Taking Care of Me
This is a picture of the Lucas family on our annual family vacation to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. One was taken last year, and the other just last week.
The above picture sums up a lot of what has happened in my life over the last year. My children have grown, with that comes so many new adventures and struggles. My husband is even more handsome (if that is possible), he also apparently really loves that shirt. And I, obviously, have undergone my own changes.
From the outside, the biggest change is my weight. The worst part is that this time last year I wasn’t the heaviest that I’ve ever been. I had already lost 15lbs and was feeling really good about myself. I thought the vacation picture was a good one. I can remember very clearly being proud it make it my profile pic on facebook.
This picture is the worst. This is the one, that when I saw it I cried. I hadn’t seen my brother in years. I had never met his lovely girlfriend before. I was so excited to see them but so devastated for them to see me. Redding was just over a year old and I was still in maternity clothes out of necessity. I knew I needed to change.
Then, in August of last year I got sick. I thought it was the stomach flu, that’s what it felt like at first. On the third day of pain that rivaled labor Josh took me to the ER, it was my gall bladder, it was bad. The ER doctor was very sweet. He told me that I was a textbook case, young mom, chubby, pale, that I needed to talk to my regular doctor about changing my lifestyle, or getting it pulled out. He said I needed to take care of myself. I just thought he was being kind.
I left the hospital doped up on pain and anti-bile duct clenching meds, a happy camper. Until I did some research, and talked to my doctor, and realized the problem was oh so much bigger. The ER doctor wasn’t just being nice to me. I really did need to take care of myself, but not in the “go home and have some tea and a nap” kind of way. In the “you need to rethink how you’re living your life” kind of way.
I wasn’t taking care of myself at all.
Weight has always been my struggle, so it is not surprising that when I stopped paying attention to it, it came back with a vengeance. I wasn’t thinking about me. I had two young kids and it took everything that I had just to keep them alive, fed, clean and happy. Between my kids, my house, my husband, my dog, trying to keep friendships alive, and going to school the last thing I was thinking about was what was going into my mouth, and when the last time I intentionally broke a sweat was.
I wasn’t taking care of me.
But my problem was about more than calories in and calories out. I struggled deeply with depression. Motherhood wasn’t what I expected, and my sense of self was completely lost. I was lonely being at home with kids all the time. When doctors told me that I needed to “take care of myself” I wanted to shout at them! “When the hell am I supposed to do that? After I’ve been up all night? Or after I’ve spent the whole day trying to take care of my family.”
I wrongly assumed that taking time to do things for myself meant that I wasn’t a good mom or wife. I thought that putting myself first was selfish. I thought that I could procrastinate and maybe when the kids went to school, or someday, I’d be able to change. But it doesn’t work that way. You can’t count on tomorrow.
In order to truly take care of me, I had to do more than just eat better. I needed to press the reset button.
I put school on the backburner. Someday, maybe, I’ll get back to it.
I joined a Writer’s Group, and I now have other nerd friends who like reading my work and giving me insights and hints. I like reading their work too and it makes me feel like a real person to be able to offer my opinion on things that aren’t related to parenting.
I started running. It’s been a long road fraught with blisters and a recurring hip injury, but a year ago I would have never looked forward to pounding out five miles on the treadmill – now I do.
I got really serious about portion size. Really. My mind is still blown by the amount of food that I used to be able to consume. If I have one tip about eating it is about taking control of how much you put in your mouth..
I changed what I eat. If I’m fueling my machine with less, it needs to be more nutritious – less carbs (nothing white – sugar, flour, rice, potatoes, etc.) – lots more protein. And I discovered that I LOVE a lot of things that I didn’t think I ever would. My mind is expanding along with my palate.
I’m a lot more gentle with myself. I stress less. I give myself time to write. I nap if I want to. I feel guilty less. I let my four year old pick out her own outfits. If the two year old doesn’t want a bath – no one died from stinky baby pits.
Sometimes, I let it be about me. I temporarily forget the mom/wife/stay at home part and just focus on me.
As a result, I’m 90lbs lighter than I was. I still have 40 to go, but I weigh the same as I did in high school and feels really good. (It helps that I was chubby in high school) But it is about more than the weight loss. I have more energy. I’m a better Mom. I’m a better wife. I yell less and say ‘yes’ more. I’m not afraid of having my picture taken. I feel more like me.
It’s been a journey and not always an easy one. I can’t say that I haven’t cried over plateaus. Watched loved ones eat cake and ice cream with jealousy in my heart. Wanted to hit something when I woke up and could barely walk for pain in my hip. I’ve run in the dark and in the rain and for one week in February after my treadmill broke I ran in temperatures I’m sure they only experience at the North Pole. I have scars on my belly from having my gall bladder removed, and yes, it sucks that after so much weight loss I still don’t look hot in a bikini, that my midsection closely resembles jello in a silver striped bag.
But then, I went to Manhattan with my husband and walked all over the city by myself without breaking a sweat. In the city of fashion and models I didn’t feel fat or frumpy. I’ve killed it at hotel gyms in at least three cities and not felt self conscious once. I no longer choose clothing based solely on its concealing and camouflaging properties. I went to my childhood best friend’s wedding, saw people I haven’t seen in a decade and didn’t once think about how chubby I am. I bought a bikini and wore it proudly in the privacy of our vacation house pool. I’m a much better example to my children. I’m less afraid of chasing my dreams.
I’m changing. I’m stronger, harder, and more confident in every area of my life. I’m more generous, less sensitive, and a better partner and mother. I’m less stressed and more adventurous. I’m becoming the person that I’ve always wanted to be.
I’m taking care of me.