July 21, 2023 -Bixler-Balance: Self-Care
In June 2022, I turned 50. I woke up full of energy realizing I’m at the halfway point and I better get it together – pronto! I got up early, did yoga, meditated and said a prayer. I ate healthier and enjoyed a morning walk. I basked in the warmth of the sunshine and watched squirrels’ play. It felt amazing! I made the decision that I was going to live that way every single day. I did great for the first week and then I realized the house was a mess; I needed clean clothes; we needed milk and bread; and I hadn’t gotten much work done. Maintaining balance is not one of my strengths. Although I’d spent more than a decade educating caregivers on the importance of self-care and balance, I wasn’t very good at it. I’ve always been a workaholic, while simultaneously striving to be a perfect mother, partner, friend… blah, blah, blah. (Perfectionism is a double-edge sword.)
Giving advice is super easy, by the way! I mastered it – LOL. When I ran my business, I did a lot of public speaking. I enjoyed educating and motivating people. Quite often I was lecturing about self-care and taking time to “fill your bucket.” I emphasized its importance to caregivers to help them avoid burnout. And I lectured overworked, underpaid hospital social workers and case managers regarding the same.
Yet, year after year, I actively worked 70-80 hours a week running a business in which I was comprehensively responsible for the everyday lives of 160-180 people on-call 24/7/365. I didn’t take care of myself because I believed I’d be perceived as selfish. I could let myself down, but I couldn’t let my clients, employees and my family down. Yes, I was a hypocrite but at least I wasn’t a selfish one, right?! I’m not sure where that self-imposed belief comes from because I certainly don’t view other people as selfish for taking time for themselves.
At the time, I felt pride in being able to manage everything. I used to tell my friend and right-hand work partner that if I felt like once master juggling fifty balls simultaneously, I needed to prove that I could do it with fifty-one, fifty-two and so on. There was no end because I never felt it was enough. Although I’m always striving to be a better person, I’ve certainly put the cart before the horse many times. It usually resulted in a disastrous mess. It occurred to me many times, that maybe those disasters were God’s way of teaching me a critical lesson. But then again, maybe it was just a test of my resilience, persistence and tenacity. I went with the latter. That was – until I created the biggest disaster! My crimes. I took shortcuts rather than doing things the right way. I was impatient and the compulsion to achieve more was relentless.
My family tells me all the time that in many ways, my arrest and losing my business was a blessing. Initially, I couldn’t begin to consider that idea. Breaking the law was anything but a blessing for anyone involved. In time, I’ve realized my family is right. My ship was sinking. I was never going to stop accepting more clients and taking more shortcuts to manage it all. I wasn’t going to reach a point of feeling content with my accomplishments. While I’ve lost my freedom through this, in a way, I was freed. I was forced to stop. There was no alternative, shortcuts or workarounds that existed. The only way through it was submission, introspection and facing some painful truths about myself. It was unavoidable.
I wish I knew then what I know now. Not that I still don’t have a desire to achieve more, but I recognize and accept that my method and pace are huge factors impacting the success or failure of my mission. I know today’s journal highlights some of my weaknesses and things I’m ashamed of. Self-improvement requires an honest self-evaluation.
I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure I never commit another crime. I recognize the ongoing mental health treatment that I need. I knew I needed it for years but felt overwhelmed and consumed with life and failed to prioritize counseling, which is a form of self-care. I’ve always been committed to receiving and taking my medications, but I tried to convince myself that with my medicine, I’d be able to manage everything on my own. After all, I’d had a decade of counseling in my 30’s and hoped that self-awareness would be enough. It wasn’t it.
I know that I will always need counseling due to the traumas I’ve experienced. I admire people who can put their past behind them, but I haven’t been successful in doing so. My counselor is the best and I owe her so much. I can never repay her for the non-judgmental support she’s given me. I will miss her while I’m in prison and am hopeful we can have a brief phone call now and then. She’s already promised that my spot is saved so when I return home, I can immediately begin seeing her for treatment without delay. I am blessed.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”Dalai Lama