How Running Away From Home Saved Me
I firmly believe that self care can save your life. I've been called a self care guru, a self care coach, and I call myself a self care evangelist. So how did I stray so far from the path that I almost lost myself completely?
SELF CARE AND MOTHERHOOD
After my first child was born I fought the demons of postpartum depression and anxiety. With the help of therapy, medication, and peer support I won that battle. As a mother living with PTSD from a traumatic birth I turned to self care for mental health maintenance. I read, I learned, I found mentors and created a plan that worked for me.
Then I got pregnant again.
Suddenly everything was focused on getting sick again. It became a personal mission. I was so focused on what would happen after my daughter was born that I started neglecting the things that were already keeping me healthy.
Yes, it started that long ago. It just took me until now to admit it.
SELF CARE AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
This website has been a dream of mine for a while now and soon I will be launching my Pregnancy and Postpartum Coaching business. It's been a painful juggling act: two children, a relationship, a 'real job', blogging, building a new brand from the ground up.
Guess who got lost in that equation? It didn't happen all at once. Self care, like so many other things in our lives, is a series of choices that turns into a habit. I stopped choosing me. Slowly, but surely I began to choose everyone else over myself and I began to fade away.
DO NOT GO GENTLY
Fading may be too passive a word. It hurt. The rage started creeping back. My temper got shorter, fatigue became a constant companion and it seemed like every choice that I made was between two evils. There was very little in my life that I actually WANTED in my life. Instead it had become full of 'must' and 'should', guilt and running - running - running. I thought if I could save one more mom, help one more woman, be a shoulder for one more friend, fight one more battle - surely the clouds would part and I would stop feeling like this.
That is not the way this works.
This summer has been the hardest of my life. Unequivocally the worst summer in my 26 *cough 37 cough* years. Beyond simply being awake and a black mother at the same time I have been attacked online and in person. I do not feel safe in my hometown, my state, or my country.
This is, I know, a right of passage for a black woman. Welcome to the club. They call us strong so that they can justify everything they do to us. I'm not naive.
TOO MUCH TO HANDLE
Self care works when it is a regular practice. It works best when you take time every day for yourself, when you place yourself at the center of your life unflinchingly and claim your space. I know that. I preach that. But there's a reason that doctors make the worst patients and the preacher's kids are always wild.
A few weeks ago I spoke with my therapist about how I felt like I was hanging on to my life by my fingertips. I was running on empty, but constantly having to find more to give. As a mother, as a business owner, as a daughter, friend... I kept telling Dork Dad, "I have nothing left, I'm just so tired", but then I would go run my support group or hop online to try to comfort a friend.
This is not sustainable.
Every time I walked by the front door of my house I wanted to run away. Every time I got into the car I wanted to just keep driving. After a family vacation that left me more exhausted at the end than I had been at the beginning I had reached my breaking point.
Sobbing in my therapists office I told her that I knew that something had to change. Something radical had to be done. That was the first step, the first thing I had done truly and only for me. It was how I found myself on the road back to self care.
ONE ROOM ONE WEEK
I'm typing this at a coffee shop on my way home. I've been gone for a week. I drove about three hours away and stayed in a hotel room. I brought sewing, my comics, my coloring books, and my Nook with me. I brought my bathing suit and enough cash to take myself to the movies one day.
Then I slept. For a week.
I sewed for a few minutes, and colored a bit. I did read the comics, but mostly I slept and watched Netflix. I didn't watch the news. I didn't work on my business. I didn't call to get updates on the kids. I didn't get sucked into fights on Facebook.
I got out of bed only to make food, take baths or look out of the window every once in a while. My mind emptied and I let it. At first it felt unnatural and uncomfortable. What kind of mother abandons her children that way? What kind of black woman gets broken by racist assholes? How much more of a wimp could I possibly be?
The less I did, the better I felt. I went through about a gallon of water a day and started sleeping better, feeling better when I woke.
I sang all the way home. Car dancing, rock star impersonating, taking up space and ROCKING OUT singing. People who passed me on the highway smiled.
As I sang some things became clear to me.
I am not healed. This was the ER visit, the surgery, the life saving intervention. Now I have to do the hard work of bringing myself back to the center of my life.
There are things I need to let go of. There are some really, truly, toxic people in my life right now. They have to go.
Honesty is the best policy. The people in my life who hurt me, or who I need to limit are going to find out about it. I can't keep hiding who I am or how I feel anymore.
I am filled with purpose and energy right now. I have plans and a clarity that has been missing for so long. My words are back. I am back. And this time I'm not going anywhere.