I think the news of Heather Armstrong hit me hard because well, looking on the surface, her life seems almost idyllic. This is a rich white woman who has all of the resources at her disposal to help her get to a much healthier state with her mental health and I’m like WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED? WHAT THE FUCK WENT WRONG? While I could speculate why or how this happened, I won’t. What I will say is that nobody could possibly understand why she made that decision or how much suffering she was in. This made me reflect on my own journey with recovering from mental illness.
I have battled depression and anxiety since I was a teenager except I wasn’t formally diagnosed with it until after I had my third child in 2012. It’s been a not so well kept secret in my family that I continuously tried to mask to seem well, normal to everyone else. For years, I’ve mostly kept my depressive episodes to myself because more often than not when I’ve disclosed I’m depressed, I’m met with the comments: “You need to get over it , we have no time for this” or “Think about your kids” or “But you have SO MUCH to live for”. I know the people making those comments thought they were being helpful but all it did was drive me further into a spiral of shame for having no control over my brain chemistry and being depressed. It adds fire to the fuel of my inner critic who tells me during this episode, “let’s add being a failure as a mom to your thoughts about being a worthless and terrible human being”.
The sun is shining Everything is green and bright And yet winter feels eternal In my heart and my mind I feel a profound darkness that Seems to seep and ooze everywhere Inside of me Is this what true loneliness feels like? Will I ever get rid of what feels like my forever depression? Or do I just learn to live with the elephant that lives on my chest? That I try desperately not to wake it up Writing, exercise, friends, tv- Everything to keep it calm But no matter what The elephant always seems To wake up
In a lot of my poetry, I’ve talked about the impossible pressure I’ve had to deal with in being a mother but I don’t think I talk enough about how this was modeled for me growing up. Growing up, I saw my mother as this larger than life woman who constantly worked hard and sacrificed for her family. She worked countless hours to provide for us. She was this superwoman who at one point had 3 jobs and still managed to keep a clean house and cook dinner. I remember her sleeping a couple hours after she got home from an overnight shift at her job and waking up to walk me to school in the morning. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I never saw my mom breakdown or cry.
The message I received and perceived was one that in order to be a good mother, you have to be this superwoman who balances everything perfectly all the time. Being a good mother also meant being strong and resilient and if needed it was necessary to suppress emotions to continue to function. When I became a mother at 17, I had these unrealistic expectations of motherhood that I wanted to attain. And we wonder why I ended up with a diagnosis of BPD-lol. Honestly, while I’ve healed a lot from my past, I feel like it’s still necessary to share it because this isn’t just my story. It’s the story of other mothers who are still ashamed about having a mental illness and more often than not, don’t seek help and mask, mask, mask until they explode.
I’ve often talked about how my children are one of my greatest motivators for continuing to move forward with my life, to try to continue with my self improvement; but what I have failed to talk about is how my children are a major source of guilt while I’m in a major depressive episode. If I had to be honest with myself and everyone else, when I’ve been in that really dark place with my depression, I’ve had thoughts about how maybe my kids would be better off without me, how my kids deserve a better mother than me.I’m coming from a very vulnerable place talking about this. I also want to add that I haven’t been in this dark place with these thoughts since 2021. It is a fucking scary place to be in and it’s something I would never wish upon my worst enemy. Thankfully, I have always been able to pull myself out of this headspace and seek help if I need to. However, once I start to get out of this head space, guilt over how selfish I was for not thinking about kids hits me and ooof I’m off to a shame spiral that almost loops back around to another depressive episode but nowadays I’m able to get a better handle on it. In January of this year, when I had another major depressive episode, my worst thought was, “I don’t think I’m doing enough to improve the lives of me and children ” which is irrational for many reasons. Anyways, I decided then and there that I needed to go back to therapy. It was hard to make that decision but in order to prevent my depression from getting worse; it was necessary. Some part of me felt like a failure because of how many healthy coping mechanisms I have now, how much emotional support I have from family and friends, and how much therapy I’ve had; I felt like I should be able to get this on my own. However, I’d rather be safe than sorry and get the extra guidance and help I need so I can get through this depressive episode before it gets worse. It hasn’t always been this way for me. For several years, I thought that the brave thing to do was to suffer in silence and try to get through my depression on my own. Journaling consistently since 2019 has helped me get through the worst of it but looking back on those journal entries, I’m filled with grief for the version of me who thought strength and being brave meant keeping it all in. I’m filled with grief at the version of me holding it together trying to balance it all and functioning at work when inside all I wanted to do was die or disappear. However, I hold compassion for that woman because she was doing what she knew best to survive. And sure at times that looked messy and unhealthy but at the end of day what matters is that I’m still here. Here’s a poem I wrote about my depression in 2020:
The Darkness comes back with a fierce strength and takes over my mind I want to run I want to hide But most of all I want to die
The Darkness comes back like a hurricane and wrecks my body and mind and I don’t want to work and I don’t want to talk and I don’t want to breathe
The Darkness comes back and not even the promise of love keeps it away
Fortunately for me, I learned to work through my feelings of shame in getting the help I needed to get better. My mental health improved drastically after getting a BPD diagnosis and here’s the post about that:
I’m very fortunate that my meds, my therapy, and the strict routine and consistency I now have in my life has improved my mental health so much, my depressive episode and low moods are milder and my quality of life has gotten so much better. I know that even in 2023,there is still so much pressure on mothers to be superwomen, to be “brave” and fight their battles alone but it doesn’t have to be this way. I hope that any mother out there struggling with depression/mental illness who might happen upon my blog post understands that they don’t have to fight this battle alone. In this journey, it is important to understand that being brave can also be taking the first step to seeking out the help you need to get healthier. I’m lucky to have found my own village ( my support system, my therapists, my writing community) to improve the quality of my life; my hope is that other mothers find their own village as well to lead healthier and happier lives.
I want to end this post with a poem I wrote in February of this year:
The Finish Line
I have yet to cross the finish line of my uprising, my marathon of healing- Sometimes I stumble and fall for a few days, a few weeks. a month when life gets overwhelming I dissociate and drive around aimlessly Forget about all the progress I made- but always get up and do the best I can Sometimes I mask well enough to fool the people in my life Sometimes, it’s not enough and they start asking what’s wrong but somehow I always manage to get back to a place where I move forward and evolve- listen to my therapist- healing isn’t linear-healing is messy and just because I stumble sometimes, it doesn’t mean I can’t cross the finish line
Below are some resources that helped me along my journey:
Back from the Borderline podcast episodes that have really helped me
One thing I want to add about the above resources I have shared is that I take notes from the books/podcast episodes . I jot down certain phrases, concepts, or quotes that resonate with me and/or I find helpful. I take notes on sticky notes and have a notebook where I taped them later in a notebook where I write about it as to why I related to it or why it was helpful. This method of mine works for me in finding understanding the book better or validating my experience. You don’t have to do this at all, of course. It’s just what I found helpful. Also, if you want more books or resources, feel free to contact me:
Lost between fantasy and reality I stay Reality feels boring and monotonous and to constantly dream is free I dream of traveling, of success of stability within and it’s nice to stay lost in the fantasy of what I want my life to be But I can’t and must return to my reality of always working, of always hustling because my dreams won’t come true unless I work to make them happen
de nuevo arruine todo no fue mi intención-siempre empiezo tan bonito pero por alguna razón siempre destruyo mi paraiso de amor Está vez él no podía esperar para libersarse de mi- será que en realidad soy demaciado o los hombres que escojo no son suficiente?
Siempre soñé con un amor profundo e incondicional un amor que se quedaría en lo bien y en lo mal Y pensé que ese amor no mas podría encontrarlo en un hombre un hombre que se moriría por mi que me aguantaria todo y me hiciera sentir como la mujer más bella del mundo pero aprendí con el tiempo que eso es un sueño inalcanzable que eso es un sueño imposible Y un dia me di cuenta Que el amor que buscaba siempre vivió dentro de mi Y nunca necesite a alguien que me enseñara que era amar o como amar Porque el amor verdadero y duradero es el amor que yo siento por mi
ahora recién reconoces tu error y me pides disculpas ahora recién decides enfrentar el dolor que generaste al negar la existencia de nuestro hijo ahora recién quieres desempeñar tu papel de padre después de tu desgraciada ausencia de tres años esperando que te perdone como si nada paso lo siento, pero vete de aquí– el no necesita a un infeliz en su vida que nunca pudo dar la cara por el que prefiero esconderlo y olvidarlo por tres años que quiere usarlo para limpiar su conciencia para sentirse mejor
I’m finally free from the chains of love I felt truly a slave to it Thinking I needed it, thinking I wanted it But the truth is the only person I ever needed was me I never needed anyone else to care for me, to love me it’s always temporary until they leave Today marks my independence day from love’s heavy and terrible weight Because I am worth more than another fickle soul Who I always become too much for Because I deserve a sense of emotional stability After so many emotional scars caused by love
I’m used to being the ultimate pushover- allowing the energy of others to pollute my energy and take up my time It was the people pleaser in me who needed to fawn be easy to get along with and always avoiding conflict, I’d become the person they’d want me to be, cutting away pieces of my authenticity- I’d become easy to digest and swallow I never valued myself or put myself first It was learned martyrdom from the women in my family Internalized misogyny sold to me at a young age dressed up as selfless acts of love but I’m done sacrificing myself for others It’s time to unlearn this toxic way of loving and being I refuse to pass this down to the next generation of woman who come after me I’m here to take up space, roar like a lioness and pass down a new legacy of self love that took me 41 years too long to discover
Old insecurities come to visit me again, they shake up my newly acquired confidence they tell me I’m not smart enough and I’ll never be truly loved They tell me the only thing I have going for me is how sexy I can be Otherwise I’m a waste of a person because of my bpd And I try to shut it all down and not once again drown Because I have made so much progress and have come so far Only to once again fight an anxiety and depression war but it’s daunting and exhausting not to let the negativity get to me So here I go once again, trying to calm down my brain from negative and intrusive thoughts by covering myself with self-love
Overturning my right to choose feels like a slap to my face it is my american dream of liberty turned into a nightmare of reproductive imprisonment because of my 3 unplanned pregnancies, because of my 4 IUDs birth control pills and a patch because I am a woman scared for my niece, for my future granddaughters scared for the generations of women who come after me and I sit here at a complete loss for words and understanding at a loss for how this could happen a fundamental right ripped from right before our eyes while we were distracted with the modernity of society a fundamental right ripped from us that will take us back to the 1950’s
People say I shouldn’t give up on love and it’s really just my bad luck But how do I explain How love makes me insane It’s not the men I pick It’s really me, me, me I’ll become the version they want me to be thinking they’ll stay with me- behave, swallow my words, hide my anger, implode on myself in the privacy of my journal but keep my mask of sweet princess on- but this never last for long something always happens it’s just a matter of when when will I get tired of hiding who I am and start being erratic and crazy When will they get tired of my bullshit and decided to leave and almost always, this ends up as an emotional catastrophe for me so I’ve come up with a solution I’m going to make my newfound solitude a haven, a sanctuary to fall into give myself as much time as I need to enjoy the gift on my own company understanding that this isn’t an ending but rather a brand new beginning for me to write and edit my own unconventional love story
I wrote this poem in June of 2022 inspired by my youngest son.
At Tae Kwon Do class my son kicks with a determined look on his face It’s strength and resilience inherited from me and his ancestors It’s a competitive spirit passed down generation after generation from people that had to fight to compete to survive and it fill me with excitement and pride because even at ten my son shows traits from his ancestral warriors
In therapy I’m supposed to write about the last thing that cause me grief and I think it’s funny considering the tons of poetry and journal entries I’ve written about it I’m tired of writing about it, I’m tired of talking about it I’m tired of thinking about it and I want to tell my therapist I don’t have homework for this week but this is part of therapy this is what I need to address the unhealed trauma within so I’ll write for the 1000th time about the last thing that caused trauma and grief hoping my therapist will provide valuable insight on how to let go of it
I wrote this poem in May of 2022 inspired by this “woke” white woman. Lol.
you’re nothing but a selfish and narcissistic attention whore constantly craving the limelight by posting long and stupid ridden Facebook statuses about the “truth” of the injustice you see injecting yourself as the voice of minorities it all unveils your world of deep seated insecurities and the irony of all of this is should you know better since you’re a therapist but apparently you’re still dumb as fuck It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have-you still reek of ignorance