First off I bet you’re probably wondering what the hey Yoda has to do with any of this. Let’s just get this one over with. I feel like wise little Yoda right now. “Do or do not. There is no try.” That basically sums up where we’re at with this whole “trying to grow the family” thing. It’s not really trying, but it’s definitely not avoiding. It’s just…. being. Being open to whatever life throws at us. There might be positive tests in a month or not for another six. There might be good news at 8 weeks, there might not. We’re just open – ready to tackle the good and the bad.
But there’s the rub.
A few months back I was looking at the light at the end of the tunnel concerning our healing time – a doctor agreed upon and recommended period of time for healing from Mary’s passing and I was shocked that my first feelings were that of complete trepidation.
Doing what any regular woman does in this day and age I consulted my friends. I was really concerned; physically we were about to get the green light and a big part of me didn’t want to waste any precious window of time my peculiar body might give me. But the thought of going ahead just filled me with dread, complete dread. “Is this okay?” I asked my friends. “Does this count as a licit reason?” was also a big concern. We didn’t have any of the normal big red flags that typically denote a “licit reason” – money, health, etc. was all relatively okay, but my mind was screaming at me – “I’m not ready”.
I’ve talked about it before. Throughout the last two years I’ve realized that being open to life doesn’t mean just being open to having more mouths to feed that you would ideally want, it also comes with the acceptance that those lives are fragile and precious and can come and go in an instance. It equally means having more than most and having fewer or none at all. It’s definitely not easy to accept.
And here I was and my mind was racing and I would get anxious about even the possibility of more disappointing ultrasounds, more surgeries, more blood work, more feeling that I’ve let down my family and more loss.
Over and over again my friends were telling me, it’s okay. Listen to that feeling, it’s legit and licit. They gave me anecdotes from their own priests and their own journeys, but still I wasn’t convinced.
Then I caved and got a smartphone.
Am I loosing you, yet? It’s okay just bare with me a little bit longer.
I got a smartphone at the end of December and one of the first things I downloaded (after Instagram) was the app Laudate. It’s an amazing little piece of smartphone technology, but I hadn’t really looked through it until one day on my lunch break at work. I discovered it’s “confession” section and like a normal person on lunch break started it’s examination of conscious. It was all pretty cut and dry and familiar until I got about three-quarters of the way through and it pulled the rug out from under my feet.
“Have I respected my own life and person, taking reasonable care of my physical, emotional and spiritual needs?”
That’s when it hit me. My mental health, my mental well being, my ability to cope with whatever was going to be asked of my family was important. If denying it was worthy of confession than it was very important. This is what my friends were trying to tell me.
I think we’re afraid to claim mental health as a licit reason for anything.
Technically I think it’s because the idea and study of mental health is only about 150 years old (the term “mental health” less than 100); our understanding of it and how it affects our lives (voluntarily and involuntarily) is still in it’s juvenile stages of development. It just hasn’t been around long enough to get properly worked into and worked through church teachings. I think we’re quick to say that since it hasn’t been mentioned yet it can’t possibly be worth noting. I think we’re quick dismiss a persons reasons of “mental health” because you can’t see, feel or experience another person’s mental health – you don’t know how it affects their rationality or their judgement or even their physical body.
It is true that our strength can surprise us and that sometimes, if not often, we’re capable of withstanding more than we’d ever dream. Being under stress is one thing, but suffering from (or just knowing your triggers for) depression, anxiety and a number of other mental health issues is completely different. It’s a fine line and the newspaper are filled with so many stories of mental health pushed past the limit with horrible consequences from breakdowns to physical harm. Mental health should not be ignored.
I’m here to say that our mental health matters. Our mental health can be a licit reason and it is valid and worthy of attention and care. We owe it to ourselves, our communities and our families to open up a further dialogue about family, openness to life, parenting and mental health.
If you are struggling right now, due to anything in your life that is making your mental health weak or precarious – you have my understanding and prayers. I say right now, I do NOT judge you. I support you in your journey, I support you in finding capable doctors, religious officials and friends who can guide you through this. For those of us in the miscarriage and infertility circles I support you when you say you need a break; I understand that it’s not just our bodies that have to withstand this journey. Your mind, your mental health, is important and your human dignity does not depend upon it.