My absolute favourite quote from renowned Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung can only be this: “No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”
What it essentially means is that in order to achieve your fullest potential or to be enlightened, you have to confront your darkest shadows. It is the most eloquent expression for complete self awareness devoid of judgement or blame.
There are many ways your shadow creeps up on you. For me, it was a gradual build through childhood, teenage years, young adulthood and then motherhood. Sleep deprivation can really make all your monsters come out all at once – so people, just get your shuteye to prevent crazy meltdowns.
But in all honestly, I’m glad my dark night of the soul happened the way it did. And now with clarity in hindsight, I can pinpoint the hallmark emotions that made my “roots reach down to hell”. If any of these resonate, I would strongly urge you to get a listening ear either in the form of a friend or a professional.
- Feeling “not enough”
Externally, I was a hot mess as a new mother – weight gain, messy hair, leaky boobs, eye bags and sallow skin. Internally, I was cursing at myself for not being able to get the baby to nap longer, not being able to earn more money at work and just not being able to generate positive energy. I feared that I was “mediocre” – this stemmed from my own experience as being treated like a “trophy child”. My husband was intuitive enough to walk on eggshells when he knew I was teetering on the edge of sanity, and was open-minded and supportive when I sought out new age healing methods. For this I’m forever grateful.
- Thinking everyone else was having a better life
Social media, showcasing everyone’s highlight reels, is a horrible thing for a new mother’s self-esteem sometimes. I wasn’t able to “stay in my own lane” and count my own blessings. The word “gratitude” was not in my vocabulary. I couldn’t help benchmarking myself against my peers, even though the rational side of me knew that was ridiculous.
- Reacting instead of responding
Little triggers would move me to tears of anger and frustration and cutting remarks. I had no faculty for stopping a beat to breathe through negative emotions. I presented my best side during my kids’ waking hours, swallowing down any feeling that came over me and tried to ignore the anxious chatter in my mind. But whatever we repress always has a way of bubbling back up.
- Too paralysed to make life decisions
I worried constantly about taking the wrong step. My brain was so warped it couldn’t be nimble. Instead of thinking about what I wanted, all I knew was what I didn’t want.
Whoever is experiencing these symptoms right now has my deepest empathy. It is one of the most excruciating phases I’ve ever had to move through and I’m just glad that the worst is over and that I’ve had help along the way.
If it’s you who’s affected right now, don’t be too hard on yourself. And if you know someone who’s suffering, refrain from judgement or telling him/her what to do. Simply hold space, lend a listening ear and be compassionate – this in fact is what the world so badly needs right now.