Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Take care

by qwghlm via Flickr
For as long as I can remember, my mother has never really taken care of herself. I don't mean that she doesn't keep up proper hygiene. She's always been a clean (albeit at times a bit shabby) looking person. What I mean is beyond just hygiene. Her physical and mental health as well as her own personal development  have always suffered or taken last place because everything else always seemed more important to her.

My mother is a devoted bargain hunter. She buys the majority of her clothing at thrift stores; food, personal, and household items at dollar stores; any other necessities for as cheap as she can get them. Now, these habits aren't bad, per se. I enjoy shopping at thrift stores and getting the best price for items. My mother crosses the line into being cheap though because she rarely values the quality of items over the cost. It's always the cheapest, period, for her. While some of this cheapness is fueled by financial reasons, the main driver behind her stinginess is her hoarding mentality. The reason I mention her miserly ways here is because I think it has a lot to do with her approach to her appearance and health. She's reluctant to spend money when she doesn't feel like she has to. Her appearance and health don't make the cut, so they fall by the wayside.

Up until a few years ago, my mother didn't really pay that much attention to what she wore or how she looked. She simply wore the clothes she had already or the cheapest items she could find. It didn't matter if they didn't fit her very well or if they were looking a bit worse for the wear. She wore the same lipstick color everyday and never could keep up with her roots showing. Thankfully, my mother, the TV addicted person that she is, came across and started paying attention to What Not to Wear. Her style has improved a bit since then, but she's still an all out cheapskate with dark magenta lips and a gray part.

In the ten years that my mother and I lived together after the divorce and before I left for college, I don't think she once went to the eye doctor. She requires glasses to drive and, truth be told, she should probably wear them all of the time. Even after I sat on her glasses in the car, my mother refused to get new ones or to get a check up. If she fell ill, and she did often, 90% of the time she just waited it out. She, of course, suffered from mental issues, but never sought assistance from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor. The only doctor she visited regularly was the dentist.

When I was in middle school, my mother's health was declining in an undeniable way. She would fall asleep at the drop of a hat, she was losing hair excessively, and despite being a thin woman, she was losing weight. She finally gave in and went to the doctor, only to discover that she had Grave's Disease, a type of hyperthyroidism. She had suffered from this disease for years and never mentioned her symptoms to a doctor, so there was significant damage to her thyroid. If the doctor hadn't finally caught it when she did, she would have had to have surgery. I should note that when she was seeking treatment for her thyroid, her doctor gave her a prescription for Prozac because it was obvious that my mother had some other deep seated issues going on, but my mother was offended by the suggestion that she suffered from depression and added the prescription to the top of a mountain of papers that wound up subsuming it.

While my mother was better about getting me the medical attention I needed, there were times when my health suffered unnecessarily. Most notably, the school nurse had to bully my mother into taking me to the eye doctor when I was in seventh grade because I was having trouble reading the board. She called our house once a week until I was able to present a pair of glasses in person to the nurse. A few years later when I was in high school, I noticed that my eyesight had continued to worsen. I asked my mother to make another appointment for me and she said that she would. A few months later, I asked again and she said that she would. She put it off and put it off for years and only when I was making enough money at my part time job the summer before college did I see the eye doctor. I made the appointment myself and I paid for a new pair of glasses and contacts with my own wages.

For as long as I can remember, my mother has also had a problem with prioritizing her life. She continues to place many things that she deems more important before her own health. Your life is dependent on your health. Treat your body well and treat it with respect. Suffering unnecessarily will not cause you to be lauded as a martyr. It will cause you to have nothing but regrets.

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