Awakening Goddess: Empowering the Goddess Within

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Mental Illness, Judgment, and Habit: 3 Most Important Lessons I've Learned as a Mother

I’m waiting here, on the precipice of another rebirth, contemplating what I’ve learned during this long, quiet gestation.  Any day now, I’ll be reborn as a mother of two, and this baby is already teaching me, and reinforcing lessons I learned from my first, like how to relax when confronted with things beyond my control. 

Today I find myself reflecting on the most important lessons I’ve learned since becoming a mother of one six years ago.  In no particular order, here are my top three.

 

I’ve learned how to heal myself of mental illness.

Six years and a couple weeks ago, I was reborn giving birth to my first child.  I transitioned from Maiden to Mother, but I still had a lot of growing up to do.  The birth itself, while beautiful and empowering and perfect, was not enough to cure me of the Major Depressive Disorder or the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that marred my life since early childhood.

My first couple years as a mother were nothing like I ever envisioned.  I loved my child but I hated myself, and in hating myself I sabotaged my ability to mother, and my bond with him.  I’d dreamed of being a mother since I was a child, and in those dreams having the unconditional love of children healed me, giving me no option but to love unconditionally back.  I dreamed of gentle parenting, deep connection with my children, peace and patience in my heart.

Ha!  Did I ever have it backwards!

In the last six years I have learned that if I want to be a gentle parent, if I want a deep connection with my children and peace and patience in my heart, then I have to develop those things inside myself actively, consistently.  I have to work for them.  I have to take care of myself.  I have to make sleep, nutrition, relaxation, and bonding my top priorities every day or risk slipping back into the self-sabotaging habits of my youth.

And I have learned that it’s SO worth it.  That my child, and my relationship with him is worth every struggle, every humbling realization, every setback, every climb back on track.

 

I’ve learned the nature, purpose, and drawbacks of judgment.

I learned more about judgment from Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, a journalist, than I ever did in my undergrad psychology classes.  I’ve found that experts are often so close to their subject of expertise they have a hard time pulling out to see how what they know fits in the bigger picture.  It is perspective, holistic observation, that I find most valuable, and learning about the mechanics and uses of snap judgments in the form presented by Gladwell’s book shifted my perspective in a way I’ve found practical and useful.

It may be human nature to pass judgment, a skill that helps us sort through the overwhelming amounts of information we take in every moment.  By becoming aware of our judgments, we can learn a ton about ourselves and our values.

However, passing judgment on others teaches us only one thing about that other person – whether or not we ourselves accept or reject that person.  That’s it.  All our labelling of people, all our anger or admiration towards them, our desire to reward or punish them for being like or different from our ideals, all that says tons about us…and nothing about them.

Sometimes I’ll catch the judgmental thoughts in my head and realize all I’m saying is that I’m in a bad mood.  My needs aren’t being met, so I’m calling people names and thinking about how wrong they are, like that’s going to help! 

This is a skill I learned from Nonviolent Communication, by the recently passed and greatly missed Marshall Rosenberg.  This is probably the most important book I’ve ever read and re-read, in terms of my desire to make this world a better place by being a better person and raising better people.

The skill of catching myself being violent in thought, passing judgment instead of practicing compassion, has been instrumental – essential – in turning my life around.  Nonviolent communication was the key that gave the practices of positive thinking, affirmations, mantras, and the Law of Attraction real and lasting results for my mental health and living by my values.

 

I’ve learned how to change my habits, and how to fail at changing my habits.

During a bout of nesting a couple weeks ago, I came across a box of old notebooks, some of them over a decade old.  In each notebook I found several lists of goals, and I was startled to see how many of those goals match my current goals list.  Though I have changed much over the last decade, my core values and life goals have not changed much at all.  So why haven’t I reached more of them?

Last Year I read The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, another journalist.  This one wasn’t as transformative for me as the other books I’ve mentioned, but it was entertaining and did help me understand my own habits better, and how I’ve succeeded in changing them in the past.  The realizations inspired by this book helped me form a practical plan to cross off more of the goals on my oldest lists.  I’m good at planning how to reach goals.

I’m not so good and implementing those plans.  This is embarrassing to admit, because I love working as a life coach and helping others implement their plans and reach their goals.

My mantra this year is, “Be the Change.”  I want to inspire and help people, including my kids, by my example more than by my words.  I am aware that the choices I make today, in this moment, are becoming my habits, and that the power to choose is always right now.

The way to change my habits and reach my goals is to be present and to actively choose to form a new habit consciously, consistently, now.  I’ve had success doing this, and I will have more success today and every day.  I put up reminders for myself on my devices and in the rooms where I spend the most time.  I practice visualizing my goals as if I’ve already reached them, and being thankful in the moment.

The way to fail is to allow myself to fall into the escapist patterns of my youth.  I was a miserable child and young adult, struggling with that depression and anxiety I mentioned earlier, along with self-hatred, so escaping into fictional worlds in books, video games, TV shows, and movies, along with overeating junk food, were my forms of self-medication. 

Since my taste in media gives my son nightmares, nowadays my self-medication of choice falls to junk food and novels.  During times of stress, I can lose weeks reading and re-reading my favorite fiction series all day every day.

It’s an addiction.  I quit smoking cold turkey seven years ago, but damned if I can quit reading fiction.  I don’t want to quit reading.  Reading is good.  I just want to read for shorter periods of time, freeing up more time to accomplish my goals and be a good mom.

So that’s my most important goal for 2015 – to train myself to read for short periods of time, with time between reading sessions dedicated to accomplishing other goals and taking the best care of my children.

In the last couple of weeks, waiting on my second son to be born, I’ve had a lot of success with this goal.  Once my son is here, I’ll be facing sleep deprivation and resolving emotional scars from my first son’s babyhood that raising a baby will no doubt bring to surface for me, along with stressors I can’t even imagine yet.  I’ll need a support system to help me stay present and healthy.  Thank goodness this time around I have so many wonderful mama friends.

 

So there they are, the top three most important lessons I’ve learned so far as an adult woman, as Mother.

 

How about you?  What are the most important life lessons you have learned over the years?  Let’s share our wisdom!  Leave me your answers in the comments below.

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Ashley Rae published her first book, a memoir, in 2012, and has been a professional psychic, healer, and teacher since 2003. Ashley's goal in life is to help you empower the divine spark within yourself so that you can love yourself freely, make your life awesome, and make this world a more beautiful, compassionate place. Visit her website to check out her other blog, find out her schedule, book an appointment and register for her classes.

Comments

  • Molly
    Molly Monday, 16 February 2015

    Important observations. Congratulations on the upcoming new baby and best wishes for a nurturing, healing, beautiful postpartum babymoon with him.

  • Ashley Rae
    Ashley Rae Friday, 27 February 2015

    Thank you, Molly. y baby was stillborn. I am writing about his birth and the aftermath today.

  • Molly
    Molly Monday, 16 February 2015

    Oh, and you might find some of my past posts about postpartum helpful: http://talkbirth.me/category/postpartum/

  • Niki
    Niki Saturday, 21 March 2015

    Catching up on blog posts from my favorite bloggers and people today...I didn't even finish reading before I went and bought a copy of Blink for my Kindle. So what are some of my life lessons...right now the one that has been front and center is Have Courage. Speak Out....I wrote about it this week: http://circleoflightministries.net/have-courage-speak-out/. Another one is to nourish myself. In order to help others heal, I need to continue my own healing, and in order to do that I need to nourish myself. Thanks for sharing, Ash.

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