Woman, Actually is the little corner of BuzzFeed where Mariela Summerhays writes about everything and anything to do with being a millennial mother — a woman first, mother second. Yes, you'll read about the glorious struggle and joy of child-rearing — but also about relationships, mental health and more. Because as it turns out, growing up doesn't stop at motherhood.
Trigger warning: This post discusses suffering mental health and may be triggering for some readers.
“I HOPE THIS finds you well.
But if it doesn’t, I'm so sorry for whatever you're carrying right now. You must be tired.”
That’s how the first draft of this post began — and this final one, too, I guess — before it went some ways into trying to convince you that you are wonderful, and that I know it, despite not ever having met you. I pointed to little moments I cherish, given to me by people who will not now recall I exist, and that just as surely, you are the catalyst for similar moments without your knowing so. It went as follows:
“I know you’re wonderful, because I once was sitting alone in a cafe, in a city not my own, and a woman came up to me, just to tell me she liked my freckles. There’s no way she could’ve sensed, but I’ve always been fond of them and it felt wonderful to have someone think they’re lovely, too.
Over a decade later, I still remember my Year 8 English teacher, who spared some minutes after school to read my awful poetry, which I look back on with gratitude, though she will never know.
And a nurse, in the final hours of a night shift, made me laugh through my labouring pain, while we waited for my obstetrician to arrive — before going home and probably never thinking of me again. But it made all the difference to me in my fear.
I am not the last stranger with freckles in Downtown LA; no doubt Mrs White encountered so many more aspiring teenage writers; and there have since been so many first-time mothers in that mint green birthing suite. But for me, there will only be those three who could’ve given me those specific moments of joy and comfort.”
I WAS OKAY that day. That first draft probably caught me in a moment when I felt buoyed by momentum I’ve gathered by working at the publication from where you read this. Maybe my daughter shouted an extra, “I’ll miss you so much!”, on her way out the door to go to school. Or perhaps I actually went on a walk during my lunch break, instead of working through it. So I wrote — with only the best of intentions — about little, joyful moments that I believe are worth living for. I regret that you might’ve read that draft.
Because today, if I’m being honest, I’m not okay. And I’m needing to draw from more than memories of compliments on my freckles and kindly nurses to get through it.
TODAY, I FEEL so far from the person I was meant to be. Whether it’s how lonely I feel, how often I fall short at whatever I turn my hand to, the relationships I break — today, I don’t like myself very much. I don’t know why you clicked through to this post. It may have been curiosity, maybe an accident. If, however, you intentionally clicked through with the hope of recognition, and still, your grief or pain has not been reflected in these words, I can only offer you what I sincerely wish to hear from another person and hope it resonates with you:
You are worth saving. You are loveable — not just by people who only know the parts of you that are palatable or beautiful, but by people, maybe you’ve yet to meet, who will know the ugly and destructive, too. I know you’re tired, but to every problem there is a solution and yours is closer than you think.
I know I’m not the person you’d like to hear this from — and if they knew to, or knew how, please believe that the person who just came to mind would tell you, too. Though there isn’t much of that first draft I feel is worth keeping, I do stand by the last line — and please believe I mean it, from the bottom of my heart:
“Should we ever meet, I hope to find you well.”
R U OK? Day is a national suicide prevention day in Australia, encouraging Aussies to check in with their mates and raise awareness about what to say when in fact, there is something more going on. Find out more about the movement here, and please, this year maybe more than ever, ask your mates if they're okay. A conversation could change a life.