For as long as I could remember, I always wanted to be a mother. I was drawn to my friends’ younger siblings. I loved to coo at babies I saw. I even transformed the bottom of my tiny closet into a “crib” for my two baby dolls. I couldn’t wait to feel that love, a love between a mother and her child, this time from the view of being the Mommy. At that young age, motherhood was my focus in life and I would be blessed almost two decades later with the birth of my daughter.
At six, with the purchase of my first Lego set (a tiny Viking boat), I suddenly had another desire in life… I wanted to build. I loved sitting there for hours building Lego sets. First I would follow the step by step instructions included with the set and then I would let my imagination run wild. During many trips to see my aunt and uncle, I would admire the houses we would pass, studying details and running through my head how to build them with my Legos. The building desire soon morphed with my love of houses. I now wanted to become an architect.
A career was always a desired purpose in life for me. Watching my mother work, I was brought up with a sense of equality, that a woman could support her family just as much as a man. A woman’s role was not solely being confined to being a housewife. I studied hard in college with many overnighters spent hunched over my drafting table drawing (or in some cases snoring with my head on my pillow taking a nap). I wanted so badly to become a talented architect, rising to the same levels of Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Michael Graves. I wanted to see designs I created built and enjoyed by people. I knew that that was my purpose in life… to be a famous architect and a mother. I would be able to succeed in both. Nothing could stop me.
At least that is what I thought…
I was well on my way to obtaining all my necessary hours of experience to be able to sit for my exams to become a licensed architect. With the birth of my daughter, I was sidetracked from this goal while I struggled for almost a year with Severe Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. When my baby girl reached age 2, I was back on track and was now able to sit for the seven exams that would give me my other purpose. I once again studied, but was interrupted many times that when I received my results with the word “FAIL” on it, I was not shocked. Okay, I would detour my plans for a few more years when my daughter was not so dependent on her Mommy. Still working full time and taking care of her proved a challenge with carving out niches of time to study harder. Different exam, a few years later, results… FAIL.
I am not happy with the word “fail”. I am an Alpha that very much strives to give 100% on everything I do. I sat and thought about this “purpose” in life. How important was it to me now to see the word “architect” after my name? Would it increase my salary at the moment? Would I really be famous? Is that what I really wanted now? After many weeks thinking about this and discussing it with my husband, my family and my therapist, I realized that becoming a licensed architect was no longer a purpose in life.
I knew I wanted more though, more than being a Mommy.
I flip-flopped on certain “purposes” for the next few years. First, I wanted to take my love of nature and become a Park Ranger. I wanted to teach people about the outdoor world. I took a certificate course through Penn Foster on Forestry – Wildlife Conservation. I was fascinated by the things I learned but after researching more, I realized that getting paid to be a Park Ranger was nearly impossible on the East Coast and relocating wasn’t an option. Next up, I took my love of exercise and decided I would become a Certified Personal Trainer. Purchasing a Groupon, I did just that. I barely passed the proctored exam but obtained my certification and although my purpose of owning my own gym and teaching women to love their bodies was lost when I succumbed to another episode of Major Depressive Disorder, I have still kept this certification active. I realize though, this is not my purpose in life.
With decades of therapy under my belt, I began to play therapist to myself on this topic… What is your purpose in life Stephanie? What do you want to accomplish? What in your mind will give meaning to your life? Answering these questions gave me that awkward puzzled look that you try to prevent your face from making when you are given the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” at an interview. Luckily, I was not put on the spot sitting in front of an interviewer as it was only me, myself and I.
I analyzed all my aspirations up to then… becoming a mother, creating buildings people needed and could enjoy, helping people enjoy nature, helping people love their bodies and realized that all these aspirations centered around helping or nurturing people. What could I do with that that would not require going back to school because this lady did not have the money for that. The light bulb moment happened after a friend of mine published her first book. I always loved to write since childhood. Writing was an outlet for me during my Depressive episodes. I felt that if I wrote about my experiences with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I would be able to help those people who were too scared to speak up, who needed someone to tell them that they are not alone, that they do not need to see the stigma as a threat.
I started my blog focusing on my 20+ years struggling with these illnesses and then decided to do more. I began to document my journey for a future book. I became a Climb Co-Leader and a Warrior Mom Ambassador for Postpartum Progress Inc. I submitted several articles to Stigma Fighters and The Mighty online. I have been published in two collaborations focused on Mental Illness, Stigma Fighters Anthology II and A Dark Secret. In a few years, I hope to have my book published and I hope to become a Certified Peer Specialist. I have become a Mental Health and Maternal Mental Health Advocate.
This, this, is my purpose in life. Helping others. As I help my daughter with her homework, help a struggling mother find someone who has been through what she has been through, or help others shed the shame of their Mental Illness diagnosis, I know, this is what I was put here to do.