Tired doesn’t even crack the surface. Exhausted, not even close. It’s days like these that I sit in bed wondering what am I doing? Really, what?
I walked with anxiety and depression for years. I just did a really good job fooling myself that I was doing FINE (but Fine is really an acronym for: Freaked out, Insecure, Nervous, Emotional)
Then my life crumbled. Jake’s death carried so many parts of me with him. Parts of me died too. And I was left a shell of a person.
So I searched for a way to fill myself and repair my cracks. All on the external. Through friendships, gym memberships, vacations, buying things, therapy, prescribed medication, alcohol, memorials to Jake, connections to his friends, etc.
As time went on I began to feel a pull in my gut that none of these things would fill the gaping hole in my soul. And often when I felt these moments, I would shove them down and just try a new external fix. Constantly chasing the dream that something outside would fix me. The way Jake did. Because even when I look back on my relationship with him, I see that I placed my worth and value in his hands. Don’t take this the wrong way, we had a beautiful relationship and this is in no way negative towards him. This was my worth and value issues to own.
I met Jake when I was 17 and we grew into adults together. It makes perfect sense that if I struggled with self confidence, worthiness, and my value that I would put that on his shoulders to carry and find my strength in the way he loved me. I came to believe he was the only one that could love me the way he did. My core belief was still that I was hard to love and not necessarily worthy of it, but I had found someone who would love me unconditionally in spite of that.
Then he was killed. And the bottom dropped out. Not just from my life, my future, my family, but also my entire identity that I had built for 16 years. Who was I without him? How could I raise 2 boys without him? How could I live without him? I didn’t believe in myself. Jake believed in me. And if he wasn’t walking this Earth any longer then where did my worth and value go if he was the only one who saw it within me (or so I believed.)
So what I need you to understand is not only did I lose my best friend, the love of my life, my husband, the father of my children, and my teammate in life, I lost MY IDENTITY.
My therapy became so much more than learning to navigate emotions, grief, and loss. I had to settle the demons and beliefs deep in my heart about who I was. And nothing, absolutely NOTHING would do that for me. My doctor wouldn’t have a magical pill that made me feel better. A depression diagnosis wouldn’t reveal a revolutionary all in one healing formula. Simply attending the therapy sessions would not be like taking a car to a shop to get worked on. She couldn’t fix me. An expensive gym membership or a personal trainer would not provide me the confidence or the drive to believe I could be strong and fit. My friends could not provide the security and love that I needed to make me feel worthy.
My worth, my value, and my love for myself only comes from within me. And God, that was a terrifying thought for me. If it had to come from me, and I thought of myself as a joke, then how was I to find the inner strength to believe I was worthy, valuable, and love myself.
My turning point was a global pandemic. Covid 19. Schools closing, stay at home orders, cautions to avoid public places, and my decision to keep our family as restricted until this virus isn’t effecting so many. All this forced me to look inward. I canceled my personal training sessions, I stopped seeing friends, I visited my elderly parents from a safe distance outside, and I couldn’t escape home life when kids went to school and daycare, because now home was school and daycare.
All that remained were small choices I could make. Choosing 10 minutes to do a guided meditation, finding the time to journal, taking a walk with the kids to find a connection with nature, finding time to squeeze in a yoga session online, realizing fitness is my choice even though I have a gym in the basement that is worthy of charging others memberships to. I could clean and scurry to numb my anxiety. I could watch TV to shut my thoughts off. OR I could make these small, daily choices that would ultimately feed my soul.
And girl, IT IS HARD. I have read about prioritizing your self care for years. My therapist has preached it. My kids’ therapists have told me I must take care of myself to be the best for them. But when it comes down to the choice of putting yourself first and feeding your soul, It feels impossible. I don’t have easy kids. They have experienced trauma, developmental delays, ADHD, and ODD. And then their own stress of being isolated from the world in this pandemic. Almost eight months into this hot mess, I have come to the realization I must take my excuses out with the trash.
If you have to wake up early, DO the meditation and the Bible study.
If you have to wait until they go to bed, journal your thoughts and get that junk off your chest before you fall asleep.
If you have to turn off the TV, squeeze in that yoga session.
If you get an urge to use that at home gym, put the kids in their rooms with their nine million toys and tell them Mama has got to work out and they are going to have to clean the house if they dare bother you.
I’ve started to do these things AND I’m not perfect. I miss days. But instead of shaming myself for imperfection, I look at the next part of the day or next morning as a new opportunity to try again. And slowly, I am finding my worth, my value, and learning to love myself with each choice I make for myself.
You can do this. No matter how long it takes. I am writing this 2 years and 7 months out since Jake’s death. It’s taken me time to get here and a pandemic to push my stubborn butt to try, yet here I am.
Each day is a new day. Try and try again. No more excuses.
And just so you know, as I am writing, my 5 and 7 year old are remote learning in our basement classroom. I have the camera for the basement blaring on my phone to monitor them, the basement door chime has gone off 5 times as my 7 year old comes to ask me what was an obvious question that I thought I had previously solved for him. And I have had to rescue the Roomba from the prison it locked itself in, my dog is barking and annoying the neighbors, and my kitchen looks like a family of 20 just dined and left. NO MORE EXCUSES.