Faith Grief Motherhood

I’m (not) fine. An Open Letter to Moms about Not Being Okay

I’m (not) fine. An Open Letter to Moms about Not Being Okay www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Abbie Ginther

Lately my two-year-old, Emily has developed a paralyzing fear of monsters. We’ve prayed about it, we’ve talked about it and we’ve watched this awesome video about it at least 700 times (thanks Alison). But you know what’s helped her the most? Every night before Emily goes to bed, she looks up at me and says, “Mom, in OUR house there are NO monsters.” Stating the truth out loud helps her to believe it.

Sometimes as a Christian mom, I feel this weird pressure to “be okay;” to thank God in every moment and to somehow prove that I am walking in the Spirit and drawing from His strength. I’m not making fun of these statements. Every morning, I cast myself, my kids and my cares on Jesus. I live in the truth that my relationship with Him is the well from which I draw meaning in motherhood and in life. In the Bible, Paul (whose words encourage me in motherhood despite the fact that he wasn’t that gung ho about the whole marriage deal) knew that people instinctively want to appear fine. He made this bold statement: But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ.

In Emily’s words, “In our house, there are no monsters.” Speaking truth is an essential step for growth in Christ and in life and it’s exactly what I want to model for my kids.

So here’s mine. I am a person who is deeply affected by everything outside of myself. This can be annoying. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which means that when winter is too long (oh hi, Canada), I find it hard to do normal things like getting out of bed or completing tasks. Then spring arrives and suddenly I am a fully functioning human again. I combat the heavy oppressive blanket of BLAH by getting enough sleep, talking about it, getting outside, choosing my winter, eating as healthily as I can and exercising but it doesn’t make it go away.

Every year in spring, something unclenches inside me and all of the energy I’ve been expending to exist normally just eases and I can channel it into life again. I can just BE me without having to work at it. If you’ve struggled with depression or anxiety, you know exactly what I’m talking about and if you haven’t, then none of this makes any sense. Take a minute, look at these cartoons, then come back. Because I have these tendencies, when I got pregnant I read everything I could on postpartum depression. My hormones or chemicals already fail me on a yearly basis so I felt like this was something I would be highly susceptible to experiencing. I was prepared. And it didn’t happen.

Fast-forward a year through the hormonal whirlwind that is being pregnant, becoming a mom, weaning, and getting pregnant again. After having Emily, I sort of relaxed and thought, “Hey, my body’s got this! I miscarried in the fall of 2014 and along with the grief of loss came fear. I had just gone back to work after maternity leave and I had a timeline of when we would have another child firmly in my mind. I was full-steam-ahead controlling my life… in my mind. After our miscarriage, we got pregnant again almost immediately so in October of 2014, I was expecting Gabrielle and afraid.

This pregnancy was so different than my experience with Emily. I was sick, I was tired and my husband was away a lot for work while I was exhausted and miserable at home, working and looking after a non-stop exuberant toddler. None of these things were harder than what anyone else does but they were still true and I was afraid. I was anxious all the time and after Gabrielle was born in July, I felt a flood of relief. She was okay. She was more than okay, she was healthy and loud and perfect. I was okay. The physical recovery after delivery was so much better than the first round, it was summer outside and I could finally stop holding my breath and exhale.

But the fear and anxiety that crept up during pregnancy never really let go. I didn’t feel sad but everything started to seem overwhelming. I became angry and anxious and if you asked the people closest to me, there might be another “a” word that isn’t so flattering. I prayed about it. I claimed every truth I know and believe about it. I exercised about it. I ate better and tried to sleep more about it but the anxiety is still here.

I have everything I need BUT…

  • I feel like I am constantly in coping mode and everything is an overwhelming crisis. Laundry. Those dishes on the table that need to be moved to the sink. Appointments. Missed toddler naptimes.
  • Rage.
  • Anxiety.

All the great things I’ve been doing aren’t fixing it and I’ve struggled to come to terms with the fact that something is going on in me that I can’t control. Naming and facing my own postpartum anxiety feels terrifying. In fact, I don’t even want you to know about it because in three months when sun is back to stay and I’m done breastfeeding and I’m loving life, why would I share this season with you in a permanent and “non-takesy-backsies” internet-flashing way?  Especially when next week I’m going to be writing about hilarity and the ridiculousness of mom life and it will also and simultaneously be TRUE?

Because in our house, there are no monsters.  

Because speaking truth out loud is the first step to being okay.  

Because maybe because you’re there too.

Because we can refuse to buy into the lie of pretending to be okay and step forward in freedom into His love which is big and perfect and enough for us to not be.

 

If anything I’ve shared resonates with you, here are some honest and incredible ladies sharing about not being okay and saying it about a million times better. 

Jessica: The Moment I Finally Became a Momma Bear   

Glennon Doyle Melton: The Erasing 

Sarah Bessey: In which depression is not your fault   

Emily Fisk: It Gets Easier  

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary: Jesus or Zoloft?  

Ashlie: My Struggle with Postpartum Depression

 

About the author

Abbie Ginther

Abbie’s a child of God saved by His grace. She’s also a wife, mama and high school French and English teacher. In this season at home with her two littles, she’s blogging about faith, fails and mom life from Saskatoon, Canada. She tries to find the humor amid the Huggies and wisdom in the whining, but so far hasn’t developed any love for the laundry. Join in the fun and discover an honest and encouraging community of mamas at her blog http://www.grumblinggrace.com/ and on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/abbiegintherblog

49 Comments

  • Love this, Abbie. Yes, yes, yes to chaos and crisis, to anger, to rage. And yes to it being okay to admit we’re not okay. Fantasy Facebook supermom needs to be laid to rest. Thanks for sharing your heart and words here today.

  • You already know how much I love this AND you. You are seriously a rockstar on so many levels and I am so so so lucky to call you a friend. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  • Friend, this is so incredible and real and brave. I specifically remember feeling exactly like that when I was going through PPA–in a couple months I’ll feel great, right? So why talk about it? Why admit it? And I didn’t do as good of a job coming to terms during it as you have. But it’s so encouraging and uplifting and downright helpful to us and other people when we talk about what’s going on. Thanks for sharing your beautiful heart with us. Much love!

  • I love this. And I HEART you even more for talking about it. There aren’t many people that would be so open and honest and that is one of the reasons you are one of my favorite bloggers. I can relate to this on so many levels! Sending you kisses from Austin 🙂

  • Amazing post. And I think so many people (myself included) stay in coping mode and put their heads down and don’t admit themselves they have Anxiety, PP or otherwise. Good for you for sharing for all of us to read. Sharing this post:) xo

  • this gave me chills… because I have post-partum anxiety (still, even though my youngest is 20 months old!!) I know exactly what you mean when you say things seem like an overwhelming crisis. I can’t handle those everyday things when I’m feeling really anxious. Making Dr. appts?? Nope. I’ll avoid it for months because I just can’t cope with making the phone call, adding something on my “to-do” list.. it’s crippling and it’s hard to live with. Thank you for putting this out there, for being brave and true. I just love you. (of course, thank you for the link to my post as well, but that is not nearly as important as your story!!) xoxo

  • I love this Abbie. Thank you for sharing your story. I too have SAD, struggled with depression almost my entire life and Post partum anxiety so I know exactly how this feels. I’m so glad to find other moms who can relate. Makes us feel not so alone. You’re wonderful. I’m glad our blogging paths crossed 🙂 – Oh That’s Momsense

  • Abbie, I love this and I love you for being so honest. I, too, had a miscarriage (my first pregnancy) that induced major anxiety and it completely consumed me. That anxiety remained throughout my entire pregnancy with Jacob (first child) and I was completely unable to enjoy the pregnancy because I was so scared that it would all be taken away from me again. Two kids later, I still have anxiety, but not on the level that I did after the miscarriage. I also blogged about the things that I learned from having a miscarriage back in October and it really helped. I felt a weight release from my chest.

    Also, I hate January and February… I don’t feel like myself during those months either and I live in the south where it’s not even snowy! I can’t imagine how much I would hate it if we lived under a blanket of snow for several months out of the year. Anyway, you are so brave for sharing this! You know I already love you and now I love you even more! Thank you for posting!

    • I am off to find that post. Yes, there is something real and healing about putting truth out and letting it sit there. Thank you so much for your encouragement and sharing this, friend!

  • Thank you for sharing Abbie! My anxiety since having Oliver has been so high and seems to be getting worse. A couple of weeks ago I started having panic attacks… The first time it happened I was driving to Jamestown by myself to go to a photography club meeting. I was happy and singing along to the radio and it just hit me. I felt like I could barely breathe and my heart was pounding so fast… I’ve had them before so I knew what it was but it was terrifying. I’m in constant fight or flight mode. Thanks again for sharing what you are going through. I totally understand it and it is so hard!

    • I completely feel you! The panic attacks were a new thing for me and terrifying. This experience has given me so much more empathy, so maybe that is a life lesson worth holding onto. I’ll be praying for you, Brittney! You’ve got this and you are incredible.

  • Thank you for sharing this. You are not alone. I started blogging recently about my lifelong struggles with anxiety. I completely get why it was hard for you to publish this. I think my first post was written for weeks before I clicked publish. I am grateful to read others stories to know I am also not alone!

  • My life has just been recently enriched through getting to know you, Abbie. And I sincerely mean that. Your honesty can be freeing for your readers because truth is, we all have these kinds of insecurities, struggles, doubts, anxiety. My trouble is my daughters are adults, so I can’t blame or credit postpartum depression with my anxiety and depression. I take meds to keep the monsters out of my house and my head but every now and then, I still see them lurking just around the corner, in the shadows. Thank you for opening your heart to us. I love you, sweet one, and I don’t even really know you yet! YET.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. It is so important for other moms to know that if they have these feelings they aren’t alone, and that it doesn’t make them a bad mother.

  • LOVE this! Abbie is amazing and this is clearly from the heart! BEAUTIFUL writing from a lady with a beautiful spirit!

  • This is such a great post – and SO important. In this world of social media/internet life, we often don’t share our true selves. But it can be so helpful to someone else. I had postpartum depression/anxiety with my second son, and I had no one to talk to about it. Eventually it went away, but I felt like I was the only one. I’m so glad to know you – you are awesome – this too shall pass but identifying it, talking about it, getting help is the key. You are not alone – we all love you and are here :)!

  • This was a great read for me. I thought I had postpartum depression because that seemed like the only label for how I was feeling; I was surprised when my doctor said it was an anxiety diorder. I had no idea that postpartum anxiety was a “thing” and felt totally alone being in this no man’s land. I am now 7 weeks postpartum and am finally coming out of the phase where every little thing is overwhelming. At 2 weeks postpartum I never would have believed I would get to a stage where I could feel like motherhood was something I could do. Thanks so much for this. Even though I’m feeling better, this makes me feel less alone.

      • I’ve actually felt so guilty for leaving out the fact that I had to go on anti anxiety medication. I felt too embarrassed to post that fact, but if anyone else felt the same I didn’t want them to feel it was an easy fix for me.

  • Yes, mama! I LOVE this post so much and you are so right about speaking truth! I think it’s amazing that you’re doing that with her! Thank you so much for sharing my PPD post! I’m so glad it’s helped so many women. 🙂 Us mamas got to stick together!

  • @abbieginther:disqus you are my biggest favorite in the whole wide world ever and I want to send you the biggest, fattest hug in the whole world. Truly, you are an exquisite gem, friend. Thank you for writing this.

  • Abbie this is so beautiful and I can’t imagine cold like that, but I get the same with our hotter than hot never ending summers! You are an awesome Mom my friend.
    xo, Nicole

  • Love this so much. Thank you from my heart. This resonates greatly. May your anxiety be lessened and the sunshine lighten up your whole world.

  • Thanks for speaking your truth. I highly recommend trying a sunlamp. I’ve struggled with SAD and it is amazing what a half hour a day with this light can do.