“She’s going through a phase.”
When I was a downtrodden, moody, confused tween trying to navigate new social dynamics between friends, or experiencing my own quick changing emotions, I would often hear my mom utter this phrase. Sometimes it was about a friend who said something snotty and out of character that broke my heart. Other times it was said about me and my rollercoaster of tween feelings.
Amidst other careful coaching and long discussions, this comment became shorthand for my mom to say, “this is temporary”, “things will get better”, and “she’ll be your friend tomorrow”.
Now a mom and stepmom of three tweens, I have been thinking a lot about this phase. But you might be surprised to learn that I haven’t been applying it to them, instead I’m the one who has been going through quite a phase these days.
Since the beginning of the year, I have felt off. The post-holiday blues set in and never really went away. Instead of entering the new year with a renewed sense of excitement and an exciting list of resolutions, I uncharacteristically started giving things up that I enjoy. I stopped writing. I ghosted my therapist. I phoned it in when it came to experiencing our kids’ activities. In place of things I loved, I developed new habits of excessive sleep and fighting with my husband.
In February I reluctantly went to my annual women’s health appointment, and prodded through an honest conversation with my doctor about my mental health and a number of physical symptoms I had been intentionally ignoring. Learning quickly that none of it was “normal”, you might have expect that I was plagued with fear. Instead I became relieved. My body was trying to tell me something I was actively ignoring. For the first time in months, instead of beating myself up about being crabby all the time and unpleasant to be around, I had a hint at a physical reason why things were off.
Thankfully, all the tests came back in my favor and I’m “okay”, but my doctor and I remain on a journey together to figure out what’s going on.
Upon reflection, I’ve been asking myself if what I’m going through is really all that different than what our tweens are experiencing. My hormones are changing
and so is my body. That compressed with adult-level stress can lead to heightened emotions.
As our kids experience these types of changes, we’re understanding, gentle, kind, and quick to give grace. Could I do the same for myself? If I said of myself “she’s going through a phase”, what would that care look like?
It might look like restarting therapy again, so that I have a place to vent, discuss, and process my feelings. It might look like just buying new pants instead of fighting the scale. It might look like saying out loud “I don’t feel well today” to my family after a long day, and ordering dinner. It might mean identifying things that I enjoy doing, and making space for them again.
Perhaps it’s saying to myself what I’d say to my own child. “You’re going through a phase and it’s okay. The hard days will pass, and there will be great days ahead. It’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to feel big emotions. You’re not alone, and you have a support system of people who love you deeply. We’ll figure out how to get through this.”