My Introversion is Self-Care
by Jacey Rogel
I sit on the couch with my kindle on my lap, sneaking in a few quiet minutes of reading while my two daughters gather toys in the playroom. My oldest is at school and without him running around and playing basketball inside the house, it is abnormally quiet. Soon my girls come charging down the hallway, Magnatiles and baby strollers in hand, and set up their play area a few feet from me. I let them play, only inserting myself into their business to comment on a tower they’re building.
My older daughter stands up and screams and the baby soon follows. They run through the hallway, springing and screeching, singing and spinning.
“Please. Stop. Screaming,” I mutter. I close my eyes and rub my temples. They move along laughing, continuing their made-up games at a lower decibel level and in a different room. I turn back to my book.
I am easily overwhelmed by loud noises, bright lights, anything that pulls me away from my inner world where I find comfort and peace. With three noisy and active children, loud is the soundtrack to my life. When overwhelmed, I lose my patience easily, I am quick to anger, and I have been known to storm off and hide in my bedroom when my world is deafening.
My personality and motherhood are constantly at odds with one another.
My daughter sits behind me enthralled by Doc McStuffins, her sister is napping and I have carved out this time for me. I sit on the floor and tap away at my laptop, escaping into my words and the stories I want to tell. Once the episode ends, I tell her we are all done, but another one starts before I can turn it off.
“Just one more?” she asks.
“Okay,” I tell her, “this is the last one, though.” I dive back into the essay in front of me, grateful for a few more minutes of writing. She thinks another show is for her, but it’s really for me.
Words are my happy place. My escape. My self-care.
I never understood the appeal of bubble baths. Face masks are only enjoyable when surrounded by girlfriends, especially since washing my face at the end of the day is a feat I rarely accomplish. I come back from a massage or pedicure grateful and guilty; they aren’t really in our budget and I never feel refreshed afterward. The moment I walk through the door, noise whipping me in the face, it was as if the past few hours never happened.
I’d much rather sit on the couch and read a few chapters, ignoring my children in the process. I’d much rather allow screen time so I can wrestle with words.
For me, self- care is less about pampering and more about self- discipline. I know I will feel better and more aligned with myself after activities that bring me closer to who I want to be, activities that bring me closer to my goals.
Once my children are tucked into their beds, I tiptoe down the hallway and enter my bedroom. I pull the covers over my legs, surround myself with journals and books. I dive into words, my own and those of others until I can no longer keep my eyes open. These precious hours at night allow me ample time to clear my head from the chaos of the day.
I am a strong introvert and a highly sensitive person, alone time is the only way I can recharge. It’s not perfect, nothing ever goes the way I plan when my children are involved. They come into my room approximately 450 times after I tuck them in because they “need a drink of water” that turns into twelve.
“I just love you,” my daughter will say before she turns and walks away.
“I need you to tuck me in again” is a common request. But when I finally am alone, I can breathe easier.
These days of mothering young children feel like living the same day over and over again. Every morning, I stand at the counter and fill three cups- always blue to eliminate as much unnecessary fighting as possible- of milk, refill the same water bottles, and make the same thing for lunch. The same words and phrases are on repeat “stop fighting/yelling. Be nice to one another. Please listen the first time.”
Time stands still, yet somehow keeps moving forward. I am stuck in quicksand, sinking into the ordinary moments of my life. The days feel infinitely longer than the years, which move at warp speed. And every night, I wonder how I am going to do it all over again tomorrow.
Motherhood was always my dream. In the early stages of love, my husband and I talked about having a large family, at least four or five kids. But after a harrowing battle with prenatal and postpartum depression with my second child, I couldn’t fathom a large and loud family.
I knew I wanted at least one more child, a chance to do it all over again, in the hopes I wouldn’t suffer from prenatal and postpartum depression again.
But, I did.
The heavy fog of depression followed me through all nine months of pregnancy and into the early days of life with three children.
Depression was a spotlight on my personality and it showed me all of the ways I needed to change if I was going to be a healthier version of myself. I couldn’t continue neglecting my needs in order to be everything to my family. I couldn’t continue not asking for help to prove I was capable. I wasn’t. I was drowning and taking those I loved down with me.
Depression introduced me to a new version of myself and now I am learning to take care of me and my children in all of our new stages and phases, which means that sometimes I am not the mother I thought I would be.
From the outside, it may look like I do not love my children or my role as their mother. There used to be guilt attached to this. I used to think I wasn’t enough for them. They know my love is unrelenting and their presence in my life has fulfilled me in ways I never knew possible. Depression showed me that there are layers to this life, to me, and they cannot be ignored.
I never thought depression would rule me the way it did or that I would have to fight daily in order to be present and loving. There were so many lies whispered to me and there is a learning curve for how to ignore those lies and speak truth over myself. I do that with words.
Reading and writing saved me during those dark days. They were a way for me to escape, to forget about the pain I was consumed by; I wrote through the dark thoughts and tried to understand them.
I am learning to listen to my body, to notice the signs that tell me I am headed for a meltdown. In order to function, to be a good mother, to be present and kind, I need to seclude myself from those I love, whether physically in the comfort of my own room or mentally by ignoring my children while they are happily engaged in other activities.
I need to set boundaries around my time, which can be difficult when staying home with multiple children, but it is vital to remember that I am my own person with my own needs. If I am not functioning at my best, neither is my family.
Jacey is a wife to her husband of eight years and together, they have three children. She finds solace in words and between the pages of a good book. Her writing has been featured on Coffee + Crumbs among others. You can find her on Instagram or jaceywrites.com.