My mother used to say the same thing whenever I was sick: “Well, your hands are not sick.”
She expected me to do my chores and not to make a big deal about being sick. It was a motto she lived by. When I think of her in those days, I cannot picture her sitting down or lying in bed. She was always busy taking care of us and taking care of the house. I can almost imagine her feeling sick in the morning and saying to herself: “Well your hands are not sick,” and getting on with business as usual. I have tried to live up to this motto as long as I can remember.
This image of a mother that takes care of her family regardless the circumstances, was printed in the core of my being.
When I got diagnosed with depression, I was deeply conflicted within myself. Every moment that I needed for myself, every day that I couldn’t go on as usual, troubled me. I judged myself. There is always something the matter with you. Are you sick again? I felt like a sad excuse for a mother. I pitied my children and husband for having to live with me. Being sick has always been a powerful trigger for me to sink deep into depression.
In 2011 I got diagnosed with depression, which led to a long struggle with dealing with my depression and undergoing extensive therapy. Just as I started to feel a little bit better in 2013, I broke my right shoulder and as it started to heal, I had to have my gallbladder removed. After that, a long period of feeling sick and dealing with throat problems, led to a tonsillectomy in 2015. In 2016 my doctor referred me to a rheumatologist. The word rheumatoid arthritis was mentioned. I’m still in the process of finding a diagnosis and proper treatment.
But I am doing fine. In a sense, I am grateful. It is easy to find joy when you’re healthy and pain free. When you’re walking in the sunshine it isn’t as hard to be hopeful. I have learned to enjoy every single ray of light when walking in the shadows. I do have my occasional pity parties, and I indulge in them, because I allow myself to feel, to grieve, to be sad when I need to. But my pity parties end and when they end, I pick up positivity and make the most of what I have.
Depression always lurks in the shadows. But it is more a kind of melancholy that accompanies me, reminding me of its existence. It doesn’t bother me as much, nor does it scare me the way it used to.
I feel fine, I feel happy. We’re almost in the 11th month of 2016 and I have had approximately two days this year without physical pain. The other days have fluctuated between noticeable pain, manageable pain and excruciating pain. All things considered I still feel blessed. It could have been so much worse. I still feel privileged and grateful.
I have reshaped my image of what a mother is supposed to look like. No longer is she shaped like a rock, a bulldozer, a mechanical machine. She is covered in flesh, imperfect, she bleeds, she falls, she lifts, she cries, she smiles. She is shaped like a human.
How has your concept of motherhood changed since you had children?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Mirjam in the Netherlands.