As a mom who suffers from an anxiety disorder, it’s always comforting to find someone who really gets what it feels like to parent with mental illness — someone who isn’t afraid to speak to the truth of the experience, in all its nitty-gritty details.
That’s why I was truly moved the other day when I came across a Facebook post by an ordinary mom like me, who bravely shared the truth of her day-to-day life as a mom who battles some of the same demons I do.
Cierra Lyn Fortner, from Kansas City, Missouri, is a mom of two boys — her oldest, Jayce, is 4, and her baby Brenton is 10 months. In her Facebook post, shared on January 20 (which is now going viral with 150K likes and 88K shares), Fortner recounts the story of an encounter she had at a Walmart, where she was doing her weekly shopping with her two boys in tow.
Fortner says that when she was in the check-out line, a clerk complimented her on how well behaved her boys were, and how she always seemed to have it together herself. Fortner was happy for the compliment, but as she reveals in the post, there is always more going on beneath the surface of her life than she can let on.
“Today I was at Walmart doing my weekly Friday shopping when the cashier says to me ‘I see you in here all the time, your kids are always dressed cute, behaving and you just seem to have it all together,'” writes Fortner, “I just thanked her and giggled because that’s far from the truth but as I drove home there was more I wanted her to know about me.”
Fortner then goes on to give a few details about the mental illness she faces on a day-to-day basis.
“I want her to know I battle a personality disorder every day,” Forner shares, “[W]ith anxiety and depression mixed.”
She also reveals another painful part of her history that no one would guess from looking at her: She’s a two-time suicide survivor.
But Fortner’s raw honesty doesn’t end there. She goes on to give specific examples of the struggles she faces every day — and I venture to guess that almost all of them are relatable to some extent, whether you’re a parent who suffers from mental illness or not.
“I want her to know that I can’t always get myself up off the couch to feed them anything more than frozen pizza and cereal. I want her to know that my son is late for school 3 out of 4 days because I regularly forget what day and time it is, despite the toddler size calendar in my kitchen. I want her to know I have those ‘I’m losing my shit’ moments when I have to lock myself in the bathroom and cry.”
Motherhood is hard; just really damn hard. There is so much to juggle at every moment, and when we’re dealing with our own feelings of depression, stress, and loneliness, things just aren’t going to look picture-perfect. And I don’t know about you, but locking myself in the bathroom to cry (sometimes with a bar of chocolate or a giant glass of wine) is something that happens quite frequently around here.
We have all had moments where we feel like we can’t handle it all; it’s just not every day that we actually admit it. Yet that right there is what makes Fortner’s post so meaningful, and precisely why it’s touching so many fellow moms.
Her post isn’t just about the struggle, though. It’s about telling our truths and finding solace in the knowledge that’s it’s OK to be imperfect. Because what our kids need most is our presence and love.
Fortner shares with Babble that some days, even leaving the house for playdates or classes feels impossible, but that “we all do it because the smile on our kids’ faces are worth it.” And it’s this brave spirit that Fortner really wants to convey in her post. Because no matter how hard some of us struggle to mother our children while battling our own demons, the fact is that so many of us are doing it anyway. We are showing up like the badass moms we are.
“I don’t have it together and may never have it all together,” Fortner writes at the end of her post. “I don’t know a mother out there that has it all together but everything we do is done with love for our children and that right there makes you the perfect mom and in our children’s eyes we most definitely have it all together.”
As a person who is constantly pushing through anxiety and easily triggered by the stresses of motherhood, it means so much to know that I am not alone. And to be reminded of how miraculous it is to get through each day, no matter how imperfect it may look, is powerful.
Fortner tells Babble that the response to her post has blown her away, and that she is happy her message of strength and solidarity has reached so many.
“I’ve had an amazing response from mothers all over the world,” she shares, “and I’m happy that they realize it doesn’t take having it all together to be a good mom.”