Guest Post: Remembering the Importance of Self

This guest post is written by Tracy Bradley, massage therapist on sabbatical, in Arkansas.

Find more guest posts here. Enjoy! 


photo-1447619297994-b829cc1ab44a

Self-care, The Plan:

  • Journal everyday
  • 5 minute meditation daily
  • Start sun salutations
  • Read for pleasure daily
  • Go outside with the kids
  • Long baths
  • Special treats

Self-care, What Really Happened:

I joined the group when Amber started the 100 Days of Self-Care Challenge. I’ve been so focused on my family that I let my needs go. What a great opportunity to turn inward and slowly start a habit or two soley for my well-being! I’ve always “written” so journaling seemed like the easy start. Yoga is enjoyable, therefore Sun Salutations seemed the comfortable start. I LOVE to read great books but busy-ness and social media have edged books to the side. A challenge seemed the perfect nudge to change a few things.

My journal received three dreadful, melancholy entries. I still haven’t done a single SS. Reading is a success, although sometimes it’s only for 5 minutes a day. No baths. No meditation. No treats. I literally could not do the things that should have been so easy.

I didn’t realize I was one level above rock bottom. Postpartum Depression and Anxiety had taken over my person. Taking 5 minutes to jot down a few words felt like a knife ripping through my head. The only thoughts I could think to write were terrible. So I skipped it. Yoga would have felt amazing if only I could have moved to the floor. Crippling anxiety prevented me from leaving the house most days. Isolation was comfortable until it began to hurt.

Self-Care, The New Plan

I reached out to my healthcare provider who is also a close relative. I unloaded my thoughts and symptoms into her small exam room. She was understanding. She listened. She asked questions. She answered about a million questions from me. We discussed options and decided to try a medication. I was ready for it. (I know medication isn’t for everyone, but this is my personal story.) I left relieved, optimistic, and terrified of horrible side effects. I realized how low I’d gotten. My family was suffering, but more importantly, I was suffering.

My new self-care habit is taking one pill per day. At the conclusion of the trial period I am overjoyed to say I feel human again! In addition to taking my meds, I do other self-care things. I leave the house for fun now. I haven’t been writing, but I’ve been contacting friends and family. We meet for fun things now and I don’t have paralyzing anxiety about it. There are almost no words to express my relief.

Self-care is important, but it can look different for different people. While some may balk at the idea of an hour with a book, that scenario excites me. Running for any reason other than escape is torture for me! However, there are thousands of people who pound their stress into the pavement. Our unique ways to care for ourselves are good. We just need to remember how important “self” is and take action and take care.

 

If you are struggling with PPD, anxiety or depression, please do not hesitate to seek help. Reach out to your healthcare provider or call Postpartum Support International at 800-944-4773.

4 Things I’ve Learned from My Daughter Redux

941306_10152824957170641_1919170735_nWhen I wrote 4 Things I’ve Learned from My Daughter, I didn’t realize the post was already written and safely tucked away in my Evernote notebook. Some points here are ones that didn’t show up in the first piece and others may echo what’s already been said. Either case, no word is wasted here so I’m sending this post out into the world and maybe you can pull something from it that the original didn’t deliver.

—————-

During my second pregnancy, I found out I was having a girl. I can’t really explain what kind of fear this brought up for me.

Thoughts kept cycling around, “if I’m not confident in MYself, how can I teach her to love her own body?” Then, “what if something happens?” Also, “I can’t relate to most women, how will I be able to relate to my daughter?”

You get the idea.

While it’s not as scary as I thought, I suspect the scary part has yet to come. I mean as of this writing, she is only four and teenage years are not too far away. I am certain we will have bumpy patches and even more positive there will be learning curves and delicious laughter. For now, here are some things my daughter has taught me thus far…

See others for who they really are – not what you expect them to be.

If I had to sum her up in a sentence, I’d tell you she was a sensitive, free-spirited butterfly that is easy-going and just rolls with the punches. And for the most part that’s true. She is very easy-going and free-spirited. However, there are moments when she clearly has an opinion about what’s happening.

Because she’s so “go with the flow” I’m always surprised when she shows resistance to something new or shows she doesn’t feel comfortable. It always catches me off guard because where my son has trouble with change, she usually does not. So I expect her to behave in a certain way and when that doesn’t happen I realize there are things I might not know about her yet.

Sometimes it’s OK to hide out until you’re ready. 

Like I said, it’s not often she shows resistance to newness and change. Every first day of school has been a breeze and an exciting event. Ditto with birthday parties in locations she’s never been with people she doesn’t know. Easy breezy. But her first dance class left a lot to be desired. She was nervous and even though she had been there prior and was comfortable in the location, she clung to me and cried.

I wasn’t able to figure out if it was nerves, fear, or the worry about doing well but I allowed her to sit with me and observe. Her next class we prepared by talking about how she could just watch – but I was not going to be in the room this time. She sat with this the whole day and her resistance was greatly reduced. When that class was over she told me about how next class would be different and she was going to do the whole thing. And you know what? She did.

She has taught me to be more sensitive.

I’m generally not a “suck it up” type mom but I have no tolerance for whining and carrying on needlessly. In recent months, she’s expressed her opinions with quite a bit of whining. It took a little bit of looking deep to realize exactly what was going on. It occurred to me that she had a valid point of view. We explained that it was OK to express her feelings but we’d rather with words than whining.

Whining was her go to for communication because she couldn’t describe something that was be above her vocabulary and/or understanding. She just knew something was off and needed to express that. Being sensitive to that and really listening beyond the whining was actually what got us passed that phase.

Don’t take things too seriously and learn to relax.

Oh man, I cannot even tell you how fun she is. We play house in the woods. We throw rocks in the water. We paint in splattered aprons. We take the long way to where we are going. We have even been known to go alligator hunting in a fuzzy coat and glitter shoes. (Her idea.) My daughter has opened the door to a world that I didn’t realize I had closed off.

Nothing is off-limits. She doesn’t realize it, but she is bringing me back to the person I use to be – and thought I’d lost.

Sometimes You Just Have to Feel the Music

IMG_5011I’m what you call a Tom-Boy. I’ve been playing football with the boys (in the rain!) for as long as I can remember. I was the only girl on an all-boys soccer team. I’ve been bruised and landed myself in the hospital a time or two.

You wouldn’t exactly call me “graceful” or “delicate.” Not unless grace comes in the form of barreling down a field, wiping sweat and dirt from your body. I’ve carried these stories about myself for years. I don’t deny them. It’s who I am.

Grace is something I’ve never claimed.

Fast forward to my college years, I was still playing soccer, running track, and my football games morphed into late night rollerblading and puddle hopping. Then, for some reason I decided to sign up for a dance class.  Considering I hadn’t taken any form of movement art since the age of four [see photo], I was dangerously out of my element.

I must say the dance class in college was a blast. True, I was awkward and I mostly focused on trying not to trip over my own feet. It was bizarre to have such finesse in a full contact sport but yet taking three steps one way and two another would spiral me into some sort movement that resembled a seizure.

It wasn’t hard to figure out that this body was not made for artistic movement.

At the end of the semester, our class was assigned a final dance, where we had to partner up and perform a piece we choreographed (from scratch people!) that would go toward our final grade. Having essentially no dance background, I was freaked. Then, my very intelligent(?) instructor paired me with a girl who had probably been dancing since before she could walk. The word panic cannot touch the terror I felt about this arrangement.

I’m certain I apologized profusely to the poor girl. 

After a few weeks of absolutely no rehearsing or preparation for our final dance (it’s possible my partner couldn’t bring herself to work with me and my malfunctioning body), my partner and I finally got together the night before our performance would take place.

To say we crammed for this final is putting it mildly. We slapped that dance together (like securing construction paper with old, dried-up glue sticks) and shoved it down our throats so fast I was sick over it. The following day, I had absolutely NO IDEA what to do when I walked into that studio. I didn’t remember a single thing. Not one single thing. I contemplated talking to my professor and backing out – taking the F, if that’s what it meant.

Instead, I watched*. And I watched.

I watched people who had been dancing forever, pour their hearts out through their routines. I watched my classmates – mesmerized by the movement. I watched the music come alive.

And then it was my turn. 

As I walked over to my position, it was like a fist had gripped my heart. I couldn’t breathe. My hands were shaking. My head was fuzzy trying remember something – anything. The words “I can’t do this.” played on my lips and I wondered what it would feel like to speak them out loud.

Suddenly, the music started… 

That’s when I went on autopilot. My brain checked out and my body was hijacked by the music. “Magic” feels cliché but it’s a word that has frequently come to mind because if anything felt like magic (or a miracle!) it was in that moment. Every single step of that routine was in place. Every extension. Every pointed toe. Every uplifted arm. In fact, I was so mesmerized by the music and the movement, I didn’t see that I had run out of room.

Fortunately, my triple spin ended with my nose mere inches away from that pale yellow wall. And (thankfully!) the music ended right on time. I had successfully completed the final with no clumsiness and only one (one!) close call.

Who said I wasn’t a dancer?

Oh, right. That was me. I spent every dance class that semester thinking I didn’t belong and that I was way out of my league. And you know what? I was. These people had been training for years and this class was a breeze for them. But here’s the funny thing, I was part of that class. I belonged there just as much as anyone else.

I wanted the experience and that’s exactly what I got. 

I doubt my partner was thrilled to have me assigned to her but the look on her face afterward was pretty awesome. I had others approach me at the end of class, congratulating me on the effort and we laughed about the “near fatality.” In the end, my instructor excused the near wall-collision and gave me an A.

 

In what ways have you completely surprised yourself?

 

*FROZE. Instead, I froze. (That’s more like it.)