self-care notes from the slow learner

Posted: March 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

“I’m sorry to hear that things have worsened for you and can’t emphasize enough how important self-care will be at this time. Please focus on proper hydration as well.”

These were the closing lines on the most recent email from my chiropractor/functional medicine practitioner.  This was not the first time in the conversation that she’d zeroed in on that term:  self-care.  It had been her opening answer upon hearing that I’d been suddenly taken down by some kind of wicked respiratory illness.

Self-care.  Yup, I know.  Hydration.  Mmm hmm.  Wednesday through Friday of this week, my three activities included sleep, rest, and putting fluids into my body.  Self care.  Hydration.  I’ve got this.  No problem.

There were more particulars in the conversation – supplements she can order that will help me heal faster, and also some very pointed dietary advice.  It was all great stuff, but when it came on Wednesday, we were in one of those little uncomfortable financial pockets of running out of funds before running out of week (happily, those pockets are fewer and further between than they used to be, but sadly, I still choose my way into that hard spot more than I ought to do).  Payday would be Friday.  No ordering supplements, no buying any groceries before that.  I made notes from her email about the food we needed to get.  And I asked her to get those supplements ordered Friday morning, when there would be funds on the debit card once more.  Meanwhile, I’d muddle through.

Muddling through landed me in the Express Care unit on Friday morning after a night of struggling to breathe.  The helpful docs there gave me my first-ever breathing treatment right there in the office after listening to my chest and measuring my oxygen with the little finger-tip thingy.  They sent me home with prescriptions for more albuterol to follow up that first breathing treatment, and also scrips for two of my least favorite drugs:  augmentin (antibiotics) and prednisone (steroids).  I have objected so strenuously so many times to prednisone in that office that I guess my file must have a note in it – the doc was quick to be soothing as she prescribed it, noting that it’s a “very low dose.”  As G drove me home from that appointment, I was both grateful that these things would likely give me my breath back and filled with dread at how the antibiotics would undo the work I’ve put in with probiotics for my gut health.  But breathing’s not optional.  Do it, get through it Karen.  Don’t be a whiner.  

G spent his day off on Friday making a big batch of the bone broth my doc had recommended so strongly and nursing me through a day when every cough included chest pains that brought me to tears.  I took my meds and ate the oranges he’d picked up (eat your Vitamin C, don’t drink it! is the repeated cry of my doc).  I sipped soup and hot water, slept as much as I could, and rested.  Self care.  Hydration.  I’ve got this.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling like a new person.  My breath had returned to me enough that I had been able to lie down for part of the night – sleeping sitting up is just not the same quality of rest, is it?  As I drove G to work, I looked forward to a day up and off the couch.  I had a meeting to go to around lunchtime – I could probably get some stuff done before it was time to leave.  Back home I happily dove into just that:  getting stuff done.  I wasn’t working like a madwoman, but I was definitely in “productive mode.”  At 10 AM when I whisked out the door to run a couple of errands on the way to my meeting, I felt great about how much work I had accomplished.

Then, it caught up with me.

Sitting in the car, I was overcome with a wave of exhaustion and some dizziness.  Uhh.  What was that?!  I decided to just remain calm and stay on course.  My first errand was at work – a small task that needed to be done and couldn’t wait for Monday.  I sat at my desk, feeling like all the energy in my body was dripping down and out of me through my toes, peering at the computer monitor and racking my brain.  What’s the name of the file I’m looking for?  What’s the name?  What’s the name?  This was a little “nothing” task I was doing – something I do about a hundred of every day of the week.  And it was kicking my butt.  Finding the file and making the document was hard – so hard that for awhile I thought maybe just wasn’t going to get it done.  What is going on?

That was when I realized I was not going to make it to my meeting.

It was when I realized I’d been pushing myself pretty hard from 5 to 10 AM.  That I’d put in an admirable half-day of work, which was probably NOT falling under the definition of “self care” for someone who the very day before had been gasping for breath and in tears from the pain of every cough.

Oh.  Yeah.  That’s not self-care I guess, is it?

This is why my doc talks to me like this.  It’s why she says these things over and over, so gently and diplomatically but also so relentlessly.

This is how I backed myself into the terrible corner of adrenal fatigue in the first place – this utter lack of comprehension regarding the importance of self-care.  This belief that what defines me is that I’m a “highly productive person” who “gets stuff done.”

When she says this stuff, it’s not some canned speech.  It’s another piece in her customized, very-much-paying-attention-to-the-patient approach.  She says these things because I need to hear – AND LISTEN TO – these things.

Self-care – or more specifically my lack of practicing it – kicked my butt yesterday.  It landed me back in bed for hours.  My mom texted me that I should rest – that when my dad had this, he was sick for a month, and I thought well of course he was.  He’s not a bit better at self-care than I am.  I am a highly productive child of two highly productive parents.  We get stuff done.  We’ve very smart about a lot of things.  Self care is maybe not on that list of “a lot of things.”

For today, I will focus on figuring out what self-care looks like.  I don’t WANT to do this, because part of me process the term “self-care” as those words that are dreaded in the 12-step community:  “selfish and self-centered.”  I’m working to untangle that knot in my thinking, because actually it is NOT selfish to take decent care of the body that God gave me.  Wrecking my health because I’m a stubborn idiot would be selfish.  Slowing my healing because I need to feel like I’m getting stuff done would be self-centered in a way that is a special kind of stupid.  Today, I will remind myself to take the superhero suit off and just BE, and let God teach me what is going on here.

For a pretty good student, I’m not much of a quick learner on this business of self-care.  But I’m not giving up.

  1. […] medicine practitioner.  I told her about feeling so much better and then crashing again.  She had urged me already to slow down.  I confessed that I don’t know how to slow down.  I expressed my surprise at this […]

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