Underbelly

Aug 21, 2018

Dear MommaStrong,

As most lasting love stories go, I met you exactly when I needed you.  I wasn’t looking for you.  In fact, I had completely given up on fitness in general.  Because of my incredibly suffocating back pain and my invisible autoimmune diseases, it became clear to me that I ought to just give up.  I didn’t want to spend another penny on golden carrots dangled in front of me by well-meaning healers, doctors, and trainers.  So, right before I met you, I decided that that was that.  I was just going to quit.

What people around didn’t know is that along with quitting my job and quitting my healing, I wanted to quit life too.  And I spent much of my days planning how to do this in a way that no one would know was purposeful, so that my daughters wouldn’t have thatstory.  

This is what depression looks like.  This is how we suffer.

How could I tell anyone, though?  There was no hotline or resource or PSA that would have pulled me into the path of getting help, no matter how laced in pretty font and inspiring music their advertisements were.  I didn’t know I needed help and even if I did, I didn’t want it.  I figured I had the answer and that the answer was taking a giant eraser to the outlines of who I had become until there was no more suffering.  

And, then.  Then, you, MommaStrong.  

One morning, on a whim, like catching a slippery fish on a hook, I got down on the floor and felt my belly, skin to skin.  I felt the mushy, bloated, disconnected, gaping hole, shame-causing flesh.  I felt my back tense up and my pelvis began its normal chorus of shattering pain. I felt the dirty carpet underneath me, dust and crumbs and dog hair like gremlins birthed from an unconscious life.  I felt my baby next to me, only 4 months old, press her sweet mouth to my armpit, searching for a nipple.  

This was the moment that I said the thing that I hope all women say at some point:  “Fuck this shit.”

I’d like to tell you that there was a more eloquent statement of motivation, but that was exactly it.  

Fuck.  This.  Shit.

It was that day that instead of turning on the drowning flow of morning television or googling neurotically about, well, all the things, I started an important search:  Researchers who actually healed their back pain.  

That’s the day that I found Esther Gokhale and Stuart McGill, whose research into back pain proved revolutionary.  This was also the day that I finally, after nearly 5 years since the birth of my first daughter, got out of the self-absorbed fog into which postpartum depression had dumped me. 

This is where you were born, MommaStrong.  This was your birth.  This was me laying on the floor each morning, trying different things with my pelvis, reading voraciously, and becoming willing to find a different way.  And next thing I knew, I was filming videos to send to friends and old clients, excitedly telling them that these things were helping me.  I could walk and skip again.  I could lie on my back.  I could sleep and wake without pain.  There was hope.

The rest of your birth story has been told before.  But, what I want to focus on today is that even though your birth saved my life, I wasn’t ready to raise you.  I didn’t do the work I needed to do to give you what you needed.  And I suppose I write this today because I think it’s important to know that in the landscape of mental health and recovery, things don’t just get magically better.  There are no mantras that get you there or positive thinking or, in my case, ambition and obsessive passion that will actually heal your life.

Healing your life takes work.  Hard hard hard work, with the help of professionals.  Period.

However, I skipped that hard hard hard work and headed right to the finish line, convincing myself that I was better.  And the result was that I put you, dear MommaStrong, and everyone who walked into your path and into my life, in a dangerous situation.  I chose the buzz and burn of overexertion, and I masked the underbelly of my true self with the glossy exterior of entrepreneurship and the rather suspicious phrase: “Never Give Up.”

What I know today, after nearly losing my life again last year and hitting an extraordinary rock bottom, complete with the carnage of personal relationships and professional security, is that I had used you, MommaStrong, as another way to beat myself up.  I had used you, sweet creation, as another device to erase the outlines of who I had become until there was nothing left.  I let you run me on the track without pause or rest, not because you wanted that of me, but because I wanted that from you.

But. 

You have gracefully taught me that underbellies can’t be escaped.  You taught me that if I don’t tend to the normal and ever-present darkness in my being, it will find its way out and it will find a way to eventually crush the bright stuff.  You have taught me that my default mode, for reasons I’m only now discovering, is to live in a self-abusive existence.   And you have taught me that in that that existence hurts everything around it.

You have also taught me that where there is willingness, there is a way to health and wholeness.  Let me rephrase:  Where there is a willingness, there is a messy way to health and wholeness.  

Dear MommaStrong, we are together in the messy way forward right now.  And I’m not afraid to show the underbelly of what it looks like, especially in a world that loves to whitewash healing into images of green smoothies and inspiring quotes.  The truth is that healing sucks.  Being awake AND being whole is not for the faint of heart, but it means that life begins to work.  This also means that you, dear creation, get to live.  It also means that my soul gets to breathe while my mind gets to feast on what you need from me.

So, here we go.  Over the next few days, I am releasing you to stability and security.  You’re going to have a new home, a new wardrobe, and your guts aligned in ways you always knew you deserved.  More importantly, I am placing you in the hands of people who will help me raise you, the same people who have helped raise me from my underbelly.  Together, we are going to show the world what courage looks like and that bumpy transitions are to be expected and celebrated.  And, together we won’t apologize for ways we screw up.  We’re just gonna let you fly.  It’s not about how we look while doing that, it’s about how you get to serve.

Thank you, MommaStrong, for not letting my underbelly squash you and for letting me learn to love all of me.

It’s never too late to begin again.  Here we go.

Signed,

Your Mother

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