Who am I? What do I care about? What are my hobbies? What makes me interesting?
For the longest time, I had no idea.
I think sometimes we become so engrossed in other people, in other difficulties or happenings in life, that we lose ourselves and forget that we’re important too. The more and more we worry about other things, the less and less we take care of me, myself, and I. And before you know it, you look in the mirror and see a stranger. You’ve spent so much time on other things and other people that you don’t even know who you are anymore. Whether it’s our significant other, job, school, kids, relatives, friends, and so on…we notoriously tend to prioritize other things and care for other people to the point where we not only forget, but debilitate ourselves. I was guilty of it for many years (and still am), jumping from one horrific relationship to another, trying to work full-time at an old job that was proving to be a dead end, balance college on top of it trying to get a degree I no longer cared about...and then of course I wound up pregnant.
I’ve never been good at prioritizing myself, but pregnancy was a big game changer. It forced me to start making decisions to better care for myself, at least in a physical sense, in order to better care for my developing child. Even then, I had lost so much of myself that actually attempting to take care of me instilled a weird sense guilt and disappointment. Guilty that I was having to depend on other people in order to keep myself healthy (both mentally and with managing my diabetes), and disappointed because I still didn’t feel happy. You’d think having people lend a hand while you’re learning to take care of yourself and inadvertently re-learning who you are would be fun and exciting, but in reality it was one of the most painful lessons I’ve ever endured in my life.
When people found out I was pregnant, of course I heard about how wonderful having a kid is, how rewarding it is, and blah blah blah. I wasn’t really listening to the positive aspects. I was busy cringing thinking about child birth and how painful it was going to be, or if I had a c-section that my abs (the one part of my body I’ve always been proud of) would be destroyed and I’d be branded with a scar. How every time I box jumped, I would pee. That I would have stretch marks and loose skin. That I would never sleep again. I would never have time for myself again. That I’d probably be single the rest of my life because no one wants a single mom. I spent my entire pregnancy fretting about all the negative things and preparing myself for the absolute worst in every sense. I was so busy getting ready to assume my new identity of what I had been told being a ‘mom’ would be like that I didn’t enjoy or appreciate my pregnancy one bit. Despite that, I continuously told myself even if my body is destroyed and my sanity disappears, at least I would have my child. At least I would have an identity of being a ‘mother’ to give myself meaning, and that would be enough.
But when my son was born, all the things I had braced myself for, didn’t happen. Not a single stretch mark or loose skin. Recovery from my c-section went far better than expected, and I was even able to start working out again 4 weeks postpartum. I was back to pre-pregnancy weight 2 weeks after giving birth. You would think I would have been on cloud nine considering 99% of my fears didn’t come true.
But I wasn’t.
Postpartum depression hit me like a train going 100 miles per hour. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for a good chunk of my life, but nothing could have prepared me for how absolutely terrible I felt. I did my best to put on a happy face, but inside I was screaming. Not only was I having issues with my son’s father and adjusting to motherhood in general, but I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone I was struggling, as though it made me weak or a failure. I did my best to play it off like everything was fine, even though it was far from it. That baby weight I lost, was because I couldn’t bear to eat. At best, I would maybe have a banana for the entire day. That scar I was worried about, seemed swollen and huge and just downright hideous (not to mention, it was closed with PURPLE glue of all colors); I didn’t even want to look in the mirror. That child, no…my child that was supposed to just overwhelm me with feelings of love and fulfillment, overwhelmed me with fear and worthlessness. I couldn’t take care of myself…how was I supposed to take care of this baby? This poor, innocent baby that was stuck with me as a mother. I felt completely defeated. I had nothing to offer him. I didn’t feel like a mother. I no longer felt that I looked like a personal trainer. I didn’t feel remotely attractive. Hell, I didn’t feel human. I just literally felt like an empty shell. Every day I woke up and counted down the hours until I could go to sleep because it was the only time I felt peace.
I distinctly recall the first time I finally started to feel like a person again. 4 weeks postpartum I went in for a workout at Fuse. We were in our Ignite phase (that's Fuse speak for working more on mobility, unilateral strength, and stability) so I figured it was an easy time to start working out again, but as you can see by my MyZone workout summary, I was clearly mistaken. I did mostly body weight movements, the workout absolutely kicked my ass, and I was sore for days. But I did it. I not only made it off my couch, but got out of the house. I had socialized with the outside world, even if only for an hour. I had accomplished something, despite having maybe a tenth of the strength I had previously.
That single hour, gave me hope.
That workout led to me beginning to take Fox on stroller walks nearly every day. Getting out of the house, fresh air, and just moving around somehow made me feel better. And you know what? It seemed to make my baby feel better too. For the first time, I enjoyed having our little slice of quality time together. Though only for an hour or two, those walks gave me a small sense of inner peace. I finally had something other than sleep to look forward to. I lived for those walks.
A couple weeks after that, I came back to Fuse to begin working again. I felt a little odd, almost like it was my first day on the job all over again, but to be back felt really good. People hugged me, were excited to see me, asked questions not only about my kid, but about me. It was the first time in a LONG time I felt like I mattered. Humans have this innate need to belong. Whether we belong to somewhere, something, or someone, we desire to belong. To be reminded that I belonged to something, even though that something was simply my job, was huge.
I see it in other people when they come to Fuse for the first time. Whether it’s mothers taking care of their children or men and women that have become slaves to their jobs, it’s clear that a lot of us are guilty of being so busy taking care of something or someone else, that we push ourselves aside and forget that we are important too. For a lot of us, designating time to workout is that first step towards taking care of ourselves again. What’s beautiful about Fuse is that it becomes so much more than that. Not only do you have trainers pushing you and encouraging you, but other clients do the same. It’s one thing for a trainer to do it; technically, it’s part of our job. But to have someone else in the same boat as you, finally doing something for themselves, and having them care about you too…it’s borderline magical. We’re all here because we want to accomplish something for ourselves, but are still taking a second to make sure our friends are sticking to it too. To have that level of solidarity in reaching our goals is incredibly motivating.
I would like to end with mentioning that I’m in a better place now. These days when I look at my son, I see a beautiful and funny boy that brings me so much joy. I look at him and wish I could go back and view my pregnancy differently or could go back and actually cherish the time when he was a newborn, but I can’t. So I do my best to remind myself to enjoy him in the now. Even on the hard days when I’m feeling worn out and emotionally exhausted, I remind myself that taking care of a little human is tough, plain and simple, never mind everything else I have going on. But that little human is what keeps me going now, and taking care of him requires me to take care of myself too, even if that means admitting I’m struggling.
So I guess you could say I’m working on my happy ending. I have a wonderful son. I bought a house. I’m also dating someone who’s really fricking great (I’m pretty sure my Fuse Fam all knows him…maybe?). I’m still working on finding balance between work, parenting, personal time, and most recently back-to-school time (at a different school for a degree I’m actually passionate about), but I’m getting there. Some days are definitely still a struggle, but it’s part of the healing process. I’ve been through a lot. I survived a lot of things...things I’m still not ready to talk about, but that I’ve begun coping with privately. And I realize that helps make me who I am; it’s a part of my identity. It’s part of what makes me interesting.
The more I put myself first and do things for me, the closer I get to being healed and figuring out who I am now. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to care for other people. Lest we forget to care for ourselves as well.
Find something that makes you, you. Find what makes you feel whole again. Whether it’s a one hour workout, or something else, do it. Do it now. Why? Because, repeat after me, “I matter too.”