Being a photographer, it’s my JOB is to take great pictures which reflect the BEST and HAPPIEST images of the families I work with. And in the same way I sit at my desk and choose the best images of my clients, I tend to do the same thing when it’s time to blog and share photos about my OWN family. Although I have plenty of images that document my kids tears and meltdowns, it’s usually the happiest times I choose to share with the world.
However, in the middle of a very exciting and fun-filled summer last year, I received an email from a good friend that really made me think about the images and stories I so easily shared about my personal life. After seeing the photos I had recently posted from my family vacations and 10-year anniversary trip, my friend’s email revealed that she had a “love/hate relationship with my blog.” She explained that my life seemed so “perfect.” I remember sitting at my computer, reading those words over and over again… really not sure how to respond. Once I read her email, I knew her words would someday help me open-up in a way that would leave me very vulnerable and reflect my life as anything but “perfect.”
Fast forward a year. I was sitting in church as one of my favorite pastors spoke about comparison and discouragement. One of his points was in regards to how people, particularly mothers, use social media to paint a picture of how they want their life to appear to others. He made a point that we post a nice and neat “Press Release” with our favorite pictures and funny stories. And at the same time, we work hard to keep our “Junk Drawers” (the part of our life that is NOT perfect) guarded, hidden and out of the public view.
As I sat there and listened, all I could think about was my OWN junk drawer. Although I knew there might be someone else out there, specifically a mother or blog-reader, who would benefit from me being transparent and honest, I STILL had ONE more excuse as to why I could not make my own junk drawer visible for the entire world to see.
To understand why I felt this way, you’d have to know a little bit more about me…
It happens at least once a year. After a delicious meal and lots of laughs, my Small Group moves from the kitchen to my living room. It’s in here, somewhere between finishing-off the warm, chocolate chip cookies and starting our lesson that, for fun, we go around and answer an ice-breaker question.
And each year, without fail, this same question seems to always come up:
“What’s your biggest pet-peeve?”
And each year, my answer is always the same:
“COMPLAINING…Specifically men and pregnant women.”
The first one can be explained pretty easily. I grew-up with a dad who worked when he was sick and caught wildlife like the guys on t.v. (but without all the fuss). Then, I married a man who always has a positive attitude and doesn’t have a lazy bone in his body. So naturally, when I see a guy take off work for a headache or start to complain because he’s tired, I want to confiscate his Man-Card. (Sorry if I just offended your husband.)
The second one takes a little more explanation…
My pregnancies are very, very hard. For the first 5-6 months, I can hardly keep anything down. I could go on and on, but just about every painful, alarming and ‘unlikely, but possible’ symptom you read about in books happens to me. However, along with the ‘no-complaining’ policy I also apply to myself, more than ANYTHING, I can’t help but think about ALL my family, friends and clients who either can’t conceive a child or lose their baby. So each time I’d like to complain about my own stabbing pains, 100th time hugging the toilet seat or lack or sleep, I think about all the people who would GLADLY take my problems in return for a pregnancy and healthy baby. So clearly, you can see why I work REALLY hard NOT to complain about something as petty as swollen feet or it being really hot outside. (Sorry if I just offended you.)
So after finding out I was pregnant in January of this year, I was not at all surprised when I became very sick. However, something was different.
Even though I tried to explain it to a few friends and family, the only words I could come-up with were empty and alone. The emptiness was beyond awful when Matthew was out of town. Yet, when he was home, the only place I wanted to be was in the floor of a dark room without anyone around. Isolation had quickly taken over.
I remember a specific night when I dropped my kids off at my parent’s house and was heading back home in time for Small Group. Matthew, who had been out of town all week, along with all of my Small Group friends, were all arriving at my house for our weekly gathering. As I approached my neighborhood and spotted the sign that normally prompted me to make the turn that would lead to my house, I remember fantasizing about what it would be like to ignore the turn and keep going straight for hours and hours. It was all I could physically do in that moment to actually turn towards my house and continue with my reality that I wanted so badly to run away from. It’s so difficult to put into words how I felt, but that moment of isolation and despair was very symbolic of the feelings I felt everyday during this dark season of my life.
During the first few weeks of feeling totally isolated and empty, I tried and tried to ‘get over it’ myself. But before I knew it, the days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was just getting worse. Each day, I would drop the kids off at school in my pajamas and return home with only one agenda… back to bed. More days than not, I would end-up curled-up on the floor in a random room, just staring at the blank wall in front of me. I would have my phone with me for the alarm, but when a call from a friend or family member snapped me out of my gaze, I just laid there and blankly watched as it finally went to voice-mail.
Through the encouragement of a some friends and family, I finally decided to talk to my doctor.
On the day of my appointment, I couldn’t have been more nervous. A few things made this conversation incredibly difficult for me: I hate asking for help. I am not a huge fan of medicine. And lastly, I came from a family who had never uttered the word ‘depression.’ Yes, this was NOT going to be an easy talk.
When the older, male doctor finished his standard measurements of my stomach and casually asked if I had any questions, I took a deep breath and bravely started to confide to him how the past few months had been for me. I explained how I didn’t enjoy being around anyone, not even my kids. (Gulp. Did I really just admit that out loud?) I explained that the only place that gave me any refuge was being in a dark and empty room all alone. As I waited for him to tilt his head and pretend to have a tiny bit of compassion for these terrible feelings I just laid out, he looked over at Matthew, let out a chuckle and said, “Don’t we ALL feel that way sometimes?”
Talk about a low moment. The one person I needed to understand my feelings at that moment turned my darkness into a heartless and uncaring joke.
For several dark days, I allowed myself to believe his hurtful words. But again, through the encouragement of my friends and family, I decided to find another doctor. When I confided in my new doctor about the way I’d been feeling, I will never forget her coming towards me and just wrapping me up in a big, sincere hug.
She tenderly explained that, although I felt alone, many other women go through Prenatal Depression...
Although it felt like these feelings would never go away, there WAS a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay tuned for Part II.
On a side-note, I want to give a HUGE “Thank You” to all my clients this year. Those sessions proved to be SUCH a wonderful outlet and distraction. Some of the happiest moments I felt during this dark time was when I was surrounded by my wonderful clients. Here are just a few of the great moments that made this time MUCH easier…
To continue to PART II, click here: http://christymartinphotography.com/blog/index.php/part-ii-my-junk-drawer/