“They’d be better off without me.” There was a very dark point in my life where I believed this to be true. From the outside looking in, it made no sense. I had a loyal husband who loved me, the sweetest little girl in the world, we had just bought our forever home the year prior, and I had a flexible, work-from-home career that I enjoyed.
Still, I felt like I was drowning. Drowning in what?
It feels silly writing it now but I know there are so many mamas out there who can relate. I was drowning in the housework, the dishes, the laundry, packing lunches, making dinner, gymnastics, piano lessons – the everyday, normal things of life.
My anxiety continued to worsen until I became extremely depressed. At first it was a passing thought here and there but after a while I thought it over and over and over in my head all day, every day – “They’d be better off without me”.
I swore that if I wasn’t there to forget the clothes in the washer for two days or forget Wacky Wednesday and send my kid to school in normal clothes, they would be better off. If I wasn’t there to yell at my daughter or argue with my husband over what’s for dinner (because the thought of having to make another decision, no matter how minuscule, made me want to pull my hair out), they would be better off without me. If I wasn’t around to mess all of these things up, the people I loved the most would be better off. Simply put, they’d be better off if I was dead.
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Writing this now, I can see how distorted my thinking was. My thoughts became so dark that I ended up having two week long stays in an in-patient behavioral health hospital. Having worked in the mental health field as a counselor and diagnostician (fancy word for diagnosing mental health disorders), this was extremely humbling. With the help of some medication, A LOT of counseling, and the support of my family (especially my husband), I am happy to say that I am no longer in that place.
I will always have anxiety to some degree, it’s just who I am.
But now I have something else that I didn’t have before – grace. I have always had the grace of God but I never gave myself that same grace…not for anything. If I left laundry in the washer for two days, I use to think, “Great, I am so stupid, now I have to wash these same clothes again and I won’t have time to do that other load that needs done”. Now? Now, I graciously laugh at my forgetfulness, start another wash cycle, and then LET IT GO.
I don’t tell myself how stupid I am or dwell over not having time for the second load. Because you know what? I’m not stupid! (And as far as that second load goes, it can always be done tomorrow.) I am a busy, working mom and wife who can confidently say she’s doing her best at everything she takes on. If I say something I regret to my husband, I apologize and give myself the same grace he gives me when he forgives me.
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If I have a hard day at work and come home and yell at my daughter over something silly, I’m honest with her. I tell her, “Mommy was upset about something else, nothing to do with you, I am sorry for yelling at you”. (Surprisingly, she is always understanding and gives me grace as well.) I tell her I love her and she hugs me tight, tells me she loves me too, and then goes back to playing as if nothing happened.
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And what do I do after that? You got it, give myself grace and try to do better next time.
At the end of the day, I know my family loves me just the same whether the sink is empty or full, whether I cook a well-balanced meal or we run through the Wendy’s drive-thru, and whether they have a clean pair of matching socks or not.
In addition to giving myself grace, I have found that it is important to give myself a guilt-free break every now and then. Right now, I’m sitting in Panera, treating myself to an iced coffee. And guess what! I am here ALONE! I love my family more than anything but it is so important to get a break. When I need some alone time or time with friends, I always discuss it with my husband and he always says, “Go”. Whereas before I was hesitant and felt guilty about going, now, I listen to him.
I “go” and I do my best not to feel guilty about leaving him with the messy house, our daughter, and now our three-month-old son. Because you know what? Sometimes they are better off without me. When I say that now though, I mean it in a completely different way.
By being gone for a couple of hours every couple of weeks to have some quiet time or see friends, I am taking care of myself. I come home refreshed and feeling at peace with whatever I walk into (messy house, crying baby, etc.).
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Mamas, you have to take care of yourself in order to be the best you can be at taking care of your children. Why do you think when you are on a plane, they tell you that if there was an emergency, you are to first put YOUR oxygen mask on before helping others? Because if you don’t get yourself oxygen, you won’t be able to do anything for anyone else!
Doing things for yourself isn’t selfish, it’s loving yourself!
So, as my husband says, “Go”. Go out for a coffee, go for a run, take a bubble bath, go out for a glass of wine – whatever! Just “go”, do what makes you happy! Because as Audrey Hepburn said, “Happy girls are the prettiest”.
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