When I realized I was going to become a mom
I was totally and completely apathetic.
I was not terribly surprised. (Because - biology.)
I was not terribly scared. (Because - biology... again.)
But I was also not terribly happy.
And that was frightening.
Not, "oh there's definitely something wrong here" frightening, just an "under the surface 'What the hell is wrong with me?'" frightening.
The fact that my OB was more excited and joyful than I was during that first visit made something click. Watching the joy come over her face made me realize something was missing on my end so I made an appointment with my therapist.
When I explained that I was worried that I wasn't "feeling the right things" she assured me that feelings aren't "right" or "wrong". They just are. She encouraged me to talk through the apathy through. The "diagnosis", and I say that loosely because this is by no means a medical journal, was "emotional constipation".
And like most things that happen in the mental health sphere I just kind of nodded and smiled while inwardly shaking my head and thinking, "Yeah right."
"I don't experience feelings? That's bull. I feel feelings all the time. Like when the grocery store don't have the lettuce I'm looking for or when that one guy I work with knows everything or anytime I'm on I49. I definitely have and experience feelings."
But the longer I sat with the emotional constipation diagnosis, the more I realized it was true. Yes, I did get flares of frustration and moments of happiness but, when it came to anything more pertinent than shopping for salad, I kept fairly neutral.
My "why", like most things that have to do with mental health, is complicated and unpretty.
Maybe it had to do with my past and my view of God as an all-knowing, all-judging being who would undoubtly punish me for being ungrateful even in times of struggle.
Maybe it had to do with my present and the fact that I felt like I was juggling. All. The. Things. Knowing that if I was to take a minute to rest / cry / laugh it would upset everything else in the cycle.
Maybe it had to do with being a first child and all the self-imposed restrictions and standards that come from there.
Maybe it was my inner saboteur constantly whispering, "You're not good enough," and feeling as if a poker face facade was my only weapon.
Maybe it was my inner optimist who's long view of life managed to continually chide me, "You have it better than 95% of people on this big 'ol planet. Cheer up!"
Maybe it was the fact that I was (and continue to be) hyper aware of people and their perception of me and the thought of being vulnerable and real was intensely scary.
Or maybe it was all those things rolled up and combined with the fact that emoting takes energy and in that first trimester I had none.
As it turns out, the birthing process is
a fairly decent cure for emotional constipation.
After literally being torn apart (episiotomy be damned) by the small human who had been living inside of me all of my emotions came out with him. The grief of losing my grandmother, the anxiety of keeping this child alive, the hope of the life I wanted for him, the affection for the people around us who did everything they could to help- all of it felt like a wall had been broken down from the inside and I could do nothing but watch the waves roll by.
Now that I'm a year out from childbirth
and almost two years out from my diagnosis of emotional constipation, I have a bit more perspective. I'm grateful that I'm no longer living on the swells of the emotional tide (because that is totally exhausting) but I'm also glad the wall has come down as well.
I still have to remind myself that it's okay to cry.
That's it's okay to enjoy a particularly good moment.
That's it's okay to be sad about the fact that my husband's dog is sick even though there are probably much sadder things happening in the world at this very moment.
I'm slowing learning and slowly being okay with feeling.
This drawing is part of the #100daysofprettyplants series which you can follow on Instagram.
The particular drawing comes from a challenge to "intertwine your flowers with something that makes you feel raw and vulnerable" comes from a friend who I've known since the third grade. Her challenge scared me and took me off guard, which is how I knew I needed to pursue it. Thank you Ann.