I’ve always been the kind of person whose motto is “expect the worst, but hope for the best.” I know, that’s totally not positive and seems counter to the general vibe of this blog.
But that’s me, in reality.
I really try to avoid getting my hopes up, because I would rather be joyful at an unexpectedly good outcome than bummed at an unexpectedly bad one. I believe this is what we call “self-preservation.” Here’s why:
This morning I broke down. I was feeling really lousy about something and I just couldn’t keep my emotions at bay. When my husband asked what I was thinking about as I stared off into space, I promptly began sobbing and the floodgates were open.
Then my son came back to the table, book in hand, asking me to read to him while he ate his breakfast. Avoiding eye contact with him, I quickly wiped my tears away and began reading with as controlled a voice as I could muster. Z was none the wiser.
I felt good, because I was able to keep our morning going smoothly and he didn’t have to deal with a sobbing mama and the potential awkwardness that might bring along with it.
Then I checked my Twitter feed and saw an article by Six Seconds, basically saying that we need to talk about feelings with our kids in order to develop their sense of empathy. While the focus of the article is mainly on simple activities you can do to help children be aware of their own emotions, the point was driven home: I have to be more open about how I’m feeling if I want Z to be able to recognize and empathize with others’ emotions.
As I did more research, I found some other great reasons to stop shielding my son from my negative feelings.
“Same thing we do every day, Catherine. Try to take over the workforce.”
I like to be busy, and I hate monotony. When I got laid off in December, it was easy to stay busy because Christmas and Z’s birthday were just around the corner—so many little projects and tasks awaited me, I was actually kind of glad for the forced “time off.”
As the craziness of December becomes a distant memory, I find myself with fewer and fewer things to occupy my time. And, worse, I have no idea when I’ll earn a stable paycheck again, so spending money makes me feel sick to my stomach. I can’t just go out and spend the day in San Francisco, browse at the outlets, get a hobby (most of which are actually more expensive than you’d think), or whatever else I might do with my free time.
Ever since I was in fifth grade, I’ve suffered from moderate anxiety and depression. (Interestingly, the National Institute of Mental Health notes that the average age at which people begin to suffer from anxiety is eleven years old.) In my case, the depression usually follows an episode of high anxiety.
In this post, I’m going to delve into my own struggles and explain why I (and others) think it’s worthwhile to talk about them. I’ve noticed that there’s been a movement lately to get people talking about mental illnesses, to bring individual experiences out into the light in an effort to remove the stigma. I think that sharing our internal struggles with others is a kindness to ourselves, but is also a kindness to those who may feel alone.