“Self Care Is Healthcare”

My therapist and I made it through the grief recovery program together, where we discovered that the lingering grief was not so much about my Dad’s death but about other crap I hadn’t really ever dealt with. We have moved towards helping me with – what I’m calling – “Preventing the darkest days.” Specifically, we’re working with some of the roots of my anxiety, which causes my depression.

I work full time, I volunteer, I parent, I’m the lead domestic contributor in our household, I manage two websites for myself…BUT…

1) I also sit on my butt a lot and binge watch entire seasons of television. I’m looking at you, Stranger Things and

2) I drop a lot of balls that I’m supposed to be juggling.

The second thing is an easy thing to conquer, I need to juggle less balls. With school and soccer starting it’s time to REALLY analyze this aspect of my life and also recognize that my kids need me a lot more than usual. (in the “spiritual” sense, they’re becoming less dependent on me in the “physical” sense.) So, we’re working on the WHYs to my “saying yes” problem a little bit. Turns out, I have a fear of abandonment and if someone has to depend on me they can’t leave! Woot! Item #2 is more tangible, and therefore a bit easier to conquer.

SURPRISINGLY – The first thing is NOT something we want to conquer. What I truly want, is to be able to veg out with the kids watching scary television and just not feel guilty that I’m not doing laundry, or catching up on volunteer work. So! The mantra of the month is: Self Care is Health Care.

(I have to have simple mantras to help trigger the concept of bigger ideas.)

We talked running metaphors. If I am training for a race, there’s a very important build/recovery cycle. You add distance a few weeks, and then you spend one week dropping back so you can recover from that build. Then, there’s the importance of the “recovery” after a specific long run. Your body needs time to repair the damage done to it. If you go out and do too much without giving your body enough time to recover either from a build week or a long run, you are VERY prone to injury. WE RUNNERS TAKE INJURY PREVENTION VERY SERIOUSLY. Basically you have to rest to prevent massive injuries that will prevent you from meeting your goal.

So. Let’s correlate that to my life right now.

My number one goal at the top of my mind right now to to help my kids battle their demons so we can have a great school year. The two battles require two different sets of mental and emotional skills and I need to be at the TOP of my game for both of sets of battles. So, if I’ve had a busy week at work and have had to keep the house “show ready” constantly and am doing school supply shopping and school clothes shopping and trying to finish that one project for that one volunteer job and…and…and…

…and I never give myself a recovery week, or a rest day, then I’m going to collapse into a ball of unproductive anxiety where I hide under a depressive blanket of self hatred and allow my mind to think the thoughts none of us want to think. This is the “Darkest Day” scenario I’m trying to prevent. I’ve had them. They’re not pretty.

That. THAT is my running injury. That moment: me – in bed sobbing under the weight of everything – is a torn overworked hamstring. It’s my strained IT band. It’s my calf cramp that has me collapsed in a cold creek on the top of a mountain on mile 25 of a tough 50K. (That’s a real moment. It was terrible.) That is the running injury I need to make sure I avoid. Me, depressed, anxious, hating myself, a sense of apathy towards my family and my life, that moment? Is the injury I could avoid if I remember my mantra:

Self care is health care

So it’s not that I need to manage my time better so that I am more productive and efficient with my hours.

NO.

It’s that I need to see the importance of rest and recovery for my mental health in the same way I see it for my running health.

MASSIVELY IMPORTANT.

So when I start to feel guilty as I’m curled up in bed with my daughter watching some terrible sitcom she’s addicted to, I need to remind myself: Self care is health care. This is not me “doing nothing” – this is me taking recovery time from “doing everything” so that I can have more days like this one where I’m not too tired or too beat up to realize what my daughter needs from me and to give it to her.

Last night my son was tense and having a rough evening and it took all of my focus to be what he needed. I was drained. I just barely had enough left to give him. BARELY. So, I’m going to block out time this weekend for “recovery.” My kids need a larger part of my mind than they’ve ever needed before. Especially now that school is starting back up. They don’t just need me to feed them and drive them to soccer, they need me to be there for them with as full of mental capacity as I have. And I can’t do that unless I really focus on the rest and recovery between the times they need me. Because if I don’t? It will be me – with a torn mental hamstring – useless to no one and strapped to a bed in a padded room.

(I had a breakdown once where that thought, of being strapped to a bed in a padded room, actually brought me peace. You know it’s time to seek help when part of you longs for that.)

So this week I’m going to work on that. I already showed her yesterday how I blocked out “HOME” time for next week.

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But the challenge is, if something comes up. If someone says, “Let’s do this!” And my fear of abandonment kicks in and I want that person to depend on me so they don’t leave me and so I want to say, “YES! LET US DO THIS THING!”

What do I do?

Well – there could be things that come up that qualify as “self care” and might actually help me with my rest/recovery cycle. I’m thinking: Coffee with a friend who helps me build my energy, not zap it. (I’m blessed with a lot of those friends.) But I need to really think about those things and if it doesn’t fit as one of those things I need to say, “This is one of the nights I have blocked out to be at home. It was something prescribed to me by my healthcare provider.”

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And during that “HOME” time? I try to focus on the mantra self care is healthcare. Maybe it’s reading a good book, maybe it’s painting nails with Nikki. Maybe it’s going on a PokΓ©walk with Wesley. Maybe it’s curling up under the covers at 5pm and watching Ever After for the millionth time. I guess part of this challenge is trying to really look at what I need in those moments. What do I really need? Do I need to color? Do I need a nap? Do I need to watch TV? Play with the kids?

Sometimes after a long run I soak in epsom salt. Sometimes I put on compression sleeves. Sometimes I stuff my face with french fries. I’ve gotten pretty in tune over the years with the needs of my post-run body. Now it’s time to become in tune with my mental health needs as well.

6 Comments

  • Karen

    πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ This is me, feeling all the feels. I am OVER THE MOON that you are discovering so much about yourself and what makes you tick (and sharing all this with the rest of us… you don’t know how much it helps and encourages us too!). Love your mantra for the month.

  • Fraulein N

    I’m so, so glad that your therapist is helping! And I love that you’re talking about this. I don’t have that inability to say “no” that you do (eventually you will learn that it feels GOOD to say no sometimes and that people WILL learn to be okay with it), but sometimes I do still feel guilt that I’m “doing nothing.” But you know, sometimes doing nothing is exactly what we need! And relaxing IS doing something! Something important and healthy and necessary, and it’s a shame so many of us haven’t learned that.

    If it makes you feel better, I’m sure your kids will look back on their childhoods and remember that they had a mother who took time for them AND herself, and that when she was around, she was also present and able to actually be there for them in mind AND body.

    Enjoy your downtime!

  • Deb

    Everyday I check in because you always have (at least one) nugget of wisdom to share. Something that helps me understand me. Today I finished reading saying Yes, Yes, Yes – good for you! I guess it is feeling all the feels as Karen says, I really just want you to know that I support you wholeheartedly, you are improving the world even if you feel that you are only improving your corner, the ripples are extending outward to the rest of us. Again, thank you.

  • Lucy McConville

    Wow! That bit about always saying yes because of fear of abandonment hit me like a lightning bolt of resonance!!! Wow! I have to give some serious thought to this…it really does make sense!

    As for the rest, I want to tell you I am living proof this really works. Even without the above lightning bolt, about a year ago I did a very big ‘clearing of my plate’ and started saying “no” left and right. I can’t even tell you the difference it has made to my mental health. The only time I chastise myself for the “recovery” of binge-watching is when I take it too far and stay up until 1:30am. Lol…so, watch out for that. Cycle of anxiety starts all over when too sleep deprived to function.

    Good Job taking care of Mama!

  • Lindsey

    Holy moly were those some good realizations and a great mantra to go along with it. Thanks for sharing.

    And can I just say that I am so, so, so happy for you that you found a therapist that works well for you? I mean, the fact that she can bring it back to running, create analogies, understand your needs, and put it into perspective for you is pretty darn great.

  • Elaine C. B.

    This made me think of you. It’s not exactly light, but I found it uplifting and thought-provoking nonetheless, and on point with your message of learning how to respectfully disagree and dialogue, and your own struggles with editing your FB feed.

    http://urbanconfessional.org/blog/howtodisagree

    Favorite line? “Our love, our listening, must bring in, not edit out. “