I forgot how to take care of myself

 I swear, sometimes I could bang my head against the wall. How can I be a Social Worker and educator and forget such a basic concept: I forgot how to take care of myself.

Here's what happened:

The last two years have been especially difficult in many ways. In the process of trying to find my new self, both professionally and personally, I managed to drop the ball on every single aspect of my life. In my quest for infallible Pam, I made every single mistake in the book; I over scheduled, over worked, and under slept (we'll pretend thats a real word) just so I could cover everything that needed to get done. I spent every extra moment I had with the kids in hopes to make up for everything and anything. I paid steep prices by losing friendships, disappointing people I look up to, falling behind on my readings for school, you name it.

I screwed everything up.

And then a war started, and the world started hating us, and because I am a Jewish educator, I needed to make sure that I was giving my students every ounce of necessary information they needed to fight antisemitism. It didn't matter how much I gave them, they still had questions, they still hurt, they still feared. Oh my God, why can't I do my job correctly?!

And then, the signs started: behold, the burnout.

For what its worth, I continued therapy, so I figured "hey, at least I'm talking it out with someone." I realized I hadn't touched my paints in a long time, I was barely sleeping because the weight of my actions were sending my anxiety into overdrive, and I was questioning whether I am a decent enough educator and should I continue working in the field or give up all-together. I found myself crying every day (even now as I write this), wishing I could turn my phone off and just go off the grid for a few days. However, I am mom, and I have job commitments, and I didn't want to disappoint people more than I already have, and I needed to get good grades in school because I need to show I am worth it.

To no one's surprise, I ended up in the ER with a migraine that we later found out was caused by extreme tension in my neck and shoulders caused by stress. I could not open my eyes, put words together, and because I am me, before getting in the car, I made sure my partner had all the numbers for all of my bosses to let them know that I would get my projects in as soon as possible. I was still prioritizing work before my health.

Here's the thing about self-care. It is one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do. To make the decision to let yourself cry, to put the laptop away for the weekend, and try to sleep a little more. It forces you to make decisions that you would have never made two or three weeks ago. It forces you to stop what you are doing, look at yourself in the mirror, and accept that, in an effort to not disappoint anyone else, you failed yourself. 

Forget the trips to the spa (though let's be honest, top five in the self-care scale), fiction novels, walks on the beach. Before you get to that, you need to learn to give yourself some grace. Yes, you failed. Yes, there are mistakes you will never be able to take back. Yes, you pushed everyone away in the process. However, you also finally recognized that what you were doing was wrong, so for every tear you shed, there is a new lesson learned. 

Sometimes, self-care means recognizing all those things and owning them so you can do better. The better won't come right away though, You'll still have to keep your commitments, but you will eventually learn how and when to say no. You'll still have to parent, but you will also learn that it is ok for your kids to see you cry once in a while. You will remind yourself that the scale of your worth does not depend on pleasing others, but starts with finding it yourself. You will never be perfect, not just because you will continue making mistakes, but because there is no such thing as perfection. And that, my friend, is where grace comes into play.


So, go ahead and cry it out. Give yourself days to feel your feelings, to grieve your loses, and to finish that one last project tomorrow morning because you are just too tired to finish it today. Remind yourself that, above all things, the priority will always be to take care of yourself first.


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