It could be worse.
Be grateful for what you have.
So many others are facing much more dire situations.
This is what I tell myself periodically throughout the day as I referee another squabble between the kids. Between me and the kids. Between me and the cats (okay, only the asshole cat who seems hellbent on destroying every last shred of my sanity).
But still. I find myself suddenly sighing big sighs with an all too familiar weight on my chest. My heart and mind race, leaving my heavy body tired. The lump that sits in my throat reminds me to stay silent, or else risk tipping my hand that I’m really not okay right now.
I’ve been here before. Twice.
Postpartum depression left me in a cloud for months after both of my kids were born, and the second time around it took an SSRI to help me find my feet again. It wasn’t fun, but I came through it, and now I’m finding myself wandering through familiar territory. Hello, depression. Couldn’t you at least have hung a banner?
But back to the stress part of this equation. Prior to the pandemic, it was hard to think of something more stressful that becoming a parent. Talk about life changing! You’re semi-literally ripped open and handed something that will rely on you to some degree, both physically and emotionally, for the rest of your life. Fully literally, nothing is ever the same. It’s stressful as hell, even if it’s also positive.
The pandemic is not positive, but it also brings with it an incredible amount of stress. Financial, social, emotional, physical – it’s hard to think of one part of our lives this pandemic doesn’t apply stress to. It’s the ultimate stress test.
And if you’re an empath like me, it’s a very confusing time because on top of feeling stressed, you also feel guilty for feeling what you’re feeling because so many others have it so much worse. So you feel more stressed.
I am thankful my kids are home and safe, yet they still annoy me beyond all reason at some point (or many points) throughout the day. And so I feel guilty.
I am thankful for my WFH job, yet it’s mentally exhausting trying to fit it into an outrageously chaotic schedule, so it slips through the cracks each day. And so I feel more guilty.
I am thankful for this time with my family where we get to do something we would otherwise never do (this is like, A LOT of time together), but I crave personal space, my friends, and time to myself. And so I feel extra guilty.
But emotionally I’ve been here.
Oddly enough, I find myself thankful for those agonizing postpartum months. What I’ve learned from that time is that stress and guilt are real feelings. Your mind may understand that what’s causing your stress is different from what’s causing someone else’s stress, but your body reacts the same. And once your body gets rolling, it takes more than a personal scolding to stop the cycle.
Today, instead of feeling upset with myself for failing to be grateful, patient, and unflappable, I will give myself grace. I’m hella flappable right now and that’s okay. I know things could be worse, but I also know that the stress I’m feeling and processing is real.
With time, my body will catch up with my mind, and until then, I’ll go easy on myself. The stress/guilt/stress cycle is only a phase. This too, shall pass.