Last week was Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign, which I can’t say enough good things about. It only makes sense to me that if we have a more open dialogue and share our successes and struggles, than maybe people won’t feel as lonely and helpless. Although I have limited experience dealing with mental health personally, I know there are thousands of people who deal with this issue day in and day out and it’s important that we spend more time talking about it. I’m hopeful that we can bring around legitimate change if we all just “talk” a bit more. With that, I want to talk about my experience dealing with what I call “the slump”.
After bringing Emelia into the world I had a rush of emotions. I completely understood what people meant when they said it was like wearing your heart on the outside. Like any new parent, I struggled to adjust to my new normal in the first few days of being home from the hospital. You know that feeling when you are looking forward to something for weeks or months, and then just like that it’s over and it’s time to readjust? Coming home with a new baby was like that but jacked up on steroids!
I was/am fortunate to have an incredible support system around me. Without my friends and family by my side, the first weeks of being a mom would have felt completely different and the self-doubt every mom experiences would have only been amplified. Even with all that support, the feelings of loneliness and isolation continued to pop-up throughout my first year of being a mom. There were good days and bad days, but time continued to pass and in the blink of an eye we were celebrating Emelia’s first birthday. Having now had the first year of parenting under my belt, I began to feel like some of the toughest days were behind me. Little did I know some of the greatest challenges in this regard were yet to come.
A couple of months before Emelia’s first birthday, my husband was presented with his dream job opportunity, as a partner at a consulting firm in downtown Toronto. This was something he’d been working toward for years and to say I was proud of him is a massive understatement. We both knew that a 2-hour commute one way was no way for us to live. It would be bad for him, bad for our family and bad for our relationship. We had agreed long before the formal job offer that if his vision became a reality, we would do what was best for our family and move to the big city.
We looked for a couple weeks and eventually found the perfect place only two blocks from his office. We were both excited for the move and completely embraced it. It was June so at first, we spent as much time as possible outside and finding new adventures. As is always the case in Canada, the days went from long and warm, to shorter and cooler, to short and cold. Outdoor adventures came to a end and I struggled to find things to do. Just like when we first brought Emelia home, the initial excitement of a big change began to fade. I was in a city with millions of people but felt increasingly alone and isolated.
I worked on my personal fitness, taking classes locally and starting a 90-day fitness challenge online. On the surface I kept a brave face and tried to stay positive. I figured accomplishing fitness and weight goals would eventually improve my mood. I mean, how could I not be happy to lose the baby weight that had been haunting me. I also tried to go home back home to Waterloo as much as possible. If I could keep busy, I would be able to stop the sadness from sneaking up.
The toughest part was feeling lonely. I was sad about not having my friends and family nearby when I needed them most. Moving to Toronto was one of the biggest changes in my life thus far and I felt like I had few people around me for support. I always have my husband, but he was/is busy building a business and so from 8-5, I’m generally riding solo. I spend every single day alone with Emelia, with small spirts of adult interaction.
I had also expected people to want to visit more often. I envisioned having my girlfriends make day trips to the city with their kids and we would explore the city, go to the beach, go to classes, etc. This was maybe a bit of wishful thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understood why people aren’t itching to make the trip to the city. The same traffic in and out that made us move is the same traffic they would need to brave. It can be a big commitment. As I fell further into the slump, I found I was not doing as good with staying in touch with friends. I began to fall into a pattern of sitting at home, going to the gym, then going back home to sit some more.
I supressed my feelings for the first few months before they finally exploded. I sat down and spoke to my husband about how I had been feeling. I had been avoiding talking to him about it. The reason we moved was because of his work and I didn’t want him to feel responsible when all he wants is to give Eme and I the best life possible. He obviously knew I was having trouble adjusting, but I think he chalked it up to being a big change that was just going to take some time to settle into. In fairness, I thought the same thing! It was time that I make him aware of how much I was struggling. He listened to me as I spilled my feelings. As is always the case, he heard me out and wanted to do whatever he could to be supportive.
Conor can be annoying positive and pragmatic. He likes to address a problem head on to find a solution. I had to explain to him that I didn’t want him to fix it, I just needed him to listen and be supportive. I was determined to resolve these feelings myself and in my own way, but with him by my side I could tackle anything. The feelings don’t turn off like a light switch, so I needed him to keep me focused on the positives. One of the things he likes to say is “So, what are you going to do about it?”. I’ve been with this man long enough to know what he meant. If you want positive change than you have to bring it upon yourself. No one is going to do it for you.
The holidays were approaching and I wanted to use this time as an opportunity to reset. Conor and I both love Christmas so he decided to take two weeks away from work to enjoy some much-needed R&R. Having Conor home all day, visiting family and friends really helped keep my spirits up and got me out of the slump I was in. In retrospect I learned that sometimes the best way to get past these types of feelings it to have things to look forward to. I don’t want to understate the importance of living in the moment, but having special dates and milestones to look forward to is definitely helpful.
Just as quickly as the holidays came, they ended. We headed back to our downtown nest. This time though I was not going to let the weather and more limited access to friends and family bring me down. Instead I focused on my goals. Not just for 2019, but goals for the future in general. One of the many things I had committed to was to start a blog. I wanted to bring honesty, parenting, fitness and reality to the forefront. We are all trying to do our best and I wanted to find other people that I could relate to. I also knew I needed an outlet to talk about things that I was experiencing and hoped it would leave other parents knowing they were not alone.
I recently watched a Ted Talk by Shawn Achor and it resonated with me immediately. He spoke about how success does not make you happy, you are successful because you are happy. You have the power to control your own life and happiness. If you have 15 minutes to sit down and watch the segment, I highly recommend it.
Honestly, I am not totally out of my slump yet. I still must work every single day to make sure I don’t fall back into old habits. It is easy to throw in the towel and just feel sad, it is difficult to grab life by the horns and head in the direction you want.
Whatever you are going through always know there is someone there to support you. One of my biggest mistakes was waiting until it became bigger than me and started affecting everything I did. If you ever need someone to talk to contacts friends, family, or ME! I am here for you and happy to chat anytime. Just reach out and ask for help.
I will leave you with a quote that always puts things into perspective for me.
“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.”
- Lou Holtz
Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated, please comment, like and share.
Until next time!