I can remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. I can remember where I was sitting, what the room looked like, but most clearly, I can remember how I felt. Numb.
I was 6 weeks postpartum. We were in the process of selling our home for a huge loss and moving cross country to the middle of no where, with an uncertain position for my husband. I was leaving behind a solid support group of friends and family. And I felt numb.
I had been up since 2:30am walking the house with a baby who cried and woke the moment I stopped walking. She wasn’t hungry, wet or gassy. She was just fussy. As I watched night turn to day, I knew my husband would be up at any moment to get ready for work, followed soon there after by our 3 year old daughter. There was no time for me to rest.
I slumped to the floor of our family room, staring at the wall, numb. This was my life. It was overwhelming, draining, depressing and sad. Worst of all I saw no way out. I remember thinking….”This is it. This is my life. How did I get here?”
Looking at me now, you’d have no idea that at some point my life was at a real low point. That I couldn’t see a way out of the pain. That I was depressed, but hiding it from family and friends. That I was sad even as I held this beautiful, healthy baby girl in my arms. That I was overwhelmed by the financial burdens of owning 2 homes, being a stay at home mom and selling a house during the worst housing market in decades, not to mentioned moving a home and family to an area we didn’t know, nor want to relocate to. That I felt alone and unable to share my thoughts or feelings with my husband. In hindsight, I was terribly depressed and really should have asked for help.
But in that hole, I found lessons that have helped me to create a more balanced, healthy life. Because lets face it, life isn’t a bowl of cherries or roses ALL the time!
Its often said that time heals all wounds. I have found that TIME gains me perspective. When I find myself at the bottom or starting to spiral to the bottom of a pit of despair, something that I have found I’m more prone to since my darkest days 6 years ago, I give myself time to feel the pain, the sadness, the depression, knowing that, like before, I will once again find my way out.
I used to beat myself up for feeling bad. For being angry, upset, disappointed, depressed. I thought these were signs of weakness and failure. I know see them as just feelings. Much like happiness, joy and excitement. They are only as powerful as I make them out to be. By ACCEPTING these feelings they lose their power and I can stop the downward spiral.
It would be easy to think that 2:30am moment that found me feeling numb and sitting on the floor was a result of sleep deprivation, hormones and overwhelm, but in reality, it had been coming on for 4 years. A young marriage, 2 young children, a miscarriage, several wartime deployments, financial and job stressors had added up and I was ill-equipped to deal with them. My sadness and depression had built to the point that they were like a brick wall surrounding me and were the only thing I could see. I’ve since found a way to provide myself a window and eventually a ladder, but actively looking and seeking out the things in my life that I can be GRATEFUL for in that moment. They provide me light in the darkness and a life-saver out of despair.
Being Catholic and having 12 years of catholic education under my belt, you would have thought I would know this one, but it escaped me for years. FAITH and a belief in something greater than myself helps me to let go of the loneliness and sadness. I can lay it at the feet of God or at mass and know that something, someone, much more powerful than me has taken up my cause. Strength in numbers, right?! The burden then is no longer mine alone.
If you were to ask most people who knew me, they would say I was optimistic, seeing the brighter side of things, often found smiling. Thing was, I would use that smile, that optimism to hide my despair, my sadness, my loneliness. It was a mask, and a well worn one. Just like gratitude, I found that if I thought poorly, I would often FEEL poorly. While thinking differently didn’t lift my spirits right away, as I continued to do it, it became easier and my feelings would soon follow. Rather than thinking, “I’m never going to get out of this situation.”, I’d think “I’m a well educated woman, I can find a way through this.” I’d identify a strength and then change my language and MINDSET to match it. This was the hardest thing to learn, but has made the biggest difference in keeping me from falling back into that pit of despair and allowed me to climb out faster when I felt myself starting to slide.
Our health is so much more than just what we DO and how we EAT. It those things, PLUS our actions, our feelings, our mindset, our spirituality, our support systems. When we work on ALL those areas, our life finds more balance, more peace, and we become healthier.
And please, if you find yourself numb, at the bottom of a pit, a box or windowless room, ask for help, speak up. Many times, like me, you’ll find others who have been there and can help you find a way out.