I knew that the day would come when Brittany would ask me to share my story. Honestly, I was super hesitant and did not want to because I had no clue where to even begin with “my story,” but I am a big people pleaser and advocate for getting out of your comfort zone, so here it is. I prefer not to be in the spotlight. I tend to be a perfectionist and over analyze everything. I try really hard to come across as a chill and go with the flow kind of girl (and I am in many aspects of my life) but when it comes to being vulnerable sharing something about myself, I would rather just run the other way. I struggle with what people think of me more than I would like to admit and don’t want people to think I’m crazy. I logically know these are self-defeating thoughts. After all, I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and have heard many stories before and if anything, I feel more connected to a person when they are at their most vulnerable times in their life. In fact, I honor it. I admire it. So why is it so difficult for me to do the same with others? I’m human and have acknowledged that I struggle with fear and anxiety.
Becoming a mother almost 12 years ago, really threw a curve ball at me. When my oldest two were toddlers, I remember feeling like this would never end and my life was doomed to just cleaning up messes every. single. day. I always knew that I really wanted to stay home with my kids to raise them and not have to work outside the home. However, there were many days I wanted to just escape and run away. I felt like I couldn’t breathe at times. I do work from home teaching online courses which I thought was way harder for me since what would take me two hours working outside the home literally took me all day long. I was so overwhelmed. I knew some action had to be taken. I finally decided to send them to daycare for a few hours a couple of times a week and I felt so guilty at first that I couldn’t just take on the world and had to ask for help. Asking for help is definitely not my strong suit. I knew that I needed this and my kids needed it too. I became so stressed that I would be on edge all the time and yell at them way too much. I even tried to work outside the home full-time a few years ago. I really enjoyed some parts of it, but it was too much at the time. I respect working moms so much. Over the years, I have learned that self-compassion is so essential to life and especially in my role as a mother. We are so quick to lay on the mom guilt that can become an overwhelming shame that lies deep within us. I have been so grateful for women that have come into my life where I have been able to open up with and connect. It has been a saving grace for me. I am a strong, independent woman and often feel like I should be able to get through things on my own. I quickly am reminded that it takes strength to ask for help and realize that you need other people in your life. When I struggled through two miscarriages, great women beside me helped me through those difficult losses. When I was losing my hair to an autoimmune disease, alopecia areata, so many friends were there for me. I was fortunate to find out that I had celiac which keeps my alopecia at bay for now and I have my hair. While I don’t like to be in the spotlight and center of attention, we all want to be seen. I’m so grateful for good people that see me. Bottom line, women need women. We are better together. I know I would feel guilty at first when I would get together with my girlfriends and that it was taking away quality time with my husband and kids. I have since learned that it is so essential for my emotional and mental health to give myself this gift to connect with other women. This is where I can recharge and come back a stronger and better person, wife, and mother.
I first heard about GOTG from a Facebook post that an old college friend Laura shared about the cowgirl retreat. My curiosity peaked and I thought this sounds fun and at such an affordable price. I went back and forth on it and finally told my husband and he told me to go ahead and just do it. I then found myself signing up for it still not quite so sure about this. I legitimately thought that it was possibly a scam. I knew nothing about this company or group. I am super shy and reserved, but I am so glad that I went out of my comfort zone and went. I really thought most girls there would really be like riding horses their whole life and I would feel so out of place. While there were a few amazing riders, everyone there was so nice and never felt like I did not belong. I love my time there being able to stretch myself in ways I haven’t before. The snowmobile retreat was a similar experience and don’t regret going on either one. These experiences have enriched my life. Thank you Brittany for all the good work you do and the amazing women I have met.
I am the epitome of a “people person.” All through my single years, I felt enlivened after spending an evening at a party or dinner with friends. I ate up the laughter and applause from audiences any time I’d perform in community theater shows. I loved seeing new places and meeting new people. I was energetic, goofy, and thoroughly enjoyed making people laugh.
Fast forward to my first son’s 1st birthday: my husband and I bought a birthday cake and a pregnancy test at the grocery store. It was positive. We were elated!
But with the birth of my second son came a dark cloud. I wasn’t adjusting to two kids like I’d hoped. I wasn’t bonding with the baby like I wanted. Nothing was right. I was so, so, so stressed trying to juggle a newborn and a one-year-old. If I wasn’t stressing over them while they were awake, I was sobbing to myself in the middle of the night, hounded by the intrusive thoughts of their death or my husband’s death. But I didn’t feel depressed. I wasn’t sad or full of despair. So this couldn’t be post partum depression, right? All I knew was I used to be such a happy person. I was a happy person, so what was this???
Because now I was always livid. My emotions constantly hovered just below boiling point. I was angry. I was screaming. I wanted so badly to punch a hole in every wall. This compounded with insomnia and a newborn who would not. stop. crying. I was losing it almost daily and freaking out and literally screaming at my 22 month-old toddler who could barely talk in sentences, let alone comprehend that Mommy was upset. Inevitably I’d crumble into a heap of guilty tears, hugging him and saying “I’m sorry,” over and over. When my baby was four months old, I finally texted my husband, saying I didn’t recognize myself and needed to go to therapy. After doing some research, I chose a therapist who specialized in maternal mental health. She knew exactly what was happening.
It was postpartum rage, and I was drowning in it. Considered to be under the umbrella of postpartum depression, but more rare, articles addressing the disorder only just started popping up online within the last few years (I know because they weren’t there four years ago when I was googling like crazy why I felt crazy). Over the next 10 months of therapy, I started to gain crucial insight, including how to recognize triggers, how to cope and deal with rage outbursts, the value of self care, and how to maintain my identity outside of Mother as a “people-person.” As much as I loved my healthy bright boys, I felt so lonely. For some reason it was so much harder to make friends, close friends now that I was a mom. I needed people.
My husband was incredibly supportive and said we should set up our schedules and finances so I could take weekend trips here and there to re-energize myself. I also desperately ached for a creative outlet since performing wasn’t really doable at the time, and signed up for a Beginning Photography night class at a local college.
I began taking short trips to visit old friends who lived in other states and on one occasion, I scored killer plane tickets and enjoyed a whirlwind “Mama Spring Break” trip to Greece with an old friend from college. (I highly don’t suggest a quick turn around trip to the other side of the world but also, it was wild and amazing and exhauuuusting and incredible and I cherish it dearly). Traveling had been a deep passion of mine and it felt so good to be doing it again! Most of all to be traveling with a friend. Both of us were mamas. But for those few days in Greece, we were wide-eyed, excited college kids again, ready to tackle the map and see it all!
Nothing bonds two people like experiencing a foreign country together. You could end up having the worst time or an awful Airbnb, or get lost in a city and not know the language or run out of money ooooor you stumble on the most amazing, charming, cobblestoned seaside town in the history of ever and there’s just no explaining it to anyone else. Either way, doing it alongside a dear friend makes it pure adventure and you’re forever connected in that experience. In between site seeing and over meals, we poured our hearts out to each other about our frustrations and excitements, about our business dreams, about how surreal and amazing it was to be there, about how much fun we had way back when when we were roommates in London, about how amazing our babies are, about how amazing our husbands are, what it’s like to be older with so many more responsibilities and unknowns. We were connecting as mothers and friends. And it was so very healing.
Inevitably, each time I’m away, I always have a very definitive moment where something happens, a feeling strikes my heart, and I always have the thought, “I’m ready to go back now. I miss my kids so much it hurts.” That short time away where I’m able to connect with another woman who totally gets it is therapeutic in every way and I’m so much better prepared to tackle motherhood once I return. I’m literally aching for it. But most importantly, when I’m in the throes of day to day life, I realize simple connections like a phone call or a Marco Polo message buoy me up and help me to keep going and stay sane.
The rage still flairs from time to time to be honest. It But I know how to cope with it now, and know it’s ok to step away for a moment. Remember: Momming is hard! Do it with a friend, take breaks, and look at the scenery when you can!
Amberdaun is one of my great friends. She never ceases to amaze me with her strength and humility. She is strong and gentle, loving and generous. We originally connected through adventure, but have connected through so much more. I will always be grateful for the relationships GOTG brings into my life.
My name is Amberdaun. Because of a previously unresolved childhood trauma, I have always had major self doubt, feeling of no self worth, struggles with owning up to my own problems and severely hurting those I love most around me. I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and actions. It took almost losing everything I had to make me “wake up” and feel the need to make some serious changes in my life, and my family’s life. That’s around when I went on my first Get Out There Girl adventure. I have gone on several retreats since then. One thing Get Out There Girl does is take these women who might not know each other on amazing adventures, and put them together to lift up and be vulnerable with each other and help us all overcome what ever difficulties we each face in this hard life.
I struggle with always comparing myself to others. I would always measure my value on somebody else’s opinion of me, or what I thought their opinion was. I’m always putting myself down, so on these trips I would sit there and say to myself how perfect these gorgeous, amazing, successful, skinny, kind, women’s lives are, and how I don’t compare to them and that I shouldn’t be there. No one on these trips made me feel that way, its just the way I felt about myself. What I came to realize is that none of these women were judging me. I just needed to get out of my own head and enjoy my time in the outdoors, doing something that I enjoyed. It is a constant struggle for me not to compare myself to others, and it is something I am continuously trying to improve on.
Going on these adventures gets me doing something that I would not normally do. During one of the retreats, we hiked through some slot canyons. I am claustrophobic, but wanted a new adventure. During the whole hike, I had to keep taking deep breaths so that I would not totally panic. In one of the areas, it got quite narrow, and at one point, my foot got stuck between two boulders. I really started to freak out and have a panic attack. I’m talking full on crying, hyperventilating, panic attack. I kept thinking this is it, i’m a goner. There was this sweet person named Kristen that kept telling me it was OK, to be patient with myself. I had never met this person before this retreat, but there she was, on my side, helping me through something major. Two of my dear friends were also there to help me with breathing exercises and focus points other than being stuck. Even though I was stuck for what felt like an eternity (in all reality it was maybe 30 seconds) there were these other strong and confident women helping me through this trial and I am so grateful for them.
I’m also scared of heights. I have gone on a few rappelling trips and absolutely LOVED it! I even got my own gear because I liked it so much. Being around the supportive women of GOTG has helped me get over so many hurdles that I would normally not even think about conquering in life. I just hope to be that supportive example to someone else along the way as so many have been to me.
I used to think that I was selfish as a mother and a wife to want time alone. Then I soon realized that I needed time for myself to revive myself, to refill my cup. How could I expect to take care of my kids, my husband, my house and the various other responsibilities that I had when my cup was so empty. Sometimes its okay to take time for yourself and go on your own adventures. That is what Get Out There Girl has done for me. Helped me see past my own insecurities and the good that can come from truly finding yourself, your passions, and forever friendships that can come from spending time in the outdoors with old and new friends.
I will be forever grateful for what Brittany and GOTG have given me and for the friendships I have formed in the process.