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September 9, 2017

The Affirmations that got me Through when I Felt like I Failed as a Mother.

Mindfulness can take you to unexpected places.

And affirmations, à la Louise Hay, can change your life.

When one of my children descended into a deep depression to adapt to 6th grade, my mindfulness practice convinced me to make a surprising and painful decision.

I never miss a public service opportunity to say that depression in children does not necessarily look like depression in adults. My child is, and always has been, social, popular, and often described as a leader.

Our first tip-off was noticing the straight “scratches,” barely covered by her shorts. When we went to her pediatrician to discuss the fact that our daughter was cutting herself, we were told that it was fashionable for girls to copy each other, that cutting was a trendy choice, and we shouldn’t worry.

After my daughter received emergency care, followed by therapy and treatment, her father began to make it known hat he wanted her to live with him, and not me. Understandably, both my ex and I wanted things to get better for our youngest. We both felt protective, but we expressed it differently.

I spent the summer researching various “tween issues” and talking intermittently with school administrators about a plan for the following year. Her dad spent the summer both wooing her to move in with him and change schools. He felt that the smaller school in his neighborhood would be more watchful, and our child would have less chance of falling through the cracks. I did not disagree entirely with his opinion.

Mostly, I wanted to know what my child wanted. In every conversation, my child’s answer was to stay at the previous school because of friends, which meant staying with me.

Rather than risk the well-documented, psychological damage inflicted on children caught up in parental warfare, I was beginning to lean toward the possibility that she might do well at her dad’s and that me “giving her up” wouldn’t damage her. 

Yet, I can’t emphasize enough the agony of the internal decision I was making. It feels extremely unnatural to give up your child and let them live somewhere else. I didn’t know whether to applaud or hate myself.

In one conversation with my daughter, I’d said that if she wanted me to fight for her, I would absolutely do that. However, I also asked her to think about it with the understanding that I would be okay, personally, if she might like to try the other school. That I would not suffer. I would understand and be happy for her in her new situation.

When I made it clear that I would be okay, my child did begin to sound more open to what her dad was proposing.

With an anvil having just settled on my heart, I took note of this and made a private decision to continue down this path of removing any obstacle that my personal feelings might present for her in what could be a tricky decision for her to make.

In the process, I hoped to make clear that while I loved her dearly, I would support a decision that would take her away from me, and be “happy” about it if that is what she wanted. And, I reassured her, we could see each other any time we wanted. We just wouldn’t live together.

This is where Louise Hay comes in, because being at peace with a decision does not guarantee happiness or a good sense of self-worth. I can’t explain the darkness in my heart and soul that descended after my daughter moved out. I felt like such an utter failure as a mother, I almost couldn’t bear it. And mindfulness alone was not enough to keep me afloat.

What I needed was “The Queen of Affirmations,” as Louise has been referred to.

I needed to be like Stuart Smalley, of SNL fame, and talk to myself in a mirror while I tried not to flinch when I told myself that I was a good mom, that I was enough, that I was lovable, that I approved myself, that life loved me, and all the other affirmations that Louise encouraged.

And, gosh darn it, it worked. It really worked.

And I amazed my family, my friends, and myself with my quick turn-around. Implementing a regimen of daily meditation, yoga, affirmations in the mirror, and writing (yep, writing) got me through.

When I heard about Louise Hay’s death, I remembered this darker phase of my life and my family’s life, and I feel so grateful for those simple, somewhat awkward, yet highly-effective affirmations coupled with Louise’s encouragement.

She changed my life.

~

Author: Lee Sears
Image: Ivana Bugarinovic / Flickr 
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Emily Bartran

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Lee Sears