I woke up most days with the weight of the day on my chest. I felt claustrophobic, conflicted by my schedule, and overwhelmed by to-dos. Enjoying one task felt artificial as my thoughts turned to the next and prioritizing seemed impossibly complicated. The worst part? Most of my choices were between good things; roles, tasks, jobs and r
esponsibilities I’d chosen for myself.
Depression set in and I felt the guilt that comes with the inability to appreciate opportunities. I saw the bounty around me, but began to feel almost immune to enjoyment, simply making it through each day.
Rewind a five years. I’m a mom of two little ones, with blogging and Facebook just beginning to emerge in popularity. I left my full-time work to become a stay-at-home-mom a few years before and, while I don’t regret the choice, some days feel monotonous and I begin to wonder where Mindy fits in the picture. Blogging feeds my need to express myself and connect with the outside world, a new position with a local newspaper helps me connect with the community, and I try out a few at-home businesses without really enjoying them.
It feels good to answer the requisite What do you do? with something other than motherhood alone; to see interest piqued, rather than quickly fade. I gradually take on more and more over the years, calling myself a “jack of all trades,” even cranking out two newspaper article days after giving birth to my third child.
Just under two years ago, our family made a major lifestyle change for my husband to attend law school and culture shock slammed into me full force. I responded to loneliness, sometimes single-parenthood, and a huge income change by taking on more, piling on my online world until real life sometimes seemed blurred at the edges. I lost the ability to say “no” to opportunity, fearful they might not come again or that I wasn’t pulling my weight. My biggest fear? What if stepping back at all meant losing the momentum I’d gained professionally and on my blog?
About 6 months ago, I acknowledged that I didn’t have to go this alone. I talked with my doctor, found a therapist, and realized that an underactive thyroid was contributing to my exhaustion and depression. In therapy, I learned to trust myself again, to listen to every part of me. I recognized that opportunities are not finite and that I don’t have to be and do everything I want today.
Simplicity and balance became a mantra and I took the hard step of looking at my life and asking what I really wanted right now. The answer surprised me: I wanted to let go of superwoman. I wanted more simplicity; the freedom to play outside with my child some days without stressing over endless deadlines, the time to read a good book and actually finish it, to continue doing paid and volunteer work without overloading my life, to follow a spiritual path where ever it takes me.
Why am I sharing this? It is certainly not to tell my readers what they should want or prioritize or do with their time. It’s not even to tell myself that my current priorities will or should remain the same. More than anything, I want to say what I wish I’d heard myself:
Be kind to yourself.
Depression is real.
You don’t have to go it alone.
Trust and listen to yourself – even the parts saying things you don’t want to hear.
Give yourself room to grow and change.
And perhaps the biggest message of all is this: Maybe we don’t have to let go of superwoman, so much as redefine her for ourselves. Maybe superwoman is simply a woman who recognizes her own needs, listens to and trusts her inner voice, and adjusts accordingly throughout her life. Perhaps superwoman is you and it’s me; a term re-appropriated as our own.