Self-Care. It’s one of those words that people generally understand but it covers a lot of ground depending on who’s using it. It can mean anything from making sure you got your mammogram this year to having “me-time.” My loathing of the phrase “me-time” is enough for its own post. But, I digress. I take a rather strenuous approach to taking care of myself. And for good reason.
Taking care of myself is a lot of work. I’ve never been chronically healthy. We talk a lot about chronic illness but inherent in that phrase is its counterpart, chronic health, as though that’s a normal, maintenance-free, just-happens-on-its-own human state. Sometimes I wonder what chronic health would look like. What it would feel like. I don’t have major chronic illness but I do a lot of maintenance, continual tinkering. I’m perpetually a few forgetful steps away from having a lousy day.
Cars have maintenance schedules. Specific tasks to be performed after you rack up so many miles. I’m not all that different:
I work with ADD (Yes, I said “work with” rather than “suffer from” because I do reap many of the well-documented advantages of ADD) which means appropriately punctuated doses of caffeine, prescribed stimulants and a series of carefully-tweaked routines and behavior modifications I’ve developed over time. I am never far from pen and paper, the weekly schedule, the daily post-it and a kitchen timer. Also, optimally, I get forty minutes of vigorous exercise per day to help quiet the ceaseless ticker-tape of thoughts that is my brain. I take a multivitamin. I take my asthma medication once a day (twice if I can actually remember). I floss. I use fluoride rinse. I really hate cavities. I sleep with a splint to treat plantar fasciitis and a CPAP mask. I definitely do not wake up sexy like Sarah Haskins. I cook my own nutritious meals made mostly/usually from scratch at least four nights per week.
I go to talk therapy once a week to figure stuff out with someone entirely objective. It’s a luxury I’ve only been able to afford in the last couple of years and one I think everyone should have access to. I work from home, relatively free from human contact. Since I am an ambivert, I try to get some social interaction in at least once a week for my emotional well-being.
Thanks to folks who abuse stimulants, I have to go to an appointment to pick up a prescription for the aforementioned stimulants in person and then hand-deliver it to the pharmacy where I wait around for them. Every month. No such thing as auto-refill for the brain inclined to be forgetful! I try to have at least one chiropractic appointment a month. Why? I can’t quote you any other facts or research on this other than I know I feel better afterwards. I try to make a massage appointment for the same reason. I fly often for work and the whole travel process just crumples my body. Crumples is the best word I have. Chiro and massage help me uncrumple and :::grateful sigh::: are covered by my company’s health insurance plan. I have to remember to order supplies for my CPAP machine. Some supplies I order every month, some every three months, some every six months.
Fortunately, for now, it’s just a regular annual exam. Soon enough there’ll lots of -grams and -oscopies in my future. And thank goodness that stupid, shame-inducing annual physical fitness test is all in the past. Not that things have gotten much better since then. But, I digress again. I’m enjoying all the benefits of my mid-30s while I can.
This is a lot. It’s a job that doesn’t end. I am heavily reliant on my smartphone’s calendar function to schedule alerts and reminders. I frequently get praised for taking care of myself (“Oh that’s so great that you make the time to do that for yourself”) but I guess I just don’t see this stuff as apart from my life. To be all corporate, I’m the project manager of my health and I’m quite a good project manager. As I wrote at the beginning of this post, self-care can be interpreted in multiple ways. Some use it to refer to things that are optional or lower priority. In some cases, there’s a real stigma attached to taking time to care for yourself before striking off other items on your to-do list. In the wild, one tiger doesn’t say to another: “Oh, look at you, killing a gazelle for lunch. Good for you!” For me, self-care is just a part of survival. I’m a survivor.