I, like many others, get by with a little help from my therapist. Each week, I find a quiet space to meet with her online, and I close the door. Sometimes it’s my car door as it sits in the driveway, sometimes it’s the door to my daughter’s bedroom while she’s at daycare. A quiet space is a quiet space, after all.
In the near solitude, I feel like I can say the things that seem wrong or terrifying to say when the door is open and everyone can hear. I don’t like the kind of mom that I am. I’m scared. I don’t know what I’m doing. Everyone seems to be enjoying every minute with their kids and I don’t feel that way. Oh, and I, too, make it seem like I’m enjoying every minute with my kids. I don’t want to pretend. I feel overwhelmed. It’s too much.
It’s the things I say behind the closed door of my own heart and mind.
But scary thoughts grow bigger horns when they stay locked in, with only myself to face them.
So I crack the door and let my therapist into the mess. And what happens? The messiest magic you could (or, maybe, could never) imagine.
I opened the door and I said the scary thing and I wasn’t sent down some chute of shame like Veruca Salt in “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.” Not only was I heard, I was affirmed in some of the overwhelming feelings I was having about, in this case, motherhood.
I was not automatically ridded of my feelings. I didn’t suddenly become the perfect mom (whatever that is). I didn’t even, in the days following that session, love all of the parenting moments or how I was showing up to them. But something was released when I invited another person into the big room of my dark thoughts. The horns of those monstrous thoughts shrank a bit. I felt heard and validated, returning to the reality that I ultimately knew still exists: Most, if not all, parents face a similar monster in the privacy of their own closed-door mind. This work is hard work.
As I write this, I recognize that I’m opening the door a little bit wider and letting you in. It’s a scary and vulnerable practice. Not everyone will respond in the way my therapist did. And yet, the more I let people enter into what I’m feeling and experiencing, the greater the chance I will be seen and heard. It’s hard to feel joined in a barricaded room.
Two of the most relieving words I’ve ever heard are “me, too.” They’re a healing balm without the ointment residue. But there has to be at least another person if there’s going to be a “too,” and that requires that I turn the handle on the door and say yes to more than just me.
It’s risky. It’s brave. It’s the only thing that will cut off those intimidating horns. It’s the messiest magic.
Mallory Redmond embraces anomalies—she is an adventure-loving homebody who keeps a clean house yet always makes a mess while eating or brushing her teeth. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. Mallory and her husband, Darren, live in Ohio with their beagle, Roger, and their two daughters. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.