“I can’t do this” was the thought on a loop in my head as I sat on the floor locked in my bathroom, hoping no one could hear me uncontrollably sobbing.
I wish I could go back twenty years and hug that woman, because Lord knows she needed one. It was a month after giving birth and two days after being discharged with postpartum cardiomyopathy and a 15% ejection fraction. I had spent most of the morning fielding questions from friends, family, and colleagues checking on me, but also (subconsciously) seeking an if-that’s-the-reason-it-won’t-happen-to-me-or-mine explanation.
Every question sounded a lot like blame; It was my obesity, my insulin-dependent diabetes, my advanced maternal (36), the stress of practicing medicine pregnant and taking care of a toddler while my husband completed his fellowship in another city? (He took some of the “blame” too).
So I sat – too winded to brush my teeth, too embarrassed to ask for the help I needed to bathe – overweight, overwhelmed, and sobbing while telling myself, “I can’t do this”, over and over and over.
When my medical problem-solving brain finally kicked into gear, I knew I couldn’t reverse my heart failure, but I could reverse my diabetes and obesity. I had helped others and knew exactly what to do, I just had to do it! But then the questions followed, because that’s often when limiting beliefs reveal themselves; It is in the how’s, what’s, and why’s that we soar or sabotage, and I was sinking.
I adopted a strategy learned in my Family Medicine training and used successfully with my patients: journaling. I kept a gratitude and affirmation journal and read my entries out loud, often several times a day, to hear my voice outside my head to quiet the limiting voice inside. I paid attention and avoided the people, events, and activities that amplified self-doubt and sapped my motivation. But ultimately, I recognized that my inner saboteur was heavily guided by depression, so I sought treatment. There was light at the end of the tunnel.
Soon, my inner cheerleader was the loudest voice I heard and within 6 months, I lost my initial 60 pounds, got off insulin, and was able to bathe myself unaided. Most importantly, I watched my babies grow up in a home not dictated by my diagnoses. I still have limiting thoughts, but they whisper instead of shout, and I know exactly what to do to silence them – write uplifting thoughts, read the words loudly, hear those words clearly, and believe them.