A friend recently told me that my self-esteem was in the toilet and that she didn't like it one bit. She was one hundred percent right, and if I had to pick one defining change between the person I was before losing that baby almost three years ago, and the person I am today, that would be it. Over the past few years, I have gone from someone who exuded confidence to something else entirely. I don't like it, but I'm not sure how to go back to who I used to be - or if I really can at all.
I find it very difficult to separate my self-identity from my body's inability to consistently produce children. I doubt that I am alone in this. Witnessing the failure of one's body is a humbling experience, particularly when it is coupled with losses, grief, and physical changes that linger long after the trauma has passed.
At present, I weigh more than I ever have in my lifetime. My belly is swollen and stretched, and it often feels like I'm wearing a tire around my midsection. Five pregnancies and years spent using hormonal treatments will do that to you. Weight gain, depression, migraines, and vertigo are just a few of the delightful symptoms that I endure while chasing the dream of Child Number Two.
But my insecurities go beyond body image. I often find myself feeling broken, unlovable, or invisible. Anti-depressants have helped take the edge off of these feelings, but still, they persist - encouraged with each failed cycle or work-related blunder, every pile of dishes that remain for more than a day in the sink, or a load of laundry that sours because I couldn't get it into the dryer fast enough. I have started to feel like a broken record - spewing the same old sob stories every time I get the rare chance to socialize with close friends or confide in one of my sisters. It's gotten to the point where I actually avoid socializing because I feel like I'm just going to bum everybody else out with my drama.
I know I've been saying this a lot, but I'll say it again. I'm tired. I'm tired of being that person who always has drama surrounding them. I'm tired of being the mom with the too-messy house, or the wife who always seems to be mad at her husband. I'm tired of my life feeling out of control, or like success is out of my reach.
I'm tired of feeling fear and anxiety over things that ought to be celebrated as matter-of-fact miracles. A positive pregnancy test should not be a mixed bag. It should be smiles and happy tears like every stupid commercial I find myself staring at blankly while waiting for the Skip Ad button to go live.
I'm tired of being sad.
I decided recently to try and get my groove back. My plan started off with a resolution to declare my independence early and often, making decisions without asking permission or even consulting anyone else. After nearly a decade of marriage, I had gotten into the habit of discussing every move I made. Communication is healthy and all, but I feel like overdoing it for years had made me feel childish and confined. My new policy is to be my own boss in all things.
A haircut was also in order, as well as a new tattoo, and an overhaul of my makeup stash. Fake it till you make it, right? Perhaps if I present myself with confidence I will start to believe that picture more fully.
I'm trying hard to get back to being a person that I'm proud of being, but it's slow going. Because it's more than the lost babies or the canceled adoption, or even getting fired from my favorite side project this morning. My self-esteem was something that I had been stubbornly holding up since my early twenties - when I decided that no matter how I looked or how weak I may have been in the past I would live from then on as the best person I could be.
I made a commitment back then to being kind and mindful, and passionately creative - to embrace the things I loved about myself and build my actions around them. I chose to wear my best self on my sleeve and to walk with pride, knowing that if nothing else, I was doing my very best.
That decision acted like a pier for years, holding me up even when the world around me began shaking. It gave me the confidence to take chances, to make friends, to pose happily for photos and stop obsessing over how they looked on the other side. But over the last several years that column started cracking, and I no longer feel like my very best is enough to hold me up.
Still, I'm not exactly UN-happy. I know this post is a huge bummer, but things aren't all bad. Not by a long shot. CC brings a light into my life that never goes out, and the time we spend together makes life worth living. We work in my garden, we giggle and play pretend, we spend hours telling stories and exploring the neighborhood with Pepper dog in tow. Life is good. I love my son, and I love my life. I just don't love myself like I used to, and it's hard to really be happy, like bone-deep happy, when you've lost your self-esteem.
So what do you say, folks? How do you learn to love yourself again after you've failed yourself so often? What do I need? A massage? Therapy? A swift kick in the ass?