Mrs. Siri Posts
The kids started preschool this week. The freedom the morning now brings is exhilarating and terrifying. I feel the shoulds piling up in my brain. In the three hours they are at school I should conquer my world – organize the house, grocery shop, meal prep, do laundry, go to yoga, study, meditate – and pick them up feeling accomplished, rested, and energized.
I headed to Safeway after dropping them off this morning and passed by Mission Oaks. I pass by Mission Oaks several times a week but today felt different. It has been a year and a week since I was at Mission Oaks. Life is completely different. But the pressure that swims in the back of my head remains. I have refined my coping strategies. I have built a support network that I force myself to use. I have made significant changes. But the pressure remains.
In the lonely quiet moments there is a question mark that taunts me. What now? Why? What am I doing? Does it matter? The kids are at school and loving it. I have a routine again. I have the support I need to accomplish whatever I want. And I believe I am pursing what I want. I practice yoga regularly and am training to teach hot yoga. I am involved at my synagogue and am studying for my b’nai mitzvah. I sing in the choir. I serve on the board of Post:ballet. I diligently maintain relationships with my friends. I have visited my family several times already this year. I have a weekly date night with my husband. But when I stop and look and really admit it, the questions dance around a hole I can’t explain.
My children are amazing, curious, friendly, loving individuals. My husband is a rock star who feels connected with and supported by me. My relationships with friends and family are strong and meaningful. I have worked tirelessly and diligently because I set these goals a year ago. I decided what was important to me and what I needed to find meaning in life. I looked externally and internally, and yet I’m still nagged by this feeling.
And overall I wonder – now what?
I couldn’t breath. I was sitting at my kitchen table but I was drowning. Over the past couple weeks I had become painfully aware of the fact that I was treading water and quickly losing my strength. But now the dam had broke. I felt the water crash over my body and the brute force of the water pushing me down. I knew I was breathing. I knew I was sitting at my kitchen table. Yet at the same time I felt the water crushing me. I pulled upon all my strength and stumbled to my bed to wait for my kids to wake up. I held fast to the belief that when their perfect eyes opened the depression couldn’t touch me.
But this was different. It wasn’t the feeling of hopelessness and apathy I had felt while my children had slept in the months prior. That feeling had developed from extreme fatigue to a hazy confusion to a longing for nothingness over the months. It wasn’t that I wanted to end my life, but I longed for nothing. I could see it in my brain. A white, clean, silent space with no sound, no emotion. It was the only peace I could imagine to escape the demon that twisted its way into my brain, into my core. I simply wanted nothing.
Two weeks prior I had been diagnosed with postpartum depression. It was so painfully, laughably obvious that I didn’t flinch when it was said. Yet the acknowledgement of its existence brought a profound shift. Life came into stark focus. I had wondered in the few short weeks after my daughter’s birth if I had postpartum depression, but I was told how great I was doing despite how difficult it was. My children are 16 months apart. I had a baby who was barely toddling and a baby who was barely out of the womb. How did I expect to feel? This was normal. I can do this. I will put my head down. I will swallow every scream of pain and fear. I will treasure my children and put them above me. I beat the mantra into my head, so when asked at my 6 week postpartum appointment I said I was doing great. I continued to say it and believe it, and pile more responsibility upon myself for months as I desperately fought to feel like myself again. And more so, desperately fought to hide any hint that something was wrong.
Then the dam broke. The children woke the next morning and I could barely move. I was terrified of what would happen next. I felt my mind slipping away from me. I asked my husband to take me to the ER. One of my son’s books has the line he felt an uh oh in his heart. As we waited for test results, a guard came and stood by my door. I felt an uh oh in my heart.
I was put on psychiatric hold and taken to Mission Oaks. I have had pain in my life. But nothing touches on the pain I felt that night knowing it was no longer my choice when I would see my children again. Even now I can’t think of it without tears coming to my eyes – the desperation to hold them and kiss them and promise them everything would be ok. But I didn’t know if or when it would be ok. I had lost my mind and now I had lost my free will.
Mission Oaks will be a place I will hold in my heart for the rest of my life. It gave me a hard reset. It reminded me that I am a person of worth. My family and closest friends rallied behind me, coming to visit me and calling me throughout the three days I was there. I slept for the first time in six months. My angel of a nurse brought me coffee every morning. I met a young woman who is unfathomably awe-inspiring. We walked the small loop of a hallway in the lockdown area endlessly between group sessions and drew inspiration from each other. Mission Oaks brought an abrupt end to the journey I was on and let me breath. I began to feel the depression snaking around my head and realized for the first time it was not me.
Life is full of shoulds. Once kids enter the scene the enormous pressure those shoulds bring is suffocating. My children are now 2.5 and 1 year old. In the few short years I have been a mom I have been drowning in shoulds. I should have a perfectly organized house at the end of each day. I should have fresh, well rounded snacks at the ready regardless of where we are at any given moment. I should know every detail of each stage of development and encourage my children in the appropriate activity to ensure they are reaching every milestone on time – or a little early.
These shoulds aren’t limited to the kids. I should be perfectly put together every time I leave the house. I should be unfazed by tantrums and take everything in stride. I should be an active part of my community and make a positive impact on the greater good every day. I should continue to be a well rounded adult bursting with well articulated ideas that stretch beyond child-rearing. In short, I should not be just a mom.
Articulating all of the shoulds swimming around my brain makes the entire situation seem laughable. Sadly the realization that I am living in a world of shoulds is very recent. In the past year I have suffered through postpartum depression and a complete loss of identity with the joy in my kids as my only stronghold.
I have made a commitment to myself that I will no longer think in should. Rather I am looking at life through a new lens. Instead of feeling that I should do something, I am asking what is my intention behind that action. I am looking at the world from the inside out, not the outside in. Will this serve me and my family? Can it meet my desired outcome? And more so, is that outcome truly my genuine desire or does it meet a notion of who I think I should be?
My story is not unique, but I hope that by sharing my journey and returning to Mrs. Siri I can create a place for others to evaluate and shrug off their shoulds.
Last weekend I attended a Tech Mixer at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I received my Bachelor degree from the Conservatory and absolutely love the building at 50 Oak Street. (Though I graduated the school year before the big move and never fully enjoyed all of the perks of the space.)
SHN has made this season a truly social experience, which is a lesson worth learning. We do not experience art in a vacuum. We are influenced by our city, our neighbors, our friends, and the person sitting next to us in the theatre. The more local art groups can facilitate this sense of community amongst individual audience members, the more enriching an experience the art will be, and in turn the stronger the relationship will be with that individual and the organization.
I first set out to share my story as Mrs. Siri shortly after moving to Cupertino from San Francisco in the Spring of 2012. After Siri had made her big unveil with iOS 5, I realized she would be a permanent fixture in our life and it was not to make the move to the mothership. I needed to share the strange new world I had found myself in as being an Apple Wife in Silicon Valley.
People keep asking me when I haven’t blogged recently. Well, it turns out life in Cupertino is boring and does not lend itself to exciting posts. For example, we went to a street fair in Mountain View last month. Maybe my expectations were set too high from all the festivals I’d been to in San Francisco.
This weekend I made my first venture to the Tech Museum. I’ve been pestering my husband about going for awhile, but for some reason he didn’t get that a tech museum in the heart of Silicon Valley would be incredibly well-funded. Well, let me tell you – it was awesome! It was like the Exploratorium but on speed and completely adult-friendly.
I ventured onto Twitter for the first time this week. I know, I know, I am so behind the times and totally not cool, but I never really understood the draw before. Now that I’ve been dangling my toes in the bird bath for a couple days I’m starting to get it.