“Have a nice day, love.”
“Thanks, mate.” I hopped out of the cab three blocks from my house to walk the rest of the way home. It had been nearly four years since I moved to Sydney, Australia from Boston and I was now a top executive, with a networking crowd and full inclusion in the advertising industry. I loved it. I was learning new things all the time and embracing every new twist and turn that life was throwing at me. This was living.
As I walked around the back roads of Paddington, I peered into the terrace houses and thought about what my life would be like permanently living here. How fabulous it would be to have a pub on nearly every corner. The weather was always good, compared to the weather I grew up with in Boston and although I never thought I’d settle down in a city, Sydney was pretty amazing. I started to think about my future life. I had an amazing husband and I was now acclimated to life in Sydney with a job and friends and yet I felt unsatisfied. What did I want?
I walked into my terraced house, threw my things on the couch, went straight into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of wine. With wine in hand, I collapsed on the couch and thought. I thought about how I felt safe, confident, and so in love with my husband. I had a great career. I was enjoying my life. But it was the love. I was absolutely overwhelmed with love for everything and knew right then my life would be amazing. How perfect it could all be. The front door opened, interrupting my thoughts, as my husband arrived homed.
“Hi sweetheart.” He smiled and greeted me with a kiss and a hug.
“Guess what!” I said with a smile as big as the Cheshire Cat.
“What? Did you finalise your program at work?” My husband and I met at work nearly 8 years prior, so he was always a good sounding board when it came to work stuff.
“No. No.. This isn’t about work.”
“Ahh – ok – what’s up?”
“I WANT a baby!”
My husband called it the frying pan moment. I can imagine as my news felt like a frying pan thwarting him on the head out of nowhere. But for me, I wanted more. I wanted to feel more and do more! A twinge of excitement, uneasiness, adventure and love ran through my body at the idea of being a Mum. A Mum with a high powered job, a great salary, looking fabulous and being busy left and right making everything perfect for the little human my husband and I created. I wanted it all.
I can’t do this anymore. The tears come all the time. This is not what my life was meant to be. My little baby boy is so beautiful but I am not meant to be a mother. I hate it! Every time he cries it’s like a lightning bolt through my veins. I can’t figure this whole thing out. I don’t know what to do. I’m so scared I’m going to do something wrong. And yet he still cries. And I cry with him. I don’t want this anymore. Today was not a good day. After lunch he was supposed to sleep. But he didn’t. And then he passed his nap time and I guess he was overtired, I don’t know, so the crying just continued. I didn’t know what to do and it was all just too much. I grabbed him, shouted right into his face – “STOP CRYING!!” -and then nearly threw him into his baby rocker. The guilt, the horror, of what I had just done was overwhelming. And all I could hear was his screaming at me and my screaming in my head. All I could see was his tiny red face and his tears through my own tear-driven blurry vision. It was all too much. I just curled up into a ball on the cold kitchen floor with my hands over my ears and cried. The next thing I knew, my husband picked me up off the floor and held me. The baby was asleep and I must’ve been too.”
Post Natal Depression is debilitating. When you can’t think, never mind think straight, the rest of your brain and body are no longer able to help you flourish, instead, keeping you in the spiral of rumination and depression. But it was this spiral, this pit, this horrendous experience that brought me to Noleen, the therapist who saved my life.
‘Here Draw. Draw what you want in life. I’ll be right back.’ My Therapist turned, walked over to the counter and made a cup of tea. She left me alone with my thoughts, paper and coloured pencils.
I drew a pale yellow Georgian house, three windows up top and two on the bottom. I drew an attached “extension” that looked like a barn on the right. On the left was a stone patio with a pergola and grape vines. The circular driveway had a sculpture in the middle. Once I was happy with the drawing, I turned over the paper and drew on the back. I drew the back view of the house with wide open Australian retracting doors, a large patio and a barbecue. I used greens, yellows and greys, with the exception of the bright red front door. She never sat down until I told her I was finished and then she had a look.
‘Why a Georgian home?’ she asked.
‘Because of its symmetry and grandeur.’
‘Why the green plants, the ivy, the grape vines?’ I smiled, looking at my childlike drawing.
“Because they’re alive and it’s wine and I want to grow things.”
‘Why the bright red door? Why the sun in the sky? Why the sculpture and the circular drive? Why the wide open doors and windows at the back? And why are there books lining the inside of your great room?’
I was about to start to explain why, but she continued with her thoughtful analysis. ‘I don’t know why. Only you know why. But let me tell you what I see. I see an international, open, efficient, independent, sturdy family home, with a bright sun shining. I see an honest, trustworthy building that is confident in its position on the land. I see an ever-learning environment complete with books and creative spaces. I see you, Beth. Do you see you?’ The tears came and within seconds I was sobbing. I crossed my arms and dropped my head. ‘Well done, Beth. Give yourself a hug. You’ve done it.’
This was my last session with my therapist and I was feeling very thankful. As we stood up to part she had one last question for me. “So tell me, why did you come here?”
“Because I have depression.” I smiled, no tears, just acceptance. She walked me toward the door. There was no hug, no kiss, just a handshake. She knew what she was doing and did her job perfectly. She worked for me. And as I turned around to say goodbye, she said, “Everyone does Beth.”
We moved to Ireland in 2011, into a beautiful home. Look familiar?
2011 – 2013
There’s nothing better than being broken. At least that’s what my friend Scott says and I believe he’s right. The key to being broken is to learn from it and improve. We spent a year in Ireland but just couldn’t make life work. We were broken.
In 2012 my husband and I moved from Ireland to Singapore to take advantage of a job opportunity and another adventure. That adventure taught me a great deal about how to open up to change and how understanding culture, even your own, is one of the key components to getting what you want.
In 2013, we welcomed our second child, a beautiful baby girl but the wonderful job was no longer so wonderful and now with a little family, we weren’t sure again of what we wanted. I felt lost, lacked confidence in everything, and needed some space to think. We moved back to Boston, to what I thought was home. To what I thought would be what I wanted.
2014 – Today
Living in a different country changes you and I would recommend anyone do it, at least once in their life. But the concept of “reverse culture shock” is a real thing and caught me off guard when I landed back in Boston. With a nearly 4-year-old and an 8-week old, I was a different person. My values had changed. My core identity had changed. My wants had changed. And I knew straight away this was not what I wanted.
In August of 2014 we moved from Boton to the UK. Still searching for all that ultimately want, I decided to try and figure it out. I revisited my journals from therapy. I did all the exercises again. It wasn’t enough. How does all this wanting work in our brain? Maybe if I could understand that, I could get what I want. I began my Masters of Science in Psychology and Neuroscience for Mental Health. I was curious as to why therapy worked for me? Why the anti-depressants didn’t work for me. I was curious at how the brain worked and if mine was different? And I was curious as to what really happens in the brain when we want.
Today, I am closer to understanding “wants”. How we want, what happens in the brain when we want, and what I want. However, it was a bit surprising and hard to accept that I have been wanting all wrong my entire life. I’m hoping with all this knowledge, I can help to make sense of the science and help you find your wants in life.