Three Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Since the addition of our youngest three years ago, my health has been a little…wonky. Adoption is a roller coaster ride that leaves you a jumbled mess of emotion BEFORE the real adventure begins. You know…the parenting part. Right. Well, after a year of no sleep (my ninja didn’t sleep much his first year due to some health problems) and the normal stress of three kids and life, my body decided it had all it could take.

dreamstime_s_43549049Let me fill you in a little—In the seven years prior to the ninja’s arrival, I’d asked my body to do the following: two pregnancies, two cesarean sections, treatment for bleeding ulcers, two back surgeries, and all the other normal stuff being alive requires. Gratefully, my body acquiesced and carried me through. But after that 12-month stint in no-sleep-land, things started to get a little rough.

I was sick…a lot.

If a flu-bug or rotavirus came through our house, I got it—for twice as long as anyone else. I had pneumonia for weeks. I also began to break out in hives anytime I exercised or my skin was too cold. I stopped exercising both because of the hives and because I was SO FREAKING TIRED. I felt depressed. I gained weight. The battle with the Head Wench began. Ugh.

After a bazillion doctor visits with MDs, allergists, nutrition experts, holistic care practitioners, counselors…who all gave me prescriptions, supplement regimens, dietary changes, cleanses, etc., I have learned a few things.

1. Taking care of yourself requires effort.

I believe most people take their health for granted…until they don’t have it anymore. That was certainly the case for me. Even after escaping the strangle hold of a decade of chronic back pain, I still didn’t have adequate gratitude. It wasn’t until I was sick and feeling bad all the time that I began to question how I was caring for myself.

For example, I now know about the pivotal importance of sleep. I know that if I have three or more consecutive nights without adequate sleep, I will get sick. I now know that if I don’t have an accountability system based in a social network of friends to hold me responsible for consistent exercise, I will be inconsistent. And when I don’t exercise, the Head Wench gains power. I now know that sometimes I have to ask for help. I have a pretty cushy life, all things considered. That’s just the truth. But…FOR. THE. LOVE…life, no matter how fortunate, is hard. Parenting is really hard. Sometimes a break is needed, and I might have to ask, plan, arrange, or beg for it.

2. Feeling bad does not equate to BEING bad.

I’ve spent much of the last three years feeling bad. I’ve felt bad in the sense that I was ill. But what I’m talking about is this… I’ve also felt bad in the sense that I’ve felt sluggish, lethargic, out of shape, weak, and in general not-physically fit. I don’t like that feeling. I am working to change it—with balance. The caveat…the only way to accomplish feeling good in a balanced way, is to understand feeling bad about my health and fitness is NOT the same thing as being bad…or being a failure, a disgrace, or any other emotional synonym of “bad”. I am not (nor are you) bad because I am not at my ideal health and fitness level. It seems a little silly, but how many times have you chastised yourself for “being bad” because you missed a workout, slept in, skipped chores, ate dessert, etc.? I’m calling the bullshit card on this one. First of all, it just isn’t true. Jeffery Dahmer is bad. Terrorism is bad. You and I (unless there are some things you aren’t telling me) are not bad. Second, this is fodder for the Head Wench. That beeeee-atch lives for this kind of lie. Sometimes feeling good…healthy…strong, takes a long freaking time. Sometimes getting there might require months or years of care. A single day, hell – a single moment of telling yourself the lie of “I’m bad” is a waste, and the true shame in this situation is not the feeling bad…it’s the lying.

3. Don’t be a dick. It’s really that simple. Be nice…to yourself.

I started a little online support group a few months ago for some friends who share the similar struggle of finding balance in life. I’m going to share a post I made to the group recently. I believe it sums up this point of being nice.

 

Feeling the struggle this morning. 

I had a thought of, “Oh, when school starts things will be easier.” I actually began to wish away summer?!?! WTF is wrong with me!?!?

 Epiphany: I would rather have fun with my kids, friends, and enjoy all this beautiful season has to offer than fight with my body. I don’t like feeling overweight and out of shape, it’s true. But I like the idea of being a victim of self-loathing even less.

 I’m going to be NICE to me.

 Today I am 6’0″ & 193lbs of fun loving awesomeness. I have amazing kids, a freaking catch of a husband, the BEST friends in the world. I literally have EVERYTHING I need to live a more than comfortable life. I’m 100% chronic pain-free. I like me (almost all the time). I’d totally be friends with me…and I would think I was a pretty damn cool chick.

Feeling better already. 

There have been days in the last three years that have felt like months. Despite this being the case, the years have flown by. My tiny bundle of God’s handiwork is now not so tiny and preparing for his first year at preschool. Oh, the things he will learn! Being his mother has taught me so much. The three lessons I’ve outlined here are some of my favorites. I hope that in learning them myself I can teach him…to take care of himself, to know that telling yourself lies is a waste and a true shame, and being nice is almost always the right thing to do.