We all have negative thoughts. But the negative thoughts that accompany me in the middle of the night, when I’m awoken by my son, have a stronger hold. These thoughts are angry and bitter. They are lies that I find so easy to believe in my desperation. In the darkness of the night, I feel the darkness come over me.
Maybe you relate. And I hope you know too, these angry thoughts that have you believing you’re at the end of your rope are LIES. Lies like these:
I can’t do this anymore.
I hate this.
I’m not cut out for this.
Why did I think I could be a mom?
Why won’t he go back to bed?
Today is going to suck.
I want to run away.
I just don’t care anymore.
When I believe them and hold on to them, they win. They control me. They control how I talk to my son. They make me angry with him. They make me curt with him. They keep me simmering throughout the day, irritable and on edge. They keep me from being the best version of myself as a wife, mother, and person.
As a therapist, I’ve made a living out of helping people not believe what they think. I’ve coached them on positive thinking, mindfulness, and relaxation. I’ve talked people through their judgments and negative self-talk. But, in the midnight hour, I forget all those skills somehow. My brainpower and willpower are minimal. I feel depleted, empty, a small shred of the person I usually am.
Each night I come to a crossroads in the mist of sleep deprivation. I can choose the path to believe my sleep deprived thoughts, carry on feeling sorry for myself, and hold on to resentment towards everything that contributes to them- my son, my choice to be a mother, my husband for having a lucrative career and thus not being the primary wake-up-at-night person. Or I can choose that, in spite of these thoughts, I will still get up and respond to my son’s needs. I will wake up before I’m ready and begin the day believing that I am still a good mom because my sleep deprivation isn’t the cause of the me being a bad one, it’s an effect of me being a good one.
I’ve realized that we are not the summation of our thoughts, but the substance of our actions. We are the willingness to go to that crib and pick up our screaming child. We are the rocking, the soothing, the gentle lullabies. We are the going to get water, the looking for monsters, the telling that the nightmare wasn’t real. We are the willingness to do this night, after night, after night. We are the love it takes to do all of this in spite of those dark thoughts, in spite of feeling like we have nothing left to give.
We may trudge back to bed or sink into that rocking chair with great heaviness and little hope, but we did it, and we didn’t give up, even though we wanted to so much. We are the fight, not the thoughts.
Originally published on fullmotherhood.com