Oh, mama. I know you’re struggling. I can see the pain behind your tired eyes.

Your heart and mind are in a broken place. I’ve been there, too.

I know you wake up each morning with a sinking in your chest because you don’t know how you can possibly make it through another day like this.

Your emotions feel so far out of your control. You have no say over the sadness, anger, or fear that overwhelm you. Your anxiety has made you irritable, and you take it out on the people you love most in this world. 

You go to bed at night feeling lost and so guilty—you’re sure you’re a burden to your family.

You wonder if the suffocating pain in your chest will ever go away and if you’ll truly feel alive ever, ever again. 

You feel hopeless, and it’s horrible. It’s the worst kind of feeling. 

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But as someone who has emerged from a long tunnel of darkness, I want you to know . . . your joy is still in you, mama, and you will find it again. 

It’s not going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to take a lot of work. 

You’ll have to have that first tough conversation. The one where you admit to your husband or best friend or parents just how much you’ve been struggling. The conversation where you let them in on the ugliest parts of your heart and all of the lies your brain has been whispering to you. You’ll look them in the eyes and tell them that you are not OK—that in fact, you are really, really far from OK. You’ll ask them to hold your hand to the other side because you’re so scared and you can’t do this alone.

You’re going to have to make phone calls and set appointments. To a therapist. To your doctor. You’ll take a deep breath and find the courage to be totally honest on that mental health questionnaire they hand you in the waiting room. A pharmacist will give you a little plastic bottle and you’ll set an alarm on your phone each day to remind you to take that pill that makes you feel just a little more like you.

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You’ll do some deep soul searching and discover the things that make your anxiety soar. Getting an extra hour of sleep each night will become a must, and you’ll switch to decaf in the morning. You’ll learn that your mental health is so much more important than pleasing others or being all the things to all the people. You’ll practice setting boundaries and saying no to what burdens your heart.

You’ll do all of this, mama, and I know it sounds like so much work. It is so much work. But trust me when I say your mental health is worth it. Your marriage is worth it. Your motherhood is worth it. Most of all, YOU are worth it.

Because when you’ve done everything you can do, that’s when you’ll find it.

You’ll be sitting on the couch one Tuesday afternoon watching your toddler dance across the room, and you’ll start to laugh—except it won’t be a fake, hollow laugh like the ones you’ve been giving for far too long. It’ll be rich and real and overwhelm your body and bring tears to your eyes and open your heart and you’ll realize . . . you have found your joy.

And then your humored tears will turn to grateful sobs because you’ve waited and prayed and worked so hard to feel this kind of fullness . . . and here it is.

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You’ll be skeptical at first—you’ll find it hard to trust the highs because you know just how hard and fast a fall can be.

But weeks will pass and you’ll find you’re having far more good days than bad. More smiles than tears. 

When you wake in the morning, you won’t be greeted by the dread of another day looming before you. The patience and compassion you thought you had lost forever will return.

You’ll play on the floor in the sunshine with your babies and realize just how much you genuinely enjoy being their mommy. You’ll sit across the table from your husband and feel a spark of emotion you didn’t know you were capable of feeling anymore. 

You’ll look around with a brimming heart and you’ll realize you did it. You made it.

The road won’t be perfect from there and some days will still be hard to get through—but you’ll know and believe that everything will be OK.

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Oh, friend, I have been there. I have felt the heaviness and the darkness and the hopelessness—and lived to see the sunshine waiting on the other side. And gosh, it is so beautiful out here.

I see you grasping for a glimmer of hope to pull you through these rough waters, and I just need you to know: Mama, your joy is waiting for you on the other side. Go find it.

Casey Huff

Casey is a middle school teacher turned stay-at-home-mama to three littles. It's her mission as a writer to shine light on the beauty and chaos of life through the lenses of motherhood, marriage, and mental health. To read more, go hang out with Casey at: Facebook: Bouncing Forward Instagram: @bouncing_forward