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Moms Don't Have the Luxury of Falling Apart

Photograph by Twenty20

I had a difficult last year. Someone I cared about took his life, and I would be lying if I said I handled it well. I tried. I tried really hard. But the truth is that I was overcome with guilt and confusion and heartbreak that I can’t even fully explain.

There were other things that followed. A series of unfortunate events, you could say, that left me feeling alone and abandoned and completely unworthy of love. I have people who care about me a great deal, but old demons were brought to the surface and I found myself questioning even those relationships. I found myself questioning everything and everyone, sure that no one in my life was truly here to stay.

It got dark. And hard. And at some point I had to admit I’d fallen into a fairly depressive state.

No, that’s not strong enough. I wasn’t in a “depressive state," I was depressed.

Deeply, painfully depressed.

There were nights I could not stop crying. I would get my daughter to bed and then just fall apart. This voice was running on a loop in my head, telling me that I deserved every bad thing that had ever happened to me. Reminding me that everyone I had ever cared about had thrown me away. That I wasn’t worth anyone’s time. That I was too needy, and too complicated, and too weird, and too fat, and too broken to ever be the person I wanted to be—to ever be someone anyone would ever want to stand by.

More than one night, as I sat there crying and hurting and feeling so alone, I thought to myself that it would be easier to just be dead. I can honestly admit now that the only thing that pulled me back from those thoughts was my daughter. If it weren’t for her, serving as my anchor without even realizing it, I’m not sure I would have made it through what I now recognize as being one of the darker periods of my life.

I’m coming out on the other side of it now, able to breathe again and to see more clearly just how dark I got. And it scares me. I’m a mom. I don’t want to be capable of falling that far. And as someone who has never really considered herself a depressed person, I don’t like that I was.

I don’t have the luxury of falling apart. My daughter needs me to be whole.

But there’s history there. I absolutely struggled with self-harm, depression and anxiety growing up. I was bulimic for a decade, a cutter for years, and I attempted suicide when I was 19. As an adult, I worked really hard to pull myself past that history. I’ve always identified those dark years as being the result of how I grew up, not how I was wired. Even now, I desperately want to distance myself from the label of depression. I want that to be what happened to me, not who I am.

I now know I was wrong.

I’m working on acknowledging what that means moving forward. I’m in therapy, and have been for the better part of the last year, so I’m not digging through this on my own. I have help, and I have acknowledged just how far I fell. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what that all means.

As a mom, it terrifies me. And makes me feel incredibly guilty. Especially as a single mom. I don’t have the luxury of falling apart. My daughter needs me to be whole. I hate that I spent a good chunk of the last year not being my best self.

I kept reminding myself how lucky I am. I have a career I love, a little girl I adore, and friends who have become the family I always dreamed of having growing up.

How could a person have all that and still feel as broken as I did?

The guilt and shame surrounding what I was feeling was almost worse than the depression itself.

Which is why I’m realizing for me, I need to remove some of the stigma. Because it kept me from getting help as soon as I should have. It kept me from admitting to those I love just how far I had fallen. And it kept me feeling alone in the dark longer than I needed to be.

Because I was so afraid that if I talked about it, I might be brushed aside. I might be labeled crazy. Or weak. Or worse… unfit to be a mother at all.

It’s only now, on the other side of depression, that I can see how harmful that thinking was. That I can see how that fear of owning up to where I was actually made everything so much harder than it needed to be.

So here I am, admitting that the last year was not my best.

At least now I know better. I know that I’m capable of falling. And I also know that even if I do fall once more, I am capable of coming out on the other side.

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