I Got The Memo

October 4, 2013 10 Comments TAGS: Career, Kids

By Guest Blogger Danielle Smith

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I’m not sure if it was waking up every day for close to six weeks and seeing my face in the mirror – the black eye, the nearly fist-sized bruise that did it.

It could have been the moment I held my breath as the doctor put not one, but two needles into the blood clot in my cheek to try to draw it out.

It might simply have been the pain….with every step, the jolt that resonated from my right foot coursing through my rib cage until it exploded in my fractured cheek bone.

Or it could have been that my small people tip-toed around me, hugging me, but always leaning back for a quick look into my eyes, fearful they had bumped my face or hurt me in some way.

Whatever it was, I got the memo.

Slow down. Sleep. Take care of you.

It seems like the most basic of instructions, right? You and I… we’ve both seen the magazine headlines, read the blogs, had the conversations with our friends, and yet, I have been incapable of doing it.

I knew I needed sleep. And less stress. And more exercise. And healthier foods. And just more happy.

Yet, I had continued to ignore the signs. Not for weeks. Not for months.

But for years.

I have been a bystander in my own life since my small people were itty-bitty, since I had started this business, watching as I made one poor decision after another, as I refused, even tacitly, to do what my body and soul so desperately needed. Sleep had become an intrusion – something I did only because I had to in between doing everything I MUST DO. My cycle was miserable – working until 2 or 3am and waking at 6:30 when I needed to get the kids ready for school.  My days were spent in a mad panic as I moved from one task to another, never feeling truly organized. By early this year, I would sit at my desk and cry – overwhelmed – but unsure how to make a change. My only thoughts focused on pushing through…”If I could just finish this the book….”, “If I could just tackle this week’s video….”

I began to fall asleep at my desk….a sure sign that my body wasn’t getting what it needed.

I began to gain weight….a sure sign that my eating habits were awry and I was stagnant, having completely stopped any form of exercise for fear I wouldn’t ‘get it all done’.

I began to ignore phone calls and emails. It was easier than facing the fact that I no longer felt like me but didn’t know how to ask for help or a do-over.

If you never say it out loud…. maybe it really isn’t happening.

The terrifying thing about feeling this way, about having a front row seat to your own body and soul’s rebellion is two-fold… you can see it coming, you can feel it – like watching a tsunami approach from an otherwise calm sea, but you also recognize you are a master at hiding the part of you that is coming apart at the seams. It’s possible to keep this type of sad from appearing in pictures, in small talk and even in longer conversations.

Again: If you never say it out loud… maybe it really isn’t happening.

This is what I looked like five days before I fell and fractured my cheekbone.

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And then I looked like this.

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In the middle of this summer, I joined my co-author Aliza Sherman on a book tour for our new book, Social Media Engagement for Dummies. I was thrilled to be visiting amazing cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Atlanta… and even more delighted to see so many familiar faces. We were surrounded by an incredible amount of support, but I was exhausted.  The pressure I had put on myself for the past few months – years really  – was circling around me like sharks in the water.  Leaving book tour, I was excited to be heading to the Reviewer’s Retreat to deliver their opening keynote.  I was so proud to be there, I was in love with some of the people I met and yet, it was here that I realized I was tapped.

Emotionally and physically done.

I arrived home on a Sunday with the beginnings of bronchitis and a cracked rib from coughing. Yes, coughing. I’m awesome like that. Waiting for me was a husband with bronchitis and a sweet girl with strep throat and a sinus infection. I sat up all night holding that little girl as she coughed.

On Monday evening, my husband left town for work and I snuggled that girl in the hopes her cough would ease, even for a while to allow her the sleep she needed, and by proxy, allow me the same. Shortly before midnight, she drifted into a fitful sleep. I was beyond thankful. I decided to take codeine for the pain in my ribs.

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That, as it turns out, was an incredibly bad move.

As I now know, I have developed an allergy to codeine. I woke about 2am with an intense pain under my ribs and a fear I was going to be sick. I assumed it was from the cracked rib, but walked into the bathroom. I woke up on floor. At the time, I believed I had lain down, hoping the cool of the tile would help my nauseousness. I crawled back to bed and for the next hour alternated between making deals with God if he would just make the pain go away and trying to figure out if I should wake Delaney to call 911. (for the record, my doctor says if you are ever in so much pain that you are truly wondering if you should call 911,the answer is always ‘yes’.) As the pain and sweating passed, an intense throbbing in my face took its place. I put my hand to my face only to realize that I had fallen. I did not choose to lie down on the tile floor in the bathroom, I had instead fallen face first into it.

My initial fear that I may have had a seizure was quieted by my doctor. She assured me I had, instead, passed out from the pain – a ‘classic pain-on-pain’ reaction. My body was experiencing so much pain from the medicine, it gave up and shut down.

It gave up and shut down. Just like that. I bet my body has been waiting to do that for quite some time. I picture everything internally yelling, ‘we warned you!’

So, for six weeks, I was reminded every single time I looked in the mirror. I graduated from black to purple to yellow and eventually it faded enough that I could hide it with makeup and begin to recognize myself once again.

But it is a different me.  A slower me. A more intentional me.

Lest you think this is a fairytale, don’t you worry – those only happen on Facebook – I have not remedied everything I was doing wrong. I don’t exercise every day, eat only healthy foods, meditate every morning, go to bed at 9pm, have an inbox of zero, finish every project on time, spend 2 hours a day reading to my kids, and smile through my anger.

But I have made adjustments. My bedtime is 10:30. Do I sometimes push it to 10:45? Sure. But sometimes, I’m under the covers by 10:00, so it all evens out. I’m eating a healthier diet. More water, less nighttime snacking and I am taking the time to read and meditate. I’m all about baby steps.

Here’s the thing… you can’t see the bruises on my face anymore, and you can no longer see the blood clot hiding just beneath the surface, but I can feel it. Every day. It has been almost three months and I suspect it has hung on to remind me to slow down, to focus and to put my energy into those areas of my life that need the most attention.

I got the memo.

About Danielle Smith

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Danielle Smith is a digital correspondent, host, storyteller, speaker, media trainer, vlogger and author.  Her second book, Social Media Engagement for Dummies was released in June 2013. Her first book, Mom, Incorporated: A Guide to Business + Baby debuted in the Fall of 2011. In her ‘free time’, she juggles work as the founder and primary author of ExtraordinaryMommy.com and DanielleSmithMedia as well as hosting and producing her lifestyle series Keeping Style in Your Life, creating original video content for well known sites Babble and SheKnows and producing Vlogging Tips for people looking to jump on camera. She also travels around the country as both a seminar and keynote speaker – hitting a wide variety of topics ranging from social media engagement to starting a business from home and the juggle of motherhood and business ownership, pursuing your passions, video and vlogging to blogger/brand relationships as well as the use of social media and the benefits of cause marketing.

An award winning former Television News Anchor and Reporter, Danielle has appeared on The CBS Early Show, CNN’s Headline News, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR as well as local affiliates in San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, San Diego and St. Louis.

Danielle is a wife and mom to two small children.

If this is not a warning sign for those living close to the edge, I’m not sure what is. Do you see any of yourself in Danielle? Can you recognize any signs that you’re giving too much, going too fast, or not being good enough to yourself? I’d love your thoughts on today’s post. One thing is for sure — Danielle, we are grateful to you for sharing your story. We got the memo.

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    10 Comments

    1. Tracy GibbNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Danielle, I’ve been a fan for a long time and encourage every one who comes to me for social media advice to purchase “Social Media Engagement for Dummies”. It’s been such an awesome resource for me.

      Thank you for this post. I am on the same path you were on-rising career plus running a business on the side plus mothering my son. There are times when i feel like I’m about to have a heart attack and I’m only in my 30s. This inspired me to cancel some plans for this weekend and just hang out with my family and relax.

      • Tracy – I can’t tell you how much this means to me. Thank you, first for your incredibly kind words – but also for being open enough to see how you might need to take some time for you this weekend. I hope you were able to relax and enjoy…. It is so easy for us to ignore the signs, to stay on a path that pushes us forward – faster and stronger each and every day, but it is crucial we listen to our bodies (and our souls)… we do truly need time to refresh. I’ve found that I’m a better version of me when I create this space in my world. Hope this weekend was just what you needed. xoxo

    2. KayDeeNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks for sharing, Danielle. I got the same memo about 2 years ago when I had a stressful job, 1 week of travel a month, a husband with and equally high-powered career and a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. I developed chronic bronchitis and coughed so much that my ribs were in pain and looking back, I wonder if I cracked a rib too. How disgusting is this – I had to keep an empty stainless steel coffee mug with me at all times, not for coffee, but because my constant coughing and phlegm would sometimes cause me to gag and throw up a little throughout the day. Looking back I see how sick and exhausted I was, but at the time I believed I had to just keep going on. I was also the heaviest and least fit I had been in years. Finally a colleague pulled me aside and said that everyone in the office was talking about how burnt out I was. That was how I got the memo.

      I hope by you bravely sharing your story you help others to identify burnout before having to literally come crashing down to earth as you did.

      • Oh KayDee…. your story is so familiar. It is so easy to recognize when we look at it in retrospect (and I would venture to say you just might have had a cracked rib!) but it can be so hard to see when we are going through it. Somehow we feel as though our body is actually betraying us and simply push HARDER….and it is only to our detriment. I’m so glad to know you had someone who cared about you and your health enough to pull you aside…. Thank you so much for being here and commenting. I’m grateful.

    3. KylieNo Gravatar says:

      Memo received.

    4. JulieNo Gravatar says:

      Sometimes we don’t realize how fast we are going until we have an accident that makes us change course. Glad to see your feeling better.

      • Julie~

        There was part of me that knew, but I had continued to ignore each and every small sign that was thrown my way. I figured working through it, smiling through it, battling through it would somehow be the answer… but I’m clear now that it isn’t. Though I’m obviously a work-in-progress, my perspective is so much clearer, I feel healthier and I’m getting my happy back. Thank you for commenting. I’m grateful.

    5. LisaNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you for sharing your story Danielle. I think you got the memo and so did I. Excellent post.

      • Lisa~

        Thank you so very much – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. I did definitely get the memo…. in fact, I’m still getting it. As the blood clot in my face is not gone, the right side of my face is still sensitive to touch and aches most days, so the memo is loud and clear….but I need it. I still have a lot of work to do 🙂

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