I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. Now that things are beginning to return to normal the weight of everything that’s happened within the past year has really hit me. When you’re in go mode you just do what you have to do, there’s no time to really think about the crisis you’re in, there’s children to care for and a house to attend to, there’s no time to process your emotions. Now that the latest crisis is behind us I look back at the past 9 months and I know it’s not any extraordinary strength of my own that got me through it. It’s been my faith, my family, and friends, but that being said the emotional and physical toll is hitting me now. I know I need to take this current level of normalcy to get in a good place mentally myself and maybe even focus on myself for a change but that’s never been my strength. Alexander called me out on my sour mood lately, “mom do you realize you’ve been on my case since I came home from my dad’s house? You’re getting mad at me for everything, no matter what I do your mad about it.” I opened my mouth in defense but as he started listing off all the things I had blasted him for I realized he was right, I guess I was a little salty lately. As much as I try to keep it positive and look on the bright side of things some days, some weeks even I’m just tired out. My nerves are frayed a little bit, I’m running on a tight fuse and undeniably it’s starting to show.
I know that the cardinal rule for a caregiver is to take care of yourself. After all, how can you care for the people that need you if you aren’t well yourself. Easier said than done, people say you need to make time for yourself but sometimes it feels like there just is not enough time in the day for everyone’s needs, at the end of the day everyone’s been taken care of sufficiently except me. I don’t get the luxury of time to myself, I’m fortunate enough to get a shower in most days, or a quick trip to the bathroom by myself. The fact of the matter is I have an extremely clingy 1 year old who doesn’t sleep, I’m so sleep deprived I can hardly think straight anymore. When everything keeps reducing you to tears or rage. Somethings gotta give.
I’m new to the “stay at home mom”, homeschooling world and I’m still navigating this new set of circumstances I know it’s just a matter of time getting into a groove. But I thought I would find my stride faster, I’m floundering a bit, still trying to get into the flow of things. I’ve always been a working mom, that was my routine I knew how my day was laid out when I woke, I had my schedule and I stuck to it for the most part. looking back I had no idea how I did it, how did I work and maintain my household? But things were different then too I didn’t have a mentally ill child and I didn’t have a baby and I still had family in the state to help with the children. It seems like they’re not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Being a stay at home mom is just as challenging as being a working woman. Except there’s no end to my work day, my workday starts from the time I get up and doesn’t end until I lay my head down on my pillow. As much as I am enjoying teaching Ranee it’s a lot of work. I’m constantly researching ways to teach her that are conducive to her way of learning. There’s so much information out there that it can get overwhelming. Burnout can quickly set in and I’m realizing I’m burnt out.
I took to heart what Alexander said about my attitude lately and I realize I haven’t replenished myself. I’ve been giving and giving of myself with nothing in return. I am a warrior mama but I am more than that or I used to be. I’ve put aside almost all of the things that make me uniquely me. I used to have an actual style and personality, things that I was passionate about art, books, music, interests other than my children. Things that I loved that I used to envision sharing with my children. It’s true that having children changes you it brings out other amazing qualities within yourself but that doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself. I need to get back to that, who I am, I’m not looking to be who I was, that girl is gone but I need to move forward with who I want to be, and what I want for myself. I am so focused on the well-being of my family and everyone else’s happiness that I’ve let go of my own joy. I have so many expectations of myself as a mother and wife, so many expectations of how I think things should be. I am an advocate for my husband and daughter but how often do I assert my needs. I need time, I need space, I need to love myself.
Starting today my mission is to find myself again, recognize and practice self-love. Self-love is not to be confused with selfishness it’s actually about self-preservation, not losing yourself to the chaos but taking care of yourself so you can deal with the everyday stresses of life. It’s about filling the empty spaces and cracks in your heart with the things that bring you joy, finding time for yourself even if it is just in 5-minute intervals. When you practice self-love it only enhances the relationships around you because you are at peace with yourself. Here’s how I’m loving myself.
- Sing– I love to sing, I even was runner-up in our towns American Idol competition years ago, I sing everywhere, in the shower, in the kitchen, in the car there’s nothing like singing a song you love at the top of your lungs and just getting lost in the music, not caring who hears or sees. Whether you can carry a tune or not there’s something therapeutic about getting it out. When I get stressed I tend to go silent too swept up in my thoughts all the time to hear the music. I will allow myself to hear the music and sing it out.
- Read for pleasure– Books are my thing, sure I read plenty about homeschooling, and dyslexia, and mental health. But I haven’t picked up a book solely just for pleasure in months. I would rather have a large library than a large television. I would rather spend an hour in a cozy corner of a bookstore with a cup of tea and a book than the mall. I get lost in the stories of far away places and worlds. History and Places and lives that aren’t mine. Give me a good book to read and it’s like waking up again.
- Exercise– No excuses there’s always time for a walk put the baby in a stroller and go, it doesn’t have to be for miles just a walk around the block, the fresh air and the sun on my face. I’d love to take a Zumba class but have always been intimidated by it. I need to find a babysitter and give my physical self some attention. There’s nothing like that feeling after you’ve worked up a healthy sweat and worked out some of the stress.
- Let go of the guilt- I need to give myself some slack, I have every right to be tired just because I don’t work a job outside the home doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to get worn out. My work at home is just as crucial as the work I did outside of the home and just as tiring. I feel guilty for being tired, for the house not being spotless, and organized, for not having dinner ready at a reasonable hour, and the laundry not folded and put away. It’s okay to have a bad day just because things aren’t perfect doesn’t mean I’m failing. We’re all entitled to an off day, if everything doesn’t get done there’s always tomorrow.
- Dress up a little- Last week after a hectic morning of shuttling kids to school and Ranee to a sitter I got to a doctors appointment just on time and was mortified to realize I was still wearing my pajama shirt under my over sized hoody. When she asked me to remove my sweatshirt to do my blood pressure It dawned on me as I retraced my steps I had meant to stop back home and change and had completely gotten sidetracked. Last week Ranee had said, “mama you really like wearing daddy’s sweatshirts!” It’s true leggings and an over sized hoody has become my uniform. So I’ve made it my goal to take some time to pick out a real outfit whether I’m running errands or taking the girls to story time or appointments when you dress well you just feel better. And it never hurts to throw on some lipstick and mascara
These are just some of the things I’m starting with today to get back to self-support, I’m sure I’ll add more things to my list as time goes on, but self-love has to start somewhere. What’s important to remember is getting back to things that light a passion in you. Yes my family is my life and my passion and I love them but as moms, caregivers, spouses, family members of those with mental illness, we have to remember to love ourselves. Forgive ourselves, embrace ourselves, take care of ourselves, make the time even if it’s just a few minutes to pay attention to your own needs. That will carry us through to the next challenge and the ones after that, mental illness can is a long lonely road. We need our own strength to carry us. We can face the journey with a smile and some style or we can meet it with dread and a nasty attitude. I’m choosing to get up and walk my road with a song and a smile.