This is the second post in a two-part series. I suggest you go here to read part one or part two won't make a lot of sense!
Meal planning, shopping and cooking are tasks that I do not enjoy. Oh how I wish I had a passion around those like some people do, but it’s just not me. This is a big trigger for my perfectionist. She has a field day with my perceived ineptitude and can really spiral into compare and despair around this. Imagine what happened when all of my planning for my daughter’s liquid diet (smoothies, milkshakes and ensure) went out the window because her teeth were too sensitive to cold and she plain didn’t like ensure or protein mixes?! There is only so much tomato soup a kid can eat! And because of the small amounts they consume at a time, people recovering from jaw surgery are hungry every 3-4 hours, like a newborn. I felt like I was walking through sludge every time I went to the kitchen to figure out what to make for her; let alone what the rest of us were going to eat. There was still a family to take care of and meals to make. My perfectionist was making it mean that I was inept because I couldn’t just come up with quick solutions and that I was a terrible mom/person because I dreaded it all so much. Less than, worthless, and pathetic were the kinds of unconscious thoughts rattling around my already exhausted brain. All of this was occurring while I was trying to keep track of how much pain medication I’d given and keeping her ice packs constantly full of ice to combat the insane amount of swelling in her cheeks and lips.
But here’s the truth, and I preach this all the time, it isn’t our circumstances that cause us to feel lousy it is our thoughts about the circumstance. Circumstances are indisputable facts. In this situation, the facts were: my daughter had surgery, she needed medication, ice packs and food that she could get through the wires that didn’t cause her teeth more pain. NONE OF THAT HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH OR SAID ANYTHING ABOUT ME OR MY PARENTING. Yet I had an ongoing barrage of thoughts that revolved around my shortcomings as a parent, cook, and human being. I was judging myself for being tired, depressed and so overwhelmed; telling myself that other people have much more difficult medical situations to deal with, this is time limited, stop being such a selfish baby. These were the tapes playing in my head. But, I couldn’t communicate it, because I felt so ridiculous and because I was prone to bouts of weeping that I was afraid it would never stop.
It probably took me a good two weeks to a month after the recovery and both kids were back in school to start feeling like myself again. Some may say that normalcy has a way of doing that. While I credit the normal routine with helping to get me back on track, it was more than that. It was that I started eating better again, I got back to my morning hike with the dog, I wasn’t as worrying as much and started sleeping more. And probably one of the most important pieces of this equation was that without my perfectionist jumping up and down yelling in my ear how much I sucked, I started to feel a whole lot better. Byron Katie encourages us to ask what is perfect in any given situation, it gives perspective. Once I’d had some distance from this experience I asked myself about the lessons that I could find, what was perfect about this? What was perfect about this trying time was that I learned so much:
There is so much more to self-care than just getting a manicure.
The quality of our thoughts has a direct correlation to how we experience life.
Managing thoughts is a major component to good self-care
Eating junk food to stuff down feelings never works; I’ve had to learn this lesson over and over.
Putting everyone else’s needs above my own leaves me depleted and with less to give-we mamas are famous for this.
Taking the time to eat right and move my body particularly under stress like this could have made a huge difference in how I felt.
Reach out to friends when you feel like crap, even if you weep uncontrollably. When I finally let people in, the feedback and support was magical.
Find time for fun. If I hadn’t been so stressed out I could’ve really enjoyed some quality time cuddling and watching movies with my girl.
Worrying solves nothing.
Managing thoughts is a major component to good self-care. I said that already but it bears repeating.
I’m happy to say my girl is one year post op and just got her braces off. Her smile is amazing and her jaw works beautifully. She is so grateful to have had the surgery and so am I. We both gained more than we could’ve imagined.