Let’s talk trees. Tall ones. Whithered ones. Evergreens. Jacarandas. They seemed to be a prominent theme in therapy today. But its not the first time they cropped up in a therapy context.
Years ago, our marriage councellor used the analogy of two oak trees. They cannot grow if they are too close together because their roots need lots of room. So too, said the therapist, is it with marriage. We need to give each other space to grow, we cannot suffocate each other by being together constantly. I struggled with that one. Because, up to that point, I expected to be everything for and to my husband (and vice versa). Unrealistic. Unhealthy.
But back to the future we go. Today, the therapist told a story: all the animals in the jungle gathered to compete. The test? Well, they had to climb a tree. I’m talking monkey vs elephant; lion vs leopard; fish vs pidgeon. Sounds ridiculous? It is. Unrealistic expectations and our desire to out do the other.
Still on trees, my therapist asked me to think of myself as a tree. He illustrated my attempts to prune my branches and bend them to the will of my perfectionist vision, only to snap the poor branch when it inevitably fails to perform. He spoke legacy. About how I need to break the cycle of cynical criticism. He reminded me that I am helping to nurture a young sapling, my baby girl – who will look at what I show her and not necessarily heed what I tell her.
But to branch out on therapy, I realised something which goes to the core of why I decided to start writing this blog. I messaged a good friend to let her know about my having been admitted to a mental healthcare facility. She was surprised. Said I seemed to have it all together. All figured out. And then it struck me: I have been wearing a mask! Addicted to social media, I have been judging myself according to my facebook friend’s best. You know, the selfies of perfectly made up mom and her little angel doing “lunch, darling” or the endless stream of photos from the recent family vacay to Italy. And of course, I know myself at my worst, so the hyper-critical voice was pretty shrill! Self-flaggelation central. Little ol Annie at the end of a sin filled day at the nunnery, making sure she uses her leather strap to the full extent!
So I decided to focus on the positive. I pat myself on the back for having a (relatively) drug free labour and delivery. I commend myself for delivering a healthy baby girl naturally, supported by a midwife, my husband and my amazing mom/doula. I am particularly grateful that I fell in love with an amazing man, my partner, my soulmate and the one who loves as he lives: selflessly. I am proud that I continued breastfeeding despite the pain and the insensitive nay-saying of my mother-in-law. I am grateful for the support of my family during my hospitalisation. I am so relieved that I had the courage to reach out and ask for help. A quote on the wall of one of the therapy rooms, resonates with me: “Courage doesn’t always roar”. I am grateful that I had the courage it took to throw a light on my journey with depression. I hope this blog competes in the same space as those endless facebook “happy family vacay” picture album posts. Competes for the attention of a mother, who, like me, feels overwhelmed by it all.