by danielle lewin
Here’s the first thing you should know about me; I’m the worst person to ask about self care. “Why” ?? I hear you cry; well the answer is simple…I am ex health and social care worker! Now you are all looking slightly confused and turning to each other “eh.”?? “ surely someone who worked in the care industry supporting, guiding and mentoring others, working on a daily basis to help people overcome their life challenges, surely she above all others should know how to practice self care? Doesn’t she know every “trick’ in the book?” I look you all straight in the eye, clear my throat and find the courage to say; no my friends sadly not. And worse than this, I stand before you and say ‘ I am actually here to confess to SELF NEGLECT…( the crowd gasps in horror)…
How did this chain of events come to pass? That’s a question that needs a bit more thought.
Perhaps I’ll start in the middle, with ‘where has this realisation come from?’. Well, last year as with many people, Chronic illness came knocking at my door with the intention of turning my world upside down for the second time in my life. After fighting the good fight with ME (and winning) as a youngster, once more it was my turn to step into the ring, this time with FND. Once the circus that is severe symptom onset, diagnosis, denial, Countless GP visits and referrals, tears, tantrums, social work involvement, social care provision and of course, benefits (aaaargghhh); had packed up and left town, I found myself very much alone and thinking ‘how did I get here exactly?’
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a pity party. Neither is it a happy day out with that good old friend of the carer guilt and self blame, and a stick to beat yourself with as the chosen activity. No one asks for, deserves or should have to go through chronic illness. But what became apparent me was how much I had neglected the most important person in my life, ME! Hang on (the audience looks a bit disapproving here) isn’t that an incredibly selfish thing to think? I look at the audience and smile, “I am proud to say no, it isn't!’… Somewhere in amongst the vocation that was my working life, where I put other people first every day, the enduring love and support I have for my friends and family, the day to day business of caring for my home, all the milestones I tried to reach, I had forgotten about me. It was apparent in all the things I wanted to do for myself but never seemed to get round to doing, all the missed family occasions I never went to due to work, all the words I needed to say but never did, all the times I said yes when I should have said no…
You see that’s what self care is actually about, isn’t it’s? It’s listening to yourself, expressing what you really need to say ( even if it’s hard for others to hear) and doing things that actually make you happy, not pretend happy. It comes in all shapes and sizes, from the cup of tea you make yourself after you’ve managed to complete the washing up, the Pyjama and Netflix day you permit yourself to have because your body just isn’t up to anything else today, to the broken fences you attempt to fix, and the people you finally speak the truth to about how you really feel; you are important, you matter, you deserve to be happy!!! So here’s the really good news, for those of you who find yourselves nodding along to what I say; the cure for self neglect is self care! Yes you heard me right, there’s actually a cure for something, yay! Pick up that book you’ve meant to read but never ‘found the time’ run that hot bath and let your other half look after the kids for half an hour, be honest with those around you even about the stuff that you find hard to say or even admit to yourself…. Self care isn’t selfish, it’s a form of love, and love is something that we all deserve, isn’t it? Especially in this crazy, heartbreaking, life changing world of chronic illness.