It had been two months since my sister’s murder.  There I sat, crying in front of Dr. Meiers.  I did not feel relief from this.  I hated crying in front of other people.  It felt like a sign of weakness even if I knew logically that wasn’t true. If fact I never viewed it as a sign of weakness in others so I was never sure where I developed and held on to that line of thinking.

After letting me catch my breath he said, “Well, you’re dealing with PTSD.”

I visibly scoffed. “I don’t think I have PTSD.”

“Do you know what PTSD is?”

Images of men coming back from the war flooded my head.  Images of woman being raped and beaten crossed my mind.  They had PTSD.

When Dr. Meiers explained it a little more, I took a deep breath and looked at the floor.

I admit I had experienced years of anxiety sprinkled with some depression here and there, but PTSD was not something I wanted to add to the list.  It was just one more thing I was going to need to “get over”.  The thought of going around telling anyone I had PTSD was unthinkable to me.

So I didn’t, I didn’t use that language to describe how I was feeling.  When people asked how I was doing, which they usually didn’t, I would just say I was angry.  And I meant it.  Anger was safe, anger was tough, and anger was keeping my armour bolted on and getting me through the day.

The problem was this unbreakable anger was breaking down my body.  Physically I literally kept tightening up to hold the tears back.  An excruciating moment came at a visit to my chiropractor.  My back was so twisted and stiff that when he gave me an adjustment I burst into tears.  In one fell swoop he had ripped open a box of the trauma that I was storing up and hiding in my bones.  I didn’t tell him that my sister had been shot and killed by her husband months earlier.  Through embarrassment and tears I apologized for such an outburst and told him I had just been, so very sore.

When I was too weak to be angry, I’d open a bottle of wine, sit in front of my computer and listen to music until I was sobbing with my head on the table.  I would invite the tide to come in, trusting it would go back out.  I’d wake up the next morning, and know that one more day was behind me.  The further away I could get from this, the better off I would be.  In time, I could escape this PTSD.

Grief was different.  I admitted my grief.  While the PTSD was like blunt force trauma that I dreaded reliving in flashbacks, the grief was sadness… the grief was missing her.  I could admit that and even honour it.  Long walks were a good way to cope, and they helped me work out some sorrow.  The walks kept me connected with her, and with spirit.  I was walking through the grief.  As the summer drew near, my long walks changed to more intense work outs.  This didn’t last long; the problem was that my body was so depleted by the anger I still carried that there weren’t any reserves of strength to draw from.  Expending energy just made me sleep more.  I was sick all the time.  The anger was consuming me, both mentally and physically.  I was still trying to walk around the anger and trauma, instead of through it.

Nearly a year had gone by.

Chronic infections and pain were giving me no choice.  If nothing else, humans obey pain.  I began eating better quality foods, I cut out alcohol and coffee, I wandered into nature as much as possible.  I began feeling better.  Stronger.  Time was moving.  Almost all of the “firsts” of everything had passed.  Christmas, her birthday, special events that we had planned but would now never come to be.  I told myself I just needed to get through the first year, then it would be easier.

It was February 2017.  A year and 3 months had gone by.  It was still tough, but by now I had joined a gym and was showing up regularly to cycle classes.  In class there were times when I could hardly breathe, and I was literally spinning my wheels.  The irony wasn’t lost on me.  I recognized that it seemed like a mirror to my life.  I didn’t care, I needed to move my body and this worked just fine.  I had tried a few yoga classes’ years earlier but they had bored me.  Too slow.  But when I walked in one day to see my cycle class was cancelled, I looked over at the women entering the yoga room and decided to give it another try.

In the warm, dimly lit room I went through the motions, holding the poses, quieting the mind.  I realized, surprisingly, that it was nice.  The pace was much slower compared to the loud music and the constant encouraging shouting of the cycle teacher, but this time I moved comfortably in the deliberate and slow pace.

It was in the third class that I attended that it happened.  Half an hour in, lying on the mat, the instructor was giving us time to simply stretch and focus on our breathing.  In the nearly blackened room, above the whisper of music, she repeated, “Surrender.  Soften.”  Over and over I could hear her, and then something happened.  Without consciously trying, my body softened… and my heart surrendered.   As I was laying still, I could feel my armour crack and the heaviness lifted from my body, all that was left was the steady weight of my heart beat.  From the ground up, a wave of water rushed through me.  It rose quietly up through my skin, my bones, my spirit, reaching my eyes where it began rolling down my cheeks. I surrendered.

I finally surrendered.


maddieMaddie Laberge is the mastermind behind The Wicked Step-Mom – a 30-something year old woman who has been a Certified Holistic Nutritionist for nearly ten years (more recently a Certified Herbalist), and a full time step-mom for over three. So what does a woman who chased a career do once three kids get handed to her? She shifts gears and begins a new journey. Her blog is about life and how she gets through her days by holding on to the values of eating good food and living a simple life.

Host Emily Mattingsley unpacks some of the typical reactions she gets when she says she lives in Morocco and shows why they are problematic with reference to being a white woman. She shows how important it is to recognize privilege and how it constructs the types of choices we are able to make while balancing that with honouring the life someone is then able to build for themselves as something more than chance. She also takes a look at the bigger picture of what really constitutes “bravery” these days and asks you to ask some hard questions of what being a woman is like all over the world.

Mommies out there: have you ever come across your mothering soulmate? Someone who parents exactly like you? Endures the same trials you do? Handles them the same way? Has the same sense of humour that you do? I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is to take the time to be with this person and just talk about your lives together as mommies. Being a mother is extremely hard work and seems to be never-ending. I am, in no way, excluding full-time daddies, nor implying that mommies should automatically fill the primary parenting role, but the reality is that they still do and this is still pretty standard across the board. Until that shifts a little more, I think it is important to talk about the bonds forged between mothers.

Just the other day, I sat down and had a nice long coffee with a friend of mine – a woman exactly the same age as me, also Muslim, and born and raised in Alberta. She has one extra kid to wrangle but I can’t emphasize enough how much I got out of our conversation together. Some of it was venting, some of it was strategizing about how to deal with growing pains or marital foibles. Other topics included celebrating where we are at in life and discussing the future. Most importantly, our parenting approach is very similar and so is our ability to be honest and laugh at ourselves.

Too often mothers are expected to be holier than thou, never having breakdowns, never raising their voices in anger lest they be scorned by fellow parents, people without kids or religious community members. All of this can put a lot of unnecessary pressure on moms who may not have much time to devote to self-care. Heck, some days we don’t even get to pee alone, never mind process how we feel about things and check our behaviour and attitude at the door.

But it is critical to be able to sit, once and awhile, to make the time for some sisterhood in motherhood. To joke about how nasty our kids can be and all the silly things we end up doing to compensate for our lives turned upside down. There is so much competition online these days to be a picture-perfect mother that we can often get caught up in the rat-race of parenting. Realistically, behind the veil of social media, there is likely a burnt out mama who is just looking for someone to laugh at her kid’s poop explosion with her because damn, is this what my life has become?

Sisterhood through motherhood should be an uplifting experience – you should feel like you have someone who understands you, not like you have spent half an hour explaining yourself and justifying why your kid ate Cheerios twice a day every day last week. It happens. When we check our judgment at the door and recognize that everyone struggles with parenthood (particularly those in lower socio-economic positions), we get the opportunity to bond over our children and make parenting a communal experience. In a culture that is characteristically individualistic, mommy real-talk is one of the simplest things we can make time that has one of the fastest and most positive impacts on our own sense of motherhood.

So don’t be shy mamas: reach out and find your parenting soulmate. Make time for each other, share pictures and stories. Laugh at the absurdity of it all. Going at it alone can be frustrating and having other mothers that you can bond with over this experience gives us the opportunity to reflect and put things in perspective. Realistically, this phase of our lives is going to be over a lot sooner than we anticipated and any chance we can get to reassess and get grateful, and help uplift one another in doing that, the better.