a new look at self-care


Last year around this time I posted this:

gifts i'm giving myself this year - 29goingon92.com


Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time revisiting where I was one month ago…six months ago….a year ago….five years ago, even. It helps me gain perspective as to the progress I’ve made, or in some cases, haven’t made.

When I look at the above graphic it’s like I’m looking at a person I hardly recognize. I’m looking at someone who views herself completely separately from her health, not yet realizing that the two are intertwined to the point that they can never be severed. I’m looking at a person who views self-care not as taking care of her body or mind, but as indulging in the whims and desires that any given moment might bring.

Currently, my graphic looks very different. I now write from a place of understanding that what I do for myself today not only impacts that moment but has the potential to set me up for future success or struggle. Even in dark moments when I can’t find the words to express this, I know that I am progressing, and I want to do everything within my power to improve my life. Some days that means I need to be alone and binge-watch Netflix, and other times I need to step outside my comfort zone and experience something new. Every day it means I need to listen to my body and give it what it needs, which may not align with what I feel like doing.

Today my graphic looks like this:




These are the things I am giving myself this holiday, and they’re not very different than what I’ve been working to keep in mind. Unlike the Anne of one year ago, I am a person with a clear, defined goal which I am anxious to accomplish. While this way of thinking can be problematic [more on that later], today I’m just grateful to be in a place where I know a handful of ways to help me get there.

finding balance


still moving

my sister, susie, finding her balance as she does yoga on a wooden rail

There was a certain level of comfort I associated with treating my chronic illnesses with the more “traditional” approaches we associate with Westernized medicine. I might not have enjoyed relying on doctors, surgeries, and pharmaceuticals to keep me going, but I was used to it. And in a body that felt…well…uncomfortable most of the time, I found an unexpected peace in maintaining this low level of functioning day after day.

I guess I could have waited until I “got better” before I gave up the safety net that pharmaceuticals provided, but having no confidence that would happen, I went for it, sure that there would be other things onto which I could hold. As time goes on, however, I realize that my old safety nets don’t offer me the same level of comfort they once did. The doctors that used to provide quick fixes to treat my symptoms no longer have anything to offer me. I’m not consulting with the surgeons I was last year because their options are limited and if I’m being honest, terrifying. I still need help though, and I still have a whole lot of questions and very few answers.

Luckily, the answers to my questions are out there, I just have to keep trudging along. Because I know that my case isn’t as odd as former physicians made it out to be. [I’m pretty sure what they called complicated was really just their response for I have no idea what to do.] I’m also lucky in that there are people in my life in full support of what I’m pursuing, and I’m constantly working on making that circle larger.

But today I’m unbalanced.

The crazy thing is that the more I learn the farther off-center I feel. An entire world of alternative methods to treat our body, mind, and spirit is ahead of me, and each step I take into that world I see how incredibly vast it is.

Maybe that unbalanced feeling is okay, though. It might feel like life is in a more tumultuous state than it was a year ago, but I don’t think that means that it is. Ignorance may be bliss, but it certainly didn’t serve me.

hard lessons and saying goodbye



Photograph by Susie Ewbank

Ugh, I hate this post so much. It’s not even written yet [although there have been several attempts] and I already can’t stand it. My aim is never to dump a purely negative post into the universe, but some days it’s hard to put a positive slant on what’s happening.

I think a lot of people with chronic illness would say the same thing. I think that sometimes our world gets so small that we cling to the few things that remain, and when one of those things isn’t working out, it’s as if the ground crumbles beneath our feet. You can try your hardest to find something good in there or distract yourself, but our options are generally limited.

That’s been my struggle since I said goodbye to my precious Celie dog. She became a major player in my little world, and a lot of days it seemed that she was all there was. In spite of her health, I felt like I hit the jackpot. Celie had nothing but love to give and won over the hearts of all who knew her. She was meant to be in my life, and if I knew what I know now, I would have still left the shelter that day holding her in my arms.

There is one key factor I would change, however. I wouldn’t dump so much of my happiness onto the shoulders of this little dog. I would try to love her without needing her to be happy. That was my mistake. The sadness I’m feeling is more than grief that will fade with time; it’s emptiness. It’s a reminder of a quiet house, a thin social calendar, and not enough to do. It’s the realization of how little I had without this dog, and being overwhelmed with the thought of rebuilding when I don’t feel strong enough.

This year I learned that in order for me to truly manage my pain the responsibility must be mine alone. I can seek treatment and council, but gone are the days of relying on emergency appointments and prescriptions to get me through the rough days, no matter how difficult they may be.

I now realize that the same principle must also be applied to my emotions. I’m not truly happy if I can’t find happiness when things aren’t going as I’d like. This state of being cannot be circumstantial. I would like to think that I would have been able to learn this lesson with Celie dog in my life, but perhaps that was never going to happen.

So, for now, that’s what I have. It’s another piece of this crazy puzzle, and I just need to figure out what to do with it. Thankfully, I’ve signed up for daily meditation basically through the end of the year, so I have a lot of opportunities to mull it over.