I've started about 6 blog posts this week and had difficulties finishing any of them. To be honest I've been having a down and lonely week and its been difficult for me to be inspired or feeling like writing something inspirational and encouraging. Everyday I am increasingly aware of my irritability and anxiety but for some reason I've been afraid to stop and really reflect on my feelings.
So I started thinking of the importance of the first step of any healing process when you struggle emotionally: naming your feelings. We often read many articles and blog posts about how moms are feeling and some of them are simply sharing their experiences and others are writing helpful tips on how to cope. However I'm not sure if there is a lot out there to actually help moms generate insight into what they feel or why. How did you come to the awareness of what exactly you are struggling with especially when it seems as if everyday life in general is a struggle? It seems like a simple process to say how you feel but it can be more complex and filled with more questions than answers.
Repressing feelings can seem like the best solution especially when you are a mom. We may fear that slowing down to fall apart or really confront what is bothering us will somehow lead to our world crashing down. We may think "I'm busy running a household, taking care of my child, trying to stay above water at work, etc. I don't have time to think about my feelings." Another reason we may repress feelings is our avoidance of what we would then have to do to address them. Once we confront a problem or a struggle we then can not run away from the fact that we may have to take action to resolve it. This can be confronting our partners, asking for help, or changing our own habits.
Our emotional struggles can come with many layers. Usually once we start asking ourselves some questions it takes some digging to get to the bottom. I often tell my clients that there are "cover-up" feelings that mask the feelings we have inside. Anger often covers up hurt and disappointment. Anxiety can cover up insecurities. Even positive emotions can be a mask to hide sadness.
I remember a young boy I had as a client. On the surface it didn't appear he needed counseling. He was successful in school, kind to his classmates, and enjoyed making everyone laugh. He was one of the funniest and wittiest kids I have had the pleasure of knowing. Underneath it all was a lot of pain from family problems and from that an intense fear of making anyone upset and avoidance of interpersonal conflicts. I discussed this with him often and he would change the subject and begin to make jokes or slowly walk backwards out of the office jokingly. At first I would laugh but then provide it as an example of him repressing his feelings. However as our relationship progressed I began to address this more firmly and he began to use humor even more or would begin to withdraw. Eventually we discussed with his mother whether he would continue counseling and transfer to a new therapist as I would be leaving the agency and we all agreed that he had reached a plateau in therapy and he simply wasn't ready to confront his anxiety surrounding conflict. I sometimes wonder if I will see him on stage someday doing stand up and although I will be happy for him I wonder if he will still be keeping the pain all inside.
Naming your feelings is usually the first step to seeing solutions. This morning I confronted myself about my feelings of irritability and anxiety. Underneath these feelings for me is loneliness while I am adjusting here. Why do I feel so lonely? Because I don't know many people here. Why am I not confronting the problem? I feel insecure. I had found a core group of mom friends back home that support me, that I feel secure around and don't second guess my own decisions. These are women that I know I can share my darkest feelings around motherhood with and there will not be judgement. I'm afraid I won't find that here. I'm afraid I will be judged. I thought about this and took a deep breath. I went to my meetup page and messaged a mom who lives nearby asking if she wants to meetup next week. I asked the entire group if anyone wants to get a few drinks next week. These are small steps but I felt a little lighter after having done so.
So when you are having an emotional struggle take some time for yourself at the end of the day to answer some questions whether in your mind or your journal:
-What are all the feelings I am experiencing that are distressing me? Name as many of the feelings as you can. Which feeling is causing you the most distress?
-If you are feeling creative you can draw you feeling or compare your feeling to visual imagery. (i.e. "My anxiety is like being on the edge of a cliff, constantly afraid that I will fall.")
-What are some of the recurring or distressing thoughts that keep making these emotions surface?
How am I reacting to these thoughts? Am I obsessing over them, trying to push them away, or finding ways to disprove them?
-Am I trying to avoid potential solutions? What am I afraid of if I try to resolve this?
-How can addressing this help be feel better? Help me be a better mother and/or partner?
The answers to all these questions may not help you come with the perfect solution but they will help you peel back the layers and get closer to healing. And if its hard to start the process remember that if you want to teach your child that their feelings matter you have to start with believing that yours matter too. Let it out Mamas.
Do you feel you hold your feelings inside? What holds you back from thinking about them? What ways do you try to express them in a healthy way?