In the past several weeks I realized that I have not made the time for myself that I should. Many of us spend our time supporting others, doing for others and giving to others that we completely forget about taking care of ourselves. Why is it so easy for us to do for others and neglect ourselves?
I’ve been living out of boxes lately. My husband and I recently moved in with my parents while we work on paying off debt. Our hope is to buy a house that is in the area we plan on remaining – our forever house. The past year and a half has been a struggle. In the midst of its chaos, leaving a career behind, selling my first home, losing my grandmother, moving in with my brother, and learning how to make it as an independent contractor, I also was diagnosed with pre-diabetes (or diabetes depending on which of my doctors you speak to). I can’t say that I’m surprised. Not only does diabetes run in my family, if anyone was going to develop it, it would be me. Me, the queen of constantly eating out, eating packaged foods, you name it, all the things we know not to do. I have always jokingly stated that my kitchen was only there for decorative purposes. Alas, the joke’s now on me.
The thing about stress is that sometimes you don’t notice how it manifests in our lives until you’re comfortably in “unhealthy apathetic bliss.” I became accustomed to getting little to no exercise, coming in last in all of my Fitbit challenges with friends and family, staying up until after 3am, eating late in the night due to staying up, you get the picture. I felt as though I was spending so much time and energy keeping all the balls juggling that I didn’t notice my steady decline – trying to find time for myself but doing it at the risk of my own health and general wellbeing. Well, I did notice how the clothes I used to wear no longer fit but I always felt that I had other things to do that prevented me from taking the time and energy that I needed to become a better me.
The transformation wasn’t just physical. As you can imagine I’ve become a lot more sluggish. When I do sleep I do so with varying effects. Some day I get 5 hours and others, maybe more. It’s consistently inconsistent. My body and mind have been quietly telling me that it is reaching its limit. Food no longer taste the way it used and life doesn’t feel quite the same when you juggle the literal weight of your growing body, diabetes and the strain of medications for a list of other health issues. Rather than do things that could improve my general health and well-being I’ve just accepted things as they are and somehow found a way to merely exist.
Your moods shift and your happiness is diminished when you’re in a perpetual state of “keeping up” and attending to others’ needs without first seeing to your own. That isn’t to say that it should always be about you. However, we so often get caught up in simply treading water that we forget that we’re not meant to always be frantically keeping our head above the waves. For us to do better we must be better. And the thing is, sometimes when we think that we’re at least holding on, we don’t see the things that we must and have already let go of. Our sanity. Ourselves.
After a year of building up clientele I had become successful enough as an administrative professional that I was working full-time. However, with the blessing and stresses of living with family and no longer having a place of my own, it became too much. I was trying to live my life one way when life had changed and I had not changed with it. I was always angry about the things I couldn’t do. Very little brought me any joy or contentment. I reached the point of inevitable burnout. I had arrived at the place where I was practically no good to others or to myself. I was forced to take a step back and “get my house in order.” What this meant was decluttering my life. Much in the way that my husband and I are adapting to living with less “stuff” I also had to make the hard decisions to limit the number of my clients and in setting up safeguards that honored the things that I enjoyed and that I needed. It hasn’t been easy but I have found that as you start to listen to yourself, take care of yourself, embrace yourself, you have more time, energy and capacity to do for yourself as well as for others. You learn how to appreciate and live life in realizing that you only have the one to live.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 10/30/15 issue of The Union-Recorder.