Selfish Self-ish

If I’ve said it before I’ve said it a hundred times: I’m a people pleaser. There was a moment of relief when I found the name of what I was feeling and how I was acting. It made it easier to understand myself and move forward. Not that it’s stopped the behaviour, but now that I knew what it was I could work to minimizing it’s impact in my life. And for a lot of things I have. It’s not easy and not something I can get away from all the time. It’s still very much a part of my identity and something I’m struggling with lately.

A lot of this stems from an association that, right or wrong, I made a long time ago: that is I was going out of my way to help others (the actual people pleasing) then I couldn’t be accused of being selfish. In my mind being selfish was the worst thing someone could be or accuse me of being. I never wanted to be seen as someone who takes-takes-takes for their own personal gains, and if I was constantly helping others than I couldn’t be selfish – I wouldn’t have the time. The problem, as I’m certain you’ve guessed, is that people pleasing is not good and can lead to hurt feelings and doing things I don’t want to do, while being selfish is not inherently a terrible thing. People can make it terrible, but looking out for yourself and your own interests is not selfish; in fact some times it’s what you need to be doing.

I’ve resisted writing anything about the current state of the world (until now) because of these very two things. I didn’t want to seem selfish by focusing only on my problems or concerns, but I’m also doing myself a disservice by ignoring one of my largest coping mechanisms in the name of not wanting to appear selfish or conceited.

I recognize that this is a hard reality for anyone and everyone to navigate, myself included. I recognize that all things considered it could be a lot worse for me and those I love. I recognize that am I lucky to have what I have right now. But that also doesn’t diminish the hard parts of this for me, or anyone else. We all have our unique realities, our unique concerns. Our own feelings, our own struggles, our own battles to be fighting. Writing about my thoughts is not at all saying that I’m the only one suffering, or that I’m the only one who has it bad. But it is a way for me to communicate to people what is happening in my particular corner of the world. It’s a way for me to acknowledge my own feelings about the hardships I am facing. And it’s a way for me to process everything that has happened or might happen.

This is what has happened/is happening to me:
– I’ve been out of work for 4 weeks now. I work for an industry that was affected by school closures just before the start of March Break, which means I am part of the group that has been out of work the longest in our province. I made an (easy) decision to pay out my vacation pay for the year to delay my “laid off” date, but I knew that I could not apply for employment insurance once it was over because that would massively affect my maternity leave pay. I am feeling extremely grateful for the CERB because that will help get us by until I can go on mat leave. At this point I am largely expecting to not go back to work before we have the baby. That is extremely hard for me to handle as I was expected to train a replacement (which my employer had not hired yet because they were trying to fill the other vacant position in my department). Not being able to leave my position in the way I wanted weighs heavy on my mind and heart. I know there is nothing I can do about it, no one will hold it against me, and my job is secure. My feelings are still valid and it is something I will struggle with for a long time.

– I am now 8 months pregnant. As you can imagine nothing about this was in my birth plan. In fact, I don’t really have a birth plan any more. Whatever ideas I had about how birth was going to go have been thrown out the window. I have a general idea of what I’d like it to be, but it’s based on whatever rules the hospital has. As of right now I am allowed 1 support person only (which will be BF, of course). That wasn’t necessarily in our plans originally due to a bunch of reasons. He definitely wanted to be at the hospital with me, sure, but the idea of having to be forced to stay in the room with me during the entire time was not something we were counting on. It looks like that might be the case. As of right now we don’t know if he’ll be allowed to stay with me after the baby is born. Any type of visitors after we arrive home is out, for how long we don’t know. Right now our focus is minimizing our chances of catching this virus because there is not enough information on what it can do to pregnant women. After the birth it will be protecting the baby to the same level. Since the shut down at work no one has been in our home but ourselves and we have strict practices after the few times we need to leave to keep ourselves safe. It is a scary time to be pregnant and be so close to birth.

– As you can imagine, as more and more events are cancelled and everyone encouraged to stay home and isolated, we are filled with longing for events we had hoped to attend but will not happen … highest on that list being our baby shower. We were in the planning stages of creating/sending out invitations when this hit and held off to the end of the month just to see what would happen. With more things being shut down in April we know that it will not happen as originally planned. There is a part of me that is a touched relieved by that – large parties, center of attention … not really my jam. The concern is/was/has always been preparing for the baby. Not necessarily that I was expecting family/friends to buy everything for us, but many many many people insisted that most of the things we might need would be gifted at the baby shower. We were told to wait on purchasing most things until after the shower … and that was easy because we were a one-income household for awhile, so there was no extra funds for anything. So naturally, with the shower cancelled, I know a lot of expectant mothers, especially first-time mothers such as myself, who are wondering how they’re going to take care and provide for their new little ones. We are very lucky – my sister bought a lot of big things for us when we first put together our registries, so on the surface of the most basic things (a place for her to sleep, a way to get her around, clothes for her to wear) we’ve had a few people give us a hand and make sure we have those things. But past that? We really have no clue – both in what we really need and what we’re absolutely missing. Because we’re going into this blind we don’t know what more is important to have for the first few months of her life. This worry sits very heavy on me with each passing day. I know she likely won’t need much, but with no income to speak of (and putting all of our hope on government relief efforts covering our needs) there is a lot to worry about.

– Leaving home is a very scary thing. I’m thankful we have a porch, and a large (shared) backyard that we can safely go to so we can get some fresh air and sunshine … but eventually there are a few errands that need to be run. Unfortunately, our city cancelled public transit (at this point slated to return on May 1st), and that is our primary mode of transportation for getting around. I still need to go to prenatal appointments, ultrasounds, and the like. Those are now cab rides because I am too far along to walk any significant distance (I did try a few weeks ago, it did not turn out well). We’ve opted to have our groceries picked up and delivered to our home. I’m certain you can imagine the absolute hell this is to someone in recovery with high food anxiety. While whomever is shopping my grocery order will tell me when something is out of stock and offer replacement ideas … not being there to see for myself is akin to torture to me. Having to make decisions on the fly, not knowing what else might around, it is a high-anxiety situation that I’ve found myself in. Again, back to that minimizing risk, we’re lucky we are able to do this instead of being in public and possibly putting ourselves in danger … but the other side of the coin is the mental anguish it puts me through when my order is being shopped and delivered. I feel like I have zero control over my food – what goes in my cart, how it’s handled, how it’s bagged – and realizing that all of this is very important to me has been a struggle. I’m doing my best to give myself as much control as I can, but the reality is that losing this part of my weekly routine has zapped with little appetite I’ve had over the last few weeks. I find myself wanting to eat less and less, or craving things that I know we don’t have in our home in an effort to give myself some measure of control over my food choices again. I know I need to eat, I know it’s better to eat from what I have at home, and I know that this feels like a step back in my recovery and will be the hardest part to work through once life returns to some semblance of normalcy. I’m doing my best.

These are the ways my life has been most impacted. Again, I recognize that there is a lot of good in what I have – I share a home with my partner who goes above and beyond to make sure I am taken care of, as comfortable as I can be, and managing as well as we can. He recognizes that the lost of private time for myself to recharge is difficult, even if he’s the only person around, and we do well to spend time together but apart (one of us on the computer, the other in the living room) or doing our own things as needed. The loss of a daily routine is not easy, but I’m trying to make the best of each day by getting up and dressed and not stressing myself for not “doing whatever I think I should be doing”. I hold no expectations on each day, just maybe a loose plan of something I’d like to accomplish and patience with myself if I just can’t manage it. It is not selfish of me to say I’m struggling through this, just important to recognize that my struggles are my own and they’re valid.

~ J

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