This was me. 10 Years Ago with my 9 month old daughter. I was a new mom and I was 27 years old, living in a home in Orlando, Florida. I look happy. I look thin. I remember posting this photo on MySpace at the time (before I dove off that cliff in exchange for the monster that is Facebook.) I needed a recent photo of myself, so I staged this. I asked my husband to take the picture. I got some nice compliments. “How did you lose the baby weight so quickly?” “You look amazing!”
At the time, they were compliments I needed to hear. They boosted me in the midst of what was the deepest depression I have ever known.
But see, you wouldn’t know this from the picture, right? Of course I am smiling here. I am holding the only part of my life that gave me joy – right there in my arms. Wasn’t she adorable? Not only that, but also consider this….who wants to post a bad photo on social media? Who wants to own up to how awful they actually feel?
So, here is what is really happening in this photo:
1. If you look closely at the wall behind me, there are cardboard boxes. They have not yet been formed into boxes, but they are there for a very good reason. The husband that took this photo was my first husband. By this time, I had told him that I was leaving him. The separation had not yet happened but it was happening within the week. I already had airfare booked to move up to Maryland. Days before this photo was taken, I laid on that tile floor and cried so hard you would think my arms were being ripped off.
2. Yes, I was thin. So thin. And how did I get there? Well, I did swim 2 days a week for 45 minutes. Yes. That must have been it. No. I was that thin because I was barely eating. I was so miserable in my marriage that I spent a lot of time crying. I was so miserable that I didn’t even want to eat. Nothing even tasted good. And when I did eat, I would feel guilty. Maybe my marriage didn’t work because I wasn’t pretty enough, or because I didn’t have a perfect body. That was how I thought of myself then.
Today, when I look at this woman from 10 years ago, I see a girl. A girl who didn’t know her own strength or her own worth. Today, I want to tell her this:
You will recover. Ten years from now, you will be 10-20 pounds heavier than you are in this photo. But it’s because you have grown strong, not just physically, but mentally as well. Your body can now carry not one, but 2 babies, through sand & heat, one on each hip, and not falter. You can still lift this little baby in the picture, although she’s not little anymore.
You will be loved and you will be able to give love again. Life will still be life and you will be overwhelmed by it, overjoyed by it, saddened by it, enamored with it, and frustrated with it all at once.
You will be challenged and humbled by motherhood, but you are always doing the best you can. It never feels like enough, but hopefully it is.
You will fail and succeed, wash-rinse-repeat, in so many professional endeavors, but you should not give up. You should not be afraid to try…try something new. You will be your own worst critic but don’t let her stop you from believing in yourself.
You will feel lonely, you will feel awkward, you will feel like you don’t fit anywhere, but you do.
You will have highs, and your ego will soar, feeling like you are invincible. But you are not. You should be ready for the fall, and ready again to pick yourself up and start again.
Most of all, please just stop and breathe. Appreciate the joys that you do hold in your life. Ten years from now, you will still remember this pain, but it will be like a tiny faded scar on your little finger. Your life will go on. You will not be perfect and it will not be perfect. But you will have so much love and so much happiness. Believe it. Reach for it. It’s here waiting for you.