Taking a deep breath, I stepped into the dressing room with my nearly 15-year old daughter. I prepared myself to see her stare in the mirror and find every imperfection about her body in the bikini she was trying on. It’s been exactly one year since we shopped for bathing suits. In that year she has developed serious struggles with her body image.
These struggles aren’t new, just more intense as her teen body develops. I remember when they started. She left the house in an adorable dress I told her she should wear.. That afternoon, she got off the middle school bus in tears after a couple of people (boys and girls) laughed and told her she looked pregnant.
She is the oldest of my four daughters which means…this is just the beginning of me navigating my daughters’ body perceptions. I’m not a mom who makes a big deal about weight or scales or how my clothes fit me because I’ve been taught that’s the worst thing we can do when raising girls. I was sure we would bypass all this body image stuff! I was wrong. In fact I’ve come to believe that no girl in modern day culture gets a pass.
We are totally inundated and overwhelmed by sensory input in our culture. Any time one of my daughters is acting out, I always question whether they are on sensory overload before I decide how to handle it. A little alone time, some snuggles, brushing their hair, scratching their back, and a lot of calm reassurance goes a very long way in slowing down a colossal meltdown.
This is the part where some might say I’m a doormat and let my children get away with anything. Actually, I’m quite the opposite. My children even call me strict because of my boundary setting. My job is to be their guide and I take that job seriously.
I think it was my teen years that I started wanting to be anywhere besides where I was. That feeling of needing to escape…the good…the bad…just be free of it all. Except I was never free. That feeling followed me most of my life. Nothing was ever good enough to fill that feeling of not being present. Drugs, alcohol, food, men, tv, work, exercise have all attempted to squash the feeling over the years, but the outcome is always the same. Me left with a gaping hole in my soul crying for more things to fix me.
I don’t want the high anymore. I don’t look for endorphins. I found out that’s just not a safe place for me to go. Because the higher I am, the lower I fall. Please don’t get me wrong. I love a good time. I definitely have fun. Just not at the expense of mismanaged serotonin levels. The happiness I have today isn’t fueled by people, substances, or any outside things. I am happy and peaceful today because I work on living in that grey zone. The sweet spot that happens when we let go of black and white thinking.
I have ONE of the answers.
I was sick my whole life. I felt crazy one way or the other because of hormones and riding a mental roller coaster. Then five years ago I heard about this unusual way of eating. Turned out it’s not really that weird. Our ancestors had the same template or idea. They just didn’t have Whole Foods or farmers markets so we’re pretty lucky. Plus, houses.
When I decided to make this huge change, I was desperate. I didn’t want to be sick anymore. Mostly I wanted to get off that crazy coaster. I had watched the power of food alone in stopping my 6 year old’s asthma overnight. After 4 years of coughing, an ND suggested eliminating dairy and gluten. Then bam…coughing gone. Do you know what it does to a mama when her baby coughs for four years straight?! To have her stop coughing every single day for all of those long years, I knew something good was going on and it was worth researching. At the time it seemed like nothing short of a miracle. 5 years later the asthma still hasn’t returned and we don’t expect it to.
It’s so hard to imagine that you would be turning 5 right now. Your due date was 1/1/11. What a great set of numbers. Instead, I gave birth to you June 12, 2010.
Just two weeks before, I went into the doctor with your oldest sister so she could see you on the big screen. I was 9 weeks pregnant with you and she was 9 years old. We were both so excited to hear your heart beat. When the ultrasound technician said she couldn’t find it, I knew you were gone. Your sister and I cried so hard. We talked to the doctor and she gave me the option to have a procedure or to wait it out. Your sisters had all been born at home and I wanted you to be born that way, too. I knew you would be the last baby for us either way.
Not being one for New Year’s resolutions, I prefer to dive into introspection to see what I accomplished and what I’d like to continue putting energy into. The ending of one year and beginning of a new one is a lovely time to think back. Here’s a little glimpse into my 2015…
Lessons I learned this year:
- What other people say about me is none of my business.
- It’s never too late for forgiveness. Practice it everyday.
- I’m capable of more than I’ve ever given myself credit for.
- Shame is a BS lie. Don’t be a victim of it. Tell it to get lost when it shows up.
- When I’m in a sh*tstorm , the best way to get out of my head is to help another person. Also known as “live in service and love.”
- Boundaries: There is very thin line between saying and doing the right thing and feeling like a pushover. In 2014, before I got sober and after, I took responsibility for a lot of things that weren’t mine to take. This year I practiced cleaning up my side of the street and letting others do what they will with theirs. NO is a complete sentence.
- Respond, don’t react. Enough said.
- Meditation is the key to peace and learning mindfulness.
- Practicing humility feels a lot better than constantly living in ego.
- Listen more…talk less. See #9 (That’s a tough one for me!)
- Self-medicating in any form is dangerous. Feeling the feels always is hard, but worth it.
- I’m not who I used to be and some people haven’t figured that out yet. See #1
- Stay in the present. “If you are depressed, you are living in the Past. If you are anxious, living in the future. It you are at peace you are living in the moment.” Lao Tzu
- Share your story. Someone out there needs to hear it.
This is not a statement of you should or shouldn’t. I hope that if you’ve followed me long enough, you know I never intend to shame any woman for her choices. This IS a statement that our culture makes it virtually impossible to successfully breastfeed. This is also a statement that if you wanted to breastfeed and tried and it didn’t work out, it’s not your fault!! Have no shame mamas! This culture DOES NOT SUPPORT BREASTFEEDING. We don’t grow up watching it happen. If we do manage to get past those difficult hurdles right after the baby is born, we’re shamed for nursing publicly. Then how do you manage it with work and all of the other responsibilities in life?
This blog has always been about my journey in the primal lifestyle. I created it as a way to share my experiences of eating an ancestral diet, fitness, nutritional therapy training, but most of all trying to balance my brain. I have always struggled with being manic depressive. Chemical imbalances run through my family like brown hair does. I feel like a lot of people will relate with me here, but we have so much shame about mental illness and so much judgment about the treatment of it that very few people in the Paleo community will talk about it without condemning others’ choices on how to handle it. Those of us who face it stay in the closet for fear of being ostracized.
I remember growing up, my farmer grandparents would go to bed before 9 and wake before the sun. They had earned it, working hard all day, but also resting in the afternoon when the Florida heat was too much to tend to the fields and animals. They, like most farmers, had a great understanding of what their bodies needed: rest and sleep to maintain a hard physical lifestyle. Now we stay glued to electronic devices and computers all day, do very little physical work that isn’t outside of a gym, and we don’t slow down for restful afternoon times that reset our clocks. We do mental work all day then do more work when we get home and stay up late for entertainment like television or social media. Burning the midnight oil has become a standard American attitude. But where it’s led is to a public health epidemic of insufficient sleep.