“How I Forgot Myself and Ended Up with a Miserable UTI” by Joni Edelman originally appeared on Ravishly.com, a feminist news + culture website, and was reprinted with permission.
I smell bleach. It’s coming from the laundry room, which is right next to my bedroom, where I am, on my bed, propped up on five down-alternative pillows, writing this.
I’m in my bed propped up on five down-alternative pillows tonight, because yesterday I was urinating blood. There is bleach in the wash because little kids get their socks really filthy playing outside, and the medication I’m taking turned my urine pumpkin orange.
That’s probably more than you want to know about me.
Yesterday I was writhing — and trying to work and cook and bake and write — and urinating blood. The blood was my bladder screaming, “I will not be ignored any longer.”
The doctor had me pee in a plastic cup, as they do. And wait on the paper-covered table, as they do. There was a 35-year-old Polaroid camera in the room; you can’t even find film for a camera that old, I thought, the paper crinkling under my butt.
And, when I’d finally resolved to stop trying to figure out where one might acquire film for a 35-year-old camera, he came in, “Congratulations, Joni. You have a UTI so bad my machine can’t even read it.”
I like to give everything 110%, even my bacterial infections.
I like to give everything 110% … except myself.
That’s how I ended up in this bed with all the pillows and the wafting bleach scent; I gave too many things 110% and forgot that I existed. My work, my house, my kids, my Facebook, my curated Instagram — all 110%. The eight glasses of water that I “should” drink every day go unpoured. Breaks, never taken. Work hours, starting with the sun and never-ending. Movement is forsaken for the cold metal of an office chair. Meals, skipped. Sleep, lost.
Basic physical needs ignored.
But this isn’t just about me pushing myself to the point of bloody urine — this is about being a woman, a mother, a human, today. This is about humankind consciously depriving ourselves of what we know we need to have, all in the name of accomplishing the things we think we need to do.
This is about doing and doing and doing, until the doing has become being.
And the being produced by the doing has become our worth.
We’ve forgotten that our worth is not in the doing. We’ve forgotten that we are enough simply because we exist.
I shared this on my social media channels (my Facebook page and Instagram), unbathed, bedhead and all. I wanted to tell women that they can’t care for their families if they don’t care for themselves. They can’t teach their children healthy boundaries and behavior if they don’t practice any themselves.
I wanted to tell other over-do-ers, other mothers, other women, to stop, to care for themselves.
I wanted to remind you, You are more than the things you do.
I heard from a lot of women that they “can’t make time” and that when they do make time they “feel so guilty.” I heard from a lot of women who have ended up in their version of being propped up on five down-alternative pillows because they didn’t listen; they didn’t care enough about themselves to just stop doing.
They don’t want it to be this way, the day-to-day movement of life a long series of to-do lists, Instagram-worthy crafts, homes, children, selves. They don’t want that pressure, that expectation.
But their worth is in their suffering — and in the praise that is a byproduct of it.
In 2008, I ran so hard for so long, I broke my leg. While I was running and running and suffering, people praised me.
When I ate less food, lost more weight, people praised me. When I went without sleep, without pause, people praised me.
The more I suffered, physically, mentally, emotionally, the more people went out of their way to tell me what an amazing job I was doing. What an amazing person I was.
And I relished every moment.
I relished it because praise feels good. It feels good to most people, and to some of us, those who never felt validated, who never felt accomplished, praise feels imperative. And for me, that praise created a feedback loop.
And that feedback loop built right into my psyche: The more you do, the more you are praised, the better you are.
Do more. Be more.
The more you write, the more lives you touch, the better you are.
The more weight you lose, the better you are.
The more things you cook/bake/create, the better you are.
The more beautiful your bullet journal …
The more socks you knit …
The more events you show up to …
The more relationships you can juggle …
The more traffic on the site …
The more contacts …
The more Instagram followers you have …
The more your kids have …
The more you have …
The better you are.
I have simply lost the capacity to differentiate who I am from what I do. The doing and the being are an amalgam, interwoven so tightly that I can’t see one from the other; I don’t know if I ever did. And I don’t know what my life would look like, what it would feel like, if my worth weren’t measured in Instagram likes and article shares. I don’t know what my life would be like if I just took care of myself.
How do I stop doing so I can start being?
I can’t say, but I’m going to start with a seven-day course of antibiotics and eight glasses of water.
More from Ravishly:
- Beauty and body acceptance: Living at the intersection of vanity and self-love
- Why I gave up Lent for Lent
- Emergency self-care: Tips for loving yourself during a crisis