I’m Still Here

I ran across this quotation today and it stopped me in my tracks. This is true for me, but it almost wasn’t. As a society, in general, we don’t like to talk about our problems, our missteps, our mistakes. But it is so important that those around us, especially those who are in the midst of their own storms, see us struggle and push through. It’s important to be real. It’s also not something I’m good at.

We have Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat. We have filters for our pictures and photo editors on our phones. We crop out the mess, smooth away the wrinkles and post our highlight reel online, while hiding the mess of real life. This gives off a false sense of perfection to those around us.

We have come to value perfection in a way that is unrealistic and unattainable. We also don’t acknowledge a mental health problem for the medical diagnosis it is. If I have a diagnosed heart problem, that caused an emergency, and I go to the hospital for treatment, my friends and family would likely post prayer requests and information for my friends and distant family to see. However, if I have a diagnosed mental health problem, that caused an emergency, and I go to the hospital for treatment, my friends and family might not know much about it at all and they most certainly wouldn’t post about it online. It would likely be considered shameful. This is wrong. And this wouldn’t help me seek support or treatment.

More than ten years ago, through the perfect storm of stress, the ending of a difficult, debilitating relationship, and isolation from friends and family, I found myself in a pit of despair that seemed unending and inescapable. This is almost where my story ended. But instead of being the period at the end of my story, it became the semi-colon. Simply a pause. A break that was painful, difficult and hard to overcome, but oh-so-worth the struggle.

You see, ten years ago me had no idea what life would hold for me now. I had no way of seeing the joy and strength and love that would define my life now. Not perfection, by a long shot. Not struggle-free at all. But beautiful in it’s own messy way.

I want to be more genuine. I’m working to build a circle of friends that I share more of myself with. Women whom I can call, not only when I have joy and excess to share, but also when I’m in need physically or emotionally. Do you have this circle? When something bad happens or your day goes south, do you have supports in place to build you back up, help you find a smile even when it seems impossible, or come along side of you to shoulder the load?

Would it shock you to know that women in our Everyday Mom’s group have very real, very scary struggles right now? What if I told you some of them don’t know exactly how they will feed their children next week? How about if I told you that more than one of us have contemplated, planned or even tried to end our lives? These are beautiful people, who love their families so much, but they are in pain and when they look around, they only see our highlight reels. They are suffering in silence because they don’t know exactly how to reach out. They don’t want to reveal the struggle or expose their own weakness because somehow we’ve sold the lie that our lives are always perfect. This is not ok.

How do we overcome this? How do we move past the fluff and find depth in our relationships with each other? What will emotionally investing in one another cost us? I don’t have all the answers here, I really am asking, how do we help? What would help you?

We do have an awesome local resource in The Seventh Mom Project that advocates “holding the umbrella” for one another as we weather the storms of perinatal mood disorders. I think the analogy holds for any season in life. We can be umbrella holders for those around us, but only if we are allowed to see the storm. Only if we know that it’s raining in your world.

I also think there is opportunity here to put together a more tangible resource for our group. I haven’t ironed out all of the ideas that are floating in my mind yet, but we are so involved in each other’s lives, in one sense, because we interact online almost daily, and yet at the same time we are so distanced from one another that the problems can slide under the radar. There has to be a way to pull together and be there for each other during the storms. For some of us, this may mean offering childcare so a mom can run out for coffee alone. For others, it may mean helping sort through mountains of laundry. I love helping after a new baby comes or when there’s an illness in the family. I like to make a meal, send takeout or gift cards. There’s room to form an organized system for some of this, but it will only work if you will reach out. What do you think? Will you share your struggle, to help others share theirs too?

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