Away for a wedding, I’m writing this piece in a really busy Cafe in Boulder, Colorado.
It’s 9 AM on Friday morning and the cafe (Snooze, on Pearl Street) is doing anything but snoozing. There’s not a seat open at the bar. The wait is about 25 minutes long. The espresso machine has made about five lattes and three caps since my last full stop. The mimosas are topped off with strawberries and the air smells like pancakes and syrup. The team of people behind the bar works like a well-oiled machine, tending to everything and everyone. This baby is not just walking, she’s dancing.
I’m done tackling my morning emails and have checked on Rose and Basil about four times already.
I’ve been away for three days, and it is about now that I get hit with the ‘first-time mom’ anxiety. My baby is 16 months old and well watched by the family of fairies I put together since her arrival, however, I still have a hard time being away from her.
Like most moms, I look around at all the other babies and smile when recognizing similarities, compare behaviors and learn from them. There is no doubt though that my baby is the best, regardless. A special and unique creation, the very thing that I’ve poured my heart and half my DNA in.
It hasn’t quite managed yet to learn to walk on her own: I stand there holding one or two fingers as the chubby legs move, still unsure. I document, like any loving mother, each move, each new word. We celebrate each moment and soothe every bump.
I sleep less since her arrival. I’m more anxious and somehow less independent, or at least less of what I thought independence to be like before she arrived. In fact, a lot of things have changed for me since her arrival. The world and all its possibilities expanded. Time earned another dimension and success another scale. Days sometimes seem weeks long and how well I did today is often based on how well she did today.
For someone that has been on their own for more than a decade, this new dependency aspect of living is new and to be quite frank, a little scary. As days go by and my baby grows and wonders at the world, I realize that I no longer have the option of taking off. I’m grounded now in a way that I’ve never been before. I’m attached. And the most surprising aspect of it all is that I like it. My creation, even though so young, has already started to change lives and that is to date my biggest and proudest accomplishment.
And as a ‘business mother’, there is nothing quite as fulfilling than seeing something you've made grow and positively affect this world. It humbles you and overwhelms you, but most of all, it gives your purpose and an understanding that there are no limits towards what you can achieve through them as your extension.
You rejoice, you worry about them, and you devote all that you are into making them the best that they can be.
Some days, you succeed: they shine and you, from the shadows, feel your eyes flood with tears and heart with joy.
Some days, you fail: they are lonely or sad, scolded by the world, and you are left to hurt for them, to struggle and to find in you - only you - the way to make them get up and chase another day.
There are books and other parents (including your own) full of advice and knowledge. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll do your best to try to absorb all they have to offer before she comes.
But it will feel like you know nothing and the first days when you are alone with her, she’ll be too helpless and too tiny and won’t stop crying no matter what you do. You’ll wonder what were you thinking when you decided to have her in the first place.
No book will save you but your own will to make her grow into something breathtaking. Your own desire to make her succeed.
You will doubt yourself often. You will want to run. You will want to give up.
You will have to be resourceful and extremely creative. It won’t be easy, but it will always be extraordinary.
With her there, you fight for two. You hurt for two. You cry and spend for two. (or ten if you’re anything like me!). Life as you know it changes and transforms and slowly you realize that so do you.
And in all that, life becomes more colorful, touched by all that was submerged in ignorance prior to her arrival.
You now see things - small microscopic things - you ignored in everyone else before. The first smile she steals, the first friend she makes, the first step she takes towards that dance you’re carefully preparing for.
Maybe she’ll take on to become a star child early on and surpass even your greatest expectations. Maybe she’ll drag you down to the park and introduce you to the love of your life or your best friend. Maybe she’ll force you to learn things about yourself you never thought were there.
You find joy and satisfaction in the joy she brings into the world. That realization is probably your most powerful superhero (mom) power because once that settles in, you become unstoppable.
You leave behind your innocence and become an adult, a parent.
I cannot tell you how to start your own business at 21 and be successful in any better way than to compare it to becoming a parent at 21.
Leaving behind days of chill, putting something else but yourself first and, at least until the baby is ready to go dancing, being okay with doing all of that all too soon. Is it worth it?
While sipping on a chai latte in Boulder, processing cake orders and considering what should be our next winter spiced frosting, I can assure you that yes, it is.
Because when the baby starts dancing, she is limitless.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."