Sunday, October 13, 2013
I'm taking the advice from good Spark friend, SLENDERELLA61, and trying to be kind to myself this week. To me, being kind to myself means taking care of my body, my mind, my emotions and my spirit. It means paying attention to the signals that my body sends me. Signals like pain, hunger, fatigue, stress and any other unfulfilled needs. As a way of survival, I have pushed through many of these signals throughout most of my life. Well, right here, right now, it is time for me to stop and listen to all of the many signals - both big and small, both loud and soft. "How did I ever get to this point?" I ask myself over and over again. Taking a look at my past, gave me some great insight, which I will share.
As a child, we can't help the way those, who are involved with raising us, train us to respond to our own needs. In my case, signals like pain, illness, stress, hunger and fatigue were a major inconvenience to those around me. I was told to "suck it up" and go with the planned program. This meant that I broke bones, got ear infections that caused my ear drum to rupture, sprained my ankles, slit my neck open, skinned my knees, got cuts that should have been stitched, endured teasing and bullying, endured physical abuse and was expected to do it without complaint or any medical attention. It took a major emergency to get the attention of my family and to get medical attention turned in my direction. Is it any wonder that I have difficulty paying attention to the signals that my body sends?
As a young adult, I can remember feeling sick to the point of collapse. I had trouble breathing and had a hacking cough. I can remember trying to decide whether or not it was serious enough to warrant a call or potential visit to a doctor. After all, I didn't want to be an inconvenience to any one. I had absolutely no frame of reference for making such a decision. Consequently, a friend made it for me and she was very alarmed that I would even question the need for medical help! It turned out that I had double pneumonia that was one small step away from requiring hospitalization. My family was irked that I would choose that point in time to get sick because any plans involving me had to be changed. I was told that once again, I had ruined everything for everyone. My friends were shocked to say the least, but I downplayed the attitude of my family because I was embarrassed. Guess who took care of me? Yup, my friends and not my family. My family was worried about the cost of the medical care that I received.
Now, as a mature adult, I am appalled at the treatment that I received (or in some cases didn't receive) as a child. I wouldn't treat my family dogs as poorly as I was treated as a child! So did I take this knowledge and apply it to myself? Sometimes, I did. Mainly, I used my adult perception of my family's lack of attention to my health and needs, as a blue book guide of what not to do when I had children of my own. I was very attuned to the needs of my spouse and children. I turned myself inside out making sure that they were heard and got their needs met. I was an awesome spouse and mother to my children. However, I was still not a very good caretaker to myself.
I think that for a variety of reasons, many of us fall into the trap of being "not very good caretakers" to ourselves. If you look back into your past, as I did, most likely you can pinpoint the patterns, that formed when you were a child, that interrupt the ability to be able to catch those signals. Our bodies give out a variety of signals, in lots of different ways, all day, every day. The trick is to retrain yourself to pick up on these signals and to listen to them. That sounds so simple but is in fact so complex, it makes the mind spin!
I would start my re-training with the pain or illness signal. Since these signals can potentially mean the difference between life and death, I feel they should get top billing. How does one decide if the pain they are feeling needs treatment, monitoring or just to be ignored. I've started asking lots of questions and have read many articles related to pain. Since my childhood caused me to have a very warped relationship to pain, I have to use external guides to determine where I fall in the severity of things.
Example: If I wake up with a sore throat, hacking cough and feel blah, I would go down the "flu verses cold" checklist. Do I have body aches or a fever? How suddenly did the illness come on? The answers to these questions could help me make a more informed decision. I do know this, a fever over 102 degrees, coughing up blood, having trouble breathing, having pain that is extremely severe are all considered to be acute and need medical attention. When in doubt, call your doctor and ask for advice. Err on the side of caution until you get a handle on the situation.
Even as a mature adult, I have still walked around on broken bones. I have still gotten pneumonia and put off getting sinus or ear infections treated. I still worry about inconveniencing other people by being sick or having a chronic condition flare up. Being around someone who is ill or suffering from a chronic condition isn't a picnic. The fact is, in today's society, many people will pass you by - but some will not. Breaking old patterns isn't easy. Taking care of yourself is a learned skill; it doesn't come naturally for some of us. As an adult, we do have the free will to make decisions about our own care. Once a person becomes aware that they need to take better care of themselves, they can no longer blame the lack of care that they receive on anyone else. I would like to say that my lack of self care is my parent's fault but the truth is, once I became aware that the care I received as a child was sub par, as an adult, it is my responsibility to step up to the plate and take care of my own needs. I need to find a way to tune into the signals that my body gives me. If this is an issue, then I need to find a way to re-educate myself. I was born with a voice and I need to learn to use it. I do have the ability to say no to doing things if I'm too tired. I do have the ability to pick up the telephone and ask for help or to call the doctor's office to get myself some help. It is very empowering to take charge of your own needs and the needs of your body. It puts us, as people, at the helm of our own ship on our journey to health and pain free living.