GUEST POST: You can’t pour from an empty cup

Have you ever heard of the expression, “You can’t pour from an empty cup?”  I, first hand, know what this feels like.  I want to share my story with you so that you can learn from my mistakes.

My story begins about 8 years ago.  My husband (Teer) and I were newlyweds, enjoying our blissful lives in the DC Metro area.   Teer was working for a government contractor and I was living the dream being the Gallery Director of a small art school.  We came and went as we pleased, we ate out, we went to fabulous parties, we even had season tickets to the Washington Capitals.  We were the epitome of typical DC area 20-somethings.  We worked our tails off, and didn’t really take a breath.  We had a “work hard, play hard” mentality, and during that time in our lives, it worked for us.

Life was good.  It was easy.

Fast forward to our thirties, we found out that we were pregnant!  It was a bit unexpected, but we were overjoyed, nonetheless.  I had a rough pregnancy, filled with all-day-long sickness and way too many pre-term labor scares.  And then on August 10, 2013 Camden made his way into the world.  He was 8.5 pounds of pure perfection, and had a heck of a head of hair!  We fell head over heels in love with him immediately.

We came home from the hospital the next day and hibernated in our little home for the next 6 weeks.

But, at week 2 something happened inside of me.  I distinctly remember waking up one morning after a sleepless night of nursing and baby cries, angry.  Angry at my sweet husband.  Angry at my beautiful newborn.  Angry at the world.  Overnight, postpartum depression had crept in.  But, I didn’t recognize it.  You see, we (as a society) don’t talk about postpartum depression.  So when it hits you, you have no idea what to do with it.

I thought something was wrong with me.  I thought I was to blame.  I thought I wasn’t cut out for this whole motherhood thing.

Couple a hearty dose of PPD, with a lacking self-care routine, and I became I walking disaster.  Seriously, I was a mess.  Nothing I did was right, nothing was passion-filled, and my anxiety was through the roof.  I wouldn’t let anyone else feed my son, I would let anyone else change his diaper, and I certainly wasn’t about to let anyone give him a bath.  I buried myself in him.

This went on for about 8 months.  Everything suffered.  The world around me was dark and dreary, even though I was surrounded by people who loved and valued me daily.

It wasn’t until my husband literally sat me down one night and practically begged me to make a change, that I really came to grips with my postpartum depression and lack of self-care.

So I did what I do best, I went to the gym.  Fitness had always been an outlet for me.  I ran track in college, competed at the national level, and truly loved a good, hard, sweaty workout.  I reluctantly joined a super fancy gym (with a super fancy price tag) and dedicated 3 nights a week to it.

In the gym, something inside of me started to change.  I felt empowered, I felt alive, I felt like ME.  I had become so lost inside of myself that it took the gym to find myself.

Something else also clicked within me.  I realized just how desperate I was to love myself.  I had lost myself in motherhood somewhere and really had no idea who I was.  I needed to figure it out, and fast.  If I was to be the amazing mother that I fully intended to be, how was I supposed to do so if I didn’t pass on a great sense of self to my son?

Self-care was my solution.  I became obsessed with self-care.  I tried practically anything I could get my hands on.  And with each one of these methods, I learned more and more about myself.  I learned what I liked, what I wanted to spend my time on, what worked, what didn’t work, and how it connected me to myself.  It sound silly to say, but oftentimes I felt like I was on a date with myself.

Eventually, I figured out what worked for me and did it over and over again, until it was a habit.  Sure, it was a ton of work, but anytime you invest in yourself you reap an unexpected reward: self-love.

Now, three years postpartum, I look at my life before I had my son and after I had my son with different emotions.  I’m truly grateful for my experience with postpartum depression and how it’s gotten me to where I am now, in a state of true self-love.  Before I had my son I was so naive, and pretty selfish, to be honest.  I was completely illogical when it came to how I viewed the world, and had a “nothing bad will ever happen to me” mentality.  And I wouldn’t actually say that suffering from postpartum depression was necessarily “bad”, it just wasn’t how I expected things to turn out.  Now on the other end of it, I’m stronger (both mentally and physically), I’m more confident, and I can honestly say, that I do have a strong sense of who I am and what I stand for.

Taking time to truly learn about yourself through self-care can change your life.  And when your cup is full, you can then fill the cup of others.  And for that, I’m grateful for.

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Allison Hardy is a certified personal trainer and a Self-Care Coach for Mompreneurs.  She is passionate about helping mompreneurs raise their business and their babies through developing a thriving self-care routine.  You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, and her website.

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