«I knew, motherhood would present its very own unique mental challenges.»

Portrait series "The universe inside me" with Sara | 6th Jun 2023

Sara's story doesn't start with a crash. It begins with thoughtfulness and forethought: In the late fall of 2017, Sara noticed that, in parallel with the season, her emotional world was getting a little darker. With the awareness that an upcoming challenging personal situation would most likely greatly impact her mental well-being, she looked for ways to prepare. Talking to friends, she discussed the idea of professional support:

"Within a few weeks, the decision was actually made. It was important for me to address the issue proactively and get help preventively. "

Through a friend's recommendation, Sara found a psychotherapist she immediately felt comfortable with. "It was good for me to see her regularly and to know I could rely on an outside professional." The therapist helped Sara mentally prepare for certain situations and better anticipate and understand her emotions and feelings. "Sometimes she also held up a mirror to me with a certain distance, which allowed me to recognize and reflect on my own patterns of thinking and behavior." In this way, she helped Sara navigate the challenges ahead.

One experience that many clients of mental health experts have, is telling their own story for the first time without interruption in the safe space of therapy or coaching. It's a perceived one-way communication that, depending on your personality, can also feel like an inappropriate monologue – but isn't. "At first, it was irritating for me that my therapist hardly spoke at all, and let my flow of speech take its course. But then I quickly realized how valuable that actually was. I learned to deal with not getting an immediate reaction or explanation to everything I had just shared. I learned to endure silence and give myself answers through the reflection it provoked." Her psychotherapist managed to give inputs at the right moment, asking the right questions, and thus surprised Sara again and again with her observations.

Making peace with (supposed) contradictions.

Sara had spent her adult life trying to become an emancipated, self-empowered woman – to feel free and independent. The child of Albanian immigrants, she arrived in the Bernese Oberland from rural Macedonia at primary school age. She had to learn the language in order to create opportunities for herself in Switzerland. From a young age, she had to advocate for herself, so she could pursue the educational path she had set her sights on. Meanwhile, at home, she supported her parents and siblings in building their livelihood in Switzerland. Perseverance and resilience that paid off for her: She attended high school ("Gymnasium") in Bern and then studied communications in Winterthur for a bachelor's and master's degree.

As she entered professional life and spent her first 10 years as a communications expert, her personal and professional ambitions evolved and new dreams emerged. The desire to start her own family has always been very strong with Sara and became more concrete in 2020 together with her partner.

"I knew, that the plan of becoming a mother would present its very own unique mental challenges for me.

It's not that easy to enter motherhood as a freedom-loving and emancipated woman: "No matter how equal my husband and I are as a couple – as soon as the topic of having children came up, a socially as well as biologically based imbalance came into our relationship." An imbalance that was not due to the couple's differing views, but to Sara's realization that as a future mother, she was the one who would inevitably have to take a back seat.

Even in this phase of life, she found support in the discussions with her psychotherapist. The decision to become pregnant is already accompanied by initial self-doubt: uncertainty about fertility, physical changes, as well as the shared struggle with the division of impending parental responsibility. Issues that Sara knew could become challenging, which is why today she is glad she reached out to her therapist for support early on. "With my therapist, who knew me very well by then, I had the right guidance and support to deal with my thoughts in a healthy way, even in this situation." As a result, she was also able to enjoy the process of her pregnancy and the birth of her son – despite rumination, pondering and unexpected challenges.

"I had a safe space to talk about my fears and worries at any time. I now think back very fondly on my pregnancy and also on the birth."

Friends should be allowed to remain friends.

During difficult times, partners or friends quickly find themselves in the role of closest confidants. "I think it's important to realize that friends and family – no matter how well you know each other and how close you are – can't replace professional support." Her own experience has taught her that it's also worth considering this not just as short-term support, but to confide in a therapist or coach for the long term.

"When we seek support for our mental health, we benefit not only ourselves, but also our loved ones, who can continue to be there for us simply in their capacity as friends and family."

Mental and physical health are closely linked for Sara: "If something is stressing me out mentally, I feel it in my digestion, my fitness, my sleep. When I take care of my mental health, with that comes the energy to take care of my physical health as well. So my mental well-being actually forms the basis for everything else in my life. For that reason, it also makes sense for me to take care of it proactively."

The decision to proactively start therapy, allowed Sara to consciously deal with personal challenges, as well as starting family life together with her husband: "I'm so happy today! As a mother of the best child in the world, as a professional in my field of work, as a friend to those close to me, and as a life partner to my husband. I love my life. I know that dark clouds can come again, but then I know exactly where and how I can get support and what works for me."


About Sara

Sara is 33 years old and a communications specialist in a large Swiss company. The film-loving mother of a one-and-a-half year old has been involved in the production of a documentary film and finds peace and balance in the Swiss mountains or surfing ithe Atlantic Ocean. In Zurich and Bern, she can be found wherever there is good coffee or new culinary highlights to discover.

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Sarah di Aepsy

Aepsy human creativity, aesthetics and technology for easy, stigma-free access to mental health. We tear down hurdles and set minds free. Until everyone can follow their dreams mentally liberated. For us, for you, and for the generations to come.

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