Having a reason to get out of bed matters.
Knowing your purpose matters.
And yet, there are days when both feel impossible. At least for me.
I’m here to admit that I’m no a stranger to clinging to my bed when the world feels like too much. In fact, a couple of Sundays ago (at nearly 32 years old) I threw a full-on tantrum. It’s not flattering to recall, but I spent my Easter morning refusing to rise. I woke up and simply refused to get up. I went into full-on shutdown mode, sheets over my head, cocooned in my comforter, tears freely flowing. There was no stopping the feelings, and trust me when I say I had all the feels.
As I hid beneath the security of my bedding, I actively made the choice to protest the day. At least for a couple of hours. Getting up didn’t feel realistic and facing the day felt too heavy. So, I tried to opt out.
After nearly a month in isolation with a newborn, in a new house, and feeling disconnected from the reality I had anticipated, I cracked. Up until that morning, I had honestly felt like I was thriving, finding balance in an off-kilter time. The hard truth was I had been denying the waves of emotions that had been rising up, continuing to just push on and pretend. I was so convincing, I had even convinced myself. That is until my body woke me and told me that was no longer an option.
Depression and anxiety have always been unwelcome visitors in my life. I never invite them in, but when they show up, they are the types of house guests who make themselves at home and refuse to leave. Just over two months ago, I welcomed my daughter into the world. Right before her arrival, I was on edge, certain postpartum depression was sure to follow. And yet, when the waves of sadness never came I counted my lucky stars and celebrated the reprieve into unfiltered happiness. For once the only visitors that showed about were feelings of hope and positivity. I genuinely felt overwhelmed by joy (and I still do).
But then quarantine happened. Suddenly everything shifted.
The first three weeks of quarantine were a breeze of denial. The whole world had just opted to join me on maternity leave. However, we’re in unprecedented times as an entire society and soon enough the weight of uncertainty opened the floodgates. Then Sunday morning happened. While I’m not proud to admit I wallowed, sulked, and straight-up cried sloppy tears for hours, it’s the truth. It’s the messy reality of both adulthood and motherhood… and the world right now.
Things are not always Instagram post-worthy or sunshine and bliss. And no matter how adorable my girl is (and on a totally unbiased level she’s super cute), no number of liked pictures of her will make me feel connected. Even during the happiest chapter of my life (which I can guarantee I’m in right now), there’s space for sadness. While I’ve never known more joy than meeting and being with my daughter, seeing my husband with her, and watching our hearts honestly explode (all the clichés are very true), I’ve also never known more isolation than being in this current stay-at-home bubble.
I also know I’m not alone. We’re all away from our normal, our routines, schedules, and sense of self. All the pieces we regularly take for granted are stripped away at this moment, leaving us with just ourselves and our thoughts. For some of us, especially those who have struggled with mental health, this is terrifying.
As grateful as I am to now be a mother, for 31 years I’ve been defined by many other things. My purpose right now is to be her mom. But before — and still — I’m a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an employee, a writer, an occasional pseudo therapist, an editor, a mentor, and more. My identity as a mom is new, and while it certainly brings a sense of purpose, so do all my other qualifiers. And for me, being all these things gives me a strong sense of meaning. I’m a people person through and through. I seek out connection, and long to help others in order to feel needed (sometimes to an unhealthy point). Being in my new maternity bubble had already made this hard. Prior to quarantine the shift was already happening, even if I didn’t acknowledge it. Then distance happened and it was undeniable. Being separated physically led to me mentally feeling completely useless. Suddenly all those I connected with and love deeply were out of reach. My sense of purpose was shot. At least the purpose I had defined myself by for decades.
Eventually I began to rally myself from the safety of my pillow fort.
As my husband held my hand (the only part of me I willingly stuck out of the comforter), and from time to time peaked our girl under the sheets at me, I desperately wanted to laugh at the absurdity of my current situation. Instead, I kept crying. The two people I loved more than anything were inches away and I couldn’t snap out of my funk. I couldn’t pull myself out of bed. And why the hell not? Of course, depression is never simple, but having them nearby roused me enough to see what had fallen away. As I woke up I saw that I needed to acknowledge that my purpose was evolving. By lying in bed and feeling useless my inner monologue fixated on the lack of value I thought I added to the world. I’d focused on what wasn’t instead of what was. Rather than looking at how my purpose had transformed by becoming a mom and giving myself credit for the role I’d eagerly stepped into, I judged myself for not being the best daughter/ friend/ worker anymore. I looked at what I let go of instead of what I could choose to cling to.
Yes, there will always be other parts to me, areas that need to be nurtured and paid attention to. But right now motherhood is my priority. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. As exhausting as it can be it’s the greatest sense of purpose I have ever known. She gives me strength with a small smile even when I am running on 3 hours of sleep. Even if I didn’t sleep for an entire week I wouldn’t trade it to go back to what was. This part of my life brings value, even if she can’t vocalize it yet. Even if there’s minimal glamour and no validation outside myself. For once, unlike all my other roles, this one is one only I can validate. I can say I am enough. I can choose to appreciate all I bring to the table for her, for the family we’re building. No external praise required. This new purpose comes from the most core place I’ve ever known. And there’s beauty in the simplicity of that.
So yes, there are times when we take our purpose for granted or it gets blurry. There are days we all forget what drives us and find we have just been going through the motions to get by. The reality is it’s easy to lose sight of what matters to us, especially during uncertain times.
The state of the world is far from stable right now, which means we have to find stability within ourselves. And when you can’t see it for yourself, try seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes. For me, the lifeline of my husband’s hand and daughter’s face was the grace I needed to make my way to the shower and wash away the self-doubt. They reminded me of the purpose I had stumbled upon in motherhood. As the day went on I pushed myself to stay away from that bed. I knew only shame and disappointment would be lying next to me there. I looked at myself through their eyes instead of my own, because sometimes you can’t trust your own view on things. I called out the need to be “reality checked”—a phrase we use in our house to level set during moments of instability. I challenged myself to do something for someone else (a tactic my Grammy instilled in us at a young age when we were stuck in pity). I forced myself to wake up to what I could control. And it was the same thing I always had control of: my perspective.
So I took it minute-by-minute, then the next half hour, then the next hour until things felt manageable again.
We all need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Some mornings it’s just easier to find that reason than others.
What matters more than shaming ourselves for losing perspective, is choosing to keep waking up. Waking up to what we can control, who we want to be, and how we will show up tomorrow.
Sara is a collaborator to her core with over a decade of communications experience in companies ranging from nonprofit to corporate and retail. She strives to place herself in roles that help further generate change and growth. At the end of the day, she hopes that by putting words to use she can generate more. Based in Columbus, Sara is a wife, new mom, dog mom, and emotion advocate!