I was honoured to have my story chosen to be shared on the This is Brave website. This beautiful site was created to foster community and share stories of women’s mental health.
I’ve written snippets of my travels in mental health since my cancer diagnosis. This story is a reflection on all I’ve learned the past 18 months about taking care of myself – more than that – about unpacking why I actually didn’t like myself very much. Self-loathing is a horrible thing. As Arthur Frank says, it is me writing as the Wounded Storyteller but now more from my scars than my wounds.
I tackled the old notion of self-care in this essay and called it Beyond Bubble Baths. I also hope to put an arrow in the heart of the whole narrative of having to be brave and strong when you have cancer (or a kid with a disability or become a mother or your marriage breaks up or when you are grieving or during any other significant life event). There is great pressure in our society to ‘present well’ ‘be strong’ ‘get back to normal’ because of people’s own discomfort with sitting with someone in their pain.
This is Brave is a popular Instagram site and it features the stories of younger moms. I’m 50, hardly a young mother, so I wrote about what I wished I had known about loving myself as a younger woman and how that would have changed the way I mothered my three children. I would have allowed the hard emotions, both in myself and my kids. This was hard to admit and then write. As I said, my children have had a strong mother, but not a happy mother. For that I feel deep regret.
Part of the This is Brave experience is that the writers are gifted a photo shoot. Although the idea of getting my picture taken made me break out in a fear sweat, I gamely drove out to the studio. Julie from Julie Christine Photography was lovely and immediately put me at ease. It is weird to see photos of me as usually I’m the one taking photos of my family (or of food). I know that having photos of myself mean that I’ve stepped out from beyond my various roles (of mother, wife, children’s health advocate) to become more visible on the road to fully embrace myself.
Here is one of my favourite pictures. I am wearing pink because I hate the whole breast cancer awareness crap (also known this month as Pinktober) and I’m taking pink back. It is a sad picture because it is okay to be sad. If you feel sad that means you have a chance to feel joy too. xo.