“Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and out anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.” –Mister Rogers
This post has been sitting in my draft folder for over a month. I have struggled with writing it, thinking about it, and finding the courage to publish it. Several weeks ago, my husband picked up The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember. As I was flipping through and reading some of the quotes from the book it gave me an overwhelming sense of comfort. This man was the epitome of wisdom…not perfection, but acceptance, love, and truth. The quote above stopped me in my tracks and suddenly gave me the courage to finish and share this post. I would like to thank Mister Rogers for reminding me to confront my feelings. This book has so many inspiring quotes that as I was reading it I felt as though I could write a response to almost every one of them. So, I’ve decided to start a series of posts that speak to the wisdom of Mister Rogers. I don’t plan on this series being sequential posts, but I’ll always start with his quote.
I have written about my efforts to better manage my anger. Since writing that post, I have been asking myself why I’m so angry. I have a good life, beautiful children, a loving and supportive husband, great friends and family…what do I have to be angry about? I have concluded that my anger is a new manifestation of my old and persistent foe, depression. It’s easy to recognize my depression when it wears its usual hat (sadness, feeling lethargic, no motivation, unable to enjoy anything). I had always read that when men are depressed, it can often be expressed in anger, but for some reason, I never considered the fact could also be true for women.
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with depression. I have vivid memories of depression as early as 7 and 8 years old. I remember the feelings of hopelessness, feeling unworthy, and a general lack of self-love. The unkind voice in my head has spent many years putting me down and telling me I’m not good enough. I’m rather certain I obtained this trait honestly. I come from a long line of women who struggled with loving themselves and failing to see the brighter side to life. Looking back on times spent with my grandmother and even great-grandmother, I can see now that they were very depressed women. Not to say that we didn’t have wonderful times together, but even as I child, I could see the sadness in their eyes. It breaks my heart to think that they lived their whole lives and never really managed to defeat the beast that is depression. But over ten years ago when I was coming to terms with my depression, I made the commitment to not allow history to repeat itself and not let the depression win. In my teens and 20s I would do a great deal of wallowing in these depressive states, for weeks and sometimes months at a time, feeling lost and oh, woe is me. In my late 20s and early 30s I made the first steps in walking a new path. I began focusing a great deal on self-care by finding a good therapist, practicing yoga regularly, and learning how to talk back to that voice and give it new dialogue.
This battle is not yet won, but I have taken great leaps and bounds towards success. Now that I’m in my late 30s I’m able to quickly recognize when these episodes hit and talk about it with my husband and close friends right away. This support team is tremendously helpful in redirecting the voice and offering suggestions to pull out of the black hole quickly. In most instances, after some time and refection, I can find the trigger to my depression. My latest episode is heavily tied to my lack of self care. I’ve been nursing a hamstring injury that is preventing me from doing as much yoga as I need and want. And as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I have lost the little bit of help I had with childcare so that I could have a few moments to myself to think and take care of me. As a mother, I have often been guilty of giving my children 150% of me and leave nothing to give to myself. I have developed a pattern of getting lost in caring for my children, then stepping back to find a balance between me and them, only to slip back into giving them all of me again. I’m really good at forgetting about myself. In fact, it is true that my husband often has to remind me to stop and take a breath; even push me out the door to get me to yoga. Maybe this stems from so many years of not loving myself, something I am still working on today.
Learning to recognize and quickly move past these episodes of depression is even more crucial to me now that I am a mother. Even though I want to lie in bed and shut out the world during these dark times, it’s just not an option. I accept that there is a chance that genetics will play a role in whether or not my boys will have to deal with depression. Yet, I am determined to do my best in helping them find the strength to productively express their feelings of sadness or anger. I want them to be able to openly talk about what’s going on inside and not leave it locked away for so many years, like I did. I want them to feel supported and loved and know that they are worthy. My boys are one of the driving forces in making me be my best self. I am learning to love myself and care for myself so that I can be a present and a happy mother for them.