Is anyone else STRUGGLING? (Self-care, body image & PCOS woes)
I had a BIG revelation today in therapy…..”Self Care” was not modeled for me growing up!
How many of us, as black women are told to be STRONG and INDEPENDENT and take care of everyone? Although this can be a good sentiment because it builds capacity and resilience, on the flip side we all STRUGGLE with rest. We feel guilty for taking time off, prioritizing ourselves, or even saying no to a “friend meetup”. The reality is that I didn’t have a strong model of rest in my home.
My mom, like most Nigerian mom’s managed a household, worked a job, ran a business, catered to the children’s emotional, physical, and mental needs, showed up for her friends, their children’s weddings, parents’ funerals, in-law quarrels and everything in between. She still had the time to wake up every day at 4 am to cover my family in prayers and managed to do it all looking FLY and mostly in stilettos. To say she was and is SUPERHUMAN is an understatement but in reality, she doesn’t rest. At first, it was funny “ ahn ahn mummy, you don’t sleep sha, well sha sleep” to “mummy have you eaten? You’ve been organizing everyone since morning”. Inevitably like most Nigerian mothers, she does reach a point where she goes off on everyone in the family for not “pulling their weight” and or taking her for granted (sorry mom). This pattern of behavior ladies and gentlemen is called a restrict – BINGE cycle. It can apply to everything, you eat perfectly for 6 days and then inhale a small house on the 7th, you help, give and support your friends and family all year round and during the holidays you BLOWUP. It typically happens to women and specifically women of color who feel the need to carry the family and in some ways are “expected” to – (F***K the Patriarchy). This is why most of us millennials STRUGGLE with “keeping it all together”. Unfortunately, social media has made it ALMOST impossible for us to do seemingly normal things like taking a vacation with simplicity! Have you ever spoken to a millennial woman 1 or 2 months before her vacation? (She is usually on some diet, her cart is usually full with “Shein, pretty little things, boohoo *insert you preferred version of fast fashion here, (one size too small as well)*. I can guarantee you that she is also planning her poses, her captions, her hair, nails, lashes, and the list goes ON and ON and ON). What I’m trying to say is that she puts WAAAAAY too much pressure on herself for someone that is supposed to be relaxing.
So what’s the point of this blog post?! Well, I’ve just had a breakthrough and I’m hoping to share it with you….You see, I was recently diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and in retrospect, I’ve probably been dealing with it for the last 6 -7 years BUT I didn’t slow down enough to see the signs. Now if you are not a woman with PCOS or in the women’s health industry, you may not know what is it! So I will give you the spark notes.
PCOS is a hormonal imbalance disorder that affects 15% of women. The major symptoms are:
Polycystic ovaries – long story short, you have issues with your ovaries, you can develop cysts, and have irregular periods.
Hypoandrogenism – basically you become a MAN! (lol), you have elevated levels of testosterone in your body, so you grow facial hair, are prone to acne, male pattern baldness etc. Also, testosterone gives you the craziest mood fluctuations. ** pray for your male friends, they are GOING through it, your body with too much testosterone is like PMS x 5).
Insulin Resistance – Your body has too much “free-flowing” insulin BUT it also doesn’t recognize that you have insulin, so your pancreas just CREATES more insulin. Insulin is responsible for regulating blood sugar and providing energy AND also turning your food into energy or storing it as fat. If you have too much insulin that isn’t being used, its stores it as FAT. So you simultaneously store too much fat (weight gain) and have no energy so you CRAVE more food. The hormonal imbalance also makes it so it's 8-10 harder to lose weight.
To be diagnosed with PCOS, you must have at least 2 of the 3 main symptom buckets, I have ALL 3. It is at this moment, that I take a pause to just pat myself on the back a little BECAUSE howwwwwww have I maintained a job, a master’s degree, a side hustle, and a social life when my BODY and MIND are literally fighting me?!
Anyways, when I got the diagnosis, I went into “discipline” Ibiyemi mode.
I take all my supplements on time with recommended breakfast
I hired a personal trainer (PCOS friendly ofcourse – last time I did personal training I had a cyst rupture (PAINFUL AF)
I looked into insulin resistant, high fibre, low glycemic diets….some ppl said go “gluten-free and dairy-free – (because inflammation is a B***** )
also started praying more specifically! I’ve been praying for healing in my body for 2 years but I didn’t know what was wrong, so as soon as I found out, I changed my prayers.
I’ve been consistent and taking it one day at a time BUT it ALL came crashing down today…..I just couldn’t CARE! I woke up tired, rushed to the grocery store in the rain because I felt my food choices were “not good enough” but of course I didn’t make a plan so I came home with a bag of apples, and I've just been TRYIIING to make it all day…..Then the “self-critical Ibiyemi” showed up with not-so-kind words. Somewhere along the way of growing up, I internalized anything less than perfection.
I keep gaining weight, well it’s my fault, I must be very lazy and undisciplined
I get very happy and very sad throughout the day or week, well I MUST be carrying a lot of emotional traumas, I just need to schedule more therapy
I’m tired in the morning, well I must have gone to bed late last night (10:45, instead of my usual 10:30pm)
I missed my period again, I must be really stressed and trying to prove my worth to other people through my accomplishments which is why I work so hard
Whatever the issue is, it’s my FAULT and I have to fix it. It got so bad that I developed such intense body dysmorphia because my activities (going to the gym and eating healthy) were never consistent with good results. I would see all these influencers or people with their “before” and “after” pics and I would just have weeks and weeks of “before” pics while consistently gaining weight, honestly it has just been so MUCH for the last 2 years in this pandemic and my self-esteem has just taken a massive SHOT but this is NOT a pity party, its a revelation blog post. …. “Self care” was never modeled for me, so I never had a chance at “self-compassion, self-love, OR giving myself time to heal” At 29, I am finally learning that I am a HUMAN being and not a machine. I need REST, I need CARE, I need COMPASSION and most importantly “I don’t know how to take care of myself”. I would have been really embarrassed a month ago if I admitted that I don’t know how to take care of myself BUT it’s the truth…..however,
I can truly say for the first time in my life I want to learn. I am aware that it’s going to take time and I just have to give it the time that it takes.
If you are a millennial woman, and you find yourself on this restrict, binge cycle, running the rat race trying to be the best employee, boss, friend, girlfriend, wife, mother, *insert your own brand of perfect* I hope you will tap into my words and FIND some true sustainable REST.
Before I go, here are some gym selfies, that no one asked for! For the first time, I'm actually focused on strength!
As always, thanks for listening,