What keeps you going and brings you joy…
Stefanie’s story of figuring that out!
This is a question that we often need to re-address as we go through many of life’s transitions. As we sit here getting ready for back to school, it’s a great time to reflect as women and mothers on what lies ahead in the next season. Life can get so busy with kids in a new routine and more activities added to the agenda. So in this season, what do you do for yourself as you're constantly serving those around you? How do you still maintain a balance for your self care while caring for everyone else around you? I will share with you what personally brings me joy and keeps me going… outside of my wonderful family of course!
Let me start by sharing a little bit about my story and how I really figured out what brings me joy and keeps me going. This is probably my first time sharing any of this publicly. I don’t often talk about this, but sometimes we learn more about ourselves in the hard times.
This time, 3 years ago, I went into the doctor with some neurological symptoms that slowly started to develop. I was having a lot of numbness and losing feeling in my body. My migraines were also getting more frequent. ( I guess looking back now, I could say that maybe having my house flood and then managing the construction renovations going on in over half of my house could have been a factor in my lack of sleep and increased stress. ) Hindsight is 20/20 though!
Back to the story… because of my family history with brain tumors, my doctor ordered an MRI. No big deal I thought. There’s no way anything would come out of this, so I thought nothing of the imaging and went to the appointment. Later that evening I received a call from my doctor that changed the next year of my life. They found something abnormal - and that’s all they would tell me. Nothing more, just that I needed to get in to see a neurologist. Not exactly easy to move on after that type of phone call.
Let me fast forward quick and say I’m doing great now! However, from that phone call, my journey of the unknown started. I went through 6 months of 9 different MRI’s. Sometimes I would lay in the machine for 2+ hours to get them done at one time. They kept checking different areas of my brain and spine to look for any other abnormalities. They never found anything new. I went through a few more procedures and endless amounts of labs. I have a stack of lab results that I could make a book out of! I didn’t even know there were that many tests they could run, simply off of a blood draw. Let me also add how stressful this time was for me because I absolutely HATE needles! I guess I learned to somewhat overcome that during all of this.
After 6 months of this waiting and re-checking for changes, I went on to see 2 different neurologists including one at Mayo Clinic. We are so lucky to have such amazing medical facilities in this state! At this point, I told myself I would trust the Mayo’s opinion on my issues. I had to find peace with this because it was a constant unknown and constant “ let’s keep watching and see if anything changes in 3 months,” and I simply couldn’t keep living like that. After a long visit down there, they confirmed they didn’t believe it was anything too serious to be concerned about. They had a few thoughts on what the spots on my brain could be, but I still had to explanation for my symptoms. They were confident that because of the location of these spots being by my brain stem, if anything did drastically change I would know with immediate symptoms. They released me to go one year this time before my next brain MRI! This was the first time I felt some relief… but then came the choice to live in that freedom! For months my mind was constantly overwhelmed with what could happen if my MRI’s changed or they found something new.
When I left Mayo Clinic that day, I knew I needed to find peace and joy in what actually made me happy and could ease my mind. Of course my family was an amazing support system for me during this time, but I knew I needed my own personal outlet for joy!
So here’s 3 things that I found JOY in :
With all of the testing I had, I learned so much about myself and knew there were some changes I could make to help with some of my symptoms and test results. At this point, I started to switch to a Plant Based Diet….. and yes my incredible husband and children were on board with this. This was not an easy thing for us to achieve, and we by no means tried to do this in one week. It honestly took us a solid year and a half to get to a mostly plant based diet. I say mostly because there’s leniency in everything for me. Sometimes my kids want to make other food choices when they’re out and about and thats ok! I let them make those choices outside of our family dinners and they have started to learn their own bodies and what makes them feel good! We started with one meal a week, and took it from there. I’ve never been super creative with food and my family was probably the most basic meat and potatoes kind of family. As I began to learn and try new recipes, I found so much joy in this time together as a family cooking new meals and eating them together. We genuinely learned to love the foods we were eating…..and this took time….and trying things over and over again before we acquired the taste for them! This also brought me so much joy because for the first time in a year my body started to feel amazing and was completely in sync. I could feel the changes and it felt freeing! I’ve been told by doctors to try different medications for some other things throughout my life, and changing my food literally changed the way my body has been operating. I’ve learned to respect myself and honor my body through this process by sticking to what feels best for my body. It’s not always easy, especially if you’re out and about, but it has brought me so much joy to know I’m fueling my body in the best way I can for myself!
This is another big change I went through and probably the most gratifying. I’ve always worked out and kept up with exercise, but in a cardio type of way. I’d get on a cardio machine for about 20 minutes before I got so bored I couldn’t take it anymore. During this time, my husband introduced me to weights. He took me in the gym and gave me a plan that I could work on. We did these workouts quickly, switching quickly between different sets of weights that focused on one body part to the next. I absolutely loved this! I was getting an incredible workout while moving non-stop, having to think about what set I’d do next. It was a mix of cardio and weights… which left me dripping with sweat after 40 minutes. Before this point I was terrified to “lift weights” because I thought it would make me bulky or gain weight, as I’m sure we’ve all thought of. This was so far from the truth. While I had no intention of losing weight, I did start to see some incredible results of just simply toning up. My weight never really changed, but my fat/muscle percentages did. This again, just made me feel so much healthier then I ever had before. I had so much more energy throughout the day! This time of working out also became my time to think and process, and sometimes just simply take a break from the busyness of life. I started listening to podcasts and truly enjoyed the 45 minutes that I had to zone out and listen. Throughout this time I really learned how important it is to care for ourselves. This time has made me a better wife and a better mother, because I feel healthy, confident, and energetic!
I’ve never been one to have a large circle of friends. If I’m honest, I’m more of an introvert. I can be both, but more often than not I stick to being a home body. Throughout this tough year of my life, I learned to lean on those around me and allow my family and friends to care for me and support me. This was not easy for me because my nature is to be a survivor and do it all on my own. My husband is a complete rockstar and supported me with love and also time for me to focus on myself. He walked alongside me and supported all of these crazy food changes I wanted to make…which he now loves himself too. There is something about doing this together that makes it so much easier! I have a few amazing close friends that I chose to be very intentional with to maintain these great relationships. I think that’s key. Pouring out into those you care most for! I would never have made it through these years without their love and care. I have chosen to have a small circle of friends in my life so I make sure I have time for them along with all of my other duties of being a wife and mother. People are the most important part of my life and I have found the most joy in those closest to me during all of this!
When given the possibility of life changing medical news, it really made me stop and think about how I was living my life. I was faced with the thought of : Am I really living every day to the fullest? Am I choosing to live in joy every day? Am I living each day without regrets? My answer to all of those now is YES!
It took a while to get here and a lot of big crazy changes. Working at the clinic was one of those! Working at CHIRO FOR MOMS has given me so much joy and purpose with what I’m doing. I get to see women’s lives changed! This has also given me so much more time and flexibility with my family. We get to travel more and visit my family back home in Michigan.
Changing my career, my food, and my lifestyle all seemed impossible at the time, but in the end I know it was the greatest thing I could have done for myself. I can now say I cherish each day with those around me, and I make my own self care a priority so I can be there for those around me!
It took me a few years to really figure these things out, but now I’m prepared as each season changes and shifts in life to stay focused on what bring me joy!