• Lisa Paul IBCLC


Those three words came out of my mouth multiple times on Monday. I woke up from a night of bad sleep which was punctuated by being cold the majority of it. It was all I could do to get dressed and drive myself and my son an hour into town at 6am. I managed to feed myself coffee and oatmeal before we left, but I struggled to stay awake on the drive in. Once at my office, I felt the need for a nap but it wouldn’t come as my brain would have guilty thoughts of being productive and I would grab my phone to “do” something.

Somewhere in between 7am and my 9am counseling appointment, dreams of warmth, shower and massage entered my head and I remembered a spa with an infrared sauna I had been to before. Luckily, I was able to schedule an appointment online, and a massage was on my schedule. It took energy for me to make that appointment and had I needed to call there is no way it would have happened. Online scheduling was the most I could muster.

I did manage to make it my counseling appointment followed by Trader Joe’s to get my low acid coffee, as well as my favorite ginger cookies. I ate half of them in the car on the way to my office. I had no self-control or care to have self-control. Another attempt at a nap followed which was interrupted by a phone call. I forced myself to make and eat a salad, only possible because of the prep work I had done on Sunday. Finally, it was time to go to the massage.

When asked what I was there for, I repeated depleted, exhausted, drained. I have given more than I have, and need to be recharged. On the massage table, I realized that for the next hour, I didn’t need to do anything, I got to be passive. I was to receive care. Everything up to that point was an active form of self-care, from scheduling the appointment, driving myself, to making myself salad/coffee/oatmeal. It didn’t happen without my active participation. Active vs Passive self-care – I had never made that distinction before and felt that a light bulb had turned on that made sense of resistance to yoga/exercise/reading - all my normal self-care activities.

I repeated this idea to my daughter – and she instantly understood. She added her own twist of a scale/bank where a person can be at a practically at 0 or even overdrawn. In those times, even though you know what you need to do to get to a positive value, you don’t even have enough energy to make it happen. Her example had to do with food – knowing you are hungry, but being so low that even the thought of making food is too hard. However, if someone offers to make you food, you are able & willing to eat it.

On Monday I was in the hole, overdrawn. Even an afternoon spent in a spa wasn’t enough to bring me back to positive. I woke up on Tuesday with a migraine. I had a choice to stay at home, or drag myself to Chattanooga to see to my pregnant daughter, who may or may not be able to replenish me. Thankfully, I was able to spend the day with her and she had just enough in her “bank” to give to me. I asked her to make me lunch, I didn’t even care what she made me. Just that someone other than myself made me food. Later that day, we had massages at a local massage school (I found the website, she made the call). I finally had enough in me to be present in the world. I could think to get a roasted chicken from Earthfare when we were both hungry and her bank was close to 0. I was able to fix her computer. I was able to give a little back.

This morning I have enough brain power to write this, and create a flyer from my thoughts. This is a both an act of self-care to remind myself of lessons learned, as well as an act of giving care to others. In my profession, I give care to moms and babies. These mamas are very often depleted, exhausted, and drained. I also am a mom (and soon to be grandmom), wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend, business owner, and human being. It is hard to not give, and give, and give until we are left with nothing. I invite you to check out the graphic, and consider what passive self-care you have in your life. Part of my active self-care is to schedule passive self-care before I am depleted. What can you put on your schedule, who can you ask to help you before you are depleted, exhausted and drained?

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