Since my blog is titled "Mentally Healthy Mom," it's probably pretty important that I actually address mental health. My mental health is tumultuous, to say the least - I know I'll battle with it for the rest of my life, and I'm okay with that. Just like someone who has more markers for heart disease might change their diet and exercise habits, I, too, have changed some of my habits to help moderate the highs and lows. For the next ten days, I'd like to share my top 10 thoughts and actions which help me navigate my complex life. Of course, I'm speaking about them through the lens of motherhood, but I think that even if you aren't a mother or parent, you'll be able to take some nuggets of insight.
Day 1: Don't believe the lies.
Instagram lies. Facebook lies. Twitter lies. The media lies. Your friends lie. And before you get your panties in a ruffle, I think MOST of these lies aren't meant with malicious intent (except for Facebook...I'm really starting to believe Mark Zuckerberg is a bad bad man, but that's a conversation for never because we don't need that negativity in our lives).
So, you're scrolling through Instagram on this Monday morning, and you see this adorable picture of my 3 year old dressed with perfect pigtails for her pajama day at preschool. You think to yourself, "How is it 7:32 a.m., and she has her kid all dressed and smiling and ready to take on the day while I'm still in my pajamas screaming at my kid to get out of bed?" The picture really is cute because my kids are perfect (see: I put that lie there on purpose). What you didn't see was me drenched in sweat from my morning run screaming at my kid to get out of bed while she screamed at me because I wouldn't let her wear her holey nighttime pajamas for pajama day. You didn't see me riddled with guilt because she has to wear an "old" pair of pajamas because pajama day comes on October 28th, and I only get paid once a month making money really tight right now. You didn't see me leave my lunch on the living room floor because I'm carrying 800 other things to take into work. You don't see my desk behind me cluttered with work I have to makeup because I had to miss work twice last week to take care of myself and my kids. That picture is a nanosecond of my chaotic life where perfection is frozen for me to place a filter over and display to the world. That's not my life.
I'm not telling you to delete social media. I have friends who have, and their lives have gotten better, so I'm also not telling you not to delete it. You can enjoy those pictures. You can share in the successes of your friends, and you can be proud of the lives they've created. But do NOT believe that those pictures and posts you see paint the entire picture. Remind yourself that for every adorable picture of two toddlers in Halloween costumes, there are at least 4 meltdowns because the same toddlers refuse to wear a sweatshirt under their costumes. For every smiling child dressed as a fireman, there's a mom who lets that 5 year old firefighter eat 4 Reese's cups before bed because she worked all day then whipped up some soggy grilled cheeses while wrangling everyone in their costumes only to miss dinner herself and walk 3 miles trick-or-treating, and she's done when they get home. Maybe you were home all weekend with a puking kid, and you didn't get to clean your house. That picture your friend posted of her kids smiling in her immaculate kitchen doesn't show her completely trashed living room behind her. Like I said, enjoy these pictures because we love our lives and our friends and our kids, and we're proud of what we've built. We need to share in the success of others, but don't forget to paint the rest of the picture in your head when you close the app. My favorite thing to remember is that everyone has to poop. So when someone looks extra perfect, I remember that, like me, she poops, and it stinks...that normally levels everyone out for me.
While social media can paint some pretty filtered lies, the biggest liar in your life is your own brain. You're not doing as poorly as you think you are. Earlier, I talked about my guilt in not being able to buy my daughter a new pair of pajamas for pajama day (Please, don't feel bad for us. I am adjusting to getting paid once a month, and I haven't perfected it yet). If I let it, my brain would rip me to shreds today. You know what's funny, though? I care way more about those new pajamas than my daughter does. You know what she does care about? PAJAMA DAY! And she has clean, decent pajamas on today, and she is so stinking pumped. She doesn't care that they're not new. My brain took that idea of needing new pajamas and ran with it, and it almost stole my joy of seeing her proudly skip into her classroom and show off her "old" pajamas. Today, I shut that voice off, so I could take in the moment. That doesn't always happen for me, and when I feel my brain starting to believe the lies, I have a conversation with myself as if I were a friend instead of myself. Would you berate your friend for not being able to buy new pajamas? Would you berate your friend for skipping one workout? Eating one cookie? You wouldn't. You would hug her, and you would say, "Try again next time. You're beautiful, and awesome, and I love you." Treat yourself the same.
Keep fighting the good fight!