I Must Take Care of Me

On hold to make a doctor’s appointment, I listen to the ringtone-quality music, twirl my hair and think about what’s for dinner.

“Women spend so much time taking care of others that they often forget to take care of themselves…”

I’m sure you’ve heard it. Trying to make a doctor’s appointment while sending an email and writing a grocery list. Barely paying attention, the public service message pierces your thoughts, encouraging women to get their annual mammograms.

On hold, multitasking as usual, the recording always hits a nerve for me.

As women, as humans, we must advocate for ourselves. We must make the appointment; set aside the time to recharge; allow only healthy people into our lives; and be responsible for our own health and happiness.

Whether for your health, or in your home and work life, spending so much time taking care of others without focusing on you leads to an unhealthy you who can’t take care of anyone.

I recently had a biopsy on my right breast—a completely benign overgrowth of normal tissue. Most of my friends share similar experiences. But knowing that didn’t squelch my anxiety over the tests and appointments and precious minutes spent on hold with the doctor’s office. I’m still anxious about the surgery that awaits me.

Though I could certainly live with the cystic adenoma, I am glad I chose for a doctor to look at it before I let the anxiety get the best of me. The spot is sensitive and I don’t like thinking about it, so I’ll be glad to have it removed.

Self-advocacy is new to me.

Two summers ago, still living with my ex-husband in Fredericksburg and working two jobs, I straddled between leaving the marriage and staying the course.

It was Friday. I had been feeling bad for days—a strain in the lower back from yoga, I thought. My oldest brother drove up and was supposed to take care of my two-year-old son while I worked a late bar shift. The next day, we were headed to North Carolina to see my baby brother for the Fourth of July.

I couldn’t pass up the money. I couldn’t let down the restaurant owners. I couldn’t miss the family trip.

When my brother showed up drunk, and I could barely move from the pain, I cancelled the shift, full of apologies. That didn’t stop me from driving eight hours the next day, hell bent on fulfilling my obligations. I arrived in New Bern, NC long enough to drop off my son in capable hands and for my parents to drive me to the hospital.

Kidney infection. Hospitalized for four days. Not the ideal vacation.

Had I stopped and evaluated what I needed—not what I thought I should do for everyone else—I may have been able to avoid the illness. I needed to advocate for me.

I’m glad I’ve learned that lesson, even if it takes a recorded message to remind me from time to time.

2 Responses to “I Must Take Care of Me”
  1. Julia Tomiak says:

    Ruth, I’m so glad you’ve started this blog to inspire people like me. I’m a chronic people pleaser, and I often set up ridiculous expectations for what I should accomplish. I very much look forward to your insights on boundaries and healthy living. Thanks for sharing with such honesty.

    • Julia,

      Thank you so much for stopping by. I think it’s especially us women and mothers who ask so much of ourselves and don’t give ourselves room for making mistakes. I find myself much happier, less anxious and more able to enjoy each day when I live in a place where I take care of me and don’t expect more of others than they are reasonably able to give.

      Looking forward to the conversation. Thanks again!


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