Five steps forward, one step away.

Sometimes, stepping away is the only thing that makes sense.

My youngest daughter was born 16 months and 3 days ago. Her birth story, which I still need to write, is my favorite of all time. The amount of joy was immeasurable.

My postpartum experience, however, has not been joyful. Knowing that I was at risk of developing postpartum depression and anxiety, I started seeing a therapist while still pregnant. We armed me with what I would need when those postpartum feels hit, and worked on recovering from a lot of ignored and banished trauma.

These 16 months have been hard. Really hard. I have been doing the shadowy work of really finding myself and accepting who I am. I have been digging deep, deeper than I have ever gone before. While in the sacred and safe space of my therapist’s office I am able to do that work, to reach and explore. Unfortunately, I am only there for an hour a week and then I have to exist in the less sacred and less safe space of the world. A few months ago, it became overwhelming. I needed to build some temporary walls and withdraw into the depths of my consciousness to really focus on myself.

This meant leaving most social media, hitting pause on this blog, and loosing touch with friends and acquaintances. It also meant saying no and learning how to, for the first time in my life, set some serious boundaries and stick to them. I focused on myself, without guilt or obligations to others (except for my three young children). I meditated, I did self care, I cried, I laughed, I got to know myself.

An amazing thing happened; I discovered a person who I really liked. Who I now love. I discovered a flawed, beautiful, self assured person. I discovered a person who took the voices of social norms and the opinion of others and tossed them aside and instead listened to her own inner voice. I discovered me, a me who had been so hidden by trauma and fear and shame and perceived threats that I had yet to really meet her.

This self realization and introduction has manifested in several ways. Some are visible but most are subtle. I no longer feel a wash of panic when I am met with criticism. I don’t worry about what others may think of me and instead base my self worth on how I feel about myself. I listen to my instincts. I say no. A lot. And do not feel guilty for doing so. I set boundaries! Lots of beautiful boundaries.

I have lost just as much as I have gained these past 16 months. There are people I once loved that simply faded away as I focused on myself. There are other people who seemed to be drawn in by my work and those are the people I am so grateful for. The people who checked in. The ones who knew I was struggling and still had faith that I’d come through a better person for it.

I have a lot of work to do still. I am a work in progress and will likely always be. Growing and living are a perpetual spiral, one that I am excited to be on.

Right now, in this moment, I am truly grateful to have this platform, to have my readers, to have my health, my family, and those who stuck by me. I look forward to getting to know myself even more and to do that hard shadowy work.

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