At my own counseling session the other day, I presented an interesting conundrum to my therapist. I informed my her that I finally tapped into parts of my personality that were hidden since my high school and early college days. I expressed a strong sense of pride at first. For instance, I thrived on being a leader and was always heavily involved in extracurricular activities. Over the last few weeks, I initiated planning for my ten-year reunion. I talked about the joy this brought to be planning events again and bringing people together for an amazing event. On top of leadership, I felt my entrepreneurial mindset coming back. I too discussed how this blog had been growing with readership, more writers, and eventually expanding to new platforms.
Although I felt relieved to be in touch with my “old self,” I also felt neglected. Since focusing my energy on these areas, I pushed my newer endeavors to the side. For instance, my physical health became a primary area of improvement. This was following a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, high cholesterol, and weighing in over 275 pounds. I needed a total overhaul. I arranged monthly meetings with a dietician who would walk me around the grocery store. I obtained a gym membership going three to four times a week. Simultaneously, I signed up for weekly personal training sessions. I was tracking my daily water intake, calorie intake, and exercise on my Fitbit. I found a local massage therapist that specialized in fibromyalgia pain. I maintained this pattern rather well for about six months with a few hiccups, but as able to get back on track quickly. Since putting more time into the class reunion and blog, my physical condition spiraled downward. I stopped going to the gym altogether. I was eating fast food two to three times a day. I would let my refrigerator totally run out of food and use it as an excuse to buy food while I was out. It was not a pretty two months.
My therapist quickly pointed out the discrepancy. It was a matter of old versus new. I fell back into comfortable patterns from years prior. The actual patterns were healthy in that they brought a positive attitude and emphasized my strengths. However, they were unhealthy in that they pushed aside other beneficial lifestyle changes from the last six months.
I made the same mistake that so many before me did. I was solely concerned with getting back my old identity. It was the one I missed dearly, feeling like it had been lost forever. Instead, I can be a new and improved me by taking the best of both worlds. Even though my old identity was not perfect, there was still a collection of characteristics I want to carry forward with me. I can bring those with me on my self-care trek, while continuing to improve upon my weaknesses and incorporating them into new lifestyle changes. Rather than allow the old to displace the new, let them co-exist.
-The Caring Counselor