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!
It is the nature of women to look at our hearts, minds, and physical appearance and only see the flaws. We examine the pieces of us that we consider to be imperfect or broken and focus on them so much that we ultimately view ourselves as less valuable. At the Yoga Retreat we learned that although we all have weaknesses and have faced hardships in our lives we are indeed, not broken. It is natural that we feel pain, worry, heartache, fear, insecurity, and all the negative emotions that pass through our hearts and minds. They are a part of life and feeling them is not indicative of being broken.
We had a total of 16 women on the retreat and stayed in a beautiful brick laden AirBnB in North Logan. We kicked off the retreat with a 4 mile hike to The Wind Caves. The sun was shining, the women were brave, and the views were spectacular! After settling in at the house we enjoyed a delicious and healthy dinner prepared by Chef Lindsey followed by a workshop taught by Niki Olsen, a licensed therapist. We learned tools used in Mind and Body Bridging, a therapeutic approach that helps women understand that their pain and emotions have a powerful effect on their physicality. She taught us that we can, with practice, lessen that effect. Doing so can leave us feeling more powerful and in control of our emotions and negative thoughts leaving our bodies and minds relaxed and available to connect with those around us and feel joy in our lives. We finished the night off with an outdoor yoga session with Jasmine and cleared our minds with peaceful meditation as we watched the sun set over the beautiful Cache Valley.
On day two we prepared our minds and bodies for the day with early morning yoga under the clear blue sky. In this session we learned about the meaning of chakras and offered gratitude to our powerful bodies and the gift they truly are. We followed it up with a 3.5 mile hike up Richards Hollow where we stopped and had lunch at the bottom of a waterfall, giving us the opportunity to chat and connect with one another. Upon returning we were treated with a follow-up workshop with Niki, furthering our skills in bridging the gap between our bodies and minds. After another delicious meal from the chef we enjoyed a sunset yoga session and finished off the night with chatting, connecting and a lot of laughter!
Get Out There Girl retreats are intended to empower women. The Yoga Retreat did just that! Women from all walks of life made lifelong friendships through adventure, pushing ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally. We spent time together crying, laughing, and most of all learning that we are not broken after all and that none of our so-called “flaws” have anything to do with our value as women. We also learned that we have an indelible power to manage our negative thoughts and utilize them as fuel to bring improvement, peace and joy to all aspects of our lives.
When the opportunity arose to attend a Yoga/Hiking retreat with Get Out There Girl, my first thought was that I was too scared to go. I don’t love traveling (an understatement), and I feel an even more intense separation anxiety when I travel without my family. However, someone I love had attended a retreat previously and I saw the way it changed her life. My heart ached to experience a similar change in my own. The idea of reentering the world of yoga was intriguing, but I wasn’t excited about hiking. A few years ago, I had heat stroke and I suffer from PTSD whenever I am in the heat. This led to me feeling fearful about the whole trip. Going with people I don’t know, experiencing things that are hard and my fears screamed loudly that I couldn’t do it. One thing pushed me forward.
My greatest desire is to live anxiety free. Thus far in my 53 years, anxiety has been my continual companion and every effort made to conquer it has fallen short or failed completely. This time in the world with the pandemic has been especially difficult so I took advantage of a brief moment of bravery and signed up. Honestly, I almost canceled many times. But I chose to go and I will be forever grateful! There are a couple of significant things, among many great experiences, that made it worth all the worry and anxiety.
The first is that we had two workshops with one of the most amazing, talented and wise women I have ever met. Her name is Niki Olsen and she walked us through a method called Mind Body Bridging. The process was overwhelmingly impactful for me. Personally, I felt a change in my heart about anxiety. I now believe that, little by little, following this process will help me understand why I respond the way I do and allow me to move through it. Niki is a person I want to be like and I wish with all my heart she lived next door to me! When difficult things happen, I usually fall apart. However, the night after I got home from the retreat my son broke his collar bone in a severe manner and had to have surgery. There was definitely anxiety, but I put in to practice the things Niki had taught and I was far better than I would have been before the workshops and retreat.
The second was on a hike. These women didn’t know anything about my past or difficulties, as I didn’t know theirs, and I didn’t want to appear weak. As we started the hike I began to panic and my heart raced as I worried that the heat would overtake me. I had to stop a few times to breathe and put every effort into believing in myself. It wasn’t a difficult or demanding hike, but my anxiety started to overpower. My self-talk was negative and, with every part of my heart and mind, I had to push myself to keep going. I tried to tell myself I could do it and, step by step, I did it! The chatting among the women, who quickly began to feel like friends, and following them pushed me forward. There were many times that my belief in myself wavered, but I made it. At the top we rested at a beautiful waterfall and took pictures and had lunch. The others didn’t know what a triumph it was for me, but it’s a personal victory that I will always remember. And better yet….I want to go hiking again!
Our time practicing yoga was also amazing. We were outside in the most beautiful scenery and breathing in the fresh air among the trees. The view of the mountains and green grass was healing and invigorating at the same time. The entire weekend was important for me and I believe a turning point in my journey through this life. Bravery and adventure are not my strongest traits, but I am a few steps closer.
1- Adventure. If you’re reading this it’s likely that you found it via my adventure group “Get Out There Girl”. We do insanely awesome adventures with women. This post is not about that though. This post is about counseling. Check out my earlier post “Get the Babysitter” to read about how adventure has helped me.
2- Counseling. It’s not a secret but it is a lesser known fact about me. For the past 5 years I have gone to counseling consistently. My frequency varies depending on my life at the time. Sometimes I go weekly. Sometimes monthly and sometimes every few months.
Why is that that counseling has such a negative connotation around it? Why are people so afraid to not only go but to admit that they go? I wish it was different. I think that our culture tends to view people who need counseling as broken or damaged and it is looked down upon if you actually reach out for help. Which in my opinion is a bunch of BS. We are human. We are incapable of perfection and we are incapable of living life without help of some sort.
Let’s look at online grocery order and pick up. Is this not the best invention ever? Why is it okay to receive help with something as inconsequential as grocery shopping but not okay to ask a professional for help when it comes to dealing with our mind?
After my third baby was born I sank into a deep depression. We had just moved across the country, I had no support system in place, my husband started a new career and we opened up a CrossFit gym. I refer to it as the perfect storm. My hormones went crazy after giving birth. My period started back up just two months after giving birth (which after my previous two babies waited an entire year to show up) and my milk supply dried up at the same time. My hormones were all over the place. After having suicidal thoughts my husband insisted that I see a counselor. I agreed feeling that I was indeed “broken”.
Meeting with my counselor, Joan, I felt validated and seen. She never told me I was broken or anything was wrong with me. She listened and showed human compassion to me. She offered me crucial help and advice. It was different than talking to a friend or even my husband. She listened and gave me tools to battle my thoughts etc. She helped me distinguish what was truth and what were lies in my head. She was a savior of sorts to me. After I was no longer battling postpartum depression I continued to see Joan. I had a lot of past issues that I wanted to work through and she had already proved her value.
5 years later I continue to see a counselor. Joan and I both moved to different cities but I have found two other counselors that I have trusted and seen. I sincerely feel like everyone would benefit from seeing a counselor. A counselor is someone who listens without bias and judgement. There isn’t a friend who can do it the same. Counselors also give advice. They have college degrees and know what they are talking about. Again, there isn’t a friend who can do it the same. Listen I have the best friend a girl could ever ask for (Love you Tiff) but yet she still doesn’t replace my need to see a counselor.
There are a lot of things I wish I could change about our culture. One of which is the fact that seeing a counselor is looked down upon. I wish we could announce our counseling sessions with pride, knowing that we are doing something good for our mental health. It doesn’t mean we are broken or damaged. It simply means we are looking outside ourselves for help. We are human and all humans need help. Whether they admit it or not. I’m comfortable admitting that I do and I am so much better off because of it.