A drawing of Ana holding a phone and taking a photo of a cat who is washing itself. The cat says, suprised, oh, hello Ana.


Jottings from Ana Rodrigues

The opposite of shame is vulnerability

I’ve had a long year. I spent the first half on maternity leave and struggled quite a bit. Raising a baby is hard enough, and then adding the constant worry of milestones and development, their health, getting all the information to ensure you’re doing things right, all the apps and books, weaning, the comparison, etc., is a full-time job. Then my dad suddenly died, and I found myself having another caregiver role of supporting my mum. Luckily, I wasn’t alone in this; my sister and brother-in-law were also there and did a lot. But at the end of my maternity leave and the first months of returning to work, I was constantly making sure things were okay with Mum and with the baby. And then working all while travelling back and forth to Portugal. The baby started nursery, and although she settled well, the germs made their way in, and we were all constantly ill. I’ve lost track of the number of flights to Portugal and the number of stays in hospitals this year alone.

I don’t remember the first 3 months back at work. I remember feeling deeply insecure in the first months, looking up if the code I was writing was still the best practice. This meant that I was taking longer to do tasks. During summer, I was trying to get my spark back, whatever that means. I had an idea for a talk, which I had been excited about for a while, and I decided to work on it. I was super happy to have been invited to present it in a few places, and it was the drive I needed. The talk gave me joy and a purpose. I suppose the sun helped me continue to push through. We had a little holiday at home, but we all got sick, and the infection was so rough that my husband lost his voice (and at the time of writing, it still isn’t fully back). A CT scan showed that, thankfully, nothing sinister was going on. Just very unlucky. But it was an anxious wait. Communicating at home was hard, but again, we pushed through.

Then, sometime in October, things took a turn. A close friend of mine had their father pass away unexpectedly, too. They found themselves in a similar position as I did in March, getting a last-minute flight and helping their mum. And that was the trigger. I was deeply sad for my friend and was not prepared for how my grief would suddenly take over me. I barely cried from the moment I landed in Portugal for my dad’s funeral. I was in support mode. But from this moment on, it was game over for me.

I broke down every single day until my talk at FFConf. I had dreams all the time where he was still alive, and it was business as usual. I spent my lunch breaks crying. I started not to be able to sleep, so the struggle at work followed. Then, the baby would get sick from nursery germs, so everything started to fall apart. I was angry at myself that I was suddenly not coping. Feeling unproductive absolutely destroys every single positive thought I have of myself. I felt useless, a waste of space, a nuisance. And I was sad, and I missed my dad.

On top of this, since I stopped breastfeeding, I’ve been struggling with PMDD. Every month, for two weeks, I feel physically and emotionally drained. It’s been all too much, and I feel deeply ashamed.

I feel ashamed because other people are going through worse, so I should be coping better.

I felt ashamed because I didn’t feel intelligent or productive or that my comeback to work after maternity leave was a success.

I felt ashamed when I realised I needed to speak with work and explain that I wasn’t okay and needed a break.

Not so long ago, a friend messaged me saying that I was on fire (that was a reaction to me giving talks at conferences). I was somehow glad that it looked like that, but I felt a bit icky that it wasn’t the reality, and it felt dishonest. While I feel ashamed that I am “not on fire” in a good way, I am indeed “on fire” in a bad way. I guess I am burned out.

So here I am, on an “extended holiday”, trying to figure out how to move past this bump. The crying is improving, but I know this first Christmas without him will be difficult.

I am trying to take time for myself and do one thing at a time. Maybe, finally, give journaling a go! Who knows!

The title of this post is inspired by the book I am currently listening to, “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown. And if the opposite of shame is vulnerability, here I am waving my arms, telling you, “Hey… things suck over here and sharing it might change what people think of me for the worst, but what can I do? I exist with all my goodness and my faults.”

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