Blog by Yessica Maher, los Angeles Native.

She explores life after marriage, starting a career in her late 30's, relationships, breaking cycles of abuse, online dating, self care, fertility and depression. 

It's all over the place, but so is living. 

Living Like I Love Myself

14368871_10208621423266797_2514890299598077297_n I love me.  I really, truly, and with an open heart, love me.  I love me when I'm insecure. I love me when I need to be alone.  I love me in my silliness, and through my intensity.  I love me when I can slip into  being me, whether it's as Mom, Sister, advocate, one of the guys, or Freakzilla.  Yeah, she's still around. This self love hasn't always been my reality.  At one point it only meant I had fresh batteries.  I can admit that and love myself in spite of the times I hated being who I am. I hated living in isolation when I wanted to reach out. I hate that I have to learn to be social again, pushing past my loner tendencies. I hated what I thought and felt to the point that I offered lies to cover my truths.

In depression, it's easy to disregard your amazing for the ideals we envision.  It's easy to think we would be better if we were just . . . thinner, prettier, smarter, more confident. We don't see that "just . . . " is the most devastating weapon of self destruction we could create. It's easy to think, "I'm an okay person," ignoring that you are the only person capable of loving yourself with the complete understanding of what makes you uniquely different from every other human being on this planet at any point in time. We hold ourselves to a standard of someone else's creation, not valuing the unique design of our own rubric based on our own awesome attributes. My reality check came a few days ago when I was looking at my old Facebook pictures.

I was fairly committed to my massive ass expansion and I was content in it.  I was smiling and happy in the moment these pictures were taken, but I didn't love myself. In the first one, I was surrounded by family at Christmas.  The second was at my brother-in-law's birthday party.  Number three was my niece's sweet 16, and number 4 was a couple of months before my ex ended our marriage. I felt I was happily married and didn't know he wasn't.

I'm big on selfies lately.  They make me happy because they capture what I was feeling in any given moment.  I can go through my Instagram, look at a picture and tell you what happened in that day, and at that moment. My joy is what inspires my vapid selfie moments and they capture a feeling so that at any other moment, I can recreate it.

What my lack of selfie moments pointed out to me was that I didn't like taking pictures or looking in the mirror for that matter.  For years, the only mirror in the house was the bathroom vanity mirror.  I didn't want to see myself.  I was only in pictures that someone else was taking and I was asked to pose for. There are years of my life where I don't have pictures of myself.

It amazes me sometimes how an idea becomes a tangible reality when I'm explaining it to someone else. I was talking with my Dad this afternoon and as I'm telling him he should really start treating himself like he loves himself, it really began to solidify for me that I really do treat myself like I love myself.  Before this conversation, we were sitting down for a meal at Burger King. His choice.  I was telling him he needs to take better care of himself and treat himself like he loves himself.  The irony of the moment hit me when I took another bite of my open faced protein style burger.  I was eating food I didn't like, even though I wasn't hungry.

This morning I made myself breakfast.  It was eggs over medium on honey ham with shredded cheese on top.  It's not healthy, but it was delicious.  I enjoyed every single bite.  When we were out, I wasn't hungry, but we were stopping so he could eat.  I looked over the menu and couldn't find anything that screamed out, "this will give you intense food joy!" I settled on a burger without a bun, which somehow translates to no salt and pepper or sauce of any type. It was depressing to eat, and I was still eating it.  My doodle moment at the top of this post was about treating myself like I love myself and it was something I found on Pinterest and gave to a co-worker that wanted encouragement, and I'm hammering that out now. (I need more deskside doodle moments.)

Don't say mean things to yourself.

There are so many thoughts that run through our minds.  It's hard to shut them off or slow them down.  Sometimes random thoughts filter through and I've had a full conversation before I realize what exactly I've said to myself.  I have to be intentional with myself.  The self criticism has to go out the door.  It's not easy.

At one point when my ex was still here, but he had told me the marriage was over, he did his best to let me know all of the reasons I killed our marriage. Single handed, because I am a powerful marriage destroyer with the ability to control someone else's general happiness. (I should really learn to use these powers for good, right?) He handed his phone to his girlfriend so she could tell me (from the phone still in my name) that I was a horrible mother, physically unattractive, and deserved the way I was being treated by my husband.  I was treated like a mistress by my husband of 15 years.

I'm fairly confident now, but I still have moments when my confidence dips and I feel like I might be ugly or undesirable, ignoring the men I turn down because I am so picky.  Often, it just takes a walk.  I play music with my earbuds silencing all else and it makes me happy. Sometimes singing along, I take a short walk with my head held high.  I stride with one foot directly in front of the other, hips swaying in the imbalance of my gait.  I get appreciative looks. I've gotten strangers to pull over to get my attention and I've made shy men smile like I just handed them my last lollipop as a promise I might intend to keep (I never do).

Treat yourself the way you would treat a small child.

As a new Mom, I used to eat after my kids.  I don't mean when they were too little to eat table food. At that time, they got to taste little bits of what I had.  When they got older, I would make dinner and help them through their meals, only to eat the rest of the food off of their plate.  I treated myself like a garbage disposal.  I would never make my kids eat my scraps, and yet that was good enough for me.  I would insist they eat what tastes good to them, and I wouldn't force them to eat if they weren't hungry, but I would keep offering them food so they had what they needed when they were ready for it.  You would think I would do the same to myself, but that has been a more recent development and it looks like it did when I was a teenager.  I loved myself then, too.

 Put yourself to bed early.

Being Mom means you're constantly touched and pulled on and needed all day.  As a Mom that was also a wife, there were many nights when my whole house was asleep, but I was wired.  I would watch television or read a book, or just try to sleep but sleep wouldn't come. Laying in bed next to the ex when he was ready for bed, I would try to fall asleep with him and even faked sleep many nights to appease his desire to go to bed at the same time. Then I would stay up and make a midnight snack of a can of chunky soup, a fist full of sharp shredded cheddar and topped with another fistful of French fried onions (I did mention massive ass expansion).  By 3 or 4 a.m., I would go to sleep.  At 7 in the morning, I was getting the kids up and out the door, helping the ex get out the door, and falling asleep around 9.  I woke up by noon, ran errands, made calls, and did a crap job of housework.  When the kids were home from school, I would help with homework and start on dinner, because all meals were homemade with fresh ingredients.  My Dad introduced my kids to frozen meals when I needed help with groceries after my ex left.  I gave them fresh foods and learned how to cook new meals because I love them.  I would give myself cans of soup, piled with tons of unhealthy. Crazy, right?  Add 12 units of English literature and that's how I worked on my BA. Writing about it and the ways I had to argue my case for school with my ex each quarter got my 6 scholarships in 2 years. I did mention I'm a badass, right? I know I say this to myself all the time.

I go to bed fairly early now.  I spent this week going out.  I was at a friend's house Wednesday.  I went to a sketch show at Bar Lubitsch Thursday.  I celebrated a friend's birthday at La Velvet Margarita Cantina in Hollywood on Friday and met more friends at the Arts District Brewing Co. last night.  I'm making an effort to step out of being a loner. This in no way means I left at closing time.  Each night I was in my bed by midnight and happy to be there.  Cinderella has no idea how awesome her curfew was.

Go play outside, and allow naptime after playtime.

I love pretty things.  I love the beach at sunset and hiking trails where I'm surrounded by open skies and can see far out.  I love nature and museums and mostly I love my city.  Lately I've made every effort to be a tourist.  Just yesterday I explored the secret stairs in Hollywood. Hollywood was originally planned as a gated community called "Hollywoodland." The famous sign has nothing to do with the entertainment industry and everything to do with real estate.  It was built in the hills before cars were popular and staircases were put all over so young families could get around the neighborhoods with ease.  It's worth the Google search for the PDF.  I take myself to places I want to see because even without company, I still want to see it all.  I prioritize what interests me.  I have a whole list of places I want to go to and I keep that list at work. On Friday, I go through the list and decide what I want to knock out on my weekends alone.  It's a trip to see something pretty but it ends up looking like exercise and at the end of it, there's always food I like, and a nap.

Don't put yourself in danger.

I love solitary beach nights.  I love going to Will Rogers State Beach and watching the sunset.  I love laying in my car with the windows down and listening to the waves crash.  I love sitting on the sand, surrounded by darkness and completely alone.  Unfortunately, it's not safe so I often end up at Santa Monica Beach where performers don't worry about their tips being stolen because the police are all over that pier. I didn't make it to the beach all week and I'm not going to make it at least until Wednesday and I'm a little bummed about that but my week with friends was pretty epic. 

I went hiking a little while ago and ended up pushing myself too hard while unprepared.  I have learned my lesson and now carry much more water than I need.  I won't start a trip with a near dead cell phone.  I really want to go back to Sunken City and hike down to the water again, but I can't think of a person I would endanger like that and I won't go alone again for safety reasons.  Yes, I really just wrote that.  I want to do the dangerous thing, but I would never put another person in that position.  I won't go without a buddy because of the danger.  I won't invite someone else because of the danger.  I want to go again, but I won't because I can't put myself in danger.  I say this repeatedly because I need to remind myself that I don't put myself in danger when I love myself.  This is why I protect my boys like the fierce dragon slaying autism mom and advocate I am. But those were really pretty sights to see and I might go back without putting myself in danger. I might actually listen to the "No Trespassing" signs. 

Getting back to self love through not putting myself in danger, this also means I don't drink and drive.  Texting while driving isn't cool and I might offer a call that is hands free instead.  I don't want to pick up an old smoking habit even if it does feel like teenage rebellion. 

In a way, dating goes under this section too.  I would much rather not date, than date a boy that doesn't want to treat me like I matter.  I want to be treated like I'm beautiful and smart. I get plenty of attention from boys that want me to show them a good time. I want to know that if I'm handing my heart to someone, he will try to treat me the way I treat me, because I really love myself.  He needs to act like he might make me feel better than I already do when I take myself out for a good time alone. I want to be treated like a coffee mug. This is what kept my fascination with my latest crush from being consuming. I never could see that going anywhere solid. 

Feed yourself healthy food.

A few years ago, my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic.  It was early enough that I could make changes in my diet and I did.  I'm no longer pre-diabetic because I stopped eating like I wanted death to come early. I didn't do it for myself.  I did it for my kids.  Around the same time, I was always uncomfortable and had severe gas pain almost daily.  I started limiting my sugar and keeping a food journal that included what I ate and how I felt.  I didn't measure portion sizes or count calories.  I stopped eating 4 chocolate bars a day.  I loved almond filled croissants and grilled cheese sandwiches, but started limiting things that weren't healthy.  Within weeks of cutting sugar, I learned I'm sensitive to wheat in a bad way.  After dropping the wheat from my diet, I lost about 10 pounds in a month.  At my heaviest non pregnant self, I was about 230 pounds.  I ate what I wanted to eat, whether or not I was hungry.  It was often junk food that I ate without paying attention to what I was doing.  I was eating out of boredom.  I was eating because it was there and I didn't want to waste food.  I was eating because I couldn't feel whether or not I was hungry, thirsty, full, or loved. Eating took away the need to feel what was so far out of reach.

Fast forward to a period when my survival relied on being able to love myself, and I started eating like I love myself.  Cravings for unhealthy foods slowed down. I don't limit anything, but I no longer want it like I used to. I still eat sugar and I like it, but I don't want it as much as I used to.  I have both sugared and sugar free candy at my desk, but often share it without eating it all. My favorite snack is raw sugar snap peas. I drink sweetened coffee and tea sometimes but I also love Perrier (L'Orange and Green Apple) and the original V-8 juice.  I don't drink soda and rarely drink fruit juice. Just for the sake of the blog, I stepped on a scale today. I weigh 175 pounds, without exercising on a regular basis. Normally I don't weigh myself. Without paying attention to the way my clothes fit, the way I feel or a BMI that I can interpret, weight is just an arbitrary number and I normally don't torture myself with it. It's here because it's a standard we all use. I only take myself on field trips when I don't have my kids, and that's only every other weekend.  I don't diet. I don't measure my food or eat anything that makes me feel like death would be better than digestion. I eat like I love myself and the reward is I get to buy new jeans every time my pants start acting gangster, because that's the only way I'd sag my jeans. I'm wearing the same sizes I wore in high school.

img_1459I get to act like I love myself.  I crave healthy snacks.  I eat when I need to, and not just because I can.  I'm not as fluffy as I once was and there's very little effort in it.  And the confidence that comes with loving myself feels like that first crunchy, creamy bite of creme brulee.  It's heaven.


I am Yessica Maher. 

Reaching out of Isolation