Be Gentle With Yourself
I’ve been a mom for 12 years and a teacher for 15. I have two young, very active sons and take care of a classroom filled with 28 children every day. Besides being a mom and teacher, I am a wife, daughter, friend...I write articles for a community struggling with vision loss. I enjoy cooking healthy meals, organization, and Pinterest projects. I know...I’m really exciting, Guys! Who wants to be my friend?
Taking care of others is just what I do.
Pretending to be okay
It’s been ingrained into me somehow to have this ability to find pure joy in being a caregiver. It makes me happy to ‘do’ for others. And, on the days that I’m struggling, myself, to feel ‘right,’ I have this innate capability to robotically move through it all...pretending that I’m okay while taking care of others. You’d never tell when something is bothering me. I’m super good at containing my emotions and having small breakdowns in the shower or when parked alone in the Target parking lot.
There's always something going on
My life hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. I seem to always have ‘something’ going on that feels really hard. Scratch that. I seem to always have ‘something’ going on that IS REALLY HARD. On top of everyday life of being a teacher and a mom, I’ve been divorced, and have fought really stressful custody/child support battles. I was married to someone who was verbally and emotionally abusive. A few of my close family members have struggled with addiction and mental health issues.
It's a long list
I have sort of ‘self-diagnosed’ anxiety, obsessive behaviors (organization and cleanliness), and a little bit of germaphobia (though through years of working hard on this, it’s almost all the way gone! Yay, me!)...and Oh, have I mentioned, I have macular degeneration and am in almost constant fear of losing my vision and independence?
It's who I am
I’m Super Mom/Teacher/Writer by day and a hot mess ball of anxiety at night...worrying about everything that I really don’t have much control over.
Really...Who’s in line to be my friend now? Any takers?
Some people may think this is all TMI, but I am who I am and my experiences have been my experiences. I am not ashamed of them and I am really learning that I'm a pretty awesome person BECAUSE of these experiences.
This isn’t the way life is supposed to feel
Right around the time I turned 35, I found myself really fighting to make it through my normal everyday routine because of this overwhelming feeling of stress and anxiety. Add that to a deep desire to feel more joy and I finally said to myself, “This isn’t the way life is supposed to feel.”
Something just wasn’t right.
No longer allowing these feelings
As I get older, heavy things just feel a bit heavier than they used to. Not only am I a teacher and parent (TOTALLY love children and my job and kids are my people...but honestly teaching and parenting can be stressful, y’all). These other things that I once allowed for myself, behaviors from others that greatly affected me, felt too heavy to even consider trying to push up that hill of life.
And with age, I’m really starting to get this “I’m not allowing this for myself anymore” mentality. If something is harming me more than it’s helping me...it simply must go. I didn’t get here overnight and some days are harder to put this into practice than others. Honestly, most days it’s hard to put this into practice.
There is always a better way
But, there is always a better way. I used to not believe in myself. I do now. I used to not think I deserved better. I do now. I used to not know how to love myself as unconditionally as I loved others. That had to change. I used to think there wasn’t a better way. There always is. I never would have gotten here without therapy.
So I decided to get myself some professional help. I wasn’t ‘going crazy,’ I wasn’t ‘losing my mind,’ I was just struggling with the overwhelming sensation of feeling alone in this world (while surrounded by people that loved me) and worrying about my future with vision loss. That combined with extreme anxiety and I knew therapy was the right choice for me. I had tried to ‘fix’ everything for much too long on my own.
Going to therapy
I started therapy two summers ago to try to get my anxiety and self-doubt ‘under control’. This wasn’t an easy decision to make because...let’s be honest...even though I really wanted (and desperately needed) to go to therapy, there’s a HUGE stigma surrounding it.
That stigma makes it hard to actually start going.
Myths about therapy
A person in therapy is mentally unstable
Just because a person is being proactive and taking care of their mental health and emotional needs doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a mental illness. And, even if they do, isn’t better for them to seek help for it? Also, I might even suggest that a person IN therapy can very well be more mentally stable than those who aren't, but need to be.
It won’t work
I won’t lie to you, therapy is not always easy. Especially at the beginning when you’re trying to find the ‘right fit’ doctor and having to explain your entire life story. My therapist described those first few sessions in this way and it really helped me understand. She explained that as a new patient explains what’s going on, she’s able to picture the characters and storyline as she would if reading a new novel.
I promise you, if you’re struggling with anything and are wanting/willing to get help, this very well could be one of the most important relationships you ever put effort into.
I don’t want to take medication
We go to doctors when we are feeling sick, so why wouldn’t we go to doctors when our minds are feeling sick too? Medication can be a wonderful help to some, but it isn’t necessary for everyone. Plus, you’re never forced to take anything you don’t want to take.
Therapy can be effective by simply forming a bond/relationship with a therapist that you trust, and talking it out. That’s what I do and let me tell you, it has been a life-changing experience for me.
Self love (it's not a foreign language)
What I’ve learned in therapy is that I’m really great at taking care of others, but not so great at taking care of myself. If you know me, you know that I eat well and exercise to care for my body and, more importantly, my eyes. But, I struggle...like driving the struggle bus struggle…to care for my emotional needs as well I care for others’.
I’m finding that when you love yourself first, you can love and care for others more effectively too.
Giving yourself grace
Those of us here struggling with vision loss and the diagnosis of macular degeneration are really going through some difficult things. And, that is putting it lightly. We have to take care of our bodies, our eyes, and our minds in order to come out on the other side of our struggles.
One of the hardest things I’m learning is that I don’t give myself enough grace. Now I know that it's okay to feel what I'm feeling, but I haven't always allowed this for myself. Giving yourself grace simply means being kind to yourself and forgiving yourself when anything feels wrong. Life is hard a lot of times. Giving yourself grace gives you permission to feel, to grow, and to make mistakes and not feel bad about them.
Let's end the stigma together
The stigma surrounding therapy can make it feel really hard to want to go for fear of what everyone else in your life will think or say about it. But, you know what? Not going, or even just being worried about going, is another form of taking care of everyone else’s needs first. Again.
If you are finding yourself feeling overwhelmed and wanting to find the joy in life again, you are definitely not alone.
Love yourself first and be gentle,
How do you protect your eyes from the sun?