Before my children were born, and when they were babies, I wrote about everything in my life. Writing was the only way I could really wrap my mind around the strangeness of it—or, rather, my strange disconnect from the total un-strangeness of it.
And then I stopped writing.
It wasn’t that I got a better handle on things. Far from it. As I continued to not get used to the way life had turned out (the privileged, “normative,” un-strangeness of husband, house, kitty, two cars, two children, stay-at-home-motherhood, cooked-from-scratch meals, deep emptiness) I turned the disconnect against my voice. I let the shame at having so much and feeling so little take over and shut me down.
I was slowly sinking in a swamp of depression and eating disorders. All I could think to write about was my sadness and the size of my body. I’d prided myself on being authentic, but when I ventured into writing about mood and food, the feedback was vicious. There was positive feedback, too. But that didn’t matter when the comments became questions:
How could you do that to your daughter?
Don’t you realize your children are watching you?
If you knew you had mental health problems, why did you even have children?
The final push was an anonymous comment that I’m almost certain came from someone I know. Someone I thought didn’t follow me, and who I hoped would never hunt me down on the Internet found me. (Which, as I write it now, sounds completely naive. Just because someone doesn’t “follow” you online doesn’t mean they don’t follow you online.)
I knew the answers to all of the above questions when they appeared. The authentic, freeing response would’ve been to write those answers. Not for the questioners, but for myself. Tell the story of generational fucked-up-ness about food, and all the “eat as I say, not as I eat” that goes on between mothers and daughters. Write about the little “I”s spying with little eyes, and my elaborate rituals of sneaking and hiding to evade them. Describe feeling broken in my mind, and in my heart—always, every day—and believing so fiercely that motherhood was the only thing that could fix me. Write about the prayer that having children would transform me into a “real” girl—someone lovable and worthy and good.
Tell that story.
But Anonymous’s familiar tone scared me into silence, long after the sting of the questions had subsided.
I let one person—who I may or may not actually know in “real life”—take writing away from me because I was afraid of getting hurt again.
But not writing hurts me more than that one person ever could.
I’m opening back up to the eveyday-storyteller in me, dragging shame out into the light, and re-connecting to myself as a writer.