As my eyes opened I remembered what day it was. Today a friend was visiting. And so the pep talk began…
“Conserve your energy, Kami. We don’t need to crash before she gets here.”
This particular day it was one of the hard mornings. Each day when I wake up there’s a level of this hit-by-a-truck feeling, but today the dial was turned up.
Some days I listen to my body well. Others I push it far beyond what I should. And this body? It gets cranky. In a big way. I’m then glued to the couch for hours or days, pain levels through the roof, and what little energy I had is gone. On those days, simply standing up from the couch can put me into tears.
Self care was hard for me long before I got sick. I was a busybody with a near-constant full plate. Sickness has merely highlighted the fact that I deeply struggle with resting, refilling, and fighting off the pressure to be constantly doing something. It’s challenged me to prioritize and appreciate the value of taking care of myself.
Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically.
And I’m still very much a student in this area.
Fighting chronic Lyme disease has pushed me to find tools for supporting myself that I can use even on my hardest days. But sometimes? I ignore even the most effective tools. Because self care doesn’t come easy for me. And I’m guessing it might not come easy for you either.
I’ve seen people translate or focus on self care as “pampering”, but it’s become so much more to me. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot to be said for all the feel-goods that come with a fresh new do. To me, that can feel like a mini vacation and is definitely an aspect of self care!
But what I’ve been learning is that my self care has to involve a wide variety of tasks and outlets. To refill ALL of me. Giving my body, mind and soul the healing, support and rejuvenation they need.
I have to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the messages they send me, know my limits, and do my best to listen. But when you’re sick? You better believe this has an extra layer of hard to it.
Physical Self Care
If I have a day where I am feeling even the tiniest amount of relief from pain and symptoms, I can read that message and respond with a loud “LET’S CONQUER THE WORLD.” So instead of always seeing it as a sign that I may have listened well the day before, I take it as an opportunity to get stuff done. And not always in proportion to my energy…
Needless to say, this is one area that has been complicated to learn. Yet, I’ve accepted this truth: that my physical self care is multi-layered. And each layer is equally important.
There is my supplement and treatment schedule that I need to follow. Diet I need to stick to. A list of detox supplements and therapy to fit into my day. I need lots of rest. Even on the days I am feeling a little better.
My body is weak and working hard to fight off a constant attack. I have to remind myself of this even when I’m feeling “okay” (translation: “not as awful as usual, but still really sick”). I’m aiming to find a balance in this. Knowing when I can handle an extra push to enjoy something AND the aftermath, and when enough is enough.
Beyond the physical effects illness brings, our emotions also take a pretty big toll. There is loss and grief to wade through. We might become frustrated with how often we disappoint others. Facing disbelief from doctors and others also weighs heavily on us.
One of the most healing things for me in this area has been connecting with others who understand this life. There is always something soothing about talking to someone about what you’re experiencing and them “getting it” on a whole different level.
It’s also been a huge comfort to have found family and friends who support me and respect my limitations. That alone helps keep my stress down, not having to fear saying no to those who won’t make me feel guilty.
I feel that my outlets for spiritual self care have the ability of spilling their benefits into the physical and emotional realms quite easily. Sitting on a bench near a local lake, feeling a gentle breeze and taking in the view and sounds of nature can be soothing to the whole of me.
There’s physical comfort in a cool breeze, emotional comfort in the beauty, and spiritual comfort found in soaking it all in. This is now one of the primary ways I’ve felt connected to God.
The times my husband takes me for a drive through the southern Oregon hills or I sit out on my front lawn surrounded by the beautiful scenery is healing, even if for a moment. Because it’s free of energy-zapping distractions and full of life and beauty. The creativity and colors that surround those moments is like balm for the soul.
Finding a Balance
As I’ve struggled my way through these last few years of my illness taking a turn for the worst, I’ve been slowly working to find balance. And every time I make a step closer to that, each moment of relief or emotional healing I experience, I embrace it. It take work to unlearn something that has become deeply ingrained in us. It doesn’t happen overnight.
So that morning my friend was coming I made a choice. I gave myself only what I knew I could handle before she came. I bypassed picking up before she came, and focused on tasks I could do at the couch. Made sure to take a break or two to lie down.
I don’t have it all together in this department. But can I share something? Those times when you really do give yourself what your body, mind or spirit is telling you it needs: it’s healing. Maybe not in the “I’m cured” variety, but in a way of sustaining.
That’s what draws me back into the mindset of taking care of myself. Knowing that I’m giving myself just what it needs to survive.
And even, maybe, someday…to thrive.
What does your self care look like?