For many years I have believed I am a strong person. That I am a rock. This is probably the fault of the people who have been around me all these years. My friends have many times remarked “oh you are so strong”. And I have believed them. My husband is guilty of it too. He has many times called me “the rock of our family” and every time he has said it he has gone on to explain how he is awed by how I run things and keep our home functioning. And for so long I have believed him. I have smiled and genuinely been impressed with myself at how I somehow manage to get so many things done. To smile through so many hardships. But this beautiful image I have had of myself for so long has slowly started to crack. It started chipping at the edges when I lost my baby and the cracks have gotten big enough for me to finally realize I am not a rock. No I am not strong.
I know being called a rock is a compliment. I hear you when you say I am strong but allow me to say no thank you. Over the last 3 years I have lost 2 babies and sat in more hospital lobbies than I should have. I have looked at the doctor expressionless as she said “both your tubes are permanently and inoperably blocked”. I have gone on to get procedures I can’t even talk about done to me and with every piece of bad news I have received my heart has broken a little bit more. This post is not an attempt to get pity from you. No. This post is a challenge to you to look inward and to admit that you are not strong. This post is to encourage you to admit that you are overwhelmed with life’s challenges and that it’s OK not being OK.
The last three years have opened my eyes to how feeble I am. To how I can so easily crumble. And I am not alone. My work with Still A Mum has let me see how women battle with so much every day of their lives. I have come face to face with women battling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Women carrying a load so overwhelming it’s a miracle they can breathe. And recently I realized I am one of them. And so I want us to do away with the “superwoman complex”. To admit we can’t do everything and that it’s OK. To admit when we need help. And when we can’t take anymore. And that is why I am sharing some of my struggles with you today.
I have realized that the sad thing about uplifting others is that the world often forgets you need uplifting. That the work is overwhelming and that often times the work you are doing is done to soothe your own heart. And slowly and without knowing it, people begin to expect things from you. People think that since you are publicly talking about certain things then you must have conquered those things. So what do you do? Allow me to share some things I am learning in my journey of healing.
Find ways to self-care. I’ve started a habit of looking after myself. Going to the salon getting my hair and nails done every so often. This is a big deal for me because I am a cheap person. I’m teaching myself that looking after me is good investment. I hope I can soon start scheduling spa time with a massage every now and then. I challenge you to do something that makes you feel happy. Enjoy some me time, take a vacation, write a bucket list and do those things (start small). The point is, practice self-care. Here’s the thing you need to remember – you can’t be a good wife, friend or mother if you are not good to yourself first. When you are happy, the people around you feel and enjoy it.
Stop giving yourself too much pressure. I realized that most of the pressure in my life comes from me, not even other people. There was a day I was going on about how I have not done much with my life and oh I expected to be doing more at my age…and my husband stopped me and said “you are too hard on yourself.” And right there I saw it. I am indeed too hard on myself. I have a mental note of all the stuff that I’m not doing that I should be doing and its exhausting. So I’m learning to cut myself some slack. To calm down and realize my life will not burn to the ground if I stop to breathe.
Share the load. Ditch the superwoman nonsense. Realize that being constantly overwhelmed is not good for your body and mental health! Now, I have a hard time delegating leave alone asking for help so this is something I’m working on. So dear, begin asking for and accepting help, because you need and deserve it. You can start with small tasks and work towards larger ones to give room to adapt.
Seek professional help. This is a serious one. In Africa seeing a shrink is seen as rich people problems and this is a wrong perspective. Here’s the thing, your girlfriends love you but as well-meaning and supportive as they are, they have their own problems and superwoman tendencies they need to do away with. And to be honest they also don’t have the answers either so they can only go so far to help. They are a great resource because they give you a place to pour your emotions. But sometimes you need more. I read somewhere that “Seeing a mental health professional to confide in and ask direction from can mean the difference between life or death—for real, for real.” And that is why I am seeing someone. Seek help too. Don’t wait until you are so overwhelmed that you are physically sick.
Find strength in God. In my time of weakness I have seen just how human I am. Just how much I cannot help myself. No amount of pep talk has helped. And at this point I realized that this whole time when I thought I was strong it was actually God who is strong and not me. So I am learning to depend fully on God. Like David throughout the Psalms I have learnt that “He is my strength”.
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.