I have been thinking a lot about what I wanted my next blog post to be. I had planned to post much sooner than this but as anyone recovering, healing or just ‘lifing’ in general knows, time gets away from us. I contemplated on continuing to share the next chapter in my chronological cancer story, which I will do regardless, or if I wanted to take a detour instead and blog about one of the many subjects bouncing around in my head. I feel I don’t want to miss sharing some of my realizations from the hardest experience of my life- not just for other’s encouragement, but for my own healing as well. When I first started writing on this subject, we were not in the midst of a global virus pandemic. I winced for a second at my title wondering ‘Is this a bad time for this? Will people take this wrong and not look to proper care when needed?’
I had to quickly answer that with another roll-your-eyes-but-necessary disclaimer: if you’re reading this blog and don’t understand that this is an analogy of being your own nurse for the sake of self care, please understand that now. If you are experiencing any COVD19 symptoms, please seek proper healthcare, and isolate. Take care of your health and care about others around you.
That’s a great segway into this whole concept. How often do we partake in activities with others at the forefront of our mind with ourselves no where to be found? I know I’m not the only one that witnesses that some of the most compassionate and caring people also tend to have some of the most neglectful behavior when it comes taking care of themselves. I know I always find myself worrying about how others will perceive something or what they think, it’s something I have to constantly keep in balance. It’s always a great idea to think of others besides ourselves, humility is a beautiful virtue, but when does it cross over into neglecting or compromising our own wellbeing? It’s time to step back and re-evaluate intentions. Not canceling plans because you don’t want to stop your go-go-go attitude and putting others at risk? Not heeding warnings of large crowds because of the inconvenience it could cause you? Any of that seem familiar right now? Perhaps it takes something of this magnitude to globally scream at people to stop. Stop and REST. Stop and reconnect. Stop and care about your health and others. Stop. Why can we not just… stop?
We live in a toxic society that pushes us to do more, be more, have more and to not. Stop. Moving. At what point will our own health- and when I say health I mean ALL health: spiritual, emotional, mental AND physical- becomes of more importance than suscribing to our world’s poisonus norms? Why is it such a big deal to just self isolate for a while, cancel plans and flights, and just take this time to be smart and safe earlier on? I know this could easily be a rabbit-hole topic as it brings discussion to much larger issues such as the economy- but just for the sake of staying in one lane of thought- what if stopping and resting now could save us from worse consequences later? This seems to echo my own journey of respecting my mental and physical health. Why can’t we put effort in now to avoid a worse scenario later?
That’s what I’ve done with a lot of my recovering (and now self quarantine) time. I’ve thought about what actions reflect truly caring about all aspects of my health. I’ve re-evaluated what’s really important to me, my intentions, goals, and what I need to move forward living my best, healthiest life. For me that’s included a lot of detoxing old negative thoughts and belief patterns that didn’t serve me. Sounds very typical yogi talk, right? I get that- but I also can’t stress how true it is. If you’re still kinda shaking your head about that one, perhaps opening your mind to that thought itself could be a block that you didn’t even know you had. I’ve uncovered so many negative blocks in my thinking myself. The need to be productive. To work harder to be worthy. That exhaustion means success. That validation just feeds the ego, not my soul. Each of these aren’t just cliche beliefs, but rather very true summaries of often painful experiences and lots of therapy. We grow our most in ‘the mud’, that’s why lotuses arise so majestic when they are through the thick of it.
During this journey, I’ve found myself in the hospital many times. More in the last year of my life than in the last 28 years combined. One of the tough experiences always tended to be discharging from the hospital and going home. When I think about those moments, I realize I was always so preoccupied with the excitement and eagerness to go home. I see now I underrated how tough it always was to try and get back to normal, or even just some kind of normalcy without having a nurse constantly there to help you with the push of a button. When you’re in a hospital room, every 10-15 minutes someone is coming to check on you, give you meds, bring food, help you to the bathroom, check your vitals, check your therapy to do list.. it goes on. Then you come home.
You come home and your poor husband is juggling all his own duties plus yours and more, your house isn’t set up to be conveniant such as a equipped hospital room, and everything just seems hard. You heal and still the energy just isn’t there to do what you used to be able to do. Brushing your teeth without pain becomes a win. Those were some of the hardest days. I could go on and on about some of the dark moments or peeing my pants when I couldn’t move quick enough, but people who have been there get it. If you haven’t, I hope you never experience it- but I’m not blogging about peeing my pants. I am but I’m not.
Fast forward through those tough days when all I could do is focus on what was necessary: take vitamins and pills, do the dumb foot soak, clean your drain, check your wounds, clean yourself, eat food that fuels your healing, actually make it to the bathroom.. All the energy I could possibly muster up was used for absolute basics. Things that kept me alive. I spent an hour just taking herbs, immunity support, pills, planning my food and water with it all before even doing anything else. A year ago I was throwing a few vitamins in my mouth as I ran out the door. I would spend so much time picking out plant based, smart meals and counting nutrients, not calories. A year ago I was so busy, I’d just get fast food. It makes me cry and laugh. The irony. The lesson. The blessing.
When I wasn’t in the hospital and I was in some of those tough days where I didn’t want to get up or move or be awake, I would tell myself ‘You have to get up. You don’t have a nurse anymore. You have to do something good for yourself.’ That one thing would start out as drinking water, then taking my vitamins, then getting clean, then eating something. It would go on until I needed to rest, which was also a part of the healing process. When it would get hard, I’d just tell myself ‘You have to be your own nurse. Do one good thing for yourself.’
I had plenty of amazing family members and friends that were there to help and support me, but the reality is that they were not always able to be around to help. I had to take care of myself, too. I had to try. I had to be my own nurse now. Now that I’m here months later, it makes me emotional to think even though I still struggle, I feel so much stronger. I put boundaries up now. I care about my health. I take time to rest. I go to therapy. I do the work to keep being my own nurse every day. I surround myself with people who also do their work to be a better person. I respect that. It is not easy and I still have days I don’t want to get up. I just tell myself the same thing, ‘Be your own nurse, do one good thing for yourself.’ That soon becomes a string of good things for myself, which in turn allows me to be better for everyone. Self care is not selfish, it’s self preservation. It’s putting your health first so that you can be better for all.
I still live with pain, I still live in the unknown. I have scans coming up that might be delayed or canceled or I might have to put myself at risk to do them. I don’t know yet. I do know that I will continue making smart decisions for my own health and the health of others. We will cancel what needs canceling. We will avoid crowds. We will self quarantine minus absolutely necessary outings. You can call it overreacting, or maybe even underreacting perhaps, but for me and mine we will continue to make the smartest decisions for our health, phyiscal and otherwise. We are putting that first in our family. We will be our own self care nurses and pray that we won’t need a real one. We’ll also be praying for all of those amazing healthcare workers on the front lines who we’ve come to adore even more through this journey. Please pray for them, please be patient and kind, and please care about yourself. Do one good thing for yourself and try to keep the chain going. Do something kind for others along the way for bonus points. Stay healthy, all, you’re worth it.