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The Crushing Weight of All You Ignore

Mar21

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Smartest, dearest and most beautiful of all Amys,  

I don’t need advice per se, I know what I need to do but I lack any will at all to actually get my butt up and on that. What I need is to lay everything out to someone I hope will kind of understand but who is NOT directly related to me and can thus be disappointed with my life choices. I have been reading your blog since around when Ike was born and well, recently in an effort to find motivation for myself I went back and re-read your archives starting from when you got pregnant with Noah. Weird, but in a lot of ways you are an inspiration to me. You are a successful adult raising three (3!) well adjusted children. That is like rock-star status in my mind (mostly because I have serious doubts about my abilities to do any of those things). So I will start with the basics.

I am 27 (28 in May) and currently 7 months pregnant with my first child, a precious little boy who likes to try to jamb his limbs through my abdomen at random points during the day, my husband and I are very excited as this baby was VERY planned for and stressed over and is loved so much already. The problem (if you can call it that) came later. 

In October of last year my husband’s boss got fired, which led to a major overall of his “team” and prompted him to eventually leave for a new position. Now while I am happy that he is in demand enough that he found a new position pretty much immediately, said new position moved us from Rochester, NY to St. Louis, MO, forcing me to leave my job as of February. 

*way too much background to follow*

I am theoretically a teacher, theoretically because the job I had was as a research librarian/ teaching assistant not a classroom teacher (even though I have my Masters in Ed, the job market in Rochester is such that I took a much lower job in order to get my foot in the door and try to get a better job) This job, while not great, was one that I struggled to get for more then a year. Before that I had various substitute jobs but like I said the market was sucky, in fact I spent six months after grad school even looking for sub jobs before I found anything. 

This did a number on my own self-esteem/self-worth quotient, making me doubt seriously my own abilities, my motivations, my drive, my everything. I spent a lot of nights feeling like I had wasted copious sums of money getting my masters in the first place (NY State requires a masters for permanent teaching certification) because I could not get my foot in the door anywhere. The self doubt led to a minor bout with depression that I (if I am completely honest) am probably not over. But then I found something! And things seemed to be better, even though I was not making really any money and working my butt way harder then necessary, I was working with kids. I was HELPING them, they were LEARNING and questioning and it was fabulous and I loved it and this was totally what I was supposed to do! (Angels may have sung, it was that awesome) 

I was also bumping up against a self imposed child timeline, my mother and grandmother both had very serious child bearing complications after they turned 30. So serious for my mom that having me and my sister very nearly killed her in a very literal sense. Now, I know that means pretty much jack squat to me but I made the decision long ago that if I wanted my own kids I would have them before I was 30. Life had different plans and my continued lack of sufficient employment also became the reason I couldn’t have a BABY, adding yet more stress and woe and OMG what a huge mistake I have made. So I, with my husband (though there may have been feet dragging on his part), decided to try to get pregnant.

I have always had serious hormone issues so I went a little more hardcore then most people, but my various weirdo strategies worked and within 6 months I was the proud owner of a bonified blob baby. Life was working , things were going my way! And then my hubby got this new job. Which in theory is wonderful, its a great job that he loves and is very happy at but it required me to leave my job and move to an entirely new STATE. 

*back to present day* 

So now, I find myself paralyzed. It took me so long to find any semblance of a job in Rochester, I was working 60 hours a week (on a good week) trying to meet my goals but barely making it by, working WAY below my education and potential (earning and otherwise). My husband understands that I left my job for him, even though it wasn’t a great job it was still mine and well, technically we don’t “need” my income to survive, so we are okay on that front. But he knows that not having a job f$*ks with my head, and add the whole “baby” thing to it and I am going a little crazy. 

Specifically my crazy is manifesting in me just not doing anything…like at all…no planning, no applying for jobs, no buying baby clothes, putting off looking at pediatricians and day cares, and kind of in general putting my hands over my ears, burying my head in blankets and shouting LALALALALALALA at the top of my lungs. This is wrong and I know this, I am trying to convince myself to do things its just not really working. I am afraid to try anything for fear of FAILING as epically. 

Do you see the failure that is my life?? Anyway actual question: How on Earth did you find the courage to do all these things that you do? I know some of it you don’t have a choice in but you followed what you wanted in life career and family wise and I want that. How do I get myself up and out there to do it?? Where do I even start with this? The crushing weight of all the things I am ignoring is getting a bit overwhelming. So yeah. Honestly anything that you can say would be super helpful. Thanks.



Well here’s a dirty secret, dear sweet C. You and I are very, very alike. You’re holding me up as some kind of pinnacle of togetherness and success, but the fact is I could have written this letter back when I was your age. The anxiety, depression,, self-doubt and crippling fear of failure. The paralyzing yet self-sabotaging cycle of procrastination. The feeling like I was some kind of colossal, closeted f*&k-up who was lucky to get through the day fooling people into thinking I wasn’t. The sense that I was living a life without purpose, without real value, and a life that was crushingly far away from the one I’d imagined I’d live, once upon a time.

“The crushing weight of all the things I am ignoring is getting a bit overwhelming.”

Yes. THIS. I could have written this. Many times in my life, actually.

But listen: It’s okay. I think 27 is a great age for a good existential crisis. Get it sorted out now and out of the way for later.

You said you don’t need advice per se, but Imma give you some anyway: Get a therapist. See them weekly. Talk. Spill. Confess. Rant. Rage.

This is an order, by the way. This is not negotiable. And this is not a bad thing. This is not an indication that you are crazy or broken. You just need some therapy to work through your crap. Just like I needed therapy to work through my crap.

You asked: Do you see the failure that is my life???

No, actually. I see zero failure. I see LIFE. A crappy job hunt in a notoriously bad economy. A dues-paying entry-level job (we’ve all had one! or several!) that you made the best of. A big stressful job change in your household, then a major move right in the middle of a pregnancy, combined with the loss of said dues-paying entry-level job. (I dunno, can you cram a couple MORE major life changes/stressors in there? Let’s not underachieve here.)

Here’s what else I see: I see someone who has let her self worth get tied up in a job, a title, and a paycheck.  I see someone who is really, incredibly hard on herself and holds herself to high standards based on what she perceives other people are doing better than her. I see someone who tends to anticipate the worst-case scenario and base her decisions (or indecisions) on that scenario alone. (You must! have! children! before 30 because of anecdotal family history, the implied use of “hardcore” TTC methods because your hormonal issues would clearly! mean! infertility! otherwise, and now not applying for jobs because OF COURSE, what happened to you before will definitely, absolutely 100% repeat itself in a new city and state.) I see someone who constantly second-guesses her decisions in a very blame-y, “I should have known better/what was I thinking/I’ve ruined everything” sort of way.

You’re also seven months pregnant. Oh my God, stop being so hard on your poor swollen self! You say you don’t NEED a job right now for financial reasons, but clearly you NEED to be kept busy to feel productive. Good! Seven months pregnant is a pretty crappy time to be looking for a permanent position anyway, so I think you should find some volunteer work. Help people. Help kids! Get out of the house. Find a charity or organization that works with disadvantaged children or early literacy or something and get involved. Even if it’s just a few hours a week, I think it will be MASSIVELY helpful for your mental health to get out of your own head for awhile, gain some perspective, and give you sense of purpose/worth.

(Plus, tabling the job hunt thoughts completely until after your baby is here is perfectly reasonable and understandable, and perhaps doing so will give you the freedom to STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP about that particular situation of procrastination dooooooom.)

In between volunteer shifts, you see a therapist. You see movies by yourself, the ones your husband doesn’t care about. Try new recipes, learn to bake bread or make fresh pasta, and post your successes and spectacular failures on Instagram for a laugh. Explore your new city and walk outside in the fresh air and sit at prime people-watching spots with your laptop and write about what you see and what you’re thinking about. Maybe write letters to your baby. (Way more valuable use of your time than spending hours at Target buying a buttload of onesies, by the way.)

On that note: Please don’t stress about not feeling up to buying baby stuff yet. It’ll come, either with a hormone shift into NESTING NESTING NESTING or by simple, eventual necessity. This is why God invented Amazon Prime — you can get anything you need when you need it. (Some people believe that bringing baby stuff into their home before the birth invites the Evil Eye, so see? You’re just adopting new cultural traditions. Your husband and family can shop while you’re in the hospital.) Finding a pediatrician isn’t as big of a deal as people make of it — I did the whole New Parents Night Orientation Let’s Learn About All Their Views & Approaches one time and…okay, it was kind of overkill. We still ended up choosing the first practice we found that was reasonably close to our house and accepted our insurance. And if you accept the idea of putting off the job search until the baby is here and you’re in a better place, mental healthwise, you don’t need to be stressing about daycares yet. There. I just solved all your problems!

I’m kidding, of course. I know you, because I was you, and right after hearing the reasons why I could stop worrying or feeling guilty over items A, B and C, I would immediately latch on to items D, E and F and start down my anxiety/avoidance behavior path all over again. Therapy helped me figure out WHY I did this, and WHAT to do about it, and how to, essentially, SACK UP AND BE A GROWN-UP WHO DEALS WITH HER OWN CRAP. (A very important life lesson that we all have to learn at some point, as unpleasant as it may be. I should embroider it on a throw pillow.)

And here’s where I circle back to prenatal depression and anxiety, which are super common, especially among women who have previously suffered from depression and anxiety. Which…hello, you! Even if you’re feeling completely thrilled and positive about your baby, it’s STILL entirely possible that it’s the pregnancy’s “fault” that your pre-existing “issues” are now exacerbated and have spiraled into something dark and deep and it feels near impossible to crawl out of. All the more reason to find a therapist. If that’s the ONLY thing you do in the near future, the ONLY thing you accomplish for the next couple days, I will hereby declare you a success who is winning at life.

But like I said, your late 20s is a great time to deal with destructive habits/thinking — pregnancy-related or otherwise — and break the cycle of anxiety/procrastination/self-doubt/ALL OF THE THINGS. People like you and me don’t just magically wake up one morning with all of our crap together — we have to work on it, on our bad habits, on ourselves. But it’s worth it. You’re going to come out the other side from this, I promise. Happy, healthy, fulfilled…and living the sort of chaotic, hilarious, barely-together life that still somehow manages to be inspiring and rock-star status to people on the outside.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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21 Responses to “The Crushing Weight of All You Ignore”

  1. Emah Mar 21 at 9:10 pm Reply Reply

    I live in St. Louis! I am a teacher! I have small children! St. Louis is awesome for kids. Our zoo is free. All the time. The botanical garden is free Saturday and Wednesday mornings. It’s a great place to raise kids.

    Anyway, if you want some StL specific advice re: kids or teaching, we can probably figure out some non-public way to get email addresses switched. I got my job via a back door without certification when my oldest was 3 months old, and it was a part time job that became full time. It can be done. You will be fine.

  2. Daisy Mar 21 at 9:50 pm Reply Reply

    I just wanted to say….I graduated from law school right around the time the economy took a nose dive. I went from dreaming about 6 figure salaries and fancy suits to unemployment and babysitting to make my rent payments. While things have gotten better, that was 6 years ago…and this stuff is just life. Not a failure. You are doing what we all do- experiencing peaks and valleys. You can do this Mama. 

  3. M Mar 21 at 10:19 pm Reply Reply

    I think that you are only focusing on the hard things you have experienced, and you are not seeing that you have a lot of good things happening in your life.

    First, you are married and have a husband that loves you (I assume).  That right there is a huge success!  I’m 33 years old and single, and all of my single friends and I would love to be married and have a husband.

    Second, you are having a baby.  That is another huge success!  Again, I know so many people, myself included, that would give anything to be having a baby in the next few months.

    Third, you finished school and have a masters degree.

    Fourth, you are financially ok.

    These are just a few things I read in your email, but I’m sure you can think of more good things and successes in your life.

    I think you should forget about the job search for now and spend the next few months getting settled in St. Louis.  Find a therapist, find somewhere to volunteer with kids, take a pre-natal yoga class to meet some mom friends, find a mommy and me class to take when your baby gets here, find a doctor, dentist, hair salon, gym, and all of those things you need to do when you move to a new city.

    Then when you feel ready, find out if you need to do anything to get licensed as a teacher in Missouri.  Find out how to apply to the public schools in your area for next school year.  If you don’t get a permanent job this year, don’t worry about it.  Take subbing jobs, volunteer, take classes with your baby, and focus on getting a permanent job the next year.  

    Try to enjoy all of the good things in your life and not just focus on the bad.

  4. Noname Mar 22 at 12:30 am Reply Reply

    You know when you read something that really resonates with you? Like, you nod your head and start swallowing a lot because yep, this happened. This was you. A few years ago, this is what you felt. My circumstances were different, but I distinctly remember looking around and wondering what I was missing. Like, where was the cheat code on being an adult? Why did the women around me look so…together? They looked like women instead of like the girl I felt like. How did it come so easy for them? They had really good jobs. They were settled. Some had kids, some didn’t, but they just seemed to know what they were doing. And I felt like a lost lamb most of the time. Then I had my son. And I dug my heels in, because all of a sudden I really needed to get myself together. I needed to be a strong woman, a strong wife. A person willing to hit the pavement and get that job (that I was overqualified for, but whatever, it did get me in the door and it did lead somewhere worthwhile two years later), figure out how to run a household with a child and not totally give up my identity. And it was hard at first. And I went to therapy because I needed help finding ways to cope with stress and anxiety and fear. And a couple of years later, I feel tougher, more adaptive, happier and more fulfilled than I have ever felt. Nothing is perfect, but everything is awesome. All that to say: dig in. The fact that you recognize the paralysis means there is so much hope for you. Get thee to a therapist. Listen to Amy, go volunteer. Remember that your value is not based on a salary, how quickly you pay off your student loans, whether you have dinner on the table when your husband gets home or whether that kid’s nursery is color coordinated. It’s based on your heart, which I think is probably pretty big and certainly brave enough to get you through this new phase of your really normal, actually quite interesting and accomplished life.

  5. Kate Mar 22 at 2:00 am Reply Reply

    I also live in St. Louis! And I have a little boy! AND I work at an awesome school :) You’ll love it here, it’s GREAT for kids.

    Sometimes I also feel just like this. I happen to have a great job but I constantly struggle with feeling like a secret f*&k up that’s about to be discovered at any moment. I get it.

    I second the first commenter in saying that if you want to connect to figure out how to navigate here or just to shoot the shit, I’d be happy to. And I don’t care about making my email public since it’s my business email and it’s already public: fenwick.photostl {at} gmail {dot} com. :)

  6. Kerry Mar 22 at 5:09 am Reply Reply

    What Amy said times a million. There is nothing wrong with you and so many people have been there and it can and will get better.

    I really second Amy’s push to get therapy now. It can be hard to force yourself to do. I didn’t, because I had a womdeful husband, a lovely house, enough money to easily get by while I took a year off, and a beautiful baby on the way. What did I have to be upset about? And I ended up with nearly crippling post partum depression and the guilt that even my precious little boy wasn’t enough to make me happy. It sucked.

    I am not saying this will happen to you. And even for me, I got help and things are great now. It is just so worth trying to get the help as soon as you can so things can be great sooner.

    Congratulations, and good luck!

  7. Amy B Mar 22 at 5:28 pm Reply Reply

    For what it is worth, I live in St. Louis, have all my life, and I have two kids, and this is an AMAZING city to raise a family in! Amalah already gave you wonderful advice, but if you are looking for another person to reach out to locally (even if just online for now) feel free to contact me through my website.

    Also, I don’t know about other people, but I think A LOT of people feel the way you do at one time or another. May not help the feelings, but definitely helps to know you are not a pathetic freak, which you are NOT.

    YOU CAN DO THIS. xoxo

  8. Annie Mar 22 at 8:10 pm Reply Reply

    Oh miss seven months pregnant lady, I have also been there, fairly recently. For one, don’t underestimate how much energy it takes to BE pregnant. Remember you have an adorable inside baby who requires a great deal of effort to gestate, and for the second, it also requires a great deal of energy to meaningfully cope with any kind of depression or anxiety. Be kind to yourself, which is hard. Set small small tasks. Write a list. If you can cross one thing off a day, you win at life right now. 

    In the end, it will be all right.

  9. Rachel Mar 23 at 2:19 am Reply Reply

    I just wanted to say that I have felt like this for most of the past seven years. I think part of the paralysis is thinking that if you’re going to try and fail, it’s better to just not try at all. I have a really hard time with this, but it’s important to take it in really small steps. When you’re ignoring a lot of things, you can’t stop ignoring them all at once. Set a small goal for the first day, say setting up a therapy appointment, or even just googling and making a list of possible therapists if that’s too much. If you set up goals of one small thing for a week or two, it might not seem to overwhelming after that to tackle more. Maybe call a therapist one day, go buy one thing for your baby another, etc. 

    It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to fake it until you make it. That’s what I think 80% of us do every day. And in addition to pre-partum depression and anxiety, depression after relocation is very common. Things felt very dark for me when I moved to a new city. Things might feel a lot better when you’ve had time to settle in.

  10. SarahB Mar 23 at 3:02 pm Reply Reply

    I just read this letter while taking a break from my “homework” on perfectionism that is part of my treatment for anxiety.  I’m a few weeks into cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety, and what I experience sounds an awful lot like what you described.  

    CBT is helping me identify the irrational negative thoughts in my head for what they are, and now I’m in the process of learning what to do with them now that I can “see” them.  

    Please, take the time to care for your mental health.  I agree with Amy to let the job hunt go and to give yourself a proper maternity leave of 3-4 months not to think about finding a job after you have the baby.  Try instead to find some community, some friends, a moms group, and over the course of time find yourself a new professional place.  Big transitions like this are hard and clumsy–and that’s about the transition, not you.

    Best of luck.

  11. Leah Wilson Mar 23 at 11:25 pm Reply Reply

    Absolutely go get evaluated for depression! Hormones are notorious for kicking off that kind of stuff, as are major life changes. Also, as a military spouse, I completely get the whole giving up your job for your husband and then moving to a new place and having kids and it’s nothing like you planned and you’re not bringing in money so you must be a freeloader and BRAIN SHUT UP!
    I never NEVER thought I would be a stay at home mom but I am and I love it. It’s also completely okay to be a working mom and love it but by the time you have that baby it’ll be summer, so try not to stress too much about the job search right this very moment.
    And Amy is spot on – get out of the house! Go volunteer! Or go for a walk. Or visit the lovely zoo and botanical gardens someone mentioned. Isolation begets more isolation – see if there’s a mommy club nearby, a group of women you can just hang out with and have friends. Or join your local faith community and start to get plugged in. You will get through this and it will all be sorted out eventually and it will be okay.

  12. Cait Mar 24 at 1:08 pm Reply Reply

    Hello guys, it’s me “C” or more properly Cait, I just wanted to say thank you so much to Amy for the advice and all of you for your wonderful comments. I have read them all several times, and you are all just great people! 

    I think that I have known for a while that I was struggling but I have always been able to pull myself out of these funks before, usually because of obligations to others (jobs, planning the wedding, college classes, whatever) but this the first time I’ve had to pull myself out solely for me and, yeah, that hasn’t been working. I also knew you would understand Amy, I have a few of your more poignant posts bookmarked because THAT, that is how I feel. You’ve helped given me words before, and now I think you have given me a good kick in the ass that I needed. 

    I have researched local therapists and contacted one that I think will help. I also contacted a local foster organization that does volunteer tutoring and, actually a local tutoring center has contacted me for an interview today. 

    Thanks to those who offered to contact me: my public email is wannabestepford@gmail.com if you would like to contact me and I will be sure to reach out to those who kindly offered up there own emails as well. 

    Thank you all so much again! *big giant internet hugs to all* 

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Kallman Mar 24 at 2:37 pm Reply Reply

      Cait, thank you so much for following up so quickly and letting us know what you are doing. Big internet hug to you. :)

      • Holly W. Mar 24 at 3:53 pm Reply Reply

        Cait, 
        I went to school in NY and have tons of friends who have MEds from there, and I wanted to say that if and when you do undertake finding some sort of part time or full time or freelance job – NY’s standards are ridiculously high, so once you’re qualified there, other states seem easy peasy. And I think everyone’s right about the rough things just being a part of life – I had to work three jobs for four years until I found something that was related to my career path of choice. sometimes being an adult is just not so put together as we think. and that’s OK. we’re strong just for facing that reality, and never a failure for what life just throws at us. 

    • Anne Mar 25 at 7:15 pm Reply Reply

      Cait,
      I had such similar issues before and even more so after my daughter was born. Cognitive behavior therapy changed everything, and now I’m gainfully employed and happy. (Although actually, I can feel the feelings creeping in again now that I’m pregnant again. They must be worsened by hormones.) Good for you for signing up for therapy early. It’s all going to turn around. Best wishes!

    • cls Mar 28 at 12:34 pm Reply Reply

      Hi Cait,
      I also struggle with just about all these things (except the pregnancy part — that’s actually still a misty goal in the future!).

      Everyone else has given great macro advice. Just some micro advice: for me, in these states, little steps like going outdoors into the sunshine every day (and taking a little walk, if you’re up for it) makes a HUGE difference in energy levels & state of mind.

      Also: listening to music to help lift me out of some states does wonders. Your mileage may vary, but I really recommend something gentle from classical music — like Pablo Casal’s recordings of Bach’s cello music, or Glenn Gould’s piano recordings of the Goldberg Variations (you can even hear him breathing along with the music, which is strangely intimate and comforting). Or Brahms Reqiuem in G minor if you want to be met at a point of sadness and consoled through the music. 

      Apparently babies like hearing music in the womb too!

      Anyway, sending warm vibes from afar.

  13. Corinne Mar 24 at 9:02 pm Reply Reply

    St. Louis is an amazing city to raise children in and it’s actually a great one for job markets too (comparatively speaking) I wouldn’t go searching yet, but when you want to get a job I bet you anything you can get one without too much effort. And until then the city has a wide variety of parenting networks. Check out Amber Sky for various classes and playdates, Kangaroo Kids has a great calender of meetings and Facebook is full of groups for parents in the area! Welcome to the city!

  14. newbie mom Mar 26 at 1:13 am Reply Reply

    Your son is going to love you no matter what job you are or aren’t working at, or which city. I can pretty much guarantee he wont care if his nursery is perfectly decorated. Do what you need to enjoy the pregnancy, and find peace within yourself. And beyond that, cut yourself some slack. You can do it !!! \\hug//

  15. betttina Mar 26 at 1:56 pm Reply Reply

    I’m also a teacher! In St. Louis! With a small child after years of infertility!

    twitter.com / betttina

  16. Missi Mar 31 at 4:53 pm Reply Reply

    When I got pregnant last year I felt something similar – it was around the 10-week mark or so.  I had a different set of circumstances, but the emotional fallout was very similar.  I have a history of depression in my family, too, so I got really scared. (While it’s good to read stuff about depression during pregnancy, also know that you might NOT become the worst cases that you read about on the internet.)

    See a therapist! Seriously! Feel nothing but pride in the fact that you’re taking care of yourself by doing this, and paving the way for taking care of your family by doing so!

    I saw a therapist from about week 13 through week 38.  It helped so much.  By the time baby came I felt some calm in my brain space.  Even more than that, though, I knew that if the hormones messed with my emotions in post-partum life, I had a professional resource who knew my background and could jump right in.

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