Some of my close friends know that that I am not neurotypical. Even when things are flowing smoothly, daily life taxes me. I also have genetic chronic health issues. I know how to handle both issues, but it is super frustrating to have to work twice as hard to accomplish anything- including sticking to a regimen.
It has its upside though, I believe that my own struggles make me especially good at helping my clients adopt strategies. If I can do it, anyone can. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean I don’t stumble. Everyone stumbles…
One of my problems is that I am by nature one of those people who needs to do something about the problems I see in the world. I tend to jump into activism and helping others, often at the expense of my own wellness. I know that a lot of my friends are the same.
As we move into days when more of us are going to take up the role of activist, I want to share a story with you. There are a lot of articles that talk about this on a “how to” level times, but I want to talk about “why?” So here it is — a very personal story that hopefully serves to establish why self-care is a necessity.
My husband and I threw ourselves into the Occupy movement. I had some basic teach-ins on avoiding hypothermia and warding off illness in tight quarters, but none of the Occupiers really embraced the importance of self-care to the sustainability of the movement.
A lot of us learned that lesson the hard way. We lived through tragedy and dealt with disappointments by burning out or turning to shitty coping mechanisms and bad decision making. Recovering from that takes awhile.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always let up to give you time to heal. The last few of years has been tough on my family. It seems like just when we got through one crisis, another one popped up. I was so busy taking care of everyone else, taking care of me slipped through the cracks.
The smallest thing can be your undoing. For me, it was a round of antibiotics that threw me off my game. Symptoms started cropping up. I fell behind on work because sitting in a chair for too long hurts. Everything I write sounds like crap because my brain is foggy due to lack of sleep and constant pain. Dealing with getting the Internet company to come out and fix my broken e-mail seems like it is just too much to handle.
All of this is just a very long way of saying, it is easier to stay healthy than it is to get well.
When you work as a clinician, it can be a weird emotional dynamic to admit that in this moment; your illness has the best of you. It is embarrassing. It seems like a shortcoming, or possibly even a marketing liability which is ridiculous. I found myself worrying that someone would let me go from an assignment if they found out I was struggling. So, I chose to keep quiet about it until now.
But pretending to be okay when you aren’t, isn’t setting a very good example.
I will get back on track. I’ve managed my physical condition for most of my adult life with little input from physicians or other herbal clinicians. Before this fall, the last time I had to work briefly with physicians was after a trip to the ER in 2012. I am focusing on me now and I’ve got this. But like any protocol, I won’t be better overnight.
And this time I vow to do that without feeling guilty about putting myself first. It isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity. It can be the difference between being able to participate in creating the change that needs to happen, or not. I found the quote above and I plan on living it.
I am thinking lot about how I can better guide my clients towards healthy outcomes, too. We need new approaches that are inexpensive and accessible–especially as it seems least possible that the country will be taking giant steps backward in regards to healthcare access.
Don’t worry I don’t want to talk about politics…yet.
I want to use my story as an example. I want to urge my clinician friends to really engage in radical self-care, right now.
Our communities are going to need us to be at our best. Remember that your first responsibility in the hard days that may follow is to care for yourself.
It is also important to encourage others to care for themselves. Reach out to those clients you think might be in danger of burning out. Insist that your apprentices and students make time for themselves. At Goddard we were required to show that we were engaging in self-care in order to get our degree.
Be wary of groups who don’t encourage their members to take breaks and make themselves and their family a priority. Know that there are activist groups out there whose leadership will burn through their volunteers’ energy and resources and leave them quite literally for dead.
I guess what I am saying is look out for one another, please. I love you all.