The day after school started, I was sitting on the couch watching T.V. My mind was going over and over all the things I should have been doing, but I felt unable to stand. Austin was down for a nap and Pepper was sleeping in my lap, but this was more than just an afternoon mood slump. I felt overwhelmed, anxious, and paralyzed.
The first day of school is something I look forward to and dread at the same time. The major shift in routine and schedule is hard for me, and then I worry about my boys. Are they safe? Are they with their friends? Is their teacher(s) going to provide them what they need? There are a million reasons to feel anxious on the first day of school.
In the midst of this mental turmoil, I gave myself some compassion and encouragement. Then, I engaged in some much needed self care. I took a bath and washed my hair. The triple digit heat the last few days had left me feeling sticky and gross. Then Ben and I made a plan for how to help me get through the next two weeks until preschool starts for Austin. Ben made dinner and I signed papers and gathered school supplies for Devin. We went to bed early.
In the morning I had some dreams, which I recorded. I dreamed I went on a bike ride in Sugar City, Idaho, where I grew up. I was with my kids. I stopped to pet a couple of dogs that didn’t have teeth. They belonged to a Mormon family with lots of kids who were all piled on a single bicycle. They looked happy and seeing them made me happy too. Then I went to Walmart where my kids ran off. I felt overwhelmed and used positive self-talk to motivate myself to complete the shopping, gather my children, and ride my bike home again.
According to Google research, bike riding symbolizes being an active participant in life and taking steps to reach your goals. Dog teeth symbolize power and virility. They fact that they belonged to a Mormon family might mean something about the way I see the people of my faith. Perhaps I see them as defenseless against danger. Perhaps the image of them piled on the bicycle is indicative of my idealized version of a Mormon family, everyone happy and balanced. The Walmart trip and the feelings I had there mirrored my depressed and overwhelmed feelings the day before. The positive self-talk was helpful to me in my dream as it had been in my waking life.
The next day, I knocked some things off my procrastination list, made some contacts for babysitting, and watched a movie a friend loaned me about watercolor painting. I made it through a tough patch, and I am still functioning and I credit that to my self affirmations and self care.
We talk a lot in my church about financial self reliance. That is important. Lately there has been a twist on the concept to include spiritual self-reliance. I think there is something to be said about emotional self-reliance. Learning how to give yourself love and encouragement gives you the strength to push self-doubt and self-defeating behavior aside. It’s easy to consider self-affirmations as encouraging self absorption and narcissism. For me, it has the opposite effect. It helps me to stop worrying about myself and frees my resources up to actually get stuff done. Self-care, as my therapist is always reminding me, is essential for my well being. As a full time care giver, it isn’t optional. When I’ve cared for myself, I am better able to care for my family.