Reflections of Mothering with a Mental Illness During a Pandemic – Fightress’ Story
It’s All Hard
This quote resurfaced on social media recently:
“Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard.
Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard.
Being in debt is hard. Being financially disciplined is hard. Choose your hard.
Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. Choose your hard.
Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can choose our hard.
Pick wisely.” — Unknown
Honestly, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of ‘choosing your hard’.
Mothering during a pandemic is hard.
Mothering as a neurodivergent with Bipolar Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder is hard.
Mothering without a tribe is hard.
Mothering with a special needs child is hard.
Mothering without your mother is hard.
Mothering while experiencing postpartum depression, anxiety and rage is hard.
Over the last 18 months I have faced challenges that I honestly thought I would not avail.
“You just can’t catch a break” a friend exclaimed as I shared with her my latest “hard”.
As I sit here and type this, with my 10 month old daughter suckling at my breasts and my 6 year old son playing quietly with his toys, despite the many challenges I face daily, I am overcome with gratitude.
Gratitude and Grace
A few years ago I participated in an intensive outpatient program at a local mental health hospital. Keeping a daily gratitude journal became a practice that was vital to my treatment and continued stability.
Clean laundry is spilling out of the doors of the laundry room.
There are 5 unopened packages at my front door.
The birthday banner from my son’s party two weeks ago still hangs on the mantle of the fireplace.
The ridiculously large gallon water bottle bearing motivational messages of encouragement to hydrate remains 90% full despite my and the bottle maker’s good intentions.
I just finished a call with my psychiatrist. I’m experiencing a manic episode. We discussed having me take a mood stabilizer. I’m still breastfeeding and am not ready to wean my daughter so I declined. She said she understood and to keep my therapy appointments and use my coping skills. I haven’t always been able to manage mania without medication, but I have learned to ride the waves of Bipolar Disorder and use the ‘symptoms’ to my advantage.
Our next appointment is in a couple months once my daughter turns one.
I remain grateful for clean clothes, packages at the door with necessities so I don’t have to make a trip to the store with little kids, and celebrating my son’s birthday a little longer.
Show Up For Yourself and Delegate
The most valuable lesson I have learned is to allow myself to be supported and normalize not having it all ‘together’.
As a birth and postpartum doula and mental health professional, I am accustomed to ‘showing up’ for others during their most vulnerable moments.
I have had to learn how to ‘show up’ for myself.
Showing up for myself looks like offering myself grace when my house isn’t as tidy as I’d like it to be, living out of a laundry basket, and ordering dinner instead of cooking.
I recognize and express my needs to my partner regularly.
I schedule self-care time 3 times a week.
I hired a cleaning service.
I learned to lean on those who make themselves available and have the capacity to support me.
I established boundaries to protect myself from supporting others when I was lacking the support I desperately needed.
I have poured from an empty cup and not only is it unhealthy but it is exhausting.
I have two tiny humans who rely on me.
Modeling healthy boundaries, self care, self awareness and mental and emotional stability are invaluable lessons for myself and my children.
Life is more than what is happening to me.
I am an active participant and I control my narrative.
So, I choose gratitude. I choose grace.
It is not the easiest choice but by far more fulfilling than alternatives: depressed, frustrated, angry, resentful, etc..
One day as I support others as a doula or mental health professional, I will pull from lessons I have learned over the last 18 months and all of the ‘hard’ things will not have been in vain.
Fightress Aaron is a licensed therapist, doula, and homeschooling mom living with Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and ADHD. She’s passionate about all things mental and maternal health. Fightress lives in Central Alabama with her husband and two children.
When she’s not supporting others, you can find her whipping up elderberry syrup and teas in her kitchen.
You can keep up with Fightress by visiting her website www.fightressaaron.com