Self care, for health's sake.
Dear Patients, This is weird. It is after Labor Day, and I am NOT depressed. Let me back up. In years past, I would spend the cold, dark winter days counting down to Memorial Day. Then, I would savor every second of summer; no school, long days, and family time — LOADS of family time. I was ecstatic, joyful, and at peace ALL summer. Then, like clockwork, EVERY Labor Day evening, my mood would shift and I would become dark, irritable, and even tearful. So this past post-Labor Day week, when, instead of beginning the 9-month count down to next summer, I woke up feeling energized, motivated, and ready to take on the season, I did a little soul-searching. I think the major change in me comes down to a few things. My age. I turned 50 last fall. All of a sudden, spending ANY of my days wishing them away seems reckless. My kids. My kids are thriving. Maisy just started medical school in NYC. She is in a beautiful area, much closer to home, has a little kitten named Billie, and is happy. After spending last semester at home doing an amazing co-op, Sam is finally back on campus at Temple. He is NOT in a great area. But, he has a great apartment, a girlfriend that brings out the best in him, and some amazing friends. He is happy. Hadley started her sophomore year of high school. Last year, we had 180 days that started or ended with: “I hate school.” It was awful to see her stressed and unhappy. As we drove past her school this weekend, I pointed out that she would not be back “to that place” for three days. She shocked me when she said, “Nah. I LIKE school, now!” I almost crashed the car. But, it is true. She is happy. And yes, it is 100% true. As a mom, you are only as happy as your UNhappiest child. Chris. How about an illustration? Last week, I walked up from the beach and had sand in my shoes. As I glanced around for a place to sit to shake them out, he dropped to his hands and knees behind me so I could lean on him. We all need that person. Someone who sees you, hears you, and drops everything so you can lean on them. If you have them, thank them. If you don’t, shove the toxic ones out of your life and make room for the good ones. It is never too late.
My self-care routine. When I told Chris that I was focusing on my “self-care”, he laughed his head off and rolled his eyes. But it is true. And it is the part I think is the most important. On October 4, 2020, amid CoVID, I woke up feeling heavy, slow, and anxious. I don’t know what made me do it, but I stepped on the scale for the first time in two years. I was the heaviest I had ever been. That moment changed something in me. I was 49 and as unwell as I had ever been. I made a vow to myself to change that before my 50th birthday. Fast forward to this moment. I am 30 pounds lighter and in the best shape of my life. I am as committed to my self-care routines as I am to my patients, my husband, and my kids. Simple rituals like taking my make-up off every night, writing a few words in my journal, and making my bed every day give me peace. I DO floss nightly instead of lying to my dentist about it. Instead of Jolly Ranchers and coffee, I pack my high-in-protein/low-in-crap lunch every day. These things, big and small, have improved my mental outlook in ways I cannot even explain. I feel more in control, more patient, and well... HAPPIER. And, guess what? I am not done yet. I still need to drink more water and less coffee/alcohol. I need to say, “God Bless You!” when Chris sneezes instead of becoming irrationally enraged. I need to call my mom more and sit in meetings less. But, just the fact that I acknowledged those things is huge for me. As we head into this fall, take inventory of your self-care. I was one to scoff at people who wore shirts that said things like, “Self-care is NOT selfish” and “But first…YOGA.” I was so wrong about that. As I finish this letter, I only regret that all this did not occur to me sooner. So, if you are reading and are in your 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s, what are you doing sitting here still? You have a journal to buy and some hard-boiled eggs to pack in those power lunches. For my readers who are older than I, I hope you have had or are having similar moments of enlightenment. If so, PLEASE share that wisdom every chance you get. We can’t hear it enough. In good health,
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