A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. — Lao Tzu
When I was 16, toward the end of my junior year of high school, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. My senior year of high school was spent nursing her through it while taking care of my teenaged sister and niece. Junior year of college my mother got staph infection. In 2007, in the second of week of the first semester of my senior year, she died. My sisters and I inherited stocks, which we lost in the Great Recession. And at 21, I personally inherited an angry 14-year-old, a house, and a dog. I graduated from college the following year. Eventually, my little sister graduated from high school, I finished grad school, married my college sweetheart, and later had my son.
Ten years after my mother died, my life is a terrible middle-class stereotype complete with student loan debt and a house in need of work. My twelve-year relationship was finally feeling the effects of having too many tough times. I hated my body and my life, and depression had me in a choke hold. All I wanted was what most people want when the world is beating the hell out of them. I wanted my mommy. And that is when grief finally hit me in the face. For ten years, my life was too busy for me to feel the full extent of losing my mother. I was always grinding, always taking care of one thing or person, or another. Until 2017. More tears escaped my eyes that year than any other in memory. 2017 sucked. Tremendously. There were tons of revelations that year. Unfortunately, most of them weren’t happy.
Revelation one: I was on a great decline in life.
I used to have a high drive for achievement, high libido, high alcohol tolerance, and low need for sleep. I wasn’t a party animal by anyone’s definition, but I loved to set goals, crush them, and then hang out at bars and dance with my girls. I made time for fun. Now? Now I still have a high libido, but my energy is too low to do anything about it. That, or when I have energy I am in an argument with my husband and I do not want the asshole to touch me. Remember makeup sex? I do. It was awesome. It no longer exists. The crazy wife lady in me insists I hold out until Asshole, I mean Dear Husband, apologizes. The low energy problem was punctuated by my total lack of a social life or extracurricular activities. I didn’t volunteer anymore, didn’t serve on committees, and more important, did not see my friends. I also had no goals. None. You don’t know me yet, but that was a cry for help in and of itself.
Revelation two: I stopped looking forward to the future.
Not in a suicidal way, but in a cynical “this is clearly the best life has to offer” way. I wasn’t sure I would ever get out of the terrible middle-class stereotype I was in. And truthfully, I was avoiding bill collectors, along with everything else that made me uncomfortable, and just sitting in my own misery. I’m an ambitious person. There’s always some challenge for me to achieve, but not last year. And in my sad brain, not ever again. My twenties were my highlight, my peak. My thirties were turning out to be my downfall. I was never going to write again. I would never be a good professor, and maybe I wasn’t even a good mom. I was certainly failing at marriage.
Depression is ugly. It distorts the world around you and twists reality into horrendous fragments of itself. This wasn’t the first time I’d battled depression, but it was the worst. And it was probably the worst because I had to pretend to be okay so often for so long that I just kept retreating further into myself. All the while hating that I was being a shadow. See while hiding my depression, I was dealing with my husband’s depression and anxiety. Sometime between my August birthday (yay Leos) and the anniversary of my mother’s death (boo September), I remember hating myself so much, being so sick of my silent, shower tears that I finally said I need help. So, I found a therapist.
Revelation three: Self-care is necessary. No self-care equals chaos and an eventual breakdown.
I mentioned my muffin top and constant exhaustion. I did not mention my gut. Or my dry hair. Or my weary spirit and alarmingly short fuse. Ladies and gentlemen, self-care is not just bubble baths and guys nights. It is setting boundaries with the people in our lives, making sure our needs are met, treating our bodies well, and relaxing and enhancing our minds. It’s also about tending to our souls and our inner desires. Neglecting yourself will lead to the destruction of everything. First you. Then everything you are holding on to. I had several tarot readings about “saving my marriage” and every single one of them came back, in a nutshell, fix yourself. After the third reading, it occurred to me that I was hyper-focusing on the cracks in my marriage to avoid examining the whole in myself.
How can you can save a burning ship when you are the flaming, gasoline-soaked rag?
Revelation four: I was losing my happily ever after.
One day I realized we’d stopped being best friends and partners and became some sort of married TV stereotype. He became the helpless, hopeless, hen-pecked TV husband. And I became the pudgy, bitchy, unhappy, TV wife. We were King of Queens in the later seasons. Scary, right? I think so too. We were constantly fighting. Everything set us off. If you are fighting about the toothpaste, it ain’t about the toothpaste. But if you are fighting about the dishwasher, it’s because he loaded it wrong. Basically, he was doing everything wrong except being a good dad and I was wrong about everything but being a mom. We let past hurts and perceived slights create a New York sized rift between us. Add his depression and worsening anxiety with mine and our relationship began crumbling around us while we stood dumbfounded, pointing at the other person.
Revelation five: This ends now. I need to change.
I love my soul mate. I love myself. Yet 2017 brought the awful realization that I stopped caring for myself, was constantly angry at my husband, and him at me, and I was denying myself things I wanted most. Remarkably simple things. Time with my friends. Alone time laughing with my man. Writing. My old waistline. Pushup bras and sexy tops. Peace of mind. Basically, self-care and being true to myself.
I mentioned that I was a goal setter. A go-getter. That was and is true. This journey I am on now is about figuring out who I am today. Post-motherhood. Post-college days. Post-twenties. I’ve had a challenging life. Most of us have had a challenging life. So that is not what matters here. What matters is everyone deserves the right to re-discover themselves. This is my time to do that.
A few months ago, I noticed how often I was always holding myself tightly. Not physically, but mentally, verbally, and emotionally. I keep myself on a tight leash. So tight, I’ve begun to fold into myself. You don’t know me, but that is not Cece. She simply doesn’t hide from the world. Hell, I was entering poetry contests at the age of 11. Yet, ever since I had my baby I had begun doing just that. Hiding. Making myself smaller. Insignificant. Until, eventually, I became angry at how small I felt.
Now part of it was how I felt about my appearance. I was born with innate confidence and high self-esteem, and a strong sense of self. I know who I am, and I was taught that those who do not accept me don’t deserve me. This “new” me tested all of that and I was not equipped to handle it. Suddenly, I had to deal with not liking what I saw in the mirror and hating everything I put on my body. I’ve never been so chronically unhappy with myself before.
My son was born in December 2014. I went back to work in March 2015 and in 3 months, put on 30 pounds, just from trying to maintain my nursing/pumping schedule. Now, I am going to admit that I am that chick who lost all her baby weight 2 weeks after giving birth. Apart from the floppy postpartum stomach, I was back to weighing 156lbs and feeling great. However, by June I was back up to 180, and climbing, in the most unflattering way. My innate confidence left the fucking building.
I see now that the disappearing act started then. Not just with the nursing sapping my libido down to nothing, but with me hiding from the mirror, and begging my husband to turn the lights off when we made love. My son is 3 and I have lost most of the nursing weight, though I am still far rounder than I’d like to be. I no longer hide from the mirror or beg for complete darkness, but I am not that sexual, sensual woman I used to be.
That’s where we are Dear Reader. My new goals. Find, or rather redefine, my sexuality and sensuality. Do things I haven’t done, exploring the boundaries of my sexuality and my sense of adventure. Achieve goals like write a blog, get published, find a higher paying job. The most important goal, the one that trumps all others, is take back my confidence and be comfortable in the, rounder, skin I’m in. Though it is my goal to drop these last fifteen pounds and Teletubby shape that goes with them.
This is the journey to me becoming crazy, sexy, adventurous, go-getter, physically fit woman I am in my head.
Thanks again for joining me!