After my first child, I became completely anxious, freaked out, and overwhelmed. And it was totally unexpected. (Who puts “feel horrible” on their to do list? Of course it was unexpected.)
The rug had been pulled out from under me and I was on my ass, trying to figure out which way was up. There were broken parts of me that had entirely shattered upon entering into the space of depressed and anxious motherhood.
I was lost. Confused. Scared. Blind.
Holding myself together—barely—with tiny pieces of tape.
Gritting my teeth.
Keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself.
Being and feeling shamed constantly, sometimes unknowingly, by the people who love me the most.
Existing under a magnifying glass
Seeing everything through a magnifying glass. Every issue, every feeling, every thought, every mistake, every everything was massive. Inescapable. And if felt like I had all of the thoughts in my mind, all of the time. No boundaries between what happened yesterday and what would happen tomorrow. Everything. All of the time.
The world as I knew it had changed. First, there was a new person in it. A little person who belonged to me. A person I had to keep alive. I felt that I had to attend to her at all times. I remember crying DEEPLY, wondering how the hell I could feel so lost, then seeing these little eyes looking back at me and feeling a touch of purpose. And a LOT of responsibility.
I never felt that having her was the wrong decision, but I also had no clue what to do. So I questioned every decision, every choice, every thought.… What. Is. The. Right. Thing. To. Do? For her, for my marriage, for myself?
Then there was another new person in the world. Me. My identity had changed. From the me I knew to mom. I had been through other identity expansions already, as we all have. Transitioning through the following: child, adult, college grad, doctor, wife, and so many more.
But for me, the mother-identity was different. Mother had a weight to it, a responsibility, a fundamental change to the way I interacted with the world. Life was extended through me, through my relationship with my husband. All of a sudden, the idea of ancestors, lineage, history, and the future meant a so much more. And I was partly responsible for how those chapters were to unfold.
There may be other ways to experience this type of mind-bending, mind-blowing expansion, but this way, for me, changed everything. All the way to my core. All the way to my soul.
All of my feelings were magnified. The bad and scary ones. But the good ones too—sometimes… when they stayed around long enough. Like deep love, so much love that it hurt. But this love was coupled with vulnerability and fear that someday this would end. and that seemed unbearable. With a new life here, I contemplated my mortality, hers, my husband’s, my family’s. How can something so new and pure ever be away from me. Like, ever. And how had she not always been around. My soul was unsettled.
And how come I felt so inept? I felt the most open, the most vulnerable I’d ever been. The bad feelings were as intense, if not more so, than the positive feelings. I’ve had some rough times, but have never ever felt as bad as I did that first year after her birth. Just horrible. I had thoughts popping up in my mind that made me question my life’s experiences. Why would I have those horrible thoughts? Did something happen to me that I was unaware of? Are these thoughts even from this lifetime? Like, for real. Where the hell did these thoughts come from? Oh, and what’s wrong with me that I’m having them? Again, my soul was stirred.
My consciousness had been blasted wide open and I began to experience life and energy on a new level. I felt more deeply. Not just my feelings, but I felt other people’s feelings more deeply. I should say that I’m an empath so I already felt people’s feelings, but not like this. Energy was more palpable. And that was a part of the overwhelm too. This may be another post, for another time, but for you empaths out there, you probably know what I mean.
The suffering was the deepest I’d ever felt. Part of the reason I think of this as a soul level crisis, is that it all shook me so profoundly that I asked myself, “Who am I? What is my purpose? Can I do this?” It disorganized me so much that I had to put myself back together in a new way. I had to let go of my previous ideas of who I was supposed to be and literally build, piece by piece, my new self.
I began to realize what I was going through. Gradually, I understood.
I began to understand that it wasn’t just me.
I started to heal, recover, and be more in touch with my inner knowing.
I became more at peace with NOT knowing.
I began to see how my old way of being contributed to the crisis in the first place.
I had to make peace with the parts of myself that I didn’t like.
I had to allow the parts that were confident to be seen by others.
I’m a different person after my soul level crisis. Or maybe it’s best to say, now that I’ve been changed by this experience, I’m more the person that I’m supposed to be. Soul aligned.
Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D. is a psychologist specializing in maternal mental health. She was drawn to this specialty after going through postpartum depression and anxiety with her first child. Dr. Kat hosts a Podcast focused on maternal mental health, called Mom & Mind. She supports her local community by partnering with the county to provide training for health care providers. She volunteers for Postpartum Support International as the area co-coordinator for San Bernardino County. Dr. Kat looks for any soap-box or mountain-top she can find to raise awareness about maternal mental health.