Mom-itis: When women become mothers they immediately and without knowing what or how it happened, develop a serious condition. A life threatening dis-ease, really, and yet, it is seldom recognized, acknowledged, talked about or addressed.
Somehow, they forget there is a person inside that shell of a body and magically they begin to feel everything their child feels. They forget what foods they like, what activities they enjoy and how they like to spend their time and they develop this robotic ability to instantly respond to whatever it is their child likes, enjoys, or needs.
The even crazier part, that goes undiagnosed in a large number of mothers is the fact that they literally forget to feel their own emotions and they start to suffer the effects of the emotions their children feel… and worse still, the emotions they perceive their children are feeling.
Let me give you an example…
Nine days ago my family got in two cars and drove 16 hours to the coast of Oregon to spend some quality time together. It was a miracle we were able to get all seven of us together at the same time in order to make it happen. Levi, my 19 year old missionary came all the way from Honduras to spend time with his family. Paul, my husband was able to get off work. Chase, my son in law was able to get off work for part of the time but had to fly home early. Mallory, my daughter, braved the trek with her six week old baby and Riley was able to make the journey in between chemo and enduring the effects of it.
I’m sure if you were to ask each of these people what their experience of the trip was, you would get a completely different story… but for my purposes… I’m only going to share my perspective.
I have had a gut ache since we got in the car nine days ago. I’ve cried more tears than I typically would in a years time. I have had extreme anxiety, fear and sadness. I have contemplated what a person should do when they literally feel like they are losing it and cannot stand to feel what’s happening for one more second in their body.
All at the same time I was feeling my definition of what Levi, Riley, Chase, Paul, Mallory, and even Noah felt. Somehow I completely forgot all of my coping skills I have learned and taught in my yoga workshops…. Gone… out the window. I cant even describe to you the physical torture I endured day after day. I would go running or walk on the beach, I tried journaling or talking with someone… nothing worked.
Each of my children and my husband tried to console me but the pain inside my body would not subside.
I was feeling every single hurt and pain and all the anguish that imagine Riley feels because of the trials he has been given. The effects of cancer and treatment and the continually ridiculous chances of a cure, the way he must feel around others or watching what others lives entail…. I felt every thing imaginable in my mind that Riley must be feeling.
I was feeling the horror that Levi must have been feeling coming home from his mission in Honduras sooner than expected and the grief and sadness that had to be causing him. I felt what I perceived to be his hell as he watched his family and the awkward way we do our best to bumble through the trials we’ve been given. I felt the confusion and chaos and frustration in not knowing exactly what to do next when your life plan changed abruptly.
I felt the helplessness, fear and sadness, the feelings of failure as I watched Mallory fall apart as she sad by helplessly watching Noah cry in his car seat, knowing she couldn’t take him out or comfort him because we weren’t at the end of our journey.
I felt the sadness felt by Paul as he longs to have a wife that is happy and enjoys spending time with him and isn’t always focused on her kids.
… and as I felt all of this, my body couldn’t handle it, nor could my mind. I honestly and truly felt as if I were crazy, losing it, at the end of my rope, done. I wanted with all of my heart and soul to take all of these problems from my family members upon myself and swim as far out into the ocean as I could and sink to the bottom.
There are a few things I know of that did not help my situation. One, Oregon, specifically Lincoln City and the home we stayed at, was not a good choice for the vacation because it was VERY triggering. Two years ago I spent a week there with Riley, which I’m so grateful for, but that trip was during a very difficult time when cancer had returned and chemo was not working…. (this may seem silly to some, but if you’ve ever experienced a trigger in your body … and been present enough in your body to understand what was going on, you understand what I’m talking about). Two, I was not grounded or in a great place when we left because of life circumstances that preceded the trip.
Why do I share all of this? Well…. I have a few thoughts.
First, why do moms take on all the pain their children experience? Why are we only as happy as our saddest child? Why do we think we can protect our children from feeling hard and painful things? I already know the freaking answers to these questions… in fact, I teach them. I also know that when we do try to protect our kids or others from feeling, we are doing them harm, rather than good. It is the uncomfortable feelings and hard trials that refine, shape and purify us into the very beings we were sent here to be. Why am I trying to get in Gods way?
Second, didn’t the Savior already do all of this? Isn’t it true that He has already felt all of this stuff? Did someone come and deem me the second savior? Why am I trying to do a job that the Lord has already done perfectly?
As I write my feelings today, I obviously have a lot more clarity than I was having in Oregon. I clearly am not as triggered as I was when I sat outside the barbershop and watched my sweet son walk out without his beard, which he reluctantly had shaved off because he was tired of waking up in a pile of hair on his pillow. I cannot even describe to you the horror I experience or the physical pain I feel in my body just thinking about the multiple times I’ve watched my son lose his hair from the poison that is put into his body to kill cancer cells.
And lastly, on the way home, my beautiful daughter kindly said to me, “Mom, do you think it’s possible that you feel more than what your kids are actually feeling? Do you think that maybe your kids are okay and will learn to deal with their situations or circumstances, feel the pain and let it go, all while you are holding onto it and allowing it to destroy you?”…. and there you have it, the wisdom of my daughter. The very things I’ve learned myself but forget to apply.
Being a mom is the most painful thing I can imagine. I would rather go through ANYTHING myself …. ANYTHING!!! Rather than watch my children or those around me suffer. When something is happening to me, I can choose how to handle it and I can take care of it… I know I can handle feeling what ever I need to. But that helpless feeling of watching your children suffer…. Is more than I can take…. It is beyond my physical body’s ability to handle. It is beyond my mind to comprehend… and that is why we have a Savior. That is why my faith in Jesus Christ is so important for me to continually nurture. I have to be grounded in my knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I have to be connected and aligned with God, my eternal father, or the weight and burdens of this mortal life will crush me, and I will be of no use to anyone.
So, Moms, I guess my message today is this…. Let the Savior carry the pain and burdens of your children…. And let Him carry yours as well. Remember that little girl inside of you and take care of her. Put the oxygen mask on yourself so that you can be of value in assisting those you love.