“A year ago, I looked through a window and saw a broken woman. This newly divorced Mom and her 1 year old stared back at me, looking depleted and hopeless and my heart tore in two. ‘Hey, God! This woman looks like she could really use a break! Want to intervene here?’ I shouted. Silence. I looked around. ‘Anyone? I’m not playing around; this woman looks like crap!’ Nothing. With a heavy heart I turned back to the window. My eyes met this woman’s gaze and I sighed. She sighed along with me. I cried. She cried. And suddenly it hit me. This wasn’t a window. I was looking in a mirror. This woman was me. I fell to the ground and cried. How did my life land here? I was 24 years old. I was a college student and a mother, filled with dreams, hopes and aspirations and suddenly I was alone. I was broken and I couldn’t get up.
I spent a long time down on that ground. There were nights I went to bed with such a deep pain in my heart that I wished I wouldn’t wake up. Then, I remembered my son and I vowed to do my best to be there for him no matter what. I gave my son life, but he’s kept me alive this year. His smile, his laugh, his innocent little heart tugs at my strings every day and reminds me why I keep going. He’s my biggest fan, my cutest cheerleader and he pushes me to do better every day.
The thing about getting divorced is that it’s not really that a big of a deal. I mean, at least that’s what people try to tell you. ‘50% of all marriages end in divorce, so really you just lost a pretty fair gamble…’ The thing they don’t tell you, is that if you’re lucky enough to win the coin toss, your life turns upside down and your heart is pretty much ripped from your chest. For a while, every day is excruciating as you try to adjust to a new normal. It doesn’t matter how miserable you were before. ‘But isn’t it better than before?’ is not a consolation. I mean, having cancer might sound worse than having a kidney disease, but really, they both suck. They’re different. And they’re both hard. The dynamics of my day to day may have shifted but letting go of some of the old difficulties only brought about a whole new set of challenges.
At first, I fought the sadness and the anger. ‘I’m a superwoman!’ I thought. ‘I can be a full-time student, a single Mom, a business owner, a volunteer, a good friend, a daughter, a sister, get involved in community work AND be a sane person, all while going through a divorce!’ Spoiler alert: I was wrong. I didn’t give myself any time to process the experience, and I masked all of my emotions and pain by pretending they didn’t exist. ‘Wow, you’re so amazing! You’re doing so well!’ was literally the most popular comment during the first 6 months after my divorce. Hearing how well I was supposedly doing, gave me more reasons to bury my struggles and I fooled even myself. I’m that good.
Every day I pushed myself past all my limits, and eventually it started catching up with me. I was falling apart inside, and I was failing miserably at taking care of the biggest responsibility I have. Myself. I wasn’t sleeping, eating well or taking time for self-care. Popular phrase, I know. It was the popular thing to do in all the Mommy Groups on Facebook, but I didn’t think that I needed it. Because I was SUPERMOM! And everyone around me knew it too. Being so functional on the outside, when you’re ripping at the seams on the inside is really exhausting. I didn’t let myself ask for help, because I feared looking like a failure.
Why did I resist asking for help? I was surrounded by people who cared about me and loved me and would’ve stepped in if I let them. Why was everyone always so quick to make sure I knew just how ‘amazing’ they thought I was doing? Why didn’t anyone ever say to me ‘Hey girl, you probably feel like crap, and that’s okay. Take it easy, forgive yourself for the things you didn’t accomplish today, and know that it’s okay to ask for help.’
I came to realize that people are uncomfortable with other people’s struggles. To make ourselves feel better about the ugly truth, we tell ourselves that ‘she’s fine, she’s amazing, she’s such a functional person.’ If the person on the other end of the line isn’t spiraling out of control, we like to assume they are doing really well. Maybe it makes the struggle easier to understand. Maybe, if our friend isn’t abusing drugs or suffering from depression their challenge isn’t as hard as we thought it was, and we don’t need to keep asking ourselves how bad things happen to good people.
But why aren’t we allowed to fall apart? Why do we try so hard to keep it together every day, even when we’re killing ourselves in the process? Why can’t we shout to the world ‘I’m hurting, I’m struggling, I’ve hit a rough patch, and I need help!’ and not be seen as a failure. Why are we only told ‘you’re doing so well’ when we have our crap together?
I think we’re afraid to admit the truth. The truth is, we all need help. Even if you’re not a single mom or a full-time student; we all need help to survive. The thing about truth is that it’s not glamourous or perfect. Superwoman doesn’t need help making dinner or taking care of her kids. Superwoman is on her game at school, and she never yells or gets frustrated. Superwoman doesn’t, but the rest of us do. Let’s be real, life is tough and we’re not perfect.
Over the course of this year I’ve learned to accept my struggles and to embrace my pain. I cry, I mope, I get sad and frustrated. I have good days and bad days, and I love myself equally at the end of both. I focus on me and spend some time each day thinking about my needs and my wants. I have built a strong support system, and I am slowly getting more comfortable asking for help. When I find the courage to know my limits, I feel stronger, not weaker. I give my son my love and attention and sometimes I sleep in and let Peppa Pig babysit. I set aside ‘self-care days’ that allow me to set aside my other responsibilities and take care of my healing heart. I go to therapy and other support groups and I am slowly processing the pain of many years. I grieve, and I move forward. I started a business and I consistently find ways to improve my relationship with my amazing business partner. I don’t hide when I’m struggling, and I don’t pretend to have it all together. I have gotten involved in projects to help other single Moms and I have learned to delegate and not overextend myself. I am learning to set boundaries and to prioritize myself and my own needs. I am the happiest I’ve ever been, yet my life is the hardest it’s ever been.
Whoever you are, whatever you’re struggling with today, I feel you. Life is really damn hard. Some days it feels unbearable. Don’t run from your truth, scream it to the world. Feel that pain. Embrace the challenge. Don’t forget to look around you. We’re all struggling. Your perfect neighbor. The Moms in your PTA. Your boss. Your role models. The actors on TV. They’re human and they’re struggling too.
Nobody’s perfect, so I’m going to stop pretending to be and I’m going to just be me.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sara Serkez, 25, of Passaic, New Jersey. Follow her on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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