May is the month to focus on the importance of women’s health. All women should know that their bodies need self-care. As women, we need to check in with ourselves from time to time. Feeling good? Feeling any pain? If so, what steps are you taking to feel better? Our health extends beyond how we feel physically. Being okay with yourself mentally and taking care of yourself is also important.
My health wasn’t really on my mind before 2021. I knew my body was changing as a young woman, but I never paid attention to it. Mentally, I didn’t take enough time to please myself either. At the time, I was almost finished with my degree at the community college, working a full-time job, spending time with my boyfriend every weekend, and just trying to live my life. I did not have the time or patience to worry about anything that could have been mentally or physically draining. Moreover, I was taking Depo-Provera to prevent pregnancy without realizing how much physical and mental harm it was causing my body.
Physical Health Problems
In March of the same year, I experienced knee pain while on a trip with my ex-boyfriend and his family to Las Vegas. Since I believed it was only temporary, I tried to play it off as much as possible so that I could enjoy the trip. After we returned home, I noticed that the pain did not subside. My left knee only hurt when I was resting, which seemed odd to me. At this point, I had already gained about 20-30 pounds on the birth control shot and had no idea how it was affecting my physical health. As someone who has never exercised, the weight was not going to disappear unless I put in some effort.
An orthopedic specialist recommended that I begin exercising – nothing heavy, just walking every day and staying active. At first, I was appalled. It felt as if he did not examine my knee at all. I believe he saw me step on the scale and reached an immediate conclusion based solely on that. However, I got a primary care doctor, which I hadn’t had since I was 15, and she suggested fasting. She wanted me to skip one meal a day, and I skipped breakfast. At first, it was hard, but my body got used to it.
My primary care doctor at the time also recommended a physical therapist, which the orthopedist had already referred me to. In June, I saw a physical therapist to relieve the pain. Walking every day also helped me clear my head – especially at my job when things got hectic. I’d leave the building and take a lap to calm myself down. I lost weight quickly with physical therapy, walking, and fasting. Initially, I thought all the doctors were picking on my weight gain and steering me wrong. If you don’t stay active, things can be much tougher physically.
Mental Health Problems
All of us have been heartbroken and have struggled to move on from the pain of that loss. After breaking up with my first high school boyfriend at sixteen, I experienced heartbreak for the first time, and I had no one to talk to. My family and friends were over it. They wanted me to move on, but my heart wouldn’t. It felt like I was locked up in a glass box, where everyone was staring at me but couldn’t do anything to help.
When I was sixteen, I asked my mother if I could see a therapist, but she immediately shut it down. She believed that talking to a therapist would not solve my problem. In those days, she wanted me to turn to God rather than a human being, which was understandable. But I was unsure how my faith would enable me to cope with the pain I was experiencing. Despite having no one to turn to, I simply wanted to express how I felt on a daily. At the time, I could only deal with my emotions by writing poetry.
My goal in 2021 was to begin finding ways to cope with my mental difficulties. My social anxiety was evident to me since I was sixteen years old, and that was the reason I never felt comfortable around people. As a happy loner, I went to school, did my work, and returned home without saying much. Despite being okay with my lonely lifestyle, I desired to stop feeling so anxious around other people.
Another one of my goals that year was to be kinder to myself. Unfortunately, people used my lack of confidence against me. My own boyfriend at the time called me fat to pick on my weight gain, and I did not stand up for myself or realize then that him stomping on my emotions was wrong. My insecurity always lingered, wondering when I would be able to love myself enough to not care what others thought.
In April of that year, I found a therapist in my area through a website called Therapy For Black Girls. Having the option to talk to her anywhere at any time made our sessions instantly enjoyable. My problems didn’t have to be discussed in person. In the comfort of my bedroom, I could express how I felt. In terms of taking care of myself and my mental health, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
My therapist helps me handle tough situations or suggests new strategies if things aren’t going as planned. My anxiety then becomes a superpower instead of a curse. Her worksheets, or “homework,” can help me with anxiety-driven problems or even anger management issues. Since the first time I saw her, I told her what I wanted to achieve as a woman and she’s been helping me with those problems ever since.
We need to be gentle with ourselves as women. We make babies, raise families, clean houses, cook amazing food, teach the youth, and so much more. Self-care is important. Whenever we love someone, we have that nurturing instinct, but we have to make sure that one of the people we love is ourselves.
How can you expect someone else to love you if you can’t love yourself? Make time for yourself when necessary and take a step back when necessary. Get a good book, take a walk, hang out with a friend, drink some hot tea, take a bubble bath, or even watch a show you like! It’s so important to have a healthy mind and body. Make sure you value it and don’t take it for granted.