I'm woman enough to admit that last week I had a small nervous breakdown. A mini meltdown, if you will. It seems a bit silly now in retrospect, but I assure you it wasn't silly in the slightest last week.
All my life I have been a busy body. I don't mean the gossipy, busy body; I mean the real deal, genuine body that must be busy doing something meaningful. As a young child it was gymnastics or dance or both, plus t-ball, then later softball. I started babysitting when I was eleven. Not just here-and-there, but nearly every weekend and on many occasions over night. I played volleyball, basketball and was a cheerleader in middle school and I was a peer tutor. In high school, I was involved in color guard, cheerleading, youth camps, leadership camps, more peer tutoring, drama club, church youth group, early morning bible study, the drug-free group at school, student council and I worked at Burger King and babysat on the side. In college, I always took more than a full course load, usually 15-16 credit hours a semester and a hideous 21 credit hours that last semester before graduation. I volunteered at an after-school program for abused children, worked as a peer mentor for the school's leadership institute, and had a fully booked social calendar. Then I got married.
When Dear Husband and I were first married, I worked full-time at a day center with disabled adults, I still volunteered at the after-school program for abused children, and I was actively engaged with our neighbors and friends from church. Things changed when I had our first child. I quit working, as we had previously planned, and I stopped volunteering. Life seemed to come to a painful halt. It was rather like drive full speed into a steel-encased brick wall.
I cried. A lot. I learned years later, as I had subsequent children, that I suffered from post-partum depression, but on top of that, I just couldn't handle sitting still all the time. It was a very difficult adjustment. I had always had my hand in multiple baskets at once, had a plethora of friends and co-workers/volunteers that I regularly interacted with; my days had purpose and meaning with tangible fruits of my labors. Life as a new mother with a very needy infant was quite unsettling.
Big Brother was (I know now) not a typical baby. Sure, he slept and pooped and spit up like every other baby, but he didn't cry, he waled, and he didn't nurse, he comforted himself at the breast for hours on end. I remember crying, possibly waling, to my husband one day as he came home from work and I thrust our boy into his arms, "I'm nothing more than a cow! I can't live like this." I then locked myself in the bathroom for hours. It wasn't that I didn't love my son, I dearly loved him. It wasn't that I hated motherhood, I treasured it. Rather, it was the sitting still, the being in one place all day, the no one to talk to, the being by myself that drove me crazy... And the endless nursing.
Then life got busier: my husband joined the Air Force, we had a set of fraternal boy twins and then our baby girl, I went back to school and got my BS in Psychology, we moved several times, once internationally, I decided to homeschool, then we brought my brother to live with us and we moved again, this time without the husband. I homeschooled some more. I wrote a book. I published poems. And almost a year ago, I sent my children back into the public school system. Almost immediately, I signed up to be a substitute teacher.
Now, I don't tell you any of this to put my list of past accomplishments on parade. That's not the point. In fact, though I am happy with all that I have done in my life, this isn't about accomplishments at all; it's a confession: I have busy-body syndrome. I am addicted to being busy. I don't know how to exist otherwise. But it's more insidious than that, the real problem is this: I don't feel valuable unless I'm busy. Unless I am in a constant state of doing/giving/teaching/leading/working I don't know who I am, and I don't feel worthy of love and belonging. It is shaming to me to not be busy.
Remember those posts about shame? see here
And so it was that I had a melt down last week when my shame came to the forefront. I hadn't realized how large a trigger this was for me. I hadn't ever consciously thought "if I'm not contributing, then I'm not worthy of love and belonging". It was just there, ingrained in me. And last week as I had some of my first days of genuine down time in years that shame in all its ugly glory came to the surface. It washed over me as I listened to a dear friend talk about the classes she was currently taking and her career goals, when another friend's told me of her plans to adopt, and yet another friend's exciting news of pregnancy. It snuck into every conversation, scratching at the back of my skull, grating on my heart, "Why aren't you doing more? What are you doing with your life?" It even betrayed me as I sat and talked with my husband over a lovely breakfast date about his plans for future education and career paths. It slammed itself upon me like a tsunami. I was so dumbfounded at my mental breakdown, it's taken me several days to realize exactly why I was so upset.
And now it almost seems silly. Not silly to feel worthless, I don't belittle my emotions, not anymore. But silly to not have realized after all the work I have done, that this was such a big issue for me. How could I not realize I was at war with myself as a stay-at-home mom? Especially, when the truth is that I have a strong testimony that at home is right where I need to be. I wanted this. I planned for this. And still after nearly 13 years of living this, I'm fighting myself on the worthiness of it all?
This is why I write. So that next year, when I'm feeling down or confused or tired, I can look back and learn from myself. Like this: The Non-Accomplishment List. I had no idea when I wrote that just how much I would need to read it this week.
So I will soldier on. I will dig up more shame to dispute and disprove. I will keep overcoming. I will keep accepting myself. And eventually, I'll find what it really is that I want to do with my time.
In the meantime, I'm going to 1) inform you all that SuperMom is a myth and 2) I'm going to let that myth go.