Friday, January 23, 2009

letting go of superwoman

Last Sunday, I went for my weekly massage with my wonderful therapist, N. After some trial and error before the holidays, I finally settled on N as a good fit for massage. Between the holidays, moving and getting sick, it had been close to a month since my last massage, so I was happy to get back.

During last week's massage, in addition to the complete relaxation I'm normally able to achieve, I was filled with a feeling I haven't had in a long time: unconditional self-love.

Contrast that with the negative self-talk and complete lack of self esteem I've been experiencing all week, after a painful accident. I was getting into the passenger side of DBF's van, when I opened the door and slammed myself in the head. If that wasn't bad enough, I hit my head right where my daily Migraine pain is centered, near my right temple/cheekbone. This injury has been triggering moderate to severe Migraine pain and symptoms all week, meaning I've spent much of my time lounging around the house like a slug. And berating my stupidity all that time.

Like many other chronically ill women, I've had to shed the Superwoman image pretty fast. When I was working, I simply wasn't able to work a full-time job, equally split the chores and errands and take care of myself. Even now, without the full-time job, I still am not able to divide the chores and errands equally with DBF. He's had to take on the lionshare of typical chores, as well as most of the cooking we do to maintain my strict diet.

Having to give up some of my independence for the sake of my health has been difficult, and is a daily struggle. Just yesterday, I posted on MMC that it's still frustrating and hard to ask for help, even if I'm asking DBF, someone who will never second-guess my judgment about my health. While I've rejected the image of Superwoman, her shadow still lingers and sometimes I can't let go of the (unfair) comparison.

But after a week of calling myself an idiot, I'm remembering the hour of totally unconditional self-love I experienced on Sunday. Love that is much more healing and healthy than guilt is. It wasn't just that I loved myself and my personality; I even loved my body, as imperfect and fragile as it is.

Here's the thing. I'll never be Superwoman. I will always have Migraines, Chronic Daily Headache and IBS. But I will also always have myself and my body.

Acceptance of my chronic illness is something I struggle with every day. Acceptance of myself and my body is no easier, especially with so much stress in my life. But finding that moment of unconditional love last week was inspiring, and enough to remind me that I am worth the effort.

Be well,


Leslie said...

Hi MJ,
It's funny because I've been writing a similar post for the past few days. You are so right that shedding that "superwoman" image is super difficult. As always, you've struck a cord!

Mindy said...

I loved your last paragraph. It is so true and so hard. I think that other people don't always understand what this is like. I have even found myself, especially today, getting mad at myself for getting a headache. Like it was my fault or something. Maybe I didn't take good enough care of myself. Thank you for the reminder!

MaxJerz said...

Leslie, glad that my post resonated with you. I know I've struggled with the "Superwoman" image a lot, especially since I've always been such an over-achiever. But it doesn't do me any good to compare myself to an impossible image, so I'm trying to let it go.

Mindy, I often get mad at myself when I trigger bad Migraine pain, thinking it's my fault for doing something that triggers the pain. But we can't be perfect all the time and life happens. And Migraines will happen. The best we can do is not get too down on ourselves and keep going.

Thanks for your comments, ladies!

Be well,

Maureen Hayes said...


I think most of us were overachievers before illness, so this can be hard to deal with. Thank you for addressing it so honestly, and for showing the difference in how your body reacted to being berated and made to feel guilty, as opposed to being loved and relaxed. We do it for everyone else, why not for us?

Thank you for the poignant reminder. I pray your pain is lessening and your self love increasing!

Congrats on being featured in Grand Rounds!!

Joanna said...

Wow, I totally relate to this entry... it took me a while to shed the idea that I was a failure because I couldn't keep up with my school work like I used to once my headaches started, and my perfectionism with my school work and organization in general went out the window, too... it's so hard, but so important to let go of so that we can take care of ourselves and remember that we ARE worth it!!
<3 Joanna

Gina said...

I am still trying to keep at my full time job teaching and continue my one-semester-at-a-time trek toward a doctorate in Educational Technology (and I am 56 years old and near 27 years into my teaching career). I am enrolled in the spring semester and will be taking my 10th class - of 14.

I dropped out of the EdD program 5 yrs ago- for health reason, but then picked it up again a year ago. I was fine last spring and summer, but in the fall my migraines kicked in so severely.

I am pretty nervous about this upcoming semester. It is not so much the classwork that worries me as it is the two hour (one-way) commute to the main campus.
Otherwise... my work and homelife has become less and less stressful recently.

I promise myself I will quit again if it gets too bad. I think it is getting close to "too bad".

I just started blogging. I didn't know there were so many wonderful blogs out here.
Mine is at

Annie Metal Girl said...

I have always suffered from Super Woman complex. I have to make myself take care of ME.

Thanks for the great blog.


Annie Gourieux said...

I have always suffered from Super Woman complex. I have to make myself take care of ME.

Thanks for the great blog.


Diana Bertoldo said...


This was a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing yourself in this way. I have to say though, the woman who wrote this could only be a woman who is truly a SUPERWOMAN. I hope you revamp your definition of Superwoman so it includes a woman who (despite the crazy odds and life's afflictions) can love herself unconditionally. Your story is the epitome of a true Superwoman. Thank you for inspiring us all.

MaxJerz said...

Maureen, I had a therapist once stress the importance of positive self-talk, of telling myself the same things I would tell a close friend in my shoes. That really stuck with me, and I wonder sometimes why it's hard for us to be kind to ourselves.

Joanna, it's still hard for me sometimes (a lot of times) not to get too down on myself for not being perfect. But who is perfect, anyway - even without illness? You're right though, we really are ALL worth it.

Gina, thanks so much for sharing your story (and the link to your blog!). I wish you the best of luck in your upcoming semester, and finding a balance between teaching and learning.

Annie, something else I've learned in my (brief) time here - if we don't learn to take care of ourselves, who will?

Diana, thank YOU for your kind words. I needed them tonight. <3

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Your support means a lot to me, and helps me to feel comfortable sharing my honest feelings. Thanks for reading!

Be well,

Diana Bertoldo said...

in honor of MJ