• Michelle Russell
  • Who Am I?...Rediscovering Yourself after Motherhood and Childhood Trauma
Who Am I?...Rediscovering Yourself after Motherhood and Childhood Trauma
Written by
Michelle Russell
February 2012
Written by
Michelle Russell
February 2012

     I had the most insightful conversation with a close friend of mine the other week.  I love her so much. We share common struggles along with some tough mother and relationship issues.  How do you find yourself after losing yourself in motherhood for so long? How do you even begin to figure that out, especially if you were missing part of yourself to begin with due to your less than perfect childhood?

     Many woman wake up one day and say "Who am I? Do I want to be here? Is THIS all there is?"  For me I had this crisis when I was newly separated, but started about two years before I really made the commitment to change.  It's easy to get lost in your family and children. You have so many distractions. A new baby is a happy time but oh so much work.  You're running around being a mom, a wife, juggling whatever career we have. We love it since care taking is our forte, but then what about us?  Is this it?? This vortex that revolves around caring for others?  Where did that fun sexy woman go...if there ever was one??

     I was always lost. Just being real. I grew up in a backwards religious, closet alcoholic mother, controlling abusive environment.  Whew!! I had to learn to enable to escape disapproval.  As I grew up I did everything that my mother wanted.  Mind you it wasn't horrifically bad. The big thing was that I never got to chose what I wanted to do. I never got to learn what I was all about. So when I got older I tryed on different hats so to speak.  Different styles of dress, different friends, different sports, etc... I carried around a lot of anger and resentment.  It followed me everywhere.  It affected everything in my life.  Then when I got married and had children I thought that finally I would be happy. Guess what...I really wasn't. How could I truly be happy when I really didn't know myself?

     So here I was.  Newly separated.  No supportive ex to take the kids.  Alone with two children and way too much on my plate. I finally broke down to my beloved Reiki healer I saw every other week.  I hate it...I finally fessed up.  I don't like being a mother. I want to do it over again.  I should have spent more time with myself before I got married.  I wish I never got married.  I made so many bad choices but didn't realise it until now.  I was burnt out, angry, depressed, and very lost.  What do I do?

     The first thing she told me was....You're normal.  WHAT? I felt horrible. I surly just won the award for most selfish messed up mom ever. When I blurted it out in tears I was waiting to burst into flames or be stoned to death with all the crystals in the room.  I was a failure...a bad mother.  A horrible person.  Wrong. She told me to just be.  Feelings are just that...feelings.  Feel it, get it out.  She told me many women feel like that they just don't talk about it.  I'm OK, I'm normal, I'm a good person.  No stoning or lake of fire.  Whew!  Just an embarrassing whack of tears.  Next I have two contracts I signed with these two little people, so like it or not, I'm stuck.  She told me to take time to myself.  Use my support system.  When I give myself permission to feel what I do without judging myself,  the truth will show it's face.

    I did just that.  My father took my children to his farm for a few weeks.  As I let myself BE who I was at that time, I began to sort things out.  What happened was a very painful flood of memories from my childhood.  They all had to do with my lack of parenting.  Lack issues cause empty holes in our inner being.  As adults we swim around trying to fill these up with external material things, often subconsciously.  Things like sex, alcohol, drugs, friends, partying, marriage, children, religion, and life. Anything that will make us supposedly feel full and fulfilled, or to block out the void and pain we are left with.

     I have always been bent on not repeating the pattern of abuse with my children.  I did everything my parents didn't.  I loved my kids. We hugged and kissed and it was OK to be who you are.  We went to play groups, parenting groups, and followed positive parenting techniques.  I loved it, but it was all an act.  I didn't feel connected to my kids or myself as much as I thought I should. I always knew I was doing my best but was frustrated because I just wasn't fully "in it".

    During my few weeks of painful unveiling, I learned that I haven't grieved my lack of love as a child.  So I grieved it. I cried, and cried.  I wrote letters to my parents, and one to my inner child.  I forgave my mom, and became my own mom and source of strength.  I realised that I had some attachment disorder which keeps me from fully connecting with those close to me.  I dug up a lot of fear. I talked to my dad and to my surprise he shared with me his struggle with parenting and attachment because of his horrible upbringing. The more I gave myself permission to accept reality, the more I forgave my family and forgave myself.  I learned my families past, the patterns.  I understood. And it was OK. I was OK. And if I wasn't at any moment, I knew I would be. And most of all I still wanted my children. I finally had something to grow from, to build on.

     Not judging yourself is very difficult for most people.  I'm very hard on myself.  It's getting better with time. As women we judge each other the worst.  It's like a fierce competition for being the best mom, wife, sex goddess and career fiend all in one.  Mothers are the worst.  From potty training to walking to reading.  We measure our worth by our kids.  So why we are so wrapped up in the competition, we lose site of what really matters. 

     What really matters is us.  Our children watch, listen, and copy.  Children are a product of their environment.  When we neglect ourself, we teach our children that others are more important. We teach them that being a pleaser is acceptable. What others think of us is more important than just being yourself. 

     Give yourself permission to let go of all judgement.  We come into the world with judgement. Religion says we're sinners and bad from day one.  Grown ups want children to just be quiet and do as they are told.  As adults we turn into sluts, big mouths, douche bags, and weirdo's.  Strip away the labels. You are who you are for a reason and it's not bad or good.  It's just how it is. Take some inventory.  What do we enjoy? If there were no rules what would you love to do or be?  Just you, that's all we're thinking about.  Did you miss out on some things in life and have regrets?  Write them down. Just go nuts.....no rules, free will.  I missed out on a lot so I had a pretty big list. 

     Now within reason because we do have to remember our age and responsibility, can we do the things on our list?  If so, start living your life. Start to experiment with your life.  Experience it. As time goes by you will begin to feel more fulfilled and really get to know yourself better.  You will accept yourself...the whole package, and you will be the same with others.  Remember to always be conscious of others in your life.  If you are married, you don't want to just bust out on the single scene to explore your starved sexual self.  Honesty is always the policy.  If you can have the support of your partner it makes things easier.  Change makes people scared. People get comfortable and fear we will stray or they won't know us anymore.  Everyones journey is unique and it's about you.  If you honestly come to the conclusion that who you are with isn't working anymore, it's time to explore a relationship change.  Sometimes self exploration and growth brings about drastic change, so be prepared to follow through.  Good positive support with those who have your best interest in mind is very important.  Sugar coating fun easy way out friends are detrimental to our greater good.

    As soon as I made a commitment to myself a lot had to go.  My life is very different than it was four years ago.  I did the accelerated change which I don't recommend.  I have 20 years of recovery work under my belt so I already healed a lot, and I was used to dealing with personal change.  It takes practise and I still had further to go. Everything went. My husband, my house, my car, my lifestyle, my bank account and friends.  There was a lot wrong with my life.  I didn't see it, but I had faith and just went with it. I was mad, depressed, stressed, hated my new house, and didn't like the uncomfortable hopelessness I felt as I let go, adjusted, and changed, just to keep doing it over and over again. Bad dating experiences, some good ones....mostly depressing. what did I do?!  Being in an empty bad marriage was so much easier!!! 

   I stuck it out.  I went to work, I got new friends, I took my kids to counselling, I went to healers, I went to a beloved psychic, I went to my doctor for my depression.  I barely held it together, but I did. It got better.  I adjusted, my anti depressant worked, my children transferred to a great school. I moved into a beautiful house in the forest, I got new true friends, I bought a new car...cash, I'm debt free, I dated so many losers that I really learned to be picky and am really OK by myself.  Now I have a boyfriend that loves me for who I am. Yuck and all. And he's pretty nifty too.  People love him.  He's alot like me. We really enjoy each other.  Quirks and all. My friends are like that too along with my kids. 

I love being myself and that includes glam and fun.  I'm a woman and I love it.  This teaches my daughter to own her sexual self.  She's confident and in charge of her womanhood and we celebrate that in our home. She's also quirky and learning disabled with ADD.  She is the funniest, most self motivated and business savy girl of 13 I know.  I love it!  My son is quirky.  He makes me smile. His challenge is to be kind to himself, and he's uptight.   We celebrate man things too here but I empower him to chose good friends, love himself and not be a pleaser. He's fantastic.

     Taking care of yourself is not selfish. That includes body, mind, and spirit.  When I committed to my better good and jumped in both feet it was a struggle for everyone.  In the long run I taught my kids that change is OK.  You are blessed and I did what it took to give us a better life.  An emotionally healthy positive life.  It's OK to go through bad times and be human, we love each other even when it's ugly. 

     Self acceptance is the key to success in my home.  Love and loyalty is our motto.  No one is perfect but that's OK and you're great.  When I cook healthy food for my children and teach them how to eat properly and educate them on healthy living, I'm not only taking care of them, I'm taking care of myself.  When I take time to myself to meditate, exercise, spend time with friends, or do a hobby, I'm teaching them that they are important and it's OK to spend time by yourself doing things you enjoy to recharge.

      I have many alternative beliefs.  My house is full of crystals, books on self betterment, and I do many rituals and visual alters for positive change and influence.  Most of my friends are in the healing community or practise a spiritual lifestyle.  Seeing spirits, auras, and different phenomena is normal in my family.  Yes a bit odd, but it's me and my kids are OK with that.  My son loves crystals and has used them to help him with his father issues.  My daughter right now is too cool but is a cauldron of wisdom beyond her years. 

  Discovering your true self is sometimes a rocky road, and sometimes we're already almost there.  Sometimes we are already there and we just can't see it or take it for granted.  Take the time to reflect on your life at the moment.  Focus on the good, appreciate your blessings, and make goals to change the things you can.  Be kind and realistic with yourself.  Strip off the labels and love yourself where you are at. You are unique and special and so is your life.  Choose to be true to yourself and those around you that you love.  God is always there and all you have to do is ask. Whatever you need you will never be without. 

   And remember, when you find your shoes it will be a good fit. A breath of relief and fresh air.  Life will just be good. Never perfect but that's boring.  Relationships will be happy, family will just flow and everything will fit together and you won't have to try so hard to "make it work". It just will.


Stage 1 – Loss to  Safety In Stage 1 you admit to yourself  that regardless of whether or not you perceive the change to be good or 'bad"  there will be a sense of loss of what "was."

Stage 2 – Doubt to Reality In  this stage, you doubt the facts, doubt your doubts and struggle to find  information about the change that you believe is valid. Resentment, skepticism  and blame cloud your thinking.

Stage 3 – Discomfort to  Motivation You will recognize Stage 3 by the discomfort it brings. The  change and all it means has now become clear and starts to settle in.  Frustration and lethargy rule until possibility takes over.

The Danger Zone The Danger  Zone represents the pivotal place where you make the choice either to move on to  Stage 4 and discover the possibilities the change has presented or to choose  fear and return to Stage 1.

Stage 4 – Discovery to  Perspective Stage 4 represents the "light at the end of the tunnel."  Perspective, anticipation, and a willingness to make decisions give a new sense  of control and hope. You are optimistic about a good outcome because you have  choices.

Stage 5 - Understanding In  Stage 5, you understand the change and are more confident, think pragmatically,  and your behavior is much more productive. Good thing.

Stage 6 - Integration By this  time, you have regained your ability and willingness to be flexible. You have  insight into the ramifications, consequences and rewards of the change -- past,  present, and future.

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  • Heather Marsten

    I'm glad you had a friend to give you such sage advice. Our backgrounds are similar - abusive - both my parents alcoholic, I had to wear masks to survive, and learning how to parent my three children was an adventure for I had no positive role models.  My philosophy was, think about what my parents would do and do the opposite.  I'm new to this site, and exploring other's blogs. I haven't posted much yet, but soon will share some of my story online.  Looking forward to hearing more about what you are sharing.  Heather.