being a mom

Mind Over Mommy: Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

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If you look up self-care and mental health on the internet, you’ll get a pretty muddled definition. You’ll find articles with images of beautiful women in bubble baths or doing yoga at sunrise in tropical locales. These articles will talk about manicures, spa days, wine, and treating yourself. At some point, they’ll discuss meditation and mindfulness practices, and just like so much literature from the fitness industry, they’ll present an unrealistic and unattainable image of what fulfilled motherhood and womanhood look like.

If I’ve noticed anything since becoming a mom, it’s how few depictions there are of real women with real struggles coping with daily life. We’re all going through it, yet the images of motherhood we’re presented with are the stuff of manicured Target ads, overly saccharine sitcoms, and the ‘real’ housewives of whatever upper class metropolitan area they’ve chosen this season. When shit gets rough — and it does, for everyone — it’s too easy to feel isolated and alone. It’s too easy to think you’re the only one going through it. It’s too easy to compare yourself to the meditating models in magazines and think that no one else has ever felt the way you do.

I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety when my first child was seven months old. For those seven long months before I got help, I suffered silently, swallowing my longing and unhappiness and my crippling fears. I had a happy marriage and a beautiful, healthy new baby. I couldn’t figure out why I was so miserable, lonely, and sad, or why everything made me feel like a failure or sent me into a full blown panic attack.

I thought maybe I could exercise my way out of it or talk myself off the ledge with positive affirmations. I bought all the self-help books. I set all the goals. I trained for and ran a half-marathon, started meditating, got frequent pedicures, bought new clothes, and spent plenty of ‘me’ time trying to figure out why none of it was making me happy.

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