A few years back I gave birth. It was glorious and amazing and more than I ever could have hoped it could be.
Then it wasn’t.
I remember bits and pieces from that time like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It’s hard to see the big picture. It’s just snippets of pain. That makes me sad, but it’s what I have.
The good news is that I healed. The bad news is that once you fall that hard, it’s challenging to stop watching the sidewalk for craters. It’s hard to believe that another fall isn’t just around the corner. The fear lingers.
So as I got closer and closer to giving birth this October, I started to get more and more apprehensive. Those days seemed long past me, and yet their shadow lingered. Would I again fall? If I did, could I pick myself up again? What if? What if? What if?
And then I gave birth, and I brought my newest daughter home, and all seemed wonderful.
But then I had a day that was a little bit iffy. It was within those first two weeks when most of us have iffy days, but that didn’t stop me from panicking. I was sure I had fallen again. I started researching postpartum depression (as if I didn’t already know enough). I started researching support groups. I wanted to dig my fingers into my skull and grab out those scary parts. Since I couldn’t do that, I just over-analyzed them. Is this it? Have I fallen? How can I be sure?
But then I woke up the next morning and I felt pretty good. The shackles felt like they had been released from my brain, and I was able to function normally.
This happened once more, maybe twice, during those first couple of weeks, and each episode was milder than the one before. But with the third one, even I believed that it would go away if I could just make it through the day. I knew I would wake up on the other side.
Now it has been six weeks since my Tessie was born, and I think it’s been about four weeks since I’ve had an episode.
The storm has passed.
I’m here on the other side laughing a bit at it all.
I ask myself when will I realize that setbacks are setbacks? That they aren’t destiny.
I’ve always struggled with believing the bad. I always assume that the bad stuff is real and the good stuff is a facade. So if I make a mistake or I struggle or I fall, I assume that is me and that is how things will be. When I’m doing well and moving forward and meeting my goals, I assume it’s the fluke. Eventually I will fall, my reasoning goes, and all will be back to normal.
But this experience about a month ago is making me question that way of seeing the world. If we assume we are the negative and the failures, then won’t we inevitably find negativity and failure? After all, what is the point of standing back up if you believe the fall is the destination?
I’m writing about this in regards to mental illness, but couldn’t it relate to anything? Couldn’t it relate to goals and relationships? To health and career and family and friends?
In the end, don’t we find what we are looking for?
Now I see this tendency within myself – this tendency to see setbacks as destiny – but I’m not quite sure how to remedy it yet. Because sometimes insight leads to change. For me, the road is rarely that straightforward. I’m a bit too stubborn.
So I ask all of you. What do you do when you have a setback? How do you keep your eye on your goals when you fall flat on your face? How do you move forward?
I would love to hear!