Monday, May 16, 2016

She Lost Herself

There's this well known phrase about women, particularly moms, who no longer look like their younger, fitter, childless selves; a phrase that has never, to the best of my knowledge, been uttered in a positive or kind way; a phrase which holds so much power in the attitude in which it is spoken, that it resonated deeply within me as a child, when I would hear adults speak it of someone, with pretentious, gossipy, indignation:

"She really let herself go."

Let herself go where exactly?

Because, as I see it, she probably hasn't let herself go anywhere.

I have been battling feelings brought up by this phrase for a long time now, not that I have ever actually heard it directed at me, but who does? No one. No one hears that insult. That insult falls onto the ears of other pretentious, judgmental adults, and young children. Young children who grow into adults and come to realize, they are likely the ones being spoken about in this way.

See, a while back, I discovered that I am practically unrecognizable to people who haven't seen me in 10ish years. I was briefly excited to see an old friend, until I noticed the tilted head and squinting eyes of "I think I should know you." And it's not her fault. I am currently still roughly 60 lbs overweight from a very large pregnancy. I have very few clothes that fit comfortably, and so I look like a sloppy, hot mess most days, and most days, I hope against all hope, that I never run into anyone I knew back in college...or high school, or anyone who knew my former self. You know, the one worthy of being known and seen. You see, because it is now my perception that I am that embarrassment of a person; the one people have to squint at and do a double take at, and then go home wondering, "What happened to her?" The one who sees the occasional Facebook rants about adults wearing old sweats (of all things) in public, and women who don't wear make up, or do their hair, or make themselves look nice for their men. What horrible and lazy moms and wives they must be, right?


In fact, it's probably the exact opposite of everything you think about them. Last year, I had my 4th child. She was just about as close as you can get to 10 lbs, without actually being 10 lbs, so we'll just say it; she was a 10 pound baby. I gained close to 70 lbs, on top of the almost 30 I was still hanging on to from my third pregnancy.

I had been homeschooling my oldest 2 children, in grades 1 and 2. I had been nursing a baby. I had been trying to cater to the needs of a toddler somewhere in between. At about the 3 month mark, postpartum, my back decided to stop working properly. Putting the baby into the crib, and taking her out, suddenly became breathtakingly painful. I worked through it, remained functional, and discovered one of the possible causes was diastasis recti. This was a devastating blow to my former self, the athletic self, the one with a ridiculously strong core because her other limbs were always injured and core work was all she could do.

It hasn't gotten any better either. Charlotte is now over a year old. I stopped homeschooling the older two children to give myself a break, and maybe, just maybe, more time to take care of myself. I recently went to a dentist for the first time in 4 years, to discover my teeth are falling apart. I take very good care of them at home, but don't have time for many doctor's appointments of my own, not to mention a complete lack of dental insurance. Sooooo, the dentist was my first stop on the "take better care of mommy tour," and now, I might need oral surgery to keep my teeth in my head. Spine specialist is stop number 2, since last week, when I tried a muscle relaxer for my back for the first time (after finally weaning the baby from nursing), it disoriented me, caused one eye to dilate like crazy, and kept me in bed all day with motion sickness from simply standing.

You see, when you are a stay at home, homeschooling mom of 4 children, with no available family nearby to watch the kids for you during the week, and a husband who works during the operating hours of most all other medical places of business, getting out to see a doctor yourself, or do anything for yourself, is a near impossibility. Any available hours for that are quickly taken with everyone else's appointments (including the dog's), and grocery shopping and errand running. See, she doesn't let herself go. She gets completely lost.

She loses herself to love others and make sure they are well taken care of.
She loses herself in a schedule that circles rapidly around her, but doesn't include her.
She loses herself to herself; her own guilt, shaming herself for stealing away any alone time that doesn't involve grocery or birthday or necessary shopping for her family.
She loses herself in social media, a rare outlet, where anyone and everyone is there to invalidate every thought, opinion, or emotion she has; the only place in the world where she is surrounded by thousands, and completely alone at the same time.

And once she's completely lost, unrecognizable to even herself, she battles different emotions. Feelings of complete worthlessness. How did she get this bad? She doesn't even deserves this family. And these kids...these loving kids? While she's so busy, self loathing herself for even taking the time to self loathe, she can't find the time/energy/strength to enjoy what's right in front of her. Her inner struggle is a constant tug of war between wanting to freeze and enjoy every single moment with her rapidly growing children, and counting down the seconds to when they go to bed.

She hasn't let herself go, people. I beg of you, please stop using this to describe women who, to you, might look run down, overweight, exhausted, or seem to be aging poorly. She hasn't let herself go. She forgot how to make herself a priority. She has lost herself, sacrificed herself for the sake of those she loves, not to the point of martyrdom, but just far enough to not quite know how to claw her way back. Instead of judging her, labeling her, or thinking her a negative person who must love misery, love her, and know that she doesn't need pity or even unsolicited advice, but rather love, support, and understanding; to know that just maybe, she's not as alone as she feels.

**Update, I am working toward a healthier me. Do not allow my honest and uncomfortable, heartfelt emotions here to scare you or worry for me. I will soon update with a blog about the journey to a healthier mommy. :) 

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