I’ve always seen self care as a bougie massage, a fancy workout class or a face mask. I never thought there would be the day where self care was a nap and a shower, but I guess this is part of transforming into a mother. Today, with my husband’s guidance, I took an hour long nap and a hot shower, and I swear I feel like a new woman.
My feelings have been all over the place lately. I have great days, shit days and okay days. Last week, I had a series of shit days that made me question if I would ever see a great or okay day again. It hit me hard. I spent a lot of time crying and wallowing. I felt fat, useless and exhausted. I felt scared and anxious about the future. I feared that I would never be Jeanette again, that I would just be mom.
Thankfully, I have an incredible husband who has been patient as hell through the last six months of pregnancy. He listened to my every cry, reminded me that my body is working it’s ass off to grow this baby, and helped me to get myself out of that slump.
I know that that was probably not my last slump, but it feels good as hell to be out of it. I would describe it as that feeling when you can breathe again after having a stuffed nose for a week. It’s heavenly.
Becoming a mom is not how it looks on TV – a perfectly round tummy, a great self esteem and boundless energy. The truth is that pregnancy is a body that changes constantly. Pregnancy is having to catch your breath after going up a flight of stair. It’s questioning whether or not you have what it takes to be the mom of your dreams. It’s looking in a mirror and missing the “old” you.
While that is depressing AF, pregnancy is also the knowledge that your body has done something absolutely incredible in growing another human being. It’s the feeling of having your hand on your tummy and feeling your baby kick. It’s knowing that you, along with the person you love and value most in this world, have created life together.
This last week I’ve been focusing on taking care of myself, whether that be a hot shower and clean hair or a fun workout class. As frustrating as pregnancy can be, I’m amazed on a daily basis by what our bodies can do. I’m so grateful for a body that is able to move, support me and my baby.
Is your cup half full? Half empty? I want neither. I want a cup that is so full, that it overflows onto the saucer beneath it. With the self-love, respect and energy that overflows, I want to give to others.
I recently heard this quote on a podcast. People always say you can’t give unless you give to yourself first, and I whole heartedly believe that. When I am at my best – excited about life, energized and healthy, I am the best teacher I can be. I am noticeably more excited about the lessons I deliver, and the kids are equally as invested. On days or weeks where something is getting me down, the energy in my classroom mimics that. We don’t get through as much. There are more arguments. Less laughter and less smiles.
The same rings true for the other people in my life. I am a better wife, friend, sister and daughter when my own cup is filled. I have the energy to be all that.
Some would say taking care of yourself first is selfish, but I disagree. How can I care for anyone else if I don’t care for myself first? More importantly, how can I make sure that I am taking care of myself?
I’ve noticed a few things ensure that my personal cup is full. When all of the following are happening, I’m able to spill into my saucer.
I need to be healthy – which means I need to be eating right. I feel my best when my diet consists of lots of vegetables, some meat, some fruit and tons of water. When I move a lot, whether its a lot of walking or consistent gym visits, I have more energy. I need to be sleeping at least 8 hours a night. Which means, I may not have time for late night dinners with friends or conversations past 7pm.
I need to be excited. I need to have things on my radar that invigorate me and thrill me. Personally, that’s usually a trip on the horizon that I can plan for and dream of. It means I’m reading and learning about new things, and having new ideas constantly floating through my head. It means I’m writing about all of it.
I need to be calm. When things are disorganized and chaotic, I am not at my best. My cup lacks. I need to know that my calendar is organized, that my lessons are planned and that my outfits are laid out the night before. I know myself as a person who does not work well under pressure, so I plan for that. Instead of doing a big project all at once, I divide it into manageable chunks.
I need time for myself, as well as for others. I love my husband, my friends and my family. I appreciate the conversations I have with them, and grow from them. One of my favorite parts of the day is the 20 or so minutes before sleep, when my husband and I are in bed chatting. Sometimes about nothing at all, sometimes about something one of us learned. Sometimes we discuss our plans for the future and sometimes we reminisce on what we’ve done so far. When we have these talks, I go to bed with a full heart. Same goes for the discussions I have with others that I love. And while I love conversations, I also need time for myself. In this time, I think. I play music. I read. I energize myself for the conversations I want to have with others.
I need to feel like I am growing, professionally or personally. Preferably both. Right now, I am pursuing my real estate license, which is making me feel like growth is on the horizon, which is helping to fill my cup. Personally, I am searching for hobbies. Hopefully, when the right one comes along, I will feel growth in that department.
When I do all of that, I feel good. I feel energized and ready to give. It’s important to remember to take care of yourself, regardless of what that means for you. Don’t look at someone else’s self-care plan and mimic it exactly. Think about how you feel when you do things in your daily life, and the things that bring you joy, calmness and ideas are the things you should incorporate more.
When you do that, when your cup is so full that it overflows, your saucer will be ready for others.
Question: What do you personally do to fill your cup? How do you know when your cup is overflowing?
This week is one that is heavy on my heart. When this week arrives, I spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting. It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness week, and it’s a week that reminds me of how damn lucky I am.
Puberty was not very kind to me. Maybe the more honest thing to say was that I was not very kind to me and did not move a whole heck of a lot when I hit puberty. My diet also consisted of takeout and potato chips. Regardless, I was overweight from the age of 13 to 16. Coming from a household where my mother was a stick thin woman who could eat anything her heart desired, it hit hard. Why was I like this?
Eventually, I decided to take control of it. I got a gym membership when I turned 16 and got to work. I had no clue what I was doing so I would hop on an elliptical and stay on for twenty minutes. I continued to eat as I always had at home, and the weight started to melt off of me. My goal was to be “in shape” by the time my family went on spring break. I was not really sure what that meant for me, but I knew that I wanted to lose some weight, and I did.
When we got home from vacation, I recall looking at photos and being disappointed. I knew I had lost some weight, but I was upset with how I looked still. I decided that I was going to keep working, and that what I really needed was to change how I ate. So I did. I started weighing my food and counting calories. Guess what guys? It worked. That, coupled with extended time on the elliptical gave me some great results. By that summer, I had slimmed down further. I started getting compliments from people on how pretty I was. As much as I hate to admit it, it felt good. To go from someone who was a wallflower to someone who was noticed was such a thrill for me. I saw myself as a healthy person.
Looking back, I should have stopped and just maintained. The weight I was at was ideal for my frame and height. But… as the story goes, it went on. I became obsessed. I couldn’t eat in public anymore because I couldn’t weigh the oil that the cooks used. I became obscenely upset if I couldn’t go to the gym. My workouts were getting longer, and were still just cardio. My meals were getting smaller.
I was the girl who knew calories. You know that scene in To The Bone where the girl looks at a plate and can call out the calories of each item perfectly? That was me. I was still loosing weight. It began to be painful to do yoga, because my back bones were sticking out so much. I was tired all the time. What should have been a big signal to me that this was going downhill was when my period stopped.
The thing is… I didn’t care. I wanted more. I don’t know how to explain it. There was a euphoric feeling I would get from stepping on the scale and seeing it go down. Running my hands down my stomach and feeling nothing brought me joy. Sometimes, I would have realizations that it may have been too much, but the voice in my head told me to shut up and get back to work.
I don’t have photos from my thinnest. I bottomed out at 57 pounds. To put that into perspective, my BMI was 11.5. 18.5-25 is a “normal range”, and I was points below. I am not an advocate for using BMI for most cases, but it just reinforces how absurdly underweight I was.
My hair started to come out in clumps. I had to get a bob cut so I could wear beanies at all times. I was wearing parkas in warm weather. For every hour I was awake, I needed to sleep for three. My body was not happy, and I did not recognize any of the signs.
I ended up in the hospital. My organs were beginning to shut down. I would have what felt like heart attacks regularly. Laying there in that hospital bed, I told myself I needed to do better. I realized I was going to die if I didn’t. In that moment, I promised myself that if I survived, I would help others in similar situations.
I worked hard. I cried and cried for months. I wanted to heal myself, but the voice in my head was so strong at this point. Anytime I ate, the voice screamed at me to stop being such a fat ass. I was working on me, but there was a part of me that didn’t want my own help.
My parents and my siblings were my support system and I am eternally grateful to have had them through that. I had to go to school for half days only, because of how exhausted my body was. I couldn’t drive because of fainting spells. I lost a whole lot of friends because what 17 year old can handle someone with issues like that?
It got better though. It took years. I was in therapy and treatment for a long time. To this day, I still have trouble with my own self image. Anorexia is something that will never leave who I am. It played such a pivotal role for me in my teenage years, and continues to play a role into my twenties. I am at a point where I can eat well and exercise in moderation and feel good about myself, but it takes effort every damn day.
Work needs to be done to prevent stories like this from happening. My thought is that if I had been educated at a younger age about what healthy eating was and what healthy exercise looked like, I could have prevented myself from going down this dark road. I teach high school now, and I hear girls in the bathroom talking about how if only they were skinny, they’d be so much happier. I want to shake them and tell them my story. I hold back. Maybe I shouldn’t though? Maybe more people should hear these stories. These gross, sad stories so that they don’t have to have their own to share.
This week is hard for me. This week is also a reminder of my own strength and my process. I am so grateful to be here, today. I am so grateful for my health and my family and my loved ones. I am so grateful to be able to share my story. Eating disorders, and anorexia specifically, have a mortality rate of 10%. Many women (and men) will never be able to share their stories. I can share mine.