Self-care as a full time working mother of two takes many forms for me. Sometimes it’s locking myself in the bathroom so I can have one damn minute to myself. Sometimes it’s sitting an extra few minutes in the driveway after a solo grocery mission. Sometimes it’s wandering Target alone for a full hour after the kids have gone to sleep. And sometimes it’s being very aware that someone under the age of 5 is talking very loudly at me, but for the sake of my sanity, I ignore it anyway.
Now that the kids are a little bit older and we’re no longer in survival mode, I’ve become hyper aware that having children and raising them takes so much of yourself. A little bit of you can’t help but get lost in the process. Like most people, at the start of this new year I began to think about what I wanted for myself. What were my goals for 2020? Number one on that list was reclaiming a little bit of myself, further exploring what self-care looked like for me.
As far as I was concerned, part one of the self-care journey was already written. At the beginning of January two years prior, I began to embark on a journey of physical fitness. This was a few months after Miles was born. I remember taking a hard look at myself in our poorly lit hallway mirror. Was that really me? My body was swollen all over with extra weight. In all my life, I had never been overweight, but I surely was now.
Post-partum recovery is a painful blur. There really isn’t any other way to describe it. You are recovering from another human being coming out of you! Though my friends earnestly tried to prepare me for the reality of after birth, the fact is every birth is different. My own first experience was wildly different from my second. After Tessa was born, I was back to work at five months post-partum and fit back into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. Spoiler alert: this did not happen the second time around. My metabolism rudely decided to Irish Goodbye its way out of my life and leave me hanging with nearly 20 pounds of extra weight.
There was definitely a physical aspect of my self-care journey. I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin (and clothes) again. But beyond the physical benefits, I knew I needed to maintain consistency for my mental health. I suffered a miscarriage back in 2013 before either of my children were born. While many women come out the other end of the experience relatively unscathed, I fell into a period of depression that I couldn’t claw myself out of without medication. The darkness, the only way I know how to describe it, took hold and sucked everything out of me. A foggy mist settled in place of my passion for life leaving me unable to focus most days. The decision to go on meds wasn’t one I took lightly but I’ve never looked back on it with regret. As the fog and darkness finally began to lift, I knew I had made the right decision.
I had never intended to be on medication long term. The period of hardship that drove me to medication was long gone. The gaping loss I felt had been filled two times over. I was lucky and I was grateful. It was time to wean. The only hesitation I had sprung out of recognizing I had also gone through depression as a teen during a bout of bullying in high school. Mental health wasn’t even a buzz word in the 90s so it’s no wonder I didn’t have the ability to diagnose what I was going through then. As I was deciding to wean, the predisposition to depression and susceptibility to relapsing was at the forefront of my mind. Much of the research I had done prior to getting on meds had touted physical activity as a natural way to combat depression. While getting my body into better physical shape was a motivation, maintaining my level of mental fitness was just as important.
I’ve never consistently adhered to any kind of fitness regimen in my life but I’ve done so solidly for the past two years. Physically, I’ve become a more recognizable version of myself. Better still, I completely weaned off medication and haven’t had anything close to a potential relapse. The story and the journey to self-care could happily end here but, as I mentioned, this was only part one. Life is at a peak and while I have nothing to complain about, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling of complacency. My days and nights were already packed between the kids, work and the gym. Despite that, I had a feeling I should be doing more.
At the beginning of 2019, I started a journal. In it, I listed all the things I had a passion for and that had always interested me. How could I learn more about data science? Should I go back to school? How could I be a mentor through our alumni association? How could I be an advocate for bullying? Writing a book, would I finally start one? At the beginning of this year, I realized I hadn’t done a single thing on the list. Not one. So I decided to change that. I signed up for a writing class at our local community college and reignited my passion for writing.
In January, I decided this year’s version of self-care would follow a path of creative fulfillment. Thus, Hwang Place, Right Time was born. I may not be writing a book, but I took that passion and created an outlet and platform for myself. One day, I hope this little space on the web will serve as a source of inspiration to our kids. Never forget to do what you love. You only get one life to live, so I’m living it.