Those are words you never want to hear from your doctor.
I quickly drove over, gripping the steering wheel with sweaty palms.
I hadn’t been feeling well for months. I was tired right down to my bones. My chest felt tight. I was easily short of breath. My hair was like straw and falling out with alarming frequency.
After a scary episode where I literally felt like an elephant was stepping on my chest, I finally went to the doctor. He did a full battery of tests. The results were in.
With grave seriousness, the doctor explained that my thryoid was out of whack and that my hemoglobin was so low that he called the laboratory and asked them to re-check my blood for leukemia. Thankfully, it was negative. But that didn’t mean I was out of the woods.
He looked me in the eye and said firmly, “You are great at taking care of everyone else. Now it’s time to take care of you.”
I was in a Mom Self-Care 911 Emergency. Everything had to stop. Due to some major circumstantial and family-related crises, I had demoted the priority of my well-being for quite some time. It had just gotten a promotion.
As moms, we think we’re being noble. Sacrificial. Martyr — in the best sense of the word.
But what good is a chronically ill, irritable, stressed-out mom? All that “good” I thought I was doing? With the benefit of hindsight, I’m not so sure I was doing as much good as I thought.
“Godzilla Mommy” isn’t remembered fondly by my family during that time period.
Since then, I have taken a few steps to make sure I avoid future Mom Self-Care Emergencies:
I feed my body. And I don’t give it junk either. I take vitamins and supplements. I make healthy smoothies, eat yogurt, salads, whole grains, etc. I don’t drink sugary drinks and I rarely keep ice cream or junk food around the house (much to my teenagers’ dismay). These are good practices for anyone. I have chronic autoimmune issues, so it is especially important for me. Taking good care of myself enables me to take care of others.
I feed my soul. Nearly every morning, before my crazy day begins, I sit at my kitchen table and spend time in Bible study and prayer. Before I had children, I wasn’t very good at being consistent in this area. The demands of parenting quickly brought me to my knees — literally. Centering my soul and acknowledging my utter dependence on God’s sufficiency and power helps me start my day knowing I am not in control. He is. And that’s a very good — and freeing — thing.
I feed my need for a break. I don’t need a lot of “me” time to rejuvenate, but I definitely need some on a consistent basis. Lunch with a friend. A walk in the evening. Even just a 15-minute solitary retreat to my bedroom! Combined with my daily time with God, this makes such a difference in my perspective and state of mind. Also, once a year, I go to the same Hampton Inn about 45 minutes from my house. I drive to the Panera’s right down the road, order my favorite salad or sandwich and go back to my room. And do absolutely nothing that I don’t want to do for about 24 hours. The peace and quiet helps me untangle my brain and — again — gain perspective. It is worth every penny. My family would agree.
As my doctor told me years ago, we’re great at taking care of everyone else. We have to take care of ourselves.
Trust me, we don’t want to wait under we hear sirens.