As I cradled my baby in my arms at 5am, these questions ran through my mind…
What’s my birth story? What was it like to push me through your body? What was it like the first time you heard me cry, saw my face, touched my fingers?
What was it like to be my mommy? On the nights I didn’t sleep, did you take joy in snuggling me into your chest? Did you look into my eyes? Did you kiss my toes, fingers, and belly? Did you take joy in making me grin? Did you memorize how my skin felt on your fingers and along your face as I reached out to touch you? How did you respond when I tried to chew on your fingers, nose, arm, or chin? When I followed you around begging to be picked up, did you take me into your arms with a kiss and a smile? Did you touch my face and hair while you fed me my bottles?
What was it like to raise me? Did you enjoy the evenings when I snuggled into you? Did you love the silly conversations I found myself having with you? What was it like to teach me to read? Did you enjoy watching me dance? Cheer? Compete? Tumble? Stunt? Did you enjoy watching me make friends and play with them?
What was it like to say goodbye to me? How did you feel when you dropped me off at grad school on the opposite end of the country? What was it like the first time I flew my future husband across the country to meet you? How did you feel when you shook his hand for the first time? What was it like to see me in my wedding gown? What did you feel when you watched me walk down the aisle?
What is it like for you now? How do you feel when I tell you I am pregnant? What was it like the first time you saw me holding my firstborn? What was it like for you the first time you held my firstborn? What are your thoughts on my parenting? How do you feel about my son? About my daughter? About the child we said goodbye to, too early? How did you feel when I shared my miscarriage? What do you think about my career? How do you feel about my mental health? What goes through your mind when I tell you about therapy? What do you think about my husband? How do you feel when you step into my home and see the family I’ve created? How do you feel when I tell you stories about my children?
I was just wondering.
I hate therapy. I love being a therapist. But I hate therapy. Therapy is a strange concept, isn’t it? You are in a one-sided relationship where you are expected to pour out your soul. The therapist encourages you to think for yourself, take care of yourself, and allow yourself to feel overwhelming feelings instead of run from them. The therapy room becomes a haven where you greatly look forward to feeling relaxed, safe, and comfortable; but the therapy room also becomes a dreaded place where you learn to talk openly about nightmares, trauma, and the dark aspects of your life that you would never talk about otherwise. After you experience these conflicting feelings for 45 minutes to an hour and a half (that’s how long mine are; an hour and a half), you are expected to zip up your emotions and walk out of the therapy room as collected as you were when you first walked in. It’s bizarre. It teaches “containment skills.” In non-therapeutic terms, it teaches you to wear a facade. In some respects, a facade is necessary or you would never get anything done but wallow in the overwhelming feelings. However, you feel desperately alone in the facade. You go through the motions and wait both anxiously and excitedly until the next session, where you will pour out your heart in this bizarre, one-sided relationship.
I hate therapy. It sends me into a spiral for a few days following because I hate shoving my mask back on. If I could, I would shout my trauma from the roof tops, I would announce it to the world; I am sick of wearing this mask and pretending that I am functioning on a normal level. Anyone who is hiding something knows what I’m talking about. Statistics say at least 1 in 3 of you are hiding something. I’m so sorry. That is why I write this; you are not alone. You are not the only person wearing a mask. I wish we could come up with some sort of subtle sign to wear to alert others that you are falling apart beneath the facade. That way, those not struggling would not notice, but those who needed to know they are not alone would see.
My husband will be gone all day tomorrow. Where I usually have a break with the kids, I now have them ALL. DAY. LONG. So, here’s my to-do list. We’ll see how much gets done. This is me, zipping up my mask to function and parent, and do my best to manage myself and my household. I hate this mask. I hate learning to wear this mask, and I hate learning to manage the emotions under the mask. I hate therapy. I wish I could both never go to therapy and never leave therapy, all at the same time.