A few days ago, it was a completely normal morning. I was sitting on the couch having a conversation with my husband when my entire face cramped up out of nowhere. We started laughing at how twisted my face looked all of a sudden and I chalked the cramping up to being a little dehydrated. I always get muscle cramps and spasms when I haven’t had enough water.
Fast forward a few hours and I’m at the emergency room. The entire right side of my face was drawn up like I had had a stroke. I couldn’t shut my right eye or raise my right eyebrow. The area behind my ear and the back of my neck were throbbing unbearably but my face was completely numb. Right hand was shaking so badly I couldn’t sign my own name on the hospital paperwork. I felt like my brain was in a fog. My mouth couldn’t keep up with my brain so all of my words sounded slow and slurred. I honestly thought I was having a stroke.
“Mrs. Long, you’ve got stress-induced Bell’s Palsy.”
Bell’s pal·sy (ˈbelz ˌpôlzē/) n. 1: paralysis of the facial nerve producing distortion on one side of the face
I let myself stay so stressed out for so long that half of my face became paralyzed.
I knew it. I knew eventually that the stress would catch up to me.
Don’t get me wrong… I don’t have a hard life. I have a great marriage. Sean is extremely helpful around the house. I mean, I’m a homemaker so I gladly take the large majority of the housework, but I haven’t washed a dish in months. He’s THAT helpful. My two boys are wild, but good kids. We have a great routine every day. Sean has a good job and we’re lucky to have everything we need and some things we want.
Seems nice. But the problem is, I’m exhausted.
I put my husband and children so far ahead that I got left behind somewhere in the midst of running a well-oiled machine called being a stay at home mom.
And now I look like the female Sylvester Stallone because of it. Not to mention the horrible headaches. Or the fact that my face is so disfigured at times that I can barely eat or drink.
These photos don’t even do it justice. When I laugh and talk, my mouth sits completely sideways on my face. That second photo is me shutting my eyes. Or at least trying. And since I can’t shut that eye on my own, an eye patch is necessary. Just to add to the sexiness 😉
BUT I’m not here to give you a big “woe is me” spill on my newfound condition.
I’m here to tell you something important, because my facial cramp turned Bell’s Palsy situation has taught me this the hard way:
SELF CARE IS NOT A PRIVILEGE. IT IS A RESPONSIBILITY.
Do not EVER feel bad for needing a break. Don’t feel guilty for putting your needs first. Just don’t. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” How many times have you heard that phrase? Well, it’s 100% truth. You can’t keep giving and giving until there’s nothing left for anyone to take and then try to keep giving more.
My youngest child has been exclusively breastfed for the past 13 months. Anyone who has ever had or seen a breastfeeding baby knows that those suckers (no pun intended) don’t like to leave their mamas. I’m stubborn and hate to ask for help, especially when I know that I’m the only one who can meet his needs since I’ve got the milk on tap. He’s a HUGE mama’s boy, which is fine until this mama needs a shower or a nap or even just to scroll through Facebook in complete silence for 15 minutes and can’t accomplish either without knowing he’ll be screaming bloody murder the entire time.
My oldest child is NUTS. He is normally a perfect angel when he’s home with me. But let him see sunlight and the demon comes out. Don’t get me wrong. I love his spirit and the way that he doesn’t ever meet a stranger. But he gets wayyyyy too overly excited and wants ALL the attention. All of it. From everybody. No matter where we are. Even if he has to act like a complete psycho in public and purposely act out and misbehave to get it. Which means that the cute thought of getting a break from being holed up in the house and doing something as a family can turn into a 💩 show in the blink of an eye. Threenagers. Ugh.
Being a stay at home mom is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced. And also the most mentally and emotionally draining. Unless you’ve stayed at home for a long period of time, you won’t understand the strain that comes along with it.
When all you do is worry. Laundry needs done. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner need cooked with snacks in between. Husband’s lunch needs packed and he needs work clothes washed and dried along with the mountain of everyone else’s dirty clothes piling up. Toddler needs his butt wiped every 10 minutes while the baby is clawing at your legs all day wanting to be held or nursed. Both kids need some kind of stimulation whether it be reading stories or playing in the floor with them. Both take turns having meltdowns over any and everything. You don’t ever pee alone. Your showers are interrupted every time. Dishes are overflowing the sink and need to be done before you can cook dinner. The house is so cluttered it sends your anxiety through the roof. Your friends ask you to go out with them but you can’t because there’s no last minute sitter for the kids. An argument breaks out with your spouse on top of everything else. All your meals are cold or interrupted so many times you lose your appetite. The times that you do get to take a break, you spend those moments running around and cleaning or trying to do something productive. You get so touched out that even the thought of a goodnight kiss makes you want to bang your head on the wall. Sometimes it’s like no one appreciates anything you do. There’s no sleep. Even if you do get a consecutive few hours of sleep, it’s never that deep sleep that everyone needs. You wake up feeling like you’ve taken a 5 hour cat nap. Meanwhile you haven’t showered in days. You don’t feel like yourself because you’re too wrapped up in being mommy and wife. Who is Allie anymore? What does she even like to do for fun? What is fun? This is 24/7. Staying at home IS a full time job. With no 30 minute break. No clocking out.
Yes, this is what I signed up for. I love staying at home with my kids. But there is nothing I regret more right now in this moment than neglecting myself.
If I had taken better care of my mental and emotional well-being, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this with a throbbing migraine, foggy brain, and paralyzed face.
Self care is necessary. 100%. If you need a break, the kids can wait. Schoolwork can wait. The house can wait. It is impossible to be the best mom, wife, daughter, student, employee, ANYTHING when your mind, body, and spirit are drowning. You want to be able to give people the best of you rather than just what’s left of you. Life can get heavy. It’s okay to need a break. It’s okay to forget about everyone else for a minute and spend time focusing on how you feel and what you need. Because it is a NEED. It’s not a special opportunity. It’s not an indulgence. It’s just as important as food and water. Do not ever feel guilty for wanting to show yourself the respect you deserve.
You will be an all-around better person when you treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated. Put all the housework aside and take a nap. Leave the kids at home and go out to eat by yourself in the peace and quiet. Send them off to grandma’s and binge on your favorite show. Go for a drive. Sit outside alone and listen to the birds or put your headphones in. Go out for a night with your friends. Take a long, uninterrupted bath. Take time to do what makes you happy. Don’t pretend that you’re fine when you’re not. Your kids will be fine if you leave them with someone for a night. Your house won’t crumble to the ground if you don’t clean it for once. You can still be a good student or girlfriend while giving yourself some much needed attention.
You need to. I needed to. I didn’t. And now I’m suffering the consequences of refusing to take care of myself.
I’m not saying that you will all get Bell’s Palsy if you don’t give yourself a break. (But I mean I’m not saying you won’t either because look at me 🙄) But chronic stress and prolonged stress is in no way healthy. It is damaging to both your mind and body in every way. Stress and anxiety wreak havoc on a person. It’s impossible to thrive when you’re under extreme amounts of stress all the time.
So today, do something for YOU. Not for anyone else. It is a necessary thing to do. Make yourself a priority.
You are worthy of the same love and attention that you pour into everyone else.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
– Anne Lamott