me:

“If you and Will are driving to a restaurant
for a date with the kids at home with a sitter,
you’ll get into a car crash and die
and leave your kids motherless.”

Just one example of this is when my husband bought us tickets to a Zac Brown Concert taking place in Trenton (about an hour away). I knew about the concert for weeks. My husband was so excited for time with just the two of us. I was not. Not because I didn’t want the time with him – trust me, I did! But my anxiety over-powered me. It lied to me and said:

“Trenton is too far away. If you drive together, 
you'll get into accident, you’ll leave your babies
without parents. You can't go!”

I didn’t share these thoughts with my husband. I kept them deep inside of me.

The day before the concert, I lied and told him the babysitter cancelled (a babysitter I never arranged because I knew from the beginning I wouldn’t be going to the concert).

Envy

I’ve cancelled on so many friends. Avoided countless social events.

I’d watch other moms post photos of “girls’ nights out” on social media, I’d envy them and their strength. But also wonder, how do they leave their kids? Why aren’t they scared?

Hypocrite

I own a business, built upon the idea of SELF-CARE FOR MOMS. Ironic, huh?

For the 5 years I’ve owned my stroller fitness business, I’ve preached to my fellow Moms…

“taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your kids”

“self care is giving the world what’s best of you, instead of what’s left of you.”

These are my slogans! Problem is, I believed these words for all of the other Moms…not myself.

On an intellectual level, I understood that without self-care, we can’t survive this Motherhood “gig.” But my anxiety didn’t allow me to look in the mirror to see that I wasn’t living what I preached!

Running On Empty

Unfortunately, as so many Moms know, when we deny ourselves care, a social life, and breaks from the “brutiful” role of motherhood (beautiful + brutal = brutiful, a word I learned from my favorite author Glennon Doyle)…we run on empty.

One thing I know for sure, I’ve spent the past 11 years, particularly the last 4 years, mothering on empty, wife-ing on empty, friend-ing on empty, existing in this one precious life I have…on empty.

“But, you’re always happy?” 
- Everyone. (even my own husband, sisters,
mother, friends).

People would be surprised to know how many “always happy” Moms, aren’t. 

Numbing

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been a “level-10 expert” at appearing “just fantastic!” Making a life that looks picture perfect. Even fooling myself.

Like so many others, I have the ability to “numb.” To me, numbing means when those dark and ugly anxious feelings appear, I do whatever I can to not feel them. I numb them away. 

I make myself and my family as busy as possible. I drive my kids all over the map to extracurricular activities, organize a closet or area of my home, scroll through social media, plant a garden, paint a room…whatever it takes to not have sit with the chilling feelings.

A Message From The Universe

This past Fall, I experienced a traumatic event that will stay with me forever. I’m not willing to be publicly open up about the trauma. I will say however, that down to my core, I believe the crisis was given to me from God or the Universe as a way for me to re-evaluate my life and become my truer self. 

That traumatic period is somewhat of a blur to me – because shock is very real! But I recall consciously slowing my mind and making the decision to no longer hide from the pain. But to “sit still” with it. The pain I was currently feeling; and the pain I had been feeling for years due to anxiety. 

I let all that pain sink in deep. Quietly, with no distractions. It was hard. Really hard.

I heard the pain. I felt the pain. I re-lived the pain. I talked about it with the small circle of people I treasure most. It was the first time I’d acknowledged just how much my anxiety had been denying me life.

Sharing My Story

So here I am – pouring this out to anyone and everyone who will read it. Why? Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being surrounded by Moms during 5 years of owning my stroller fitness business…its that if one mom is struggling, chances are many other moms have the same struggle.

We are all living this brutiful Mommy “gig” together. And if we don’t open up about our sufferings and start a dialogue, we’re leaving each other alone to suffer quietly.

Shedding The Chains

For the past several months, I’ve put myself in “time-out” so I can dig down deep and feel the feelings. I’m looking inward and finally hearing my own needs, wants, and desires.

It’s not a smooth ride, because I feel guilt (how have I let anxiety rule me for so long?). And sitting in the quiet with my deepest pain, it brings up all the old wounds. For me, that includes my father’s death, a miscarriage during our first months of marriage, and baggage from childhood. Old “stuff” is  hard to re-live, because usually, the pain is still sitting in us, raw as ever. And without facing it… that pain just festers until we are ready to give it the attention it deserves. 

Therapists and Authors

I’ve found myself a fantastic therapist who helps me dig through the layers (I’ve asked her to move in with me and guide me through daily life, because motherhood is just really hard. But she says that’d be a little over the top. So I guess weekly sessions will do).

I’ve read amazing books, by authors like Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle, and Shauna Niequist (and by read…I mean listen to via audible. Because the moment a Mom sits to read or relax, little children subconsciously stop what they’re doing, and creep all over us).

Dates

My husband and I have been “dating.” Even if we can’t afford a dinner at a restaurant, we’ve found sitting in our car together at a local park, or at the beach and just chatting, uninterrupted, is pretty enjoyable. We’ve even had a few hotel overnights (by this I mean staying in a hotel 15 minutes from our house. Which as a parent, fully counts as a five-star vacation!).

Re-Socializing

I’ve had dinner and drinks and walks with girlfriends. I started exercising for myself, not just instructing fitness classes for my business.

And my most recent “performance,” I got on an airplane (with the help of a few Xanax because the anxiety is still here folks…its not an overnight fix!), and vacationed for 4 nights in Florida with my sisters and two best friends.

During this trip, I reconnected with myself. I played the role of Katie…not wife, not mother, not business owner…just Katie. I belly laughed and cried with my sisters and girlfriends, chatted about our brutiful lives, and sat on the beach with the sun on our faces.  This may seem minor. But for me…these are baby-steps to my truest, healthiest life.

It Still Exists

The anxiety is still here. The irrational thoughts and nightmares exist. But I’m able to sit with those fears, process them (instead of just pushing them down), but then…not let them stop me from living! My insides now match the “happy appearance” I always portrayed.

This Isn’t Just My Story

Some of you may think “wow…who knew Katie was so nuts?!”  I’m okay with that because I know there are Moms out there who feel me and relate. This isn’t just my story, its the story of so many Moms. 

I’m hoping by sharing this, my words can resonate with you, and perhaps be the springboard you need to look inward. For those who made it all the way to the bottom of this, thank you for listening.

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