One morning at 27 years old, I went to take down a phone number, and found that it was difficult to grip a pen.
Within hours, my legs felt so weak that I was doing this strange double-limp to be able to walk.
By the next morning, I was unable to walk without assistance. This mystery weakness deteriorated rapidly until the next day, I found myself clawing down my stairs, on my belly, to get my phone so I could call 911.
The paramedics arrived and had to break down our door to get to me, finding me face down at the bottom of the stairs. I had given everything to get the phone, and I had nothing left.
Within 24 hours, I was whisked to the emergency room and admitted, where after multiple tests and specialists, I was finally diagnosed with Guillaume Barre syndrome: a rare but deadly condition in which your own immune system attacks your body.
Leading up to this hospitalization, my life was in turmoil. I had given notice at a job that I absolutely hated, but one that provided my family of four with stable income and health insurance while I supported my then-husband through pharmacy school. I had taken a leap of faith to start my own business, but I was terrified of failure or not being able to provide for my young children, who were 1 1/2 and 5 at the time.
I was working miserable hours at my day job, then coming home, taking care of my children while my husband went to school, and then working on my side hustle until 2am. Every. Single. Night.
I was living on processed food, not exercising, not sleeping, and not addressing my stress levels. I was living chronically in survival mode.
So it wasn’t all that surprising when the specialists, standing at my bedside explaining Guillaume Barre Syndrome, told me that while the exact causes of GBS are unknown, it is possible that extreme stress could trigger your body to do crazy things like attack itself.
Even when my body was obviously breaking down in the days leading up to my hospitalization, I didn’t stop and say “Hmm, maybe I should rest.” The pen I tried to grab? That was for work. Walking with a limp? To take the kids to their activities. Walking with assistance? To a work gig that I refused to cancel just because my legs had stopped working. Clawing my way down my stairs on my belly? Because I had refused help when my husband was still at home and had shooed him off with the kids.
I know that my version of this story is an extreme version, but after working with thousands of women for years now, I also know the underlying theme to be universal.
We tend to take care of everyone around us first before we ever address our own needs, to the point of complete self-neglect. We would rather claw our way down stairs on our bellies than let others down, because we think we can live with disappointing ourselves.
But not them.
What kind of mother puts herself first? Well let me tell you, because now, I do.
I wish I could say that this experience left me a changed woman, that it was so shocking and eye-opening to neglect myself almost TO DEATH, but this was not it. It was 5 years before a divorce and my dad’s brain tumor (I know, I’ve been through some shit guys) woke me up enough to realize I had to take care of myself if I wanted to take care of everyone around me.
I just literally didn’t know another way. But now that I’ve felt the difference, I can’t believe it took me so long to get here.
Taking care of myself means I’m happier, healthier, more present, and have more energy.
This means that Austin, Gabby, Maddy, and Mike’s mom also is happier, healthier, more present, and has more energy. And Tony’s wife. And my clients’ coach.
If I’m feeling great, I can give more to them. And you know what? I just like feeling great!
What about you? Are you clawing your way through your life as a mom, or are you taking care of the caretaker?
Just like the oxygen mask goes on us first on the airplane, we have to be functional in our daily lives if we are to give anything, much less our best.
And I can guarantee, you will love how it feels.
PS-If you are living more of a “clawing through life” existence and want to create more self-care in your routine but aren’t sure how, I just launched a brand new FREE 5-Day challenge called #SummerSelfCare. It’s for moms who WANT to get on the priority list but are struggling with it. If you are ready to take action towards creating energy and making yourself a priority, all you have to do is CLICK HERE to join. I’m so excited to work with you!