You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first. At least, that’s what I believe.
For instance, I’ve been sick with pneumonia for the last two and a half weeks, which accounts for the lack of posts lately. It’s hard to even breathe and hold a conversation, much less focus on writing.
I went to Urgent Care two weeks ago, where I received prescriptions for a Z-Pack, Prednisone, and cough syrup with codeine. And, while I don’t feel as bad as I did at first, I don’t feel all that much better.
To complicate matters, my wife just had her MS treatment a few days ago, which keeps her practically bed-bound for a couple months. This means that I need to be on the ball so I can take care of her needs. And her mother was in the hospital for a few days last week, so we’re taking extra-special care of her right now.
TAKING CARE OF MYSELF
I’ve been doing my best to take it easy and get plenty of rest. I’m drinking lots of water, I finished all my meds, and I’m not overextending myself. Still, there’s a lot to do around here, and my overactive guilt complex takes over when I’m “doing nothing”.
Although I have a lot of support and I know how to ask for help, it can still be difficult to do what I need to do to get back to my *normal* physical self.
It figures, doesn’t it? For the last several months, I’ve had some energy (though it comes and goes) and have been able to get some things done. Now I’m sick and can hardly walk to the car without running out of breath. And tennis? I’ve only been able to play three times so far this year!
I sure hope my energy levels out soon. As I stated in my previous post, fatigue can make you wonder if life is even worthwhile.
In the last three days, two professionals have suggested that I contact my primary care provider and let her know I’m not getting much better. I think that’s a good idea. Maybe she can send over scripts for more prednisone or another Z-Pack or something.
So that’s the first order of business after I finish writing this: Send an email to my doc and tell her what’s up. She’s good at responding to messages, so I’ll probably know by early tomorrow morning what she thinks.
“First things first,” they say. And my health has to come first, or I’m no good to anybody.
SELF-CARE IS NOT A FOUR-LETTER WORD
Well, technically it’s two four-letter words, but who’s counting?
Why is it that people need to remind us to take care of ourselves? To say “No” when we’re already overextended, to get some extra sleep if we’re exhausted, or to play hooky once in a while so we can take care of our mental health?
I used to try to portray a certain amount of toughness on the outside. I prided myself on the fact that hardly anyone knew what was really going on with me. Hell, even the friends I used to party with are surprised when they find out I’m an alcoholic!
Anymore, though, I can’t hide what or how I’m feeling. I just can’t. It’s not worth the hassle – the vague references indicating that maybe I’m fine, maybe I’m not; the faking it; the keeping everything bottled up; the refusal of help, including medical attention.
What is it about us that makes us think we can do it all?
Actually, I’m one of those people who will speak the truth and be direct with others (such as suggesting they go to the doctor), but then it takes me two weeks to do it myself. You know why?
Because the rules don’t apply to me.
That’s right, you heard me. Your physical and mental health are more important to me than my own is. I’ll go to great lengths to help you, but not necessarily to help myself. Especially if you are in need of mental health treatment or having a crisis, I’m there for you.
I tend to think this is because of my compassionate, sensitive, caretaking nature. It’s the nature of this beast to be more concerned with others.
However, in the last few years, I have gotten better about taking care of myself. It can be hard, and I stumble, but it’s getting better.
Remember when I had a good morning routine going not too long ago? I was doing yoga, I was writing a little bit almost every day, I was paying attention to my breath, I was meditating, I was even using my light therapy lamp. And I felt really good about all of it.
And then, I stopped. For some reason I can’t explain, I just stopped doing all of it, all at the same time. I haven’t felt as good since.
CARING FOR YOURSELF TAKES COMMITMENT
If you’re truly taking care of yourself, you know it’s a full-time job. There’s a lot to pay attention to – nutrition, physical activity, managing relationships, time management, not overbooking yourself, and keeping an eye out for signs of declining mental and physical health, among other things.
When you add everything else you need to take care of during the day/week/month/year, that’s a shitload of stuff. It’s just too easy for some of us to put ourselves way down on the list.
But I honestly believe that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of our loved ones. We’ll be less effective as people, less productive at work, crabby, tired, and we become vulnerable to defective thinking and habits – like drinking too much, for example. We are also more vulnerable to illness. Like pneumonia.
Back when I was a substance abuse counselor, I used to tell my clients the same thing. Mostly, they were worried about taking care of their kids. So, I would say, “How can you be there for your kids if you don’t take care of yourself first?”
Now, I don’t have any kids, but I like to think that, if I did, I would do anything for them. And I know that parents sacrifice a lot for their children (and other loved ones). But – and this is a big but – your loved ones want and need you to be healthy. Trust me, not taking care of yourself is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
We have to commit to doing healthy things so we can be the best version of ourselves possible. Again, it’s not like I’m perfect at this – nobody is. It takes a lot of practice and repetition to replace bad habits with good ones. But it is worth it.
THE LAST WORD
In today’s ultra-busy world, it seems we are often judged by how much we’re doing. I think that’s awful. First of all, we shouldn’t be judging each other. And we shouldn’t be judging ourselves. So many of us have standards that exceed what is realistic – how can we possibly live up to those expectations?
Instead, we need to be realistic, practical. For instance, I know that if I try to pack more than two appointments into a day, I’m going to pay for it. With everything else that needs doing, I will feel rushed, which is a huge trigger for me, I will feel like I’m behind all day, I’ll get crabby, and I may just freak out. That’s not fun for me, and it certainly isn’t fun for CeAnne and her mom to live with.
The trick, I think, is to know your limits. It’s okay, we all have them. No one can do everything, not me, not even you. We may keep trying, but we need to realize that being self-sufficient doesn’t mean you’re perfect. It also doesn’t mean you never need help or that you can do it all by yourself.
Open yourself up to the possibility that maybe you’re asking too much of yourself. Screw what other people think, or what you *think* they think. It is far easier to take things one at a time, one day (hour, minute) at a time, than to act like you’ve got your shit together every moment of every day. That gets exhausting, as you may have noticed.
Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” Find what works for you and stick with it. Don’t let pressure from others drag you down. That just leads to resentments and other icky things that make you feel like crap.
Try paying attention to what it is you need, what your limits are, and draw the line when needed. It’s okay to take care of yourself.
After all, who else is going to do it?
IN A NUTSHELL
- YOU need to come first; then you can care for others.
- This pneumonia is kicking my ass.
- Asking for help or saying no is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you know how to be your best, most effective self.
- Sometimes, we need people to remind us to take care of ourselves.
- Your loved ones need you to be healthy.
- Being a martyr is not the way to go.
- Busyness is WAY overrated.
- Know your limits and follow them.
- You are worth it! Commit to taking care of yourself and you’ll be happier and healthier.
- Try not to judge yourself by how much or how little you’re doing.
- Perfection – which is an unobtainable, mythical state – is also overrated. So stop trying, already.
As always, thank you for reading. And Keep it Real!
This post was previously published on www.depressionwarrior.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
Photo credit: depressionwarrior.com