Author: Karen Copeland
From Part 1: There was a daily gnawing in my stomach. Sleep was elusive. I tried desperately to believe in myself, but could not. A part of me, deep down inside wanted to scream, a primal scream that would shatter the neighborhood. Instead, I stayed silent. I shut off my voice. I gave in.
This was definitely a low point in my life. I became bitter and convinced that things would never change. Even if a bright spot presented itself to me, I looked at it with jaded suspicion, anticipating the moment when it would disappear again. I hated this place. And yet, found it strangely safe. It was much easier to stay within the walls of negativity and anger than to exert the effort that would be required to draw myself out of it.
I knew I couldn’t stay in this place forever. This was not who I wanted to be. I needed to find my courage, to dig deep within myself to find the will to break down the walls I had surrounded myself with. I couldn’t do this alone. I needed to find my champions, discover my supporters and allow them to guide me forward.
It was hard at first, to hear these words of encouragement that were being delivered to me. It was very easy for me to dismiss the simple statement “you are a good parent” by telling myself “yeah, but…”. Oh yes, my brain was very well trained in the “yeah, but…” argument.
I had to allow myself to hear the words of my supporters, and with help from my counselor, I started to challenge my insecurities. Connecting with other parents who were going through similar experiences definitely helped. I also started looking outside my own situation to discover some people who were putting into practice the importance of relationships, of honouring the parent experience instead of becoming defensive or dismissive. I explored this in my post Starting with Strengths (in Education), writing about how joining twitter created this pathway to discovery.
Perhaps most importantly, I began sharing my story. The first time I spoke out was on a panel at the Promoting Mental Health in BC Schools Summer Institute in 2012. Not many people know this, but I was in a very dark place at the time. Barely holding on, but for some unknown reason, adamant that I wanted to participate.
An interesting thing happened to me while I was on the panel. I was certainly nervous at the start, my hands and voice shaking. But as I began speaking my truth and sharing small pieces of our story, my voice became clearer. Stronger. My words were being embraced by the audience, applauded even. After so many years of feeling like I was not heard at all, suddenly people were listening. Actually listening. I am not going to lie. This felt good. My message, my knowledge, it was finally being heard. I was shedding the label I had attached to myself. Realizing I may in fact, have value.
This was a turning point for me. This was one of the key moments that started me on the path to where I am today. The re-discovery of not just my confidence, but my passion. It would lead me to somewhere beautiful.