Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Loving Me Instead of Liking Me

There's a difference between being okay with who you are and loving yourself.

A friend challenged the ladies in her group to name something they love about themselves and then comment on something they love about the others who had commented. I was one of the first to see the post but at least half a dozen women commented before me. Not because they were so quick to respond but because I had to think.

And think.

And think.

It took me about two hours to come up with something I loved about myself. Two hours. I thought about the fact that I didn't go through a crisis of self-confidence after giving birth. I didn't struggle with my self-image. I accepted my squishy belly and my tiger stripes almost immediately. But I'm realizing it wasn't a struggle because I didn't love my body before I got pregnant either. I was okay with it. I accepted it as a matter of course. It was like an old car. It got me where I needed to, didn't cause too many problems, but I didn't put too much effort into it either. It just was. I didn't like it but I didn't dislike it either. But that wasn't something to love about me.

I thought about the breakdown I had the other night about how I felt about my attitude, my personality. I thought about all the mean things my anxiety and my depression tell me are true. That I'm mean and selfish. That other people don't really like me, they just put up with me. That I'm no fun and I'm awkward. That I talk too much. I thought about all the things I don't like about me. Clearly, those weren't answers either.

I tried to think of one thing about me that I loved. I love being a mom but that's not really about me. It's about a blessing I was given. It's about my daughter. It's a fact of my being. But I thought about the things I love about being a mom. Wearing my daughter in our wrap, holding her close, nursing her, spending time engaging with her, snuggling her, sleeping with her in my arms. So many of those things required me to do research, to know what I was doing before I tried. I needed to know how to wrap before I could try it with her. I had to know it even existed as an option!

I had to know so much more about breastfeeding than I thought possible. Knowing what hunger cues were and the reasons why babies need to eat on demand and not on a schedule. Why she might actually be hungry even though she just popped off an hour ago. That breastmilk is so easily digested. What things meant I might have a low supply and what things didn't. Why topping her off with formula would have done more harm than good in most cases. Things I see women question daily because we've lost that cultural knowledge. Once upon a time, our mothers passed us that information. But in families like mine, the last nursing mother is three generations back and she passed away before I got to this stage. It's not something we grow up with anymore. It's not something we're familiar with or that we're used to. We have to learn it. I've been successful because I read voraciously while I was pregnant.

There are many other things I had to learn to be confident in the choices I've made as a mom. And I don't think I'm by any means done learning. But rather than being a daunting prospect, I look forward to the journey. I love to learn and to research and I love my thirst for knowledge. That, ultimately, was what I shared with the other women in the group. But it took me two hours to come to that conclusion.

Until today, I thought I was doing pretty good in terms of self confidence, self esteem. Because I didn't have a litany of self-hatred pour out when I looked in the mirror and because I like my body, I'm proud of the stretch marks that cover my stomach, that show I grew an entire human being, I thought I was doing well. But liking yourself is not loving yourself and I realize that now. I realize I'm not where I need to be. So today I'm starting a journey to love myself. To forgive my imperfections and to move from liking me to loving me. To treat me the way I want my daughter to treat herself. I'm not sure how I'm going to get there but I know I have to try. Care to join me?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The End of My Rope

I am at the end of me. For 7 months or more, I've tried to run on my own energy, my own steam, my own will. I've tried to do it all without interference, without help, without Him. I've paused in the amazement of my blessings, the wonder of watching my daughter grow and learn and I've whispered a quick thank you but I haven't stopped to listen to Him. I haven't stopped to really soak in Him, bask in His presence, connect with the One who made everything around me. And for the most part, I haven't been writing. Not here, not in my journals, not anywhere but texts. I've overcommitted and I've taken on too much mentally while simultaneously managing to not do much at all. My list of things to accomplish is a mile long and never ending.
When the house is a disaster, it's my fault. But simultaneously, it's not at all because my husband said he'd do the dishes a week ago and still hasn't. But in that week, neither have I. So while I sit here, not doing anything about the mess that surrounds me, blaming someone else, I also beat myself up about the fact that I can't even keep my house clean. Yes, the workings of my mind are a dark and twisty place sometimes. I spend too much time on my phone playing games and involved in facebook crap and not enough time connecting with my Creator and I wonder why I struggle. With winter coming, this is an even more serious issue for me.
In case you didn't already know, I struggle with depression, especially seasonal depression. I was incredibly lucky to escape postpartum depression immediately after my daughter's birth. I was at high risk and technically I'm not out of the woods yet. PPD and PPA can strike at any time in the first year postpartum. Mental illness is a very real thing and it's something I've struggled with for 18 years. Yes, you read that right. I'm still in my twenties and I've been in this battle most of my life. I hadn't even hit puberty yet when I began fighting. I've never known what it was like to not worry about what others thought of me or to not take the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Last night, I hit my breaking point. We'd had a good day. My husband had the day off and we took the kids I watch to a corn maze and to get pumpkins. Except for some potty training issues and a missing cup, the day went off without a hitch. But on the way home, talking about the little girl I watch, my husband mentioned how much like me she can be. How we're both stubborn. And in his words, "she's preparing [me] for someone who's going to be [my] little clone". Those words just hit me like a brick. I love my daughter beyond measure but in that moment I felt awful. I don't want her to be like me. I'm selfish and I'm stubborn. I can be mean and I struggle with anger and frustration. I'm impatient and at times I don't just walk away from G-d but I run. He is not the center of my life as He should be. I want her to be better than me. And last night, I couldn't see any of the good things in me. I couldn't see any of the reasons why I should be proud that she might take after me.
What an awful point to come to. After such a good day, a day where the kids made good choices and we had so much fun, where we began a fall tradition and picked out a first pumpkin for a little one, to end up in tears practically begging my husband to tell me what he loved about me because I couldn't see it... Well I haven't been that low in a long time. Is it postpartum, sleep deprivation? Or the changing of the seasons? Or is it all because I broke the rope that had previously felt like it was keeping me from running too far from G-d and drifted off to sea? I don't know. But I know I need to fix this. No, I need to open myself and allow Him to fix me. I need to change and I cannot do that on my own. I've tried for too long.
So I'm not going to say that I'll be blogging regularly or on any sort of a schedule. I'm not going to make any more demands on myself or promise anything to anyone else. My word for the year was temple. I am a temple of the Holy Spirit and I need to take care of that temple. That means putting me on the list. And maybe crossing a few things off. My mental health is important. My spiritual growth is important. So I'm not going to oblige myself any more than I already am. But I am going to take care of me. Part of that will be writing more. But I don't know where I'll be doing that. If it's here, I hope you'll read and chime in. If it's in my journals, I know that my Audience will be attentive to every jot and tittle. And if it's working on my book, well, someday you'll have the chance to read it. But while that's still on my agenda, I refuse to make it a chore. It's so much more than that and it's far too important to ever let myself dread. Every word of it needs to be written with purpose and with love. So if it takes me another decade or two to write, so be it. It will be done when He wants it done. And after He helps me determine what I'm supposed to write about!
I hope when you read this you understand. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm not looking for pity. I'm not looking for you to tell me what to do to fix this. These are my mental blocks and I'm slowly developing a plan to knock them out of my way, to jump over them. I hope if you have similar mental blocks, or even just stubborn ones of your own, maybe this will inspire you to create your own plan. Maybe it will just make you aware that you are not alone. And maybe some day we'll both look back on this and know that we reached the end of us and found something so much greater.