A while back, during the time just after Nicco’s birth, when my husband was working all day and starting a business all night, when sick family members were living with us and I was struggling to set reasonable boundaries for what I was able to take on, I began to notice a change in my health.
I posted a question on one of my HIE support group asking other moms how they managed this life once their bodies started to fail them. Among the many responses I received, one has stuck with me through the years. It was from a woman who was already dealing with multiple auto immune issues and still somehow pushing through HIE grind. Her advice was, no matter how impossible it seemed, to make the changes necessary to support myself before my body and health deteriorated. She told me that at some point it would be too late to save myself and that looking back, I’d regret not doing something when I still had the chance.
It has taken me three years to work up the courage to heed her advice. My body has been going haywire for a long time now, but during this last year and a half, things have steadily declined and now my lack of wellness is really starting to affect my family’s life. In my weakened state, I am no longer the mother, partner or woman that I was. I am exhausted, short tempered, burnt out to a crisp and unable to contribute anywhere near what I used to for my family.
My cup is completely empty. And I am the one who allowed that to happen.
Although I’ve known that I have needed a break to rest, reset and reprioritize, actually creating space for that has felt impossible. I’ve had a thousand excuses for not prioritizing myself and a thousand more behind those. There is Oliver’s care and his happiness to worry over and his battles to fight. There are the dishes, the peed upon beds to change, and my husband’s schedule to work around. There is sustaining this new reality we’ve created and the businesses to keep running and the laundry to do. And then of course there is the endless dog diarrhea to wipe up, the lofty ideals of cleanliness to chase (and never reach) and all the dead vermin that our cat kills to dispose of. Honestly, my To Do list could literally go on forever… as can that of most parents.
It wasn’t until a phone call with my sister this week, that something shifted in my mind, and I realized that I too deserve a place on that never-ending list of things to care for.
So, this morning, with tears in my eyes, I drove away from my house, not exactly sure when I will return. It is with deep surrender that I am traveling back to my childhood home in Chicago, to be surrounded by the people who’ve known me all my life. My sincere hope is that their support and this space will help me back to a place of health and that I really haven’t waited too long to care for ME.
The HIE life will present you with a million impossible decisions that you’ll rarely feel ready to make. But that lack of readiness does not change the fact that those decisions must be made. It eventually becomes clear that you have only two choices; keep moving forward in the face of your fears or become paralyzed by them and drown in the sorrows of your struggle. This trip away from Oliver to prioritize my own well-being for once, is me choosing option #1. I am terrified to leave him. And yet I need to for a while.
In all honesty, asking my husband to do Oliver’s care while I go away to recover feels ridiculous. A part of me is screaming out, ‘You don’t deserve this!’ My stomach is in knots with anxiety, and I have spent the last few days obsessively organizing details to try to make his care as fluid and easy as possible while I am away. Ironically, still trying to control every detail of that which I can no longer control. It’s time to let go of the reins.
I know that to some people, this may look like failure, like I’m running away from my life with my tail between my legs, unable to uphold my commitments and responsibilities. Or perhaps it’s only my own inner critic who thinks that. Regardless, I am choosing to see this as a victory of personal growth… one in which a mother who has never prioritized or cared for herself well, is taking a step to break through the barriers of approval she has always sought and find the confidence to follow her own knowing.
The HIE life will destroy your body and mind if you allow yourself to become weakened to the point of no return. So here I sit, in the place of the woman who gave me advice three years ago, sharing this wisdom with others currently following the path to personal destruction.
Put that oxygen mask on yourself first. Save your life and support your health because although it appears selfish, in the end it is the strongest thing that you can do for your child. You will be at your best only when you are well, so fight for your health with everything you’ve got.
“Take care of your body. It is the only place you have to live.” ~ Unknown