Not Like the Other Girls
Are you always the odd girl out? If so, you might be my people.
Women have capacity for connection. We have the capacity for real truth, real compassion, and real acceptance. Why then, do we feel so alone?
I have gotten comfortable with my place on the far end of the personality spectrum. The hyper-frank oversharer whose bullshit radar is set to go off at the first sight of … bullshit. You know, the lonely end of the rink?
We are doing it to ourselves. Killing our light by lying our way through conversations, not saying what we mean, and accepting our situations despite the intense sense of resentment we often feel. And while a positive outlook can benefit even the most desperate of us, it’s real nice when you reach that positive state of mind organically, so that you can feel it instead of mutter it to everyone you meet before retreating to your bedroom to forcibly unscrew your smile. Being fake is a fast track to isolation.
When Things Fall Apart
After having my first son, I was sick. I was real sick. Days and months ran together and seasons changed without my noticing. Apocalyptic thoughts and extreme anger toward my husband were only some of the challenges I was facing. When I spoke about how I was doing, I had no choice but to be raw in my description. I was living it so completely that I was shocked to find others recoiling at my distress, but I was too tired to lie.
Years later, I would come to find that many of these women had been struggling themselves, and they chose to forego the opportunity to be heard, as well as the possibility of being related to.
Somehow, in all of our ‘progress’, women have forgotten how to accept each other. Every time you tell someone that you’re happy when you’re not, and fulfilled when you’re running on fumes, you are contributing to the crazy psychological suffering that most of us have been trapped in since the days of our grandmothers.
One Anchor is All You Need
Of the women that I shared my intensely dark challenges with, only one ever looked at me and said “it’s okay”. The rest said nothing, and that is where the relationships stayed. I would only go to play-dates if I felt capable of presenting a false self, and most of our conversations were superficial. I lost friends who had been colleagues previously, and who couldn’t be bothered with this ‘new’ me. For someone coping with the loss of their former independent and astute self, these were not exactly the kinds of experiences that facilitated healing in me. It made me feel contagious. But I had one anchor to cling to, and she saved my life. We saved each other.
The next time a woman tells you that she’s struggling, try empathy instead of disbelief. Try a hug, try a drink, try remembering not to help them retract and pretend. Be the woman that other women can come to when they need to hear that not liking their kids today is perfectly normal. Angry with your spouse? Normal. Totally overwhelmed? Normal. Eating antidepressants like candy? Also normal. Want to throw in the towel on domesticity and the child rearing game? Totally. Fucking. Normal. Because life and all its lessons wasn’t designed to be a cakewalk, but it wasn’t designed to be pinterest perfect either. If we give each other permission to tell the truth and still be accepted, we stop the cycle of self-judgment too.
Find Compassion Through Struggle
I haven’t been on top of my mental health consistently since having kids. Moderately high highs, followed by long drawn-out lows have been my reality and the more honest I get with others about that, the more friends I gain. It’s simple psychology. Nobody wants to be the first person to fuck it all up, so I do it for them. After all, we’ve all wanted to burn the whole thing down at some point, haven’t we?
The friendships that I’ve fostered in the wake of the creation of these ‘safe zones’ have been soul enriching and lasting. We look out for each other. We bring dinner when dinner is needed, we pick each other up after long ugly cries, and we help wherever we can help – because it’s okay to need it. We aren’t superheroes and we aren’t meant to be; our struggles tend toward similar issues of varying degrees and should inspire us to accept ourselves and our needs.
Start with self compassion, and extend it to the people in your life. You might find the conversations that result lead you to a new level of love for yourself. You might find that you’re perfectly normal. You might even make a friend.