Help and Hope

5 Mar

Tomorrow, I’m taking my eldest child to therapy.  She’s five.  And it feels like failure.

Now, I’m the first person to tell you that therapy is a wonderful gift to give yourself.  It’s one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever done – it broke me and healed me simultaneously and gave me the gifts of introspection and self-acceptance.  I’m eternally grateful to the tailspin that was PPD for forcing me into a shrink’s office. (Side note:  Anybody else remember that cartoon, Talespin?  I loved that show as a kid!)

So why do I feel fractured?  Why was the phone call to the counseling center about my child almost as hard as when I called about my own issues so many years ago?  Introspection to the rescue.


“Her fears of children’s television shows and the wind, her anxieties about crowds and friendships, and her rage-filled temper tantrums – how are these not my fault?  How can a child spend the first two years of her life with an depression-consumed mother and not have the yelling and the emotional barriers affect her personality?”

My inner-monologue screams at me as I write the appointment time and date on my calendar, adding it to my phone and my weekly to-do list.  And to add insult to injury, I find I’ve written the appointment on the incorrect date and must write it again, the hurtful rhetoric echoing with every letter and number.

I break down in tears and sob while both daughters smack their mouths on gooey peanut butter sandwiches.


I’ve written about my experiences as a new mother with postpartum depression and anxiety before.  I’ve made a practice of not hiding how devastating that time was – of not allowing shame to dominate my life now.  I thought I was over it.  But the guilt monster, it seems, has a thirst that can never be quenched.  She sneaks back in and reminds me of all the time I missed and of all the damage I must have caused.  When will I be able revisit those days without anguish and without all the sights and sounds torturing my memory?

Facing that my little girl needs some help with what we call her “big feelings”  is forcing me to reflect on my own struggles with mental health.  It’s making me step out of the present and reside temporarily in her past… my past.  And in looking back, I remember that I’m angry for what the PPD took from me and for what it gave to my child.


“What a gift you are giving her.  The chance to learn to be introspective and to ask for help.  I wish it had been alright to not be okay when I was a kid.”

My friends talk me down from a shame spiral, the depths of which only a peer would  know.  They tell me I am a good mom for allowing myself to go back to the pain and recognize that it gives me the power to help my baby.  They speak of courage.  And I try not to feel like a fraud.


The truth is that even though I know that I did not cause my child’s dramatic and spirited personality – even though I recognize that I am doing everything I can to help her grow into who she is and to care for her needs with respect and love – I don’t feel worthy of her.

And there it is.  This therapy appointment feels like evidence that she deserved better.

And yet I’m exactly the momma she needs.


We stand in front of the white door and she notices the meditation medallion hanging from the door knocker.  Nervously, she reaches out for my hand.  Together, we take a deep breath and step, through our fears and hesitations, into help and hope.

18 Responses to “Help and Hope”

  1. Rebecca March 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Love you.

    Also? Boob smush.

  2. nerdmommathfun March 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    My lands. You are so brave, so empathetic, so self aware. How lucky you and doodlebug are to have each other through all of this. You are an amazing mom – the flaws are what MAKE you great. The imperfections, the hard years behind and ahead give you the grace that you are always showing others. That you are teaching those girls.

  3. story3girl March 5, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    Tears. So proud of you.

  4. uppoppedafox March 5, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    You are doing a good thing for her and, for what it’s worth, my daughter started therapy for her big feelings too. The goal is to help them learn to manage their little selves – it’s all good!

    • learnedhappiness March 5, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

      You’re the third person to tell me about their experience with taking a child to therapy. How much it helps to know I’m not alone. ❤

  5. jamesandjax March 5, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    Susan, I’m so proud of you for this (the writing, the therapy, all of it). How I wish I had therapy as a child, for all my big feelings! I’m so glad you wrote this post. Love you & holding your hand.

  6. Jodi March 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    I feel for you. I am currently taking two of my three kiddos to play therapy as a result of my ppd. It’s hard to get over the guilt. I agree with your friends, you are doing something wonderful for your children. *hugs*

  7. Bobbi Parish-Logie March 5, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    This is a wonderful post, Susan, and you are doing a wonderful thing for your daughter! Providing her with the gift of therapy where she can learn to deal with her “big feelings” is setting a fantastic foundation for her emotional health for the rest of her life. You are an awesome mom doing a fantastic thing. Keep talking back to that guilt. And as a therapist who uses play therapy let me just say it’s an INCREDIBLE therapy method for working with children your daughter’s age as her language skills aren’t yet developed enough to do pure talk therapy. Play is her language right now. I hope the therapist is using some play therapy techniques with her.

    • learnedhappiness March 6, 2014 at 12:11 am #

      Thanks, Bobbi. I think the therapist she’ll be working with is a good fit. Lots of toys and drawings in her office. She’s warm and kind. I hope so, too.

  8. Margaret March 8, 2014 at 6:03 am #

    You’re doing a good, brave thing.

    I finally started taking my two older kids to therapy last year, and probably should have started years ago. Between my PPD episodes (plural) and other previous medical trauma, last year finally pushed us all to the edge. Of course, I didn’t get help for myself until I had already found it for them. So all three of us are regulars now, and I do think it’s helping. Daily life certainly feels a lot less “critical” and a bit more “normal” now. The way I see it, the kind of things coming out in them are the kind of things my parents didn’t know how to address in me. Yes, I may have contributed to their problems, and I have to live with that, but I can also understand them more than my parents ever could, and I have the resources to get the help I didn’t back then.

    And that’s how I see it for you, too. You know how to find the resources to help your daughter, and you can understand what it takes to get there.

    • learnedhappiness March 8, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      I’m trying to see it exactly as you do, Margaret. It helps that your days are less critical….gives me hope. =)

  9. tranquilamama March 8, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    Susan, I think that you are giving your daughter a tremendous gift. I still struggle with managing my big feelings. I have been struggling with my big feelings since I was a child. You are giving her the gift of tools to add to her toolbox.


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