The year the world stopped…
I had been back to work for one year when the Corona Virus (COVID-19) hit and shut down the world. Schools closed and I was laid off. The world stayed indoors, isolated and distant. From the safety of our Farmhouse, my family and I watched as the world responded to these unprecedented times.
Months passed, summer came and there was no clear answer as to when this would all end. Just thoughts of the new normal; what life would become for society as a whole? – what this meant for my life? – not to mention, how my family was going to deal with all of the eventual change and trepidation.
Through it all I tried to remain grounded, rational, and in an instant, willing to adapt. I have had moments of triumph and moments of failure but through it all I continue to feel hope and am equipped with the determination to get to the other side. I possess a strong desire to listen in order to hear, to see and to feel.
The year leading up to the pandemic was an incredible year of growth and exploration. Working outside of the home revitalized the parts of my brain that had been in hibernation since becoming a Mother. The opportunities I was shown to expand myself professionally and personally were abundant.
Returning to work had provided me with a channel that was separate from the roles I previously assumed. It was a step towards reclaiming myself as an individual, it encouraged the opportunity to stretch and exercise my mental acuity, it allowed me to implore my creativity, it helped to grow my confidence and ignite a fire that I hadn’t felt in years. Gainful employment held such positivity for me. It was an outlet to explore and I had a feeling it would lead me to bigger and better opportunities and personal challenges.
Once upon a time I would have considered myself an artist. One who came to understand life through my expression of art. I wrote poetry and essays. I occasionally painted. For a brief stint, I was a part of a Murder Mystery Improv Troop (That was fun!). I love photography and being surrounded by other people’s creativity and expression. I simply adore this part of me; this creative space where I am free, where I once felt safe enough to become myself, whether the She in the moment or the She in greater scheme of life.
I stopped creating long before I started having children. I once spoke with a poet/writer; we were strangers sitting at the counter of a mom and pop coffee shop. We shared the counter space, sipped our coffees and, as counter neighbours in Nova Scotia do, started a friendly conversation. His introduction to me as poet immediately brought our conversation to that of writing. I explained the discomfort my writing left with me. As my writing began to seek more intimacy and more authenticity, I became more uncomfortable. It felt like, I might just be going crazy. He plainly said, something akin to, “…as writers we are bound to go a little crazy.” and He added, “the writing will be better for it.”
The decision to break up with my muse…
I often return to this memory. After I left the coffee shop that afternoon I went home and moved my journals and pens to a place where they were neither in the way nor in my immediate view. I decided I was taking a break to re-calibrate. When I moved from that flat the writing was packed away with the rest. For years the journals sat inside a dark cardboard box with my scattered collection of thoughts and emotions. Pages of writing on top of pages of writing, pieces of my soul, the intimate layers of my being thrown into a box; conveniently tucked away and forgotten about. Eventually, a distant memory while I tried to become someone else entirely.
I could never bring myself to get rid of the writing; the parts of me from once before. I didn’t pick up my pen again for a very long time. There were moments that I attempted to breathe life back into my work but my voice had been silenced, my well of words dry.
What I didn’t consider at the time was how my mental health might be influencing my thoughts. My writing pushed for more of me and I felt I was getting too close and too intimate. If this had happened today, I would question whether I needed to address my shadow work and I would push for some clarity. But back then I wasn’t ready. There were themes and personality traits I was unable to deal with at that time.
Who I am, who I became and who I will become…
In my natural setting I am an introvert, a homebody, someone who finds comfort and safety when surrounded by family. These pre-pandemic tendencies to isolate come very natural to me but life and experience has taught me that my mental health starts to waver in moments of isolation, through the loss of connection and unstructured days.
Being a full time, Stay-At-Home-Mum (SAHM) was a time that elicited so many emotions; some great, some bad. When my youngest was 18 months I made an appointment with my doctor to talk about, what I thought was, late arriving postpartum depression and anxiety. I was aware of my tendencies to slip into depression and was aware of my feelings surrounding my anxiety but after kids these aspects of my personality became amplified and much more difficult to live with.
Therapy, medication and continued work on myself were the immediate answer. The long haul of dealing and coping with these emotions while balancing two toddlers, 16 months apart, was a challenge to say the least. But, these were my challenges. My daughters, my greatest motivators, building the ladder I required to rise above the depression, to be able to manage my anxiety and cultivate an environment which honoured balance and forgiveness.
The pandemic-induced stretch of returning to my SAHM role was a seemingly natural step backwards. I had been there and done that before. This time around however, I felt the sting of losing my Monday to Friday break while the girls were in school; the time that I had quickly identified as my own. In addition to the pressures presented by the pandemic, I felt stripped of everything I was doing for myself.
As a Mother, I fought with feelings that I was expected to sacrifice, that I was expected let go of all that I had achieved this year, that I was expected to put myself aside and place others before me. I struggled with feelings of being trapped, being denied my joy, being denied my individuality. This negative self-talk did not deserve my validation or anyone else’s. I didn’t have time for a pity party.
I was Mother, teacher and budding writer; a writer who launched a website amidst the pandemic. I was the house manager that tried to keep the house kept and home-cooked meals cooked. As time passed I struggled more and more with my mental health. I was determined to find a balance to meet my personal needs while managing the needs of the whole.
Spring was lost to the height of the pandemic. By the time June arrived we had been home for three and a half months and I was breaking. My anxiety levels rose, my depression darkened and all those familiar feelings of dread and suffocation were finding their way back to me. I was managing day by day poorly, trying to stay positive but noticing the downfall of tears, the feelings of disappointment, the mood swings, the high-carb binge fests, the weight gain and the exhaustion.
I was losing my footing on a slippery slope, my emotions surmounting – screaming avalanche! – threatening to swallow me whole. I needed an evacuation plan, a Saint Bernard to pull me from the wreckage. I needed to be rescued. I needed to become strong enough to save myself. It felt like my life was riding on it.
Now more than ever!
So many of us do not make or take enough time to unwind, decompress and relax. I know what I should do and some days I make an attempt but, I do so in a fashion that is inconsistent and infrequent. Most of the time it’s just a shower; let just get real for a moment! A shower is not enough time to process thoughts and emotions. It is enough time, however, to feel clean, comfortable, content and cozy. A superficial renewal that lasts only moments while the darker feelings and the erosion of well-being are stuffed into dark corners, left to fester, left to deal with another day.
In all honesty, I have been getting by like this for years. An ineffective approach that places zero value on me. All of the disregard plays out in negative self-talk, tremendous guilt, brain fog, and stifled creativity. I am forever behind the eight ball, always playing catch up or putting in a half-assed effort on the fly. My stress levels are moderately high and increasing and I have been trying to power through. Like most, I suspect. Too much coffee, not enough time and zero consideration for my withering state.
And, I know better. I know so much better!
My situation became evident and critical. The universe had spoken. To heal, I required a level of dedication and commitment to myself and this journey for self-care and self-betterment. It was absolutely necessary that I honour and value the influence that taking care of my Mind, Body and Spirit would have on my entire life. It was this revelation, this moment of clarity that spawned the idea to initiate The Summer of Self-Care (Self) Challenge.
Self-care is a form of self-love…
We have all heard those old adages: one cannot take care of anyone else until they have first taken care of themselves, or, one cannot fill another’s bucket from their own drained well…They say it because it’s true and this is where I am at.
When I talk about self-care, I am speaking about creating an approach for balance that satiates Mind, Body and Spirit. I am talking about what I need to identify my authentic self and my overall wellness as part of my life’s work. I am talking about embracing an approach to everyday life that supports my mental health, my physical health and my spiritual health.
I have spent a great deal of time this year working on my confidence levels and allowing my voice to speak. I am learning how to believe in myself again; the person that I am, my abilities and my talents. I am forever a work-in-progress and student of life and I believe that I can something that will greatly improve my life and my family’s.
beholdher.life is the online manifestation of that belief. Building this website, creating a space for myself to be and allowing myself the time to create is the self-care that I am currently invested in. But it’s not enough because it does not speak to the totality of the self-care I require.
I have committed the months of July and August 2020 to my individual self-care journey. I have selected a book to guide me on this journey. I have developed a program based on my needs inspired by the chapters within the book. The commitment is to mindfully move through each step, completing each task, working my way toward achieving my goal of creating self-care rituals that benefit and feed my Mind, Body and Spirit.
I encourage you to follow along or, if you could use a little more self-care in your life, begin your own Summer of Self-Care Challenge.
I challenge you to make this about YOU!
I have created a Board on Pinterest filled with useful information and ideas on how you can incorporate self-care into your daily routine. I have added self-care challenges created by others in case you want a jumping off point. I have also added a number of book titles that you might find useful on your journey.
This is a big step for me. Not only am I trying to better myself personally, but I am also trying to create a better life for me and my family. One filled with happy thoughts and positive outlooks. I need to shift my position and work towards gaining a perspective that will assist me raising my girls, loving my partner and, most importantly, loving myself.
I understand that life will not always offer up rainbows and peach pies and that the rain needs to fall to wash the surface clean but, through achieving balance I imagine a whole new world exists and if not, then with balance, I will still have a better chance of navigating this life and honouring this Mind, Body and Spirit.
Thank you for reading. Really, it means so much. I would love to hear what Self-Care is for you. Please feel free to drop a comment below and share, share, share.