I decided last night while washing my face that I was going to throw away all of the rules I’d created for myself around my professional online presence. When I first started The Calm Mama Method and this blog, I spent a lot of time thinking about how much of my personal story – both past and present – I was comfortable sharing. It was complicated by my work as a therapist. I was aware that it was possible current or future clients could find the site and see parts of me that I wouldn’t necessarily share in our therapy sessions. (If you’re one of my clients and are reading this, hi! Feel free to bring up any questions or thoughts you may have in our next session…I’m not shy!) I ultimately decided I would disclose more personal stuff here if I thought it would be helpful to those reading it, but still err on the side of not sharing about much about my current life.

Until last night. Last night I decided that perhaps the way I could be of the most service is to just show up as myself. I think this realization came from two things. Being completely physically and emotionally exhausted, and reading this quote (not sure who it is from, some say Carl Jung, others say unknown): “Know all the theories, master all the techniques, but as you touch a human soul be just another human soul.”

That’s the key to serving and helping others. Be just another real human. No need to hide behind professionalism. No need to take care to share only a limited portion of our lives. Yes, respect our own privacy and the privacy of those in our lives, but BE REAL. In that moment I decided that I was going to commit to a new level of realness. A completely transparent sharing of my journey through postpartum anxiety, depression, and rage and what it looks like now on the other side.

At first I worried that I may lose some of you, when you find out that although I may be the face of The Calm Mama Method, I am not always a calm mama. When you find out that I still get swept up in anger from time to time. When you find out that I cry at least two to three times a week about the massiveness of mothering. When you find out that my anxiety sometimes still gets too loud. When you find out that my version of recovery from postpartum anxiety, depression, and rage isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and Pinterest crafts and laughing snapshots from family vacations. When you find out that I’m real.

But then I realized that my realness, my authenticity, is all I have to offer. And it won’t be right for everyone and that is absolutely, 100% okay. Because the flip side of losing some people who aren’t looking for what I’m sharing is that it will also bring me closer to those who are looking for it.

So if you’re open to the idea that recovery from postpartum anxiety, depression, and rage looks like a mom who still experiences variations of those things from time to time, but at much lower volumes and as a balanced part of a wide range of emotional experiences, welcome. You’re in the right place.

What does my recovery look like? It looks like a mom who gets anxious relatively easily. If one of the kids says they’re tired I immediately think they’re getting sick and start calculating how many clients I am going to have to cancel the next day. But I also know to stop the moment I find myself going down that road. I know to calm my body first because my thoughts will continue to spiral if I don’t. I then know to call myself out for catastrophizing. And then I gather some data to make a mini plan in my head. Which clients can I move? Can I call my mother-in-law for help? What does my husband’s day look like? Could he work from home? I know that my anxiety responds well to plans, so I make them. And then I move on with my day.

What does my recovery look like? It looks like a mom who responds with anger when she’s scared or hurt or sad. But I know that anger isn’t what I’m really feeling. So I calm my body and ask myself my magic questions. What’s really going on? What do you need right now? And because I’ve been doing this routine for long enough, my mind usually answers quickly. I use that information to tend to the real unmet need beneath the anger, allowing the anger to fade away on its own.

What does my recovery look like? It looks like a mom who gets overwhelmed by mothering. But rather than judging my overwhelm and feeling guilty or ashamed that I’m not loving every minute, I validate my experience and acknowledge that it’s a HUGE job to take care of these little souls day in and day out. I am learning to ask for help when I first notice I need it, instead of waiting until I’m totally depleted and in crisis. And equally important, I’m learning to see and accept the help that is offered to me, even when it’s not exactly what I need or exactly how I’d do things.

Recovery is messy. Recovery isn’t what I expected. Recovery isn’t perfect. Recovery is continued work every day.

But recovery is also triumphant. Recovery is also so much more in balance than before. Recovery is also a source of tremendous pride because I know how hard I’ve worked to get here. And recovery has shown me that I don’t need to be perfect to have something to offer others, and in fact my imperfections are the greatest gift I have to offer.

 

Carolyn Wagner is a psychotherapist specializing in maternal mental health and the founder of The Calm Mama Method. She helps moms who struggle with anger find calm by learning to tune into the messages their anger is sending and transform it into healing. Carolyn is passionate about serving the world by supporting moms. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband, three young children, and Boogie, their beloved black lab who does her best to stay calm amidst the chaos.