Sunday, August 21, 2016

on the necessity of self-care.


As I sat at the edge of the hospital bed, a nurse beginning her shift came in to see if I needed anything else before I was wheeled out. I was being discharged.

Being discharged from a hospital is such a bittersweet moment. I was no longer going to be seconds away from a nurse or a doctor--carefully monitoring my heartbeat, blood pressure, and state of mind. But I was happy to be heading back to my home and my bed and my dog and my safe space, but sometimes, in the moments of panic, my hospital room was the safest place I could be. I was hesitant but confident that home is where I needed to be.

“Take care of yourself, okay?”

I glanced at the nurse who was waving goodbye with a careful, small smile.

“I’ll do my best!” I said, feigning enthusiasm as the elevator doors closed. Back to reality we went. I sighed deeply. Not sure myself if it was a sigh of relief or anxiety.

Take care of myself? Easy for her to say. I have so many other things that I need to do and taking time out of my life to specifically focus on the care and keeping of myself was low on the totem pole.

I was just never super great at taking care of myself. Self-care was a necessity that I knew I needed and preached that others needed it, but when it came to myself-- I was a big-time slacker.

The guilt that comes with self-care is the greatest obstacle for me. What else could I be doing--for work, for my family, for my friends, for the betterment of my house--instead of taking a nap, painting my nails, taking an hour to go browse at Target? What else could I be doing that’s less selfish? Less self-centered? The guilt. The guilt. The guilt.

When I arrived home from the hospital, I immediately grabbed my laptop and began to check my e-mail. My husband looked at me like I was an insane person. “What the HELL are you doing? Go lay down!” He took the computer out of my hands and embraced it with both arms, holding it tight against his chest.

“You are not doing anything today except resting and eating the food you love and watching that Real Housewive stuff. Go. Lay. Down.”

All of the arguments I had against his demands started to crawl up my throat--fire that would spew out my mouth and burn away all of his reasonings. I needed to catch up on work. I needed to get my life organized after this mess of a month. My life was in proverbial shambles. I needed to get it in order right now. I looked back at him, a scowl spread on my face. I looked away from the sweet face of my husband and tried to see his side for a moment.

Laying down in my bed would feel pretty nice and I did have a couple new episodes of Real Housewives on the DVR AND I could really go for a slice of pizza. Wow, self-care actually sounded pretty amazing. I reflected back on what a nightmare the past month had been and allowed myself to feel deserving of rest.

I conceded.

That first night home from the hospital was one of the best I can remember. I logged off from the world, snuggled up next to my husband and pup--feeling a little achey, but happy--and cared for myself.

I slept and read a book for fun (literally have not done this in so long and it’s hard to admit that) and just filled my tank back up. I practiced self-care and it felt so good.

I woke up the next morning, refreshed and renewed. I had energy and a clear-mind. I tackled some tasks, checked my e-mail and didn’t feel overwhelmed or drained or so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open. My body may have been worn and torn and slowly repairing, but my mind was awake and alert and healthy.

After weeks of depression and anxiety and sleep-stealing worries, I relaxed a little bit. I could be a present wife. I could be an efficient employee. I could be a good listener for my friends. A few moments of self-care had made me a better person, and I could properly and effectively care for others.

When you’re getting ready to take off on an airplane, the flight attendants demonstrate and reiterate that if the cabin pressure should change, an oxygen mask will fall from the ceiling. You need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then proceed to help anyone else who needs assistance putting their oxygen mask on. You need to be breathing and awake and alert before you can help anyone else who is struggling. I am not saying that you need to completely have your life together or else you’ll never be able to help anyone else--it’s actually the opposite of that.

We all need to go through the depths of hell in this life. We all need to experience tragedy. We all need to trip and stumble and feel the excruciating pain that life can pile upon us.

We all need to feel.

Because when we feel--we empathize. And relate. And bond. And listen. And we help others.

We fall. We practice self-care. And then we build ourselves back up and help build up others up along the way.

We have to practice self-care because we cannot properly care for others if we don’t.

Mediate for five minutes.
Treat yourself to a manicure.
Have a scoop of your favorite ice cream.
Pray.
Take a nap.
Take a breath.

Practice loving your body and your mind and your soul. Care for yourself like you do for all of the people you love in your life. Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. Be kind to yourself. Let yourself rest. Let yourself breathe. Let yourself practice self-care.

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