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SELF-IMAGE

Embracing my Pregnancy Pains…and I Don’t Mean ContractionsFeatured

In SELF-IMAGE

“DISABLED” isn’t a word associated with pregnancy but a label I’ve put on myself. At 36 weeks gestation, lower left hip and pelvic Sacro-Illiac (SI) joint pains have plagued my body for over half of my current pregnancy. Pre-pregnancy, I lived a busy life as a mother of an energetic 3 year old boy, a daughter, wife, hula dancer, and full-time occupational therapist treating patients with disabilities. This active lifestyle significantly changed 6 months into my pregnancy when my doctor urged me to stop working. Unable to comprehend this, I had my first breakdown, crying embarrassingly, feeling like a failed professional because I was abandoning my patients prematurely when I’d hoped to work until my scheduled maternity leave – like my colleagues. I too became the visibly disabled. I eventually accepted that my body couldn’t withstand my job’s physical demands and left work hoping to gain relief but the SI joint pains only intensified.

The relaxin hormone, that is responsible for widening child-bearing hips for delivery, came at me with full vengeance. It destabilized my SI joints while it weakened my hip muscles and misaligned my body, resulting in substantial piercing back pain whenever I would walk, sit, stand, or lay down for prolonged periods. If not for my chiropractic, acupuncture, pelvic floor physiotherapy, and massage therapy treatments (which I intend to continue after the baby is born), I wouldn’t be able to muster up the energy to take a shower or bring my son to the park. A cane, SI belt, kinesiology tape and exercise ball have all been my true “saviours”, granting me the sanity to get through my days.

Initially, I felt ashamed as people would stare with confusion or judgement when seeing me walk with a cane, stepping out of the driver’s seat in a wheelchair accessible parking spot, or using an electric shopping cart, given my healthy appearance and looking younger than my age – an atypical representation of a pregnant woman. So whenever I saw an able-bodied expectant mother, briskly walking with no difficulties, a loathing wave of jealousy swept over me. Why wasn’t she suffering like me? I’m sure she could pick up and carry a basket of laundry, a task I never struggled with before but can’t perform now.

Let’s not get caught up in the glorified illusion that motherhood is perfect because I guarantee every mother can share at least one “horror” story that doesn’t fit this perfect image. We may think it’s irrelevant to talk about our challenges in fear of being perceived as incompetent mothers, but if we don’t express ourselves openly and honestly, we’ll never realize it’s a normal part of motherhood.

I look forward to the day when I won’t have to crawl into bed on all fours to get into a sleeping position; and wince, moan and groan when rolling in bed to eventually stand up from a sitting position – actions requiring minutes rather than seconds. I also won’t miss dragging my feet along the ground because it’s too painful to lift them up to walk to the bathroom situated only two feet away. Finally, I look forward to returning to doing my toilet hygiene from the rear because the pain when shifting my hips to wipe has only taught me one thing…to clean from the front.

I’m hoping that by sharing the following lessons I’ve learned and implemented throughout my second pregnancy, it will help other mothers through their own challenges. Without these lessons, I wouldn’t be coping as well as I am today.

1) Do whatever treatments you can during and after pregnancy
There’s no monetary value that can be placed on your personal health. A functioning body promotes a healthy mind and it’s critical to take care of yourself first in order to care for others. The infamous penguin waddle doesn’t have to be tolerated with the right attention given to your body. That’s why I highly recommend treatments DURING pregnancy to address any issues. My treatments have helped control my pain and prepare my body for a non-complicated delivery to term. My post-pregnancy goals are to walk pain free and carry my newborn – things I’d taken for granted.

2) Ask for help and be open to receiving it
I still recall coming home from one of my treatments in the most excruciating pain and feeling helpless. In that moment of despair, I called and asked my parents to pick up my son from daycare and to help take care of him. Asking for help is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn to accept and do. As mothers, many of us have this self-expectation of being superwomen who do everything. However, I’ve come to the realization that I can’t manage alone. Being home full time, I appreciate when my husband is home from work to help with the simple things, like giving our son his night-time bath.

3) Shift your mindset
Accept all consequences of the physical struggles. If my dishes aren’t clean or my son is getting more screen time than usual, I accept that it’s okay. Yes, pregnancy can be disabling. Know your limits and don’t judge yourself if you need a break. Be mindful of your internal and external dialogue because, what we think, we create and manifest. I refrain from dwelling on the negative when asked how I’m doing even when I’m not feeling my best.

4) Practice gratitude
Most importantly, I focus on all things I am grateful for. This, I believe, requires no further explanation as it speaks for itself.

I want to lead by example and send the message that motherhood can also look like me, a pregnant woman who walks proudly with a cane. Let’s not get caught up in the glorified illusion that motherhood is perfect because I guarantee every mother can share at least one “horror” story that doesn’t fit this perfect image. We may think it’s irrelevant to talk about our challenges in fear of being perceived as incompetent mothers, but if we don’t express ourselves openly and honestly, we’ll never realize it’s a normal part of motherhood. Take my experience as your permission to celebrate and embrace ALL parts of it!

Now, I prefer to think of myself as “enabled” rather than “disabled”. My story is a testament that when life doesn’t go as planned, and it looks and feels completely different than expected, there’s always a choice…and I choose to be an empowered woman regardless of my physical challenges.

What’s your story?…

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Mayleen Torres-Hew Wing

In SELF-IMAGE, TEAM FEMFAB

Mayleen has always naturally gravitated towards wanting to help others. This value perfectly aligns with her mission and desire of wanting to make an impactful contribution in the world even if it means making a difference in one person’s life.

Since graduating with a Master’s of Science degree in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto in 2007, Mayleen has been providing services as an Occupational Therapist (OT) in a Toronto rehabilitation hospital. Over the span of her career, she has helped and worked with clients inflicted with various acute and chronic conditions, such as stroke and cancer, aiming to improve their quality of life.

Currently on maternity leave with her second child, she strongly identifies herself as a mom to two children under the age of 4, a wife to an amazing husband for 8 years, and an only child to 2 loving parents.  Despite not currently working in her daytime job, her life is as busy, hectic and exhausting as ever. Aiming to find balance amidst this chaotic lifestyle is a daily mission of hers.

Mayleen’s dedication and commitment to her personal growth has resulted in noticeable improvements in all areas of her life. Her personal development journey began in her 20s, however expanded exponentially in 2015 after being introduced to a series of leadership courses. She is now fueled by the desire to continue on this path of personal growth to not only be an empowered woman for herself but to BE an influential role model for her children and to make a positive impact to those around her or those who come into contact with her. To augment and compliment her growth, you may find her listening to an audiobook or inspirational excerpt at any given time (when time permits of course).

One of her fondest accomplishments that has served as a turning point in her personal growth was her experience competing at the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in 2004.  Viewed as the Olympics of hula dance competitions, it was the first time a group of Canadian dancers had ever participated. Polynesian dancing has been a part of her life for over 30 years as a student, teacher and professional performer, and remains near and dear to her heart.

Moving forward, she intends to collaborate with her husband, who is currently studying holistic nutrition, with the objective to optimize people’s health and quality of life utilizing a Holistic framework.

She feels it is her time to step into her greatness with grace and looks forward to having you on this journey with her while she shares her most authentic and vulnerable self in the life lessons she learns and embarks upon. She hopes that in her sharing it may resonate with others on some level, thereby providing a means of connectedness and support.

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What is Your Blind Spot?

In SELF-IMAGE

When people ask “what is your weakness?” I prefer to ask, “what is your area of opportunity?” Weakness to me, sounds discouraging and harsh.  

My “area of opportunity” is learning technology and catching up to speed with ever-changing trends. Do you see yourself shying away from something, or handing off a task to someone else for fear of the unknown or fear of failure?

Whether at work, the gym, or home, I feel most of us can relate to this “area of opportunity”. For example, perhaps you need to learn a new program in order to do your job well. Do you put it off because change is scary and uncomfortable? Or maybe you always do the same class at the gym even though we know there are 85 classes a week included in your membership. Ok, maybe the instructor is super motivating and entertaining, BUT what about all the other opportunities just waiting for you? Is it because you are comfortable with your routine? And it’s just easier? WHAT IF you tried a different class? Something outside of the ordinary. Dare I say, something outside your comfort zone? Here’s another question for you, when the service light goes on in your vehicle, do you dismiss the thought of figuring it out for yourself and automatically notify your significant other to deal with it? You are capable of learning new things and gaining knowledge strengthens your self-confidence and independence too.

…expanding your world is not to be feared. Exploring new opportunities are how we grow and develop as human beings.

My point is, expanding your world is not to be feared. Exploring new opportunities are how we grow and develop as human beings. We have challenges or obstacles thrown our way all through life. We can choose to ignore or deny these “tests” but staying in a box does not help us grow. The trial and errors we experience by accepting these areas of opportunities are what makes us stronger, more empowered, and successful. And as an added bonus, life will become more exciting too!

So we have two choices here:

  1.  Ignore the blind spot
  2. Ask for help. Learn. Just do it

My friends, next time you are faced with some sort of fear or unknown feeling, remember it is ok to make mistakes, for life is a journey. Go ahead! Open those doors that you think have closed. Maybe you have already peeked in and just need that little push of encouragement…

 

 

Limiting Beliefs

In SELF-IMAGE

Let me ask you a question, have you ever told yourself, “I’m too old for this” or “I can’t do that anymore because I’m too old”? Hmm, I’m here to tell you that these, my friend, are limiting beliefs. They are not truths.

Being 40-something, I have never felt so much energy and so alive than I do now.  Some may call it a “midlife crisis”…call it whatever you like. I just woke up one day and realized that enough is enough.  

We hear these sayings all the time:

“Live each day to the fullest”

“Dream big”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff”

“Life is too short”

We agree with these sayings, but continue to behave the same. Too often we get caught up in our busy lives, or we don’t take care of ourselves, only for something drastic to occur and THEN we change our lifestyle or attitude. Why wait? Why not change our attitudes now?

I love to Latin dance. In fact, just last week I stayed up all night dancing with a good friend of mine ‘till the lights came on. We made our way outside. Adrenaline still pumping through us and starving for grub. We ended up going to all day breakfast spot where many young clubbers were doing the same thing as us. Me in my ripped jeans, heels and mid top, hair pulled back at this point from dancing all night. I must’ve been a sight for sore eyes! We ordered the biggest breakfast they had and we talked and laughed for hours. It was the best night ever and took me back to my “clubbing” years. Who cares how old we are. We had the time of our life and and felt so alive. When we left, the birds were chirping and the sun was rising. it was a sign of a new day. A reminder to live every moment to it’s fullest.  

I am a professional. I work hard. I am confident. I am a mother. I am intelligent and educated…. and I LOVE to go out dancing

I could have choose to feel guilty for being out all night long, but instead, I savoured being in the moment, with a beautiful friend. Living from my authentic self, not caring what others might think and feeling completely alive and free.

Be spontaneous, try new things. And most of all, please DO NOT let age define what you should be doing, how you should act or what you should wear. I am a professional. I work hard. I am confident. I am a mother. I am intelligent and educated…. and I LOVE to go out dancing every opportunity I have… if I happen to stay out all night, so be it. I will live my life for me, not how others think I should… just because of a number. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But what I do know is, I am happy now.

“La vida es muy corta”. Life is too short…who are you living it for?

Choosing Light Over Darkness

In SELF-IMAGE

Disclaimer: This may be raw and real but it is my story.

I suffered from anorexia and bulimia for over 19 years. They are two different forms of disorderly eating.  Anorexia is when one limits their food intake so drastically they are starving themselves, while bulimia is when one binges on extreme amounts of food, then purges by induced vomiting.

Although there may be other reasons why someone develops this disease, mine was a lack of control in my life. I wanted to be perfect and please everyone around me. I was living my life for others rather than me. So it began…day one started with me bringing lettuce and an apple to school. That’s it. Then when I thought the apple was too much, I just ate the lettuce. I saw myself as overweight, even though I wasn’t. I had a distorted image of myself. It was crazy. I looked in the mirror and viewed myself in a way that nobody could understand. It was like those funky mirrors at amusement parks that made you look really tall and thin or really short and big. Come to think of it, they have similar ones at shopping stores. You know the ones I’m talking about, the mirrors that make us look thiner. It’s ridiculous how society has become. Some stores even have dim lighting to make us feel like we look more appealing??

I still have the first cd I ever played as a reminder of that night. When the class was over, a woman told me I helped her to forget about her stressful day. A gentleman said it was his first day at the gym and he had so much fun he didn’t feel like he was working out. I was helping others and they were helping me!

As time went by, I lost weight drastically. I would hide in baggy clothes, skip meals and make myself busy.  I felt tired, eyes were sunken, cheek bones defined, and I isolated myself from my friends and family. Then I was forced to sit at the dinner table and finish meals that were “fit for a king”. You see, I was able to control my lack of food intake, but once I was forced to eat, I felt helpless. I had no control again, until I discovered purging. I would go to the washroom and purge my meals, to feel whole again. Happy. Strong. I owned me again. Total control…or so I thought. This cycle went on an on for over 19 years. It consumed me.

Then I experienced my very first group fitness class. Although at the time I was “ill”. I didnt “look” it. At this point in my life I had used my disorderly eating as a maintenance tool, as stupid as that sounds. During this spin class, we were engaged in a very powerful track and I got to the point where I wanted to give up. I remember the instructor saying “treat your body like a temple”. “Protect it as nobody else will, but you”. Those words hit home and I let go….not because of the tension killing my legs, but my whole being just let go. I broke down and the instructor asked me if I was hurt. It was this moment that my life changed. I confided in the instructor about my self image issues and the next thing I knew I was signing up for my first cycle certification. Why? Well the course was paid for, so I went. But all I wanted to do was spin for me, avoid people at all costs. Not look anyone in the eye, get the hell out of the gym, just get in the car and go home. When we had to complete our teachback process and be open to receiving feedback both positive and constructive, this was the most empowering moment for me. I was put on the spot in front of so many people and had my layers peeled away like an onion.  It was so difficult to showcase what we had learned. I was terrified people would judge me. What were they thinking? Little did I know this experience would break the cocoon that I was hiding in. We talked, opened up about our fears, and worked together to finish the certification successfully. I was asked to teach a class once a week.

I still have the first cd I ever played as a reminder of that night. When the class was over, a woman told me I helped her to forget about her stressful day. A gentleman said it was his first day at the gym and he had so much fun he didn’t feel like he was working out. I was helping others and they were helping me!

I often tell my class now…”you feed me.  I’ll feed you”.  I’m asking them to allow themselves to own that time.  To let go. De-stress. Have fun. And I will give them 120% of me. My energy, my motivation, my inspirational messages, the raw, the real me, even my quirky jokes.

My message is clear. Please live for you. We have one life my friends.  Release the negativity. Refrain from judgement. Try new adventures. Face your fears. Break the cocoon. Open the door. Look at the light. Stop living in darkness. Ask for help. It is truly the most empowering feeling to overcome something you never thought was possible.

Comparing Ourselves to Others

In SELF-IMAGE

Everyone has a story. We all experience challenges and struggles in our lives.  We all come from different pasts. Ultimately we want the same though…to be happy and treated with respect and no judgement.

There was a time I would hide from mirrors. I remember watching the Group exercise classes and wishing i could join.  I worried what people would think and say.  I spent so much negative energy towards how others would view me, I became obsessed with it.

I used to tie a hoodie around my waist thinking i was hiding my backside, years later realizing this was actually my asset…lol.

During school, I even got out of gym class several times, pretending to be ill just so I didn’t have to face women in the change rooms. I mean they were perfect. Flawless in fact. Or at least that’s how it seemed.

Until years later, I ran into some of those same women. We were adults by now, some of us married with kids. Over coffee, tears were shed. For those same women struggled with issues that I had no idea of.

You see, you never know what goes on in a person’s head.  You don’t know their story.  You dont know where they came from or what they have gone through.

We are all guilty of judging others at some point in  our lives. We need to embrace who we are as STRONG, SMART, INDEPENDENT, and BEAUTIFUL women, no matter what our differences may be. We are unique in our own way and should allow no judgement to pass our thoughts.

In fact, we may soon realize that we are actually very much alike.  Yes, we may have different jobs, like different music, come from various educational backgrounds, look different, but what do we want really??

To be respected, not judged, to do good, and live a healthy happy fulfilled life.

Can we agree that’s what everybody wants?

Remember there is a story behind the exterior. Allow no judgement.  You may gain a new outlook on life.  Hell, you may even gain a new friend or two.

Next week I will share my personal story of how I overcame my battle with disorderly eating, specifically anorexia and bulimia. By opening up and speaking of my challenges, I hope to connect with other readers who may be going through what I did and offer some light to their darkness.