My Self Care Story
My story begins with a loving family, a great home life, parents who are still married and worked very hard to provide for me, my sister, and my brother. We didn’t have a lot but we didn’t need a lot. I learned how to stretch a dollar, work hard, be kind to others, and be an honest person of integrity. I was your typical first-born, over-achiever, type A personality, people pleaser.
I always thought that if I treated others well and did my best that things in life would turn out well. And for the most part, that was true. I knew that people were all different, but I assumed we all had similar ideas of what is right, wrong, good, and bad. I never thought about the nuances of what made me “me” because I was always focussed on accomplishing things in my life. Boy, did I have to learn the hard way!
My Career Path
I have had a job ever since I can remember. When I was around 6 or 7, I remember my dad giving me an old Maxwell coffee can with a small amount of gasoline in it….I would go to the garden with my siblings and pick beetles off of the plants and put them in the can. I think he gave me a quarter for every 10 bugs! Now that I think of it–GROSS! Why did I think that was a good deal?! But through working these odd jobs, I learned that hard work paid off but you didn’t have to love it. Work was a means to an end.
As I got older, I knew that I enjoyed helping others and that I also wanted to have a family. I researched different jobs that were stable, had decent income, and would allow me to provide for my future family. So I decided on medicine but knew the path to get there would be difficult, competitive, and require sacrifice. What I didn’t realize were nuances of my own personality and what that intensity would eventually do to me.
In college, I was 2 classes away from being a triple major, played DII field hockey, ran track on the off-season, was a Teaching Assistant, dorm Resident Assistant, sang in the college group….I didn’t party because I needed to get sleep. I didn’t date much because I didn’t have time. I didn’t goof off with all of the other girls in my house because I had to study. Graduate school was the same way: head down, study, finish a 3 year Masters degree in 2 years, and start working. By this point I had established a very dangerous pattern but I couldn’t see that it was affecting me. I was fine.
By the time I completed college and graduate school, I thought getting a regular paycheck every 2 weeks was AWESOME! I felt like I could relax a little bit and married my college boyfriend.
I was so excited. I felt like I finally had so many of the things that I had sacrificed for! I married a wonderful person who was my best friend. I had a job that paid well with coworkers and bosses who praised my efforts. I was blessed with friends and family in the area, a cute townhouse in which to start a family. Life was going well!
However my pattern of working hard and sacrificing myself and my free time continued. I quickly learned how to be indispensable at work, giving my employers the majority of my day and the best of my productivity. I would work 80 hours per week, stay late on Friday nights, come in on my own time during the weekend. I was exhausted when I got home, didn’t exercise regularly like I did through college and grad school, ate whatever was in the fridge, didn’t have energy to spend time with friends or my husband. Our relationship sufferred greatly and we became roommates…ships passing in the night. But I kept telling myself “I’m getting great experience and everyone at work loves me!” Plus I was making decent money, paying off student loans, and planning for the future.
The years continued and so did my pattern. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, barely surviving. And I did an excellent job at keeping it to myself, not complaining, never asking for help, pretending everything was Facebook perfect. My marriage suffered, my family suffered, my health suffered. I still continued to work outside of the home, had 4 children in 4 years, and felt like I was running ragged all day every day. Yet still I told myself that I was vital to the areas that I continued to sacrifice myself for: that I was working for a greater goal, making everyone else’s life better. I didn’t take a step back to realize that I had zero balance in my life and wasn’t living intentionally at all.
Finally, I imploded. I was severely depressed, acted in ways I never acted before: I drank, got divorced, and isolated myself from everyone I knew, hurting the ones that I loved the most. I threw myself into work. The only thing I am proud of is that I never flaked on my children, but I was far from being the mom that they deserved. I piled incredible amounts of guilt on myself, gained 60lbs, and became a hermit. I didn’t recognize myself. I had hit rock bottom.
I spent my life putting so much pressure on myself, packing my schedule, and not knowing my limitations. I thought back and wondered who I could blame? Surely it wasn’t my fault that work took everything and didn’t care about my personal well being. Or could I blame my husband? He should have seen how exhausted I was and offered to do more for me. Let me see….how about money? If I had made more money, I could have taken a break. Or career choice? If I hadn’t chosen medicine, I would have worked less hours and been happier. On and on.
It wasn’t until I looked at my life, my choices, and my patterns. I took personality tests, love language tests, career tests all trying to gain insight into myself. I read, I talked with a counselor, and even journaled. I realized that the thing I had always been missing was balance and intentional living. I didn’t recognize my limitations because I was too proud to admit that I had any. I put my own needs last on the list. I didn’t take time for myself. It was through this introspection that I learned that self care wasn’t something I should expect my family, my spouse, and certainly not my work to do for me. I needed to take charge and restructure the way I viewed my place in this world. It took me hitting rock bottom and 4 years of self-discovery searching to realize those lessons, analyze the past, and gain the tools necessary to move forward towards a new future.
Where I am now
That brings me to today. I have control over my work schedule. I don’t make a ton of money, but I work just enough to provide for myself and my children without any child support or alimony. As a single mom with 4 small children, I rarely pick up extra shifts at the hospital. I have created a budget and I stick to it.
And through self discovery I learned that I am most fulfilled when I help others, which is something that I knew but it was nice to have confirmed. My personality type is INFJ “The Advocate,” which is why Life Coaching has been such a wonderful fit for me. I am most fulfilled when I help others achieve their goals and help plan concrete steps to realize those goals for a lasting positive impact.
I am intentional about spending time with my loved ones. I can look at each of my four children and realize that they all have different love languages and “speak” love to them in a way that they understand. I plan ahead to make sure I have time to sit down and connect with them one-on-one. This provides a safe place for them to talk with me, ask advice, show me their favorite YouTube videos, and just feel loved.
Lastly, I have continued to add things into my life that are good for my physical health and mental well being. I am conscious of my own self care pursuit. Am I done learning? Absolutely not. But each day I am able to look at situations at work or interactions with others and more easily appreciate that we all experience the world differently. I can say “no” without feeling guilty because I know that saying “yes” would be more harmful to me or my situation than helpful to the other person. But I am generous and giving and becoming the best version of myself every single day.
This is a journey. It is ever changing with life. I continue to evaluate, adjust, and refocus. And this is why this website was created. I want to share my story, lessons, and experiences with you so that you don’t make the same mistakes. And I want to hear from you so that I continually learn. I am excited about what the future has to bring.
“Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
– Parker J. Palmer