Note To Self: Battling Your Inner Critic and Accepting Setbacks
File this in your “things no one tells you about motherhood” folder: being a “new mom” can feel a lot like being sixteen again. Especially if you were a late bloomer, like me. Sixteen brought me braces, break ups, awkward acne and ill-fitting clothing. Socially, I lagged behind my friends, dreading lunch, study hall, and anything that required me to make conversation and “just be cool.” I was a terrible driver, locking my keys in my car the first time I took the minivan on a solo outing and a week later, rear-ending someone on the way to school. Physically, I saw myself as a fixer upper. I caked on make-up and acrylic french manicures. I curled my hair and fussed over my bangs. I wore nylons and dresses and chunky high heels.
At sixteen, I wanted to be anyone but myself.
Like many of you, I have always been at odds with my inner critic. She made herself at home in my head around age 10 and has since proven to be a petty, relentless perfectionist and a shitty roommate. As years rolled by, her voice became stronger and lounder. To her, getting older meant facing your expiration date, which she cunningly told me was age 30. I believe one of the reasons I wasn’t set on having children in my 20s was because I hadn’t figured out how to love myself as an adult.
Since learning more about myself and my brain, my inner critic and I have been pretty civil. She comes in handy when I need to push myself to try new things. Her doubt continues to power my grit and my drive to build a career I can be proud of. She nips at my heels on the days I’m feeling blue, and she’s the reason I chose to get out of bed on the days it feels nearly impossible. I lived to see 30. I got married again, quit my stable job, and had a baby.
Now that I have a baby (which is very different from having a baby) I find it harder to tame this inner critic of mine. Having a baby was all about making lists and reading books and getting prepared for the most important job I’ll ever have. Now that baby is here and life has returned to “normal,” I’m just trying to keep all of our heads above water.
Since coming back to work, the decline in my mental health has manifested itself in many ways: I crashed my car. Shattered my cell phone. Lost my keys. I’m up late refreshing Instagram until the wee hours in the morning. Fully written blog posts started to disappear. I locked the dog in the car. I miss furniture deliveries, text messages, meetings, brunches with friends, phone calls with my mom. With each misstep, my inner critic became louder and louder. And I’m starting to feel a little numb.
And so at 15 weeks postpartum, it’s time to take the gloves off and face this inner critic again.
The hardest part about having a setback in your emotional life is accepting the need for help. That’s what I’m gifting myself today, on my 33rd birthday. The gift of acceptance and self care.
I’ve used this blog to talk about my experiences, mostly in the past tense. It’s very hard to write about what I’m going through right now, mostly because it’s hard to untangle an exhausted brain and partly because it’s super scary. But I’m reminded of how many people we’ve helped by being brave and sharing truths on W&D and I hope by standing up and saying, “I’m not OK right now” we can help others who find themselves where I am today, tomorrow, or in the future.
Last weekend a friend asked me how I was doing and I answered honestly for the first time since August was born. It felt good to say my truth out loud and to give in to the vulnerability that comes with asking for help. It’s important to remember that while 11-20% of all mothers experience some kind of postpartum depression within their child’s first year, life keeps moving. It has to. She isn’t broken; she is in progress.
Image by 2nd Truth