It’s no secret that I’ve battled with anxiety and panic attacks since having our son, and I’ve publicly shared that I decided with the help of a counsellor, a naturopath, and my doctor to start medication to get through the day.
I’ve been on anti-anxiety meds before, so I already knew that they don’t magically solve all of your problems. They just make you care about them a little less.
Oh, and flatline your libido. That’s all kinds of fun (not like I had much of a sex drive anyways as a new mom having panic attacks all the time, but come on, even a faint pulse down there would be great).
Well, 5 months on, my life has completely changed.
By the end of most days, I feel productive, happy, and calm. At ease. And, dare I even say it, I have small pockets of joy in the precious moments that I was too anxious to even see 5 months ago, like when I’m putting Aleks to bed and he’s laying in my arms, just staring up into my face and smiling. My heart swells just thinking about it.
Don’t let the meds fool you, though, there have still been many, many moments when the chest tightness returns, when I can’t breathe, when I feel like the dishes, the laundry, and the vacuuming might just smother me to death. I’ve figured out that those feelings means that I haven’t been taking care of myself properly.
This self-care thing is an entirely new concept new to me. Even though I’ve struggled with anxiety since graduating from university in 2006, it didn’t rule my life. I managed to balance cooking, keeping the house somewhat clean, working 30 hours a week at a “real job”, and running my business without too much fuss.
When I got pregnant, I was completely in denial about how much a baby would change our lives pretty much up until the day that he was born. My doula, who is a close friend, kept her serious concerns to herself that I was completely disconnected from the whole process, and only told me after the fact that she could tell shit was going to hit my proverbial fan.
Then Aleks spent his first 4 1/2 months on this earth in the Children’s Hospital undergoing several major surgeries and coming home with a colostomy bag.
Is it really any surprise that I pretty much lost my sanity when he hit a year old?
What all of us mothers know is that our children are our greatest teachers, and the best gift that Aleks has given me is to force me to take care of myself.
Screw self-care, this is self-survival!
I very well couldn’t just up and leave my life, and spend 3 months on an island being served umbrella drinks from a tanned, tight-bodied pool boy.
Well, I guess I could of. It was tempting, but I couldn’t have lived with myself.
So I had to carve out minutes of calm-inducing sanity into my day, because no one was damn well going to do it for me.
Before you start rolling your eyes if you think I’m going to tell you to start meditating for 30 minutes in the morning, I have 3 words for you:
Fuck that shit.
Most moms (myself included) are so new to self-survival, not to mention words like calm, luxurious, ease, or joy, that 30 minutes of meditation is a leetle over my head right now.
It’s truly the little things, people!
Let’s start with these 3 simple, luxurious treats that’ll change you from I-can-barely-cope to cool, calm, superfly mom in just a few
This week I’m doing something different, and NOT writing to entertain and educate you on a certain food or way of cooking.
I’m writing just to give you permission.
Permission for what, you may be asking? For whatever the hell you want.
In the last few months there have been some major changes going on behind-the-scenes in my business, changes that are necessary to get it to the level that I feel it can get to.
I’ve always known that there is something dying to get out of my head and out into the world, I just didn’t know what that something was until about a year ago. Then, once I learned what I actually wanted to make and launch, other things got in the way. Kind of like when you’re home alone with your kids, and you know that you have to pee, but you keep getting sidetracked. 8 hours later you still have to pee … and when you do, it’s glorious!
So my anxiety and panic got in the way, regular mom things got in the way, and exhaustion got in the way. I still knew that there was a tiny bright light inside of me, it was just a little dim for awhile.
Then, once I started taking care of myself, like really taking care of myself (which I’ll be sharing with you over the next 2 months), that creative spark came back and I was finally feeling the inspiration to take action on that bright light of potential that I’ve been dreaming about for 2 years.
The difference was that I wasn’t forcing it or faking it. Things were unfolding with ease, which was not something that I was comfortable with.
After spending 4 1/2 months in the hospital with Aleks when he was born, and not feeling out of the woods with his health situation until about 6 months ago, I had gotten really used to chronic stress. The feeling that even though things were going well right now, the other shoe would eventually drop.
I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who feels like this. Since when is it OK for stress and anxiety to be the norm, and feeling relaxed and full of ease uncomfortable?
How fucked up is that?
Once things got rolling on re-branding my business, a few of my own mindset limitations made themselves crystal clear. Things like:
- I can’t spend that much money on my business! What if something happens and my family runs out of money? I’ll feel so guilty and selfish that I spent that money on myself instead of using it all on them.
- I can’t hire other genius people to do things that I’m OK at and that I could just work harder and do myself! How frivolous and wasteful is that? I should just do it myself, even though I know I don’t have enough hours in the day, it’ll stress me out, and I’ll go into panic mode.
- I can’t work super productively for only 5 hours a day when everyone else works for 8 hours! How lazy is that? I should push, push, push myself to work the same as everyone else, even though my body is telling me it can’t handle it.
Yes, some of those worries are warranted, and it’s natural that I didn’t make some decisions lightly.
For example, I’ve been totally secretive and ashamed that I’m spending almost $20,000 on my new website and developing my new online program (lauching October 10th). When I add it up, it’s scary. Like holy fuck scary. That’s the same that we spent on our car!
Yes, Mom, take a deep breath. I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d freak out. I freaked out, too.
It’s summer, which means that there are hot dogs and s’mores to be made around the campfire, beer/wine/sangria/lemonade mixed with Southern Comfort (ugh, the first drink I ever got drunk from when I was 17 … never to pass these lips again!) to be consumed with gusto, and sugar-filled popsicles to bring the summer heat down a degree or two.
It also means that most of my amazing and normally dedicated clients are coming to me saying “I went camping/to the cottage/to a family BBQ and ate complete junk and drank the whole time, I’m so sorry and I feel like I disappointed you!”.
The first thing I tell them is that as far as I can remember, they did not come out of my vagina, therefore, I’m not their mother. They should never feel like they have to apologize to me (or anyone else for that matter) for something that they did or did not eat.
The second thing that I ask them is “was it fucking delicious?”. If it was, then awesome! I’m so glad that they had a moment of pure pleasure that seems to be so lacking in our lives today.
The third thing is how did they feel after eating it? Most of the time after working with me for several months, they’ll tell me that:
1. their body completely rebelled, and they spent the next few hours writhing in pain either on the toilet, on the couch, or in bed.
2. the treat that they ate didn’t taste as good as they remembered, and they don’t even know why they wanted it in the first place.
3. they felt so guilty for “cheating” on their healthy eating.
Let’s get one thing straight: you’ll never be perfectly healthy if you feel guilty when you eat food, no matter HOW healthy it’s supposed to be.
I’d rather have myself or one of my clients eat a piece of chocolate cake and be 100% present by focusing on how chocolatey it is, how smooth the icing feels in their mouth, how orgasmically delicious it is, and how happy they feel after, than to eat a salad and hate the entire process, from preparing it, to how it tastes, to how boring it is compared to a bowl full of spaghetti.
What you feel when you eat is just as important as what’s on your plate.
Your body only has two ways of being at any one time: rest-and-digest or fight-or-flight. Negative emotions like anger, sadness, and jealousy turn on the stress response in your body, which turns on your fight-or-flight response. This response moves blood away from your internal organs (i.e. your digestive organs) to your major muscles so that you can “run away” from the problem and survive.
Our brains haven’t evolved as fast as our technology, so it can’t tell the difference between a bear chasing you 10,000 year ago and your to-do list that’s 3 pages long (or worse, stuck in your head where you obsess about it 24/7).
When you’re stressed, your body literally can’t digest your food. It’s not what you eat, but what you digest. That’s why you’re not going to get healthy eating salad when you secretly hate it.
We’re stuck in a state of stress, and our expectations of perfection aren’t helping.
Man oh man, have we ever hit the terrible twos in the Srokosz household.
Aleks is fully exercising his newly found right to make his own decisions, mostly with what food he eats. All of a sudden, if dinner isn’t noodles (“noni”), pizza (“pipa”), stew or soup (great summertime foods, and exactly what I want to be cooking when it’s 5 million degrees outside), he’s having none of it.
It would be awesome if he just ignored what was on his plate, then at least I could eat the leftovers for lunch. Hells no, he tells you exactly how he feels about dinner by throwing that shit on the floor.
Just a few short months ago I was slightly bragging that my son eats kale. No more.
Feel free to gloat.
So I’ve had to change my attitude about meal planning and dinnertime, when I said that I wouldn’t make special meals just because we have a kid now, or that “he eats what we eat”. Yes, he still eats what we eat, but I have to get creative and package it a little differently, or deal with the guilt that he ate 2 bites of his dinner … again … for the 5th night in a row.
What spurred me to write about this topic was this article from the Huffington Post. I read it, and it pissed me off, partly because I was at the beginning stages of Aleks all of sudden not eating anything resembling healthy, and partly because it was the end of the day and I was most likely exhausted from trying to get him to eat said healthy food.
In fact, here was my response on Facebook to the author (which, by the way, was never replied to or answered, which is annoying in and of itself):
I also read another article which also kind of shamed parents for not having children who love eating lettuce at 2 years old.
What I don’t like about these articles is that they aren’t offering SOLUTIONS to the problem. There’s no suggestions or recommendations for those of us who don’t have veggie-munching angels who sit quietly at their table and don’t question what you’re feeding them.
So, here’s my 2 cents and 3 solutions to the problem of a picky eater (and how to get them to eat their veggies). If you just want to see me make a 2-minute veggie filled pasta sauce, skip to 3:15 in the video:
There’s a saying that life begins outside of your comfort zone.
Do you have to go as far as I did, and get naked in front of 150 women? Probably not, but stay with me as I share with you the story that culminated with a panic attack.
A few weeks ago, my husband Ben and I took a work-play combo trip for 4 days to New York City sans toddler (who’s officially hit the terrible twos).
I’ve been dreaming of going to NYC since I discovered Sex and the City 10 years ago as a procrastinating university student, and I wondered if it could ever live up to the fantasy city that I had built in my head.
Boy, did it ever. Most amazing city ever … but I could never keep up with the pace of life if I actually lived there.
I expected, since we didn’t have Aleks with us, that I’d make even the slightest dent in my sleep debt. I was so wrong.
I got caught up in the energy of the city, and combined with eating dinner 2 hours later than we usually do and wanting to see as much of NYC as possible in what little play time that I had, I slept for 4 hours the first night, and 6 hours the second.
The aches and pains from walking for 12 hours straight on cement didn’t help (I found some epsom salts in our rental apartment on the last night we were there, which was too little, too late).
On the Saturday I attended my first ever in-person work conference. As an online entrepreneur who’s a one-woman show, I spend a LOT of time by myself in front of the computer screen. I meet “work friends” over Facebook that I’ll probably never meet in real-life. It was so surreal at the airport to say “I’m travelling for business” (said me, the person who until last year was terrified of flying).
Needless to say, I was first-day-of-school excited/nervous/woke up at 4:20 am/tried on 4 outfits the night before. I packed my snacks so I wouldn’t get hangry and say something stupid in a moment of low-blood sugar desperation. I put on my super bright new lipstick (I work at home all by myself, a good day is when I get “dressed up” in skinny jeans) and my new Kate Spade purse (in the colour Fresh Air) that I spent all of my spending money on, and walked the few blocks to the event.
What would it be like? Who would I meet? How was I going to make a meaningful connection with even 1 fellow entrepreneur in a room of 150 women and online mavens making multi-six figures in their businesses?