I feel like I’ve spent most of my life seeking to be understood.
Growing up, I felt like the odd ball in my family. I was the emotional one in the midst of my parents and grandparents who were conditioned to bury emotions. They were educated and intellectual, I was artsy and chaotic. They didn’t really know what to do with my emotions most of the time. Not feeling understood created a rooted belief that there was something different, even wrong with me. Little did I know how this would translate into my marriage and my parenting.
Fast forward to my first year being married. What a gong show. I ended up marrying someone just like my family, intellectually inclined and a concrete thinker. He had no emotional awareness. You can only imagine how our first years of marriage went. I wasn’t understood and felt more like an outsider than ever. Clearly there was something wrong with me. Not being understood by my parents and now my husband created a significant instability for me on the inside. My emotional needs were not being met, thus I became an expert at hiding myself from those closest to me. My husband and I fought endlessly. He didn’t see where I was coming from. Raising my voice became my cry to be heard. When that didn’t work I resorted to cruel words out of desperation. I never felt more alone than in my first years of marriage.
When I was pregnant with our first son we moved cities. I felt uprooted and torn from my home. I was now in a city, alone, with a husband who still didn’t understand me, and who was also away from home for hours a day renovating our new home. All I had to hold onto during this time was my business which I was keeping alive in the other city through a manager I hired. It was the loneliest time of my life.
The birth of my oldest son was traumatic. I lost a lot of blood and only remember passing out. I was rushed to an emergency c-section. I passed out again and didn’t wake until the next morning. When I was able to see my son for the first time, I can honestly say I loved him deeply from the moment I met him. He was my joy. However, life with him was extremely difficult. He cried for months. I didn’t sleep. I felt abandoned by my husband, who did what he felt was best at the time: work. I was an emotional wreck. He didn’t know how to support me. I was forever faced with his silence and look of bewilderment at my state. During the midst of not sleeping, my company, the only thing I was able to hold onto at the time, folded. I was devastated. I sank into a depression and didn’t recover for a long time.
I was good at hiding my emotions having learned from those closest to me in my early environment. “We will love you when you get yourself together” is what I felt from my husband and family. So that’s what my approval-seeking self did. I buried my emotions hoping to find connection with those I needed love from so deeply. However, it all came to an exploding end often due to the fact that hiding my emotions isn’t something I do well. I couldn’t handle not feeling heard and would therefore blow my lid over the smallest things.
This was never dealt with. As both my boys grew into typical wild toddlers who don’t listen you can only imagine what my unresolved issues did to my parenting. I would explode when they didn’t listen. I don’t mean the first, second, or even third time. If I had to repeat myself five times you could guarantee the sixth time momma was gonna lose her lid. This only created instability in the minds of my boys, who were already struggling with mental issues I didn’t know about yet such as ADHD, ODD, anxiety, depression and aspergers. Their ability to listen was limited mentally. Little did I know how I was contributing to their disregulation by yelling at them regularly.
There was one particular time I lost my lid when my oldest was three years old. I remember yelling out of frustration, “BEN…. DAMMIT!!!” He calmly replied with his typical forwardness,
“Mom, my name is not Ben Dammit”. This almost humorous statement was enough to shake me from my state to stop and listen to myself. A part of me wanted to laugh, the other part of me was mortified at what I was becoming as a mom. Everything I said I would not do, I was doing. It’s such a shameful feeling to know you’ve sworn at your children. Trust me, dammit was calm compared to some of the hurtful things I would say. It’s a deep place of shame when your children learn curse words not from school, but from you. It cuts deep to think of all the times I would flip my lid only to come back down from my fit and see the fearful looks on my children’s faces. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it still cuts me like a knife to think about it.
The greatest thing I have learned through learning to make sense of my story is this: No one wakes up wanting to suck at parenting. No one wakes up wanting to see their marriage fall a part. No one wants to yell at their kids or their partner.
No one is at their best when they are isolated. It’s hard to move forward when you feel alone.
Choosing to face my shame and dark moments with courage hasn’t been easy. Looking back and making sense of my story has enabled me to be known in those places first by my Creator, and then by others. The healing I have experienced has been substantial. Facing our mirror is the bravest thing we will ever do. The healing I have experienced has translated into great connection between my husband, myself and my children.
When it comes to seeing healing in our families, the greatest thing we can do is work through our own unresolved issues. Doing this alone is hard, but with the Village, we can help one another face ourselves with courage to find wholeness and health for ourselves and our homes.
We invite you to continue to journey with us by subscribing to our blog and YouTube Channel to be kept in the loop with how you can be a courageous parent. Workshops and resources coming soon as well.