How many times do you hear “take care of yourself”? How often do you hear from your medical professionals that in order to be well you need to follow a self-care regime? How accurate am I when I say you sacrifice your health regularly for loved ones? In all honesty, how much of your needs do you put off for others?
If you have characteristics like me balancing your needs with the needs of your loved ones becomes a daily juggling act. Being chronically ill doesn’t make me put myself in front of others. I find myself putting off my own needs and\or struggles for others every day. Even today, my mother needs something and my daughter wants to see her Gaga (grandmother- my mother) so I am putting off swimming (my medically ordered exercise for my RA) again. This has turned into a regular occurrence and I know I am not the only Invisible Fighter (autoimmune\chronic illness sufferer) that does this.
Daily we have to balance whether or not we take the much needed nap or play with our kid. Do we exercise or run errands for our elderly parents? Do we take our meds and rest to decrease pain or do we take more pain killers to go out on that scheduled social outing? In most cases I chose the latter. Unless I am in absolute bad shape. I know the fragile line of not putting my needs first, my condition will worsen and my family will suffer. I walk that tight line…that tight rope consistently. I’m quite aware if I do not take care of myself, I can cause more damage and/or end up in hospital. AND unfortunately I am willing to risk this so I can care for others.
So where do you draw the line? How do you take care of yourself and others? What do you do with that guilty thought of “am I being selfish?” when you do put yourself first? Well… you start with identifying your triggers. What can’t you say NO too? What CAN you put off? WHO can you say NO to? You might have to take that big step and admit to family and friends that you cannot do everything. You might just have to communicate that you’re suffering in that moment and need to make the time to heal yourself.
Balancing your needs against the needs of others… this is not an easy task. Putting “you” first and saying “no” is incredibly hard. THIS is work in progress for me. I have a young child, an elderly mother, and both are extremely needy. I have an amazing husband who would do anything for me, however he is a procrastinator. A MAJOR procrastinator. Soooo things will get done either in 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months. With me being an organized planner… this drives me absolutely insane and can cause World War 3. Therefore, I have to be in pretty bad shape to ask him to organize anything. Truly…desperate.
I suck at putting myself first. It’s not in my nature. It’s not who I am. I always put others first, especially my loved ones. If you need me, I am there… always. I’m like a 7Eleven…open 24\7… packed with fun snacks. I miss swimming often and I don’t take naps. I pop Advil until I crash. It takes crashing for me to stop. It takes excruciating pain for me to put myself first. It actually took a biologic infusion (IV therapy) to get me to think. What would happen to my family if I were to deteriorate to the point of non-functional? What would happen to my family if I couldn’t work? Where would my friends and family be if I had a stroke and\or heart attack because I didn’t take care of myself first? How would my loved ones feel if I died because I neglected my needs? Prioritizing self-care is not selfish, even though it feels that way. How can you taking care of yourself be selfish when the end results means you can continue to do for others?
There is a way to balance your needs along with the needs of others…say “no” often. Say “not right now” a lot. Say “I need a day” once in a while. Say “I need to do me” as much as possible.