To me, self-care is like putting on a life jacket before you jump in the water; it’s an absolute necessity to keep you afloat during turbulent times. I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t always practice self-care. After Catherine was born, she was my main priority; supporting Christina and Merle was next and my well-being came in a distant third.
A lot of my medical appointments fell by the wayside. I missed my annual check-ups and other visits with my primary care physician and never even made it to my mammogram. I was always thinking, “What does Catherine need? What does Christina need? What does Merle need?” I never thought to ask myself, “What does Lillian need?”. I figured I’d just keep going, not realizing as responsibilities mounted, I became comfortable putting myself last.
I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep, either, which is normal with babies, but it was different with Catherine. Instead of getting up and making a bottle, I was administering medication or checking her vital signs, so I had to be extremely alert. There was always this added layer of stress that came along with managing her medical issues, dealing with insurance, disputing a bill or scheduling her next appointment. By the end of the week, all I wanted was sleep, but there was always more to do.
My sleeping habits suffered, my eating habits suffered and eventually my body began to suffer. I felt awful and I was physically and emotionally drained. Then, I started getting headaches that I couldn’t ignore. My doctor diagnosed me with hypertension and wanted to put me on a low dosage of medication, but I convinced her I could get my blood pressure down on my own. I was wrong. Ninety days later, she told me I wasn’t compliant and put me on a stronger dose than originally planned. That was my turning point.
I began making myself a priority. I started taking care of my skin, getting mani/pedis and used my treadmill a lot more then I had before. Merle and I went on date nights and I started to be more conscious about what I ate. I also spent a great deal of time reading the Bible and praying.
To this day, meditating and spending time in God’s word is central to my self-care. Having friends and family who you can talk to and make you feel safe is another important aspect to positive well-being. Even when I was falling apart inside, I knew I had people I could pour my pain and stress into and they would take it and replace it with love and prayers.
If someone asked me when I started to feel normal, I’d tell them, “Right about now.” It’s not that my circumstances have changed, it’s that my perspective has. Looking at my life, it’s been difficult and there are constant challenges but now I know with certainty that, “Yeah, I can handle this.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Come back next week for Aubrey Glencamp’s survivor story.