I grew up a pretty typical Midwestern girl. In the midst of my childhood years my life felt quite normal. I was raised in church, had a good group of friends, did well academically, and was active in sports. I’ve always had a good sense of who I am; confident and the ability to not be swayed or affected by major let downs in life. I was the youngest of four and the only girl, so naturally, I put on the armor required to keep up. But, as I entered adulthood and faced challenges and traumas, it became pretty evident, through therapy, that there were many things that affected me to my core; things that I never allowed myself to process. My parents divorced when I was young and both remarried within a few years. One of my parents struggled with depression and mental illness, which complicated life along the way, and left me with hurt that I never even knew existed. It wasn’t until 2017, when my entire world changed and all of those past hurts came flooding to the surface.
At 16 I met the boy that I would spend the next 10 years of my life with. He was fun and outgoing, plus 2 years older than me. He introduced me to a world that I hadn’t yet experienced. After eight years of dating we were married and shortly after, in 2011, we had our first child. But, in those 10 years, I was emotionally abused, consistently cheated on, and always second choice to alcohol and drugs. I allowed myself to fall into the position of the enabler. But, after my son was born, I decided my son’s life and well being had to be my priority. So I left. I could no longer make his recovery or choice to get better my responsibility. Three years later he lost his life to addiction. Raising a child with a parent who has passed away and figuring out how to help him navigate his grief, as it changes with age, has been one of my greatest challenges in life.
In 2013, I was the luckiest girl in the world when I married the man of my dreams. He loved me and respected me like I didn’t even know was possible. He understood my hurts and insecurities that I had gained from my past relationship because of going through one similar to mine. It was like life had finally began! But, we also struggled to find balance within our
blended family and fought hard for our love for each other and a life that we were desperate to give all 5 of our children. Life is hard and obstacles always seem to present themselves as soon as things start getting comfortable.
In the summer of 2017, my husband checked himself into a recovery facility for an opioid addiction. He had spent the last 10 to 15 years with major back issues and opioids became his way of survival. The next 4 months, while my husband dedicated pretty much all of his time to his recovery journey, it felt like I was a single mother to my 14 year old step son, 6 and 3 year old sons and 4 year old daughter - while also trying to grow my new real estate business. And, just as soon as that season was ending, and life started feeling normal again, I was hit with the blow that has forever changed me.
The day before Thanksgiving in 2017, I received a call that my older brother, who lived in California, had been missing for 24 hours. Within a few hours of that first phone call, I was notified that his body had been found at the base of the Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, California. My brother and I shared a bond that I’ve never really been able to verbalize. Throughout most of my life he served as a friend, mentor, sounding board and someone who understood me better than anyone because we shared the same childhood hurts and joys. The grief I experienced was unbearable. Out of pure self preservation I went into autopilot. I lived that way for nearly 6 months, and I have very little memory of that time. I’m not sure how my kids were fed (like seriously... what was I packing in their school lunches?) or how I managed to maintain working and keeping up with the responsibilities of a home with 4 children and a husband still on his own recovery journey from addiction.
All those past hurts and traumas that I had allowed myself to be unaffected by now sat there staring me and my grief, directly in the eye. I was a mess!
But, eventually, things started to shift. I started making conscious decisions to pull myself out of that fog. I dove head first into therapy, started nurturing my relationship with God, read books on grief and mindset and healthy habits. Allowed myself to be influenced by bible studies at my church and self help seminars for work. I was growing and, more importantly, healing. And, it felt amazing! But something was missing. A piece of the puzzle that I couldn’t quite identify.
Then I found the piece. It was my physical health, or lack thereof. I had bought a one way ticket to emotional health, but my body was left at the train station.
Up until my third child, I was gifted with genes that allowed me to eat what I wanted, whenever I wanted without gaining a single pound. But three kids later and an enormous amount of grief, my body no longer felt or looked like it once did. So, I went full force into my fitness journey. I changed my eating habits, started guzzling water like nobody's business, exercised every single day and stopped allowing my physical health to bring down my emotional health.
As soon as I made the decision to get physically healthy, it was like this new level of happiness came along with it. All that hard work I had put into healing my heart didn’t truly feel complete until I healed my body. And even better yet, the new found physical health was actually playing a huge roll in my emotional health!
Every day I have to make a decision to be healthy. Most importantly for myself, but also for God, and my husband, and my kids, and my church and my clients. Emotionally, physically and spiritually. True health, I’ve come to realize, isn’t really possible without all 3 being a huge priority in my life.
Rachel Gallegos is a Christ follower, Wife, Mother to 3 and Step Mother to 2. She’s a Realtor in the West Michigan area, where she has lived all her life. As a survivor of suicide loss, she is extremely passionate about mental health awareness.
Rachel and Audrey get to hang out Wednesday nights in the Spring when they play on a co-ed softball team together.
FB Business Page: https://www.facebook.com/rachelgallegosrealtor/