Do you have friends telling you to take a break, relax, get a massage, hire a babysitter? Do you have a doctor telling you your ailments are related to stress? Or maybe you relax too much and your friends keep encouraging you to get out more, exercise, do something exciting. It’s easier to notice other people living in the land of crazy than it is ourselves. Yvonne just had her first baby and is completely in love and so grateful to be a Mom. She also is a wreck and feels completely out of sorts. She can hardly think straight. She feels stressed and anxious all the time. She is quick to complain or get mad at those around her. Friends keep telling her she needs to sleep when the baby sleeps, but it’s too hard. Her husband sends her for a massage but she can’t relax. She tries to take deep breaths and she just can’t do it. Something is lost. Is it her sanity? Is it her sense of herself? Sleep? A feeling of accomplishment? Social circle? Support? Confidence? YES, YES and YES. She is missing all these things and more. Even though she wanted to be a Mom SO desperately, she is in a stage I have learned to call, SQUARE ONE.
Square one sucks, even when you it’s a change you really wanted. It feels like everything you once knew has changed and you are hanging on to sanity by a thin thread. If we were to record Yvonne’s thoughts it would probably look something like this. “Holy &%*#!” “What the #%&@ am I doing?” “Why did I do this?” “How am I going to do this ?” It’s what I call “the land of crazy” and my teacher, Dr. Martha Beck calls it, “nobody nowhere with no one and nothing.” If you haven’t been through this stage yourself, I’m sure you’ve witnessed others going through it. It is a qualitative change in who you are in this world and it’s really normal. Most people go through about 5 or 6 of these transitions in their lifetime. Becoming a parent for the first time is a major change in identity and involves grieving the loss of your old, pre-parent self. If you’ve ever seen anyone who can’t get past an old relationship or keeps recreating the same bad situation over and over, you know what being stuck in square one looks like. Moving through square one requires patience, kindness and acceptance.
Perhaps you survived new parent crazy land, but you are finding yourself in square one due to economic changes, the housing market, divorce, family illness or death. The best way to get through the crappiness of square one, is to allow yourself to be completely in it. To grieve the loss of your old self and feel the feelings of sadness, fear, anger, frustration, resentment, or whatever else comes up. Pour it out in a journal, find a compassionate listener, and stop “shoulding” all over yourself.
“I should be happy”, “Something’s wrong with me”, “This should be easier”, “It shouldn’t be this way”, “My husband should be more helpful”, “My Mom should be ____” ,“My kid shouldn’t be so ________.” “My boss should be ______.”
When you argue with reality, you never win. If it’s hard, let it be hard. If you are sad, let yourself be sad. If you miss that job you couldn’t wait to leave, so be it. If you are mad, be mad. Be where you are and feel what you feel. A forced smile and pile of denial will only keep you stuck in square one longer. Instead, start reclaiming some of your power. The feeling of helplessness is one of the worst things for the human psyche and we do it ourselves all the time.
Write down a list all the things you feel you “have” to do. Here is mine:
I have to do the dishes
I have to pick the kids up at school
I have to make dinner
I have to write my newsletter
I have to pay bills
Now change “I have to” to “I intend to”, “I choose to”, or “I will” and see how much better you feel. In reality, there are very few things we have to do, but when we think that way, we feel trapped & awful. Realizing you have choices helps to move you into a feeling of personal power.
Here is my revised list:
I will do the dishes because the thought of them piled up for days creates a feeling in me that is worse than doing this repetitive task.
I choose to make dinner because I believe in healthy eating, table manners, and family dinner conversation.
I intend to pay my bills because I don’t like late fees & extra charges and ignoring them will not make them go away.
I will up pick my kids up at school because it is aligned with my values of the kind of Mom I want to be.
I will write my newsletter, oh look at that, it’s done. Now it’s your turn.
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