Don’t let the shame of depression convince you that you aren’t worthy of greatness.
Depression does not discriminate — it doesn’t care if you are young or old, wealthy or poor, a suburban mom with carpool duties or a superstar playing to sold out crowds at Madison Square Garden. It is estimated that 15% of the adult population in the United States will experience depression at some point in their lifetime. That’s a lot of our friends, family & co-workers — living with depression and likely trying to conceal it with the tireless efforts equal to an old pair of overstretched Spanx.
Our current culture of filter-assisted perfection and the pressure to keep up with the Joneses has made opening up about our individual and collective challenges nearly impossible. Is this why moms are much more likely to suffer in silence — battling the stigma mental illness provokes all on their own?
With Mother’s Day coming up, I’ve been reflecting on what being a mom really means. It seems we’ve managed to convince ourselves being a good mom means we fit the mold of a fresh-faced & well-rested iteration of suburban perfection— but it’s about time we call bullshit. The truth is that the best mom’s I know are the ones that allow others to see their faults, keep moving forward and support this collective sisterhood of struggle. When we decide to get honest, we have an opportunity to share our stories of imperfection without being judged. Through sharing we can rewrite the narrative of motherhood on our own terms.
My story is not unique, nor is it thrilling, and it is very much imperfect— which is exactly why it needs to be shared. The carefully curated social media images of my perfect life are phoney-bologna.
Statistically speaking, I know most of you are lying too. Your husband isn’t perfect, you wish your kids came with an off switch, your house isn’t clean and you barely dragged yourself out of bed this morning.
The burden of facing this seemingly overwhelming shame and finally admitting that I suffer from severe depression had been gnawing at me for months. This darkness that slowly closed in on my entire reality took two years of my life — eventually challenging me to wake the eff up and embrace all of my imperfections — but not before forcing me to confront all of the lies I had been telling myself.
“You Go Girl”
When I became a mom I started doing this silly thing — every time I saw another woman out running or walking I would say “you go girl!” It was my way of sending some love out into the world and teaching my kids to acknowledge the efforts of others. Perhaps that little cheer stuck because I was always one of those girls who hid in the bushes during the running portion of soccer practice — sorry coach. To me, these running women were goddesses filled with determination and strength.
I recently realized that many of those running versions of my childhood hero Xena: Warrior Princess are facing the same battles I had been struggling with. But wait— how can these superwomen who don’t just wear athletic clothing — but actually use it for it’s purpose — face the same struggle as me? The answer was simple — because they are human. The increased connectivity we have through social media has created a society afraid of being imperfect, lacking real connection and fearful they just don’t stack up to the images others share on social media. It is all bullshit, but I fell for it. I was convinced these girls on the run had super powers, giving them perfect ponytails and immunity to life’s struggles. Learning I was wrong was one more step to admitting my own truth.
Admitting this illness wasn’t reserved for my suffering alone was exactly what I needed to remove the gag-order depression was using to thrive. I slowly accepted the reality that it wasn’t only me who felt like I was losing the fight with my mind and living with the shame and burden of the façade.
Depression turned me into a selfish asshole.
In my mind, it was a disease reserved for me and no one else could possibly understand. It was easy enough to believe since the shame of admitting imperfection kept my secret hidden away. What a sneaky mother f’er. Little by little, after recognizing my struggle was not unique, the cloud began to lift. Spring was coming, I started working out and expressing myself creatively again — depression started losing its grip. There was a sense of relief and a bit of self-love, more yoga and playing with my kids and a whole lot more communication between me and my husband. Things felt like they were getting lighter.
I had allowed depression to take over my life for roughly 700 days. It gripped my mind, affected my family and my business and allowed me to live a life of apathy for almost two years. Life will never be the same as it was two years ago, my family is exhausted and forever changed from helping me fight a battle they struggled to understand and I live with the constant threat of depression lurking around the corner. Through all of this I’ve realized those “you go girl” moments mean nothing if I don’t roll down the damn window. Recognizing the efforts of others is great, but doing so while shamefully peering out our own rolled up windows is about as helpful as when our kids “clean” their rooms by shoving everything under their beds and shutting the door.
It’s about time to put an end to celebrating perfection and instead risk peeing our pants jumping up and down (thanks to my almost 10 lb first child) cheering on those women who are putting in real work to be better versions of themselves. If we were all to share in a few more “you go girl” moments we could build up our collective confidence. Can you imagine if we went from mom-shaming to mom-cheering? Perhaps if we acknowledged that we’re all just making our best effort none of us would be allowing depression to convince us that we aren’t worthy of greatness.