While growing up, my parents taught me the importance of self-care.
Self-care to my parents meant playing sports and living an active lifestyle. Until a few years ago, I practiced self-care by taking dance classes and playing soccer. This has changed since I developed an autoimmune disorder called vasculitis. Vasculitis is a condition which makes my blood vessels inflamed.
I would want to tell the story of how I got my autoimmune disease under control, maybe by doing yoga weekly or training for a triathlon. Unfortunately, that would be a lie. Also, I would not have to motivation to train for a triathlon even if I wasn’t sick. Due to severe symptoms, I often find myself alternating between being bedridden at home and dragging my body to doctors’ appointments.
Is this what I want my self-care to look like? No, but this is where I’m at right now. My practice of self-care takes on two different forms. The first is to make sure I practice basic hygiene and take care of my health. The second is to practice self-love.
When your body hurts a lot, staying in bed all day looks like the appealing and the safer option. These might sound very basic, but I need to hold myself to taking a shower and brushing my teeth daily. My excuse often is that no one would see me anyway, so why would I bother. But, when you are sick, hygiene is as if not more important than if you are a healthy person who is meeting important people all day. I also can congratulate myself mentally for sticking to completing these tasks.
I also need to hold myself to taking my medication. Even though I know how important my medication is to keep me alive, part of me does not want to take them. The side effects of my medication drive these thoughts. Unfortunately, one medication, a steroid, that I have to take, causes me to have severe depression and mood swings. Another has caused me to gain roughly 20 pounds. Sounds lovely, right? But I need to take them to manage my health, despite their side effects. Like brushing my teeth and showering, I can congratulate myself for doing this.
The second part is to practice self-love, which I admit I am terrible at. Yet, I am holding myself to try and improve my self-love. A few years ago, I would have described myself as someone who worked on a million projects at once. I would also describe myself as someone who people liked. Whether this was accurate, I struggle to not compare myself to who I was before I developed vasculitis. I judge myself for not being able to keep up with projects and have a burdening fear that everyone hates me.
My self-love is a work in progress, but here is how I am working on it now. I recently started a Trello board where I am tracking the progress of all the articles that I am working on. Instead of beating myself up for all the work I have to do, I try to spend some time focusing on all the articles that I have written and were published. I can’t say I have the fear that everyone hates me under control at all. But I am trying to take baby steps. The first step that I am trying to work on is to spend less time on social media. Although, this is difficult, as social media and texting is often the only way I can interact with people.
I cannot say that I want this to be how I practice self-care for the rest of my life. Sure, I would much prefer to have my symptoms managed and be working in a media office. But this is where I’m at right now, and I am learning to be okay with it.