Suffering Is Not Success: What I’ve Learned In A Year Of Self-Care

Happy Birthday Beyond Before & After! (image credit: Mariah Aro Sharp)

A bipolar, body-positive bread enthusiast with a fucked-up pretty much healed ankle and a history of disordered eating chronicles health, weight-loss, and gardening. No diets allowed.


If Facebook hadn’t reminded me, I probably would have forgotten that a year ago this week I started this column; I started to make self-care more important than clean toilets.

You’re probably familiar with the story, not in small part because it describes a lot of you. Woman has career. Woman has babies. Woman forgets that she is a person, pays $40 a month for a gym membership she never finds the time to use, sleeps 6 broken hours a night, never drinks water, gets UTI, takes antibiotics for said UTI, gets diarrhea from said antibiotics, ends up fetal in the corner of her family room buried under a pile of unfolded laundry and legos.

A year ago, I decided I wouldn’t suffer anymore. I decided I would prioritize self-care.

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point we started to reward misery.

Not sleeping?

Sleep is for the weak. You can sleep when you die. Tired? Drink more coffee. Da Vinci only slept 20 minutes to two hours at a time max. If you want to be an artistic genius, you should probably live on naps.

Lack of sleep can actually make you crazy. Maybe Da Vinci was just insane.

Working 60 hours a week?

You’re so dedicated, so driven, so goal oriented.

So dead.

Buying all organic, non GMO, grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone free fruits and veggies at Whole Foods?

So what if you spent your Whole Paycheck; you really care for your family.

And you’re broke as a joke.

Vegan?

I don’t care if you love hamburgers and honey. Think of the BEES AND COWS. I don’t care if your hemoglobin plummets, eat more kale. Hate kale? GOOD. We all have to do things we hate.

Actually, no. You should probably just have a steak.

Have you stopped eating entirely?

BUT do you look good in a bikini? Worth it!

Not really. You kind of need food to survive.

Making your kid’s Dorothy Halloween costume by hand? Complete with a hand-knit puppy and shoes you glittered yourself?

Did you stay up all night doing it? EVEN BETTER! Girl, you belong on Pinterest.

Pinterest is a dirty liar.

Natural childbirth?

No pain meds! You are AMAZING.

Oh, you caved and got an epidural? No blue childbirth ribbon for you.

There isn’t a ribbon for how much childbirth hurts; the reward is the baby. You get that even if you can’t feel your legs.

childbirth blue ribbon (image credit: Mariah Aro Sharp)

Is your heart rate 170 on the treadmill? Are your legs on fire? Can you actually not stand up because you did 700 squats?

NO PAIN NO GAIN.

Suffering is not a prerequisite for a good life.

No pain. No gain. Bullcrap.

You don’t have to be thin. You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t have to make your kids' costumes or give them Pinterest-worthy parties. You don’t have to have an unmedicated homebirth in your bathtub, surrounded by soft candlelight, while listening to a carefully crafted playlist that includes Enya, Mozart, and probably Jack Johnson. You don’t have to stay up all night or work all day.

You don’t have to suffer to be happy.

A year ago, I decided I wouldn’t suffer anymore. I decided I would prioritize self-care.

I went to the lab and had my thyroid checked out. I went to the gym without trying to kill myself in the weight room. I went to physical therapy and actually did the exercises I was supposed to do. I had an MRI and made a plan to heal my damaged ankle. I prioritized my sleep, when possible as many hours as I needed. I took my meds — all of them, on time, even if I hated them and wanted to flush them down the toilet. I didn’t succeed in caring for myself well every day, but more days than not, I remembered that before I am a mother and a wife, I am a human.

We do too much, we try too hard, we suffer because our culture loves suffering. We’ve created that monster, but we don’t have to nurture it.

Suffering is not a prerequisite for absolute bliss, in fact, life is pretty blissful without it.


Want to follow my journey? Join in? Cheer me on? Cry with me?

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Drink your water, boos.

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