A little over a year ago, I was running completely on empty. I was trying to make everyone happy, and falling short of it. The more I denied myself, the worse I felt. But the “mom guilt” kept me going.
I believed this lie for most of my life. I heard people repeat it so many times and in so many different ways that I made it my secret mantra. So secret, I wasn’t even aware of it.
In addition, my dad had recently passed away. And the guilt of not being able to say goodbye to him made me even more determined to deny myself and try to mold myself to become what others expected of me. I got a lot of praise for doing so, so I figured that was the right thing to do.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
An Identity Crisis
It got to the point that I couldn’t keep up with the pace I had set for myself. And after having what can only be described as an identity crisis, I was sent West to be with my sister, to recuperate, and to find my center.
At first, this trip felt like a punishment of sorts. As it turns out, being away helped me think about my life. And I didn’t particularly like what I saw. I found I was just going through the motions, an empty shell of myself.
So, I decided to make some changes.
I started writing again, took my health seriously, and started eating right. I learned I had used eating as a coping mechanism. I searched for comfort in the food, and food seemed to be the one thing right in an ocean of wrongs.
So I began healing, from the inside out.
But shortly after this epiphany, a pandemic happened. I fell once again into old patterns. I became numb and lost interest in everything, again. I felt miserable, but brushed it off by keeping myself busy, but emotionally distant. This time, I tried to invest in my relationships at home, and once again neglected that I also needed a good relationship with myself as well.
One day, after a particularly painful conversation, I had a revelation. I realized that the only one who can and will support the real me, who can help me grieve the loss of my father, and the loss of so much of myself, was ME. I needed to grieve and I decided to give in to my feelings of loss and despair. I cried for about a week, non-stop.
Then I shook myself off, got a haircut and my nails done, and set out to mend the mess I had made.
Finding My Way Back
I started asking people pronounce my name correctly. For the longest time, I’ve accepted that people called me by the English version of it. I sort of erased myself in the process of being a mother, so hearing my name again was liberating.
I lost most of the weight I gained in the past few years. Became a pescatarian most of the week, with the occasional bacon here and there. I started making connections with people, complimenting them when I felt like it, instead of holding back like I used to. Also, I sought out a network of women I could rely on, and that liked me for who I am.
I made my house the restful, cheerful place I want it to be, and took action. Then, I started speaking my mind, telling people what I really thought. I don’t know how, but slowly and surely, the more I loved myself the less I wanted to be the old me.
Making Myself a Priority
I started making time for myself, established better boundaries, and learned to say no without apologizing. I decided to love my body as it is now, not the body I wish I had. I did a boudoir photoshoot, and looking at those photos made me realize that all this change was just the beginning.
I want my children to remember a mother that loved them and herself in equal measure. Someone who wasn’t afraid to make mistakes, to meet new people, to try new adventures. I want them to remember me being me. With all my flaws. With my big voice, my spirituality, my creativity, my geekiness, and my desire to improve things and make them beautiful.
I want them to remember the real me.
The one that loves them unconditionally, but also loves herself enough to know when she deserves a break, and that she deserves to also do the things she dreamt about long ago, not just be an extra in someone else’s life.