If you haven’t gotten a chance to look at Part 1, do that first. This will all make a lot more sense (Part 1 is basically a grocery list of my day to day considerations since developing CRPS).
I had a great conversation recently with a friend whose health troubles are also not immediately obvious to the untrained eye. She said to me that it’s hard when you look “normal”, when there aren’t crutches or boots, braces, or casts to cue those around you into the very real fact that you’re hurting. She was speaking my language. And for months it was so hard; I was constantly explaining myself to others (seriously trying to communicate all twenty-two of the above points so Annie Acquaintance wouldn’t be disappointed in me for turning down multiple invitations to attend essential oils parties on Friday nights when the stress of the week, the demands of my treatment are finally catching up to me and all I want is to crash on my couch in my pajamas with my TENS Unit, The Office, and my cats).
But now I’m finding empowerment in a better understanding of myself, in recognizing what I need (and don’t) and being willing to speak up so that I can be sure to get it or prevent it. Sometimes I worry that all of this makes me sound so self-absorbed, that maybe I’m selfish because I value being alone and should instead be Doing More For My Community Now. But mostly that worry has diminished, and mostly I’m confident in my personal choices because my husband and I spent nine months not listening to what we needed in the midst of this strange diagnosis and we paid for it. Long-term, the game plan is that eventually, in the fuller context of a life, the attention to the above twenty-two details can lessen and that all of this will pay off–i.e., Doing More For My Community. The proverbial image of the oxygen mask applies here. When an airplane loses cabin pressure, a person can do more good for those around her, only if her own oxygen mask is secured first.
This process of hurt and healing has taught me how to love myself, how to show kindness to my body, how to appreciate all it’s been through and is capable of, and how I’m ill-equipped to care for others if I neglect my spiritual and physical health. Self-care takes practice. In many ways, it is antithetic to our very culture, both in a general sense and a personal one. My parents were both raised by military people. In our house, what was modeled was the art of multitasking, and what was taught was how to be busy, to plan effectively, to work hard, and to put others first. Acknowledging our limits and practicing TRUE self-care (which, I’ve learned, doesn’t necessarily mean binge watching Downton Abbey and binge eating Ben & Jerry’s) can sometimes be perceived as weakness, as lesser, as somehow sad or unfortunate or excessive. Bump that, friends.
In case you can’t tell, I am passionate about this journey and thankful for the revelations I’ve had due to circumstances beyond my control. If not for all of this, I’d probably still be overbooked and exhausted, uncomfortable with quiet, and disconnected from my own well being.
It’s good to talk about this stuff. So, in the spirit of talking, how do you practice self-care? What does self-compassion look like in your life?