Writing this blog has been way harder than I thought. Surely this should get easier the more I do it. But, at first when I was writing this one I was utterly euphoric, I would talk about balance and share my infinite wisdom. I loved this and I have totally got it together. But in reality who am I to write about balance? If I had it together so well why would I need to write this blog in the first place? Truth be told I’m a fraud to even talk about this. But maybe that’s why I should share. That sacred search for balance has eluded me for so long now but I never give up trying to find it. Maybe that’s why I should share because I am the eternal optimist when it comes to balance. Forever searching…
I’m just in the throws of returning to work after another period of time off again with another flare up and honestly it’s gut wrenching. All the familiar feelings of loneliness, failure, guilt and disappointment rise up like a phoenix from the flames. I swear those sorts of feelings are like cockroaches no matter how viciously I think I have fought and beaten them, the smallest blip in my recovery allows them to emerge and seek their revenge. It’s a war not a battle. Must keep reminding myself of that… This whole flare up was disappointing as I was back to work full time and I thought I had cracked it and was managing things again, evidently that was not the case.
In some ways that constant drive to prove I am just as good as everyone else along with a need to continue pushing myself to do more in physio was hurting me. All because I can’t give up and be seen to let this get the better of me. For those of you who know me, you won’t be entirely shocked by that statement. But, trying to juggle all of this along with being good wife, friend, daughter, sister and employee, along with looking after the dog and having a life outside of CRPS has made me think a lot about balance.
We all strive for it in our lives whether it be a work/life balance, a balanced diet or even just finding the balance to have time to look after yourself. This is difficult for all of us at the best of times with the pressures of modern life and feeling like we always have to achieve more and be better. Add into the mix social media and comparing yourself to everyone else’s seemingly perfect lives in your timeline and it seems harder to find that balance we all crave.
Self care is the new hot craze and so many people are talking about making self care a priority in order to be better in the rest of their lives. If I meditate and do yoga everyday, eat a balanced diet, educate myself by actually having the time to read then I will be a better person, right? I’ll have more to give to others, perform better at work and maybe even feel altruistic and have more time to volunteer. For those of you who achieve this utopian life style, great for you. For the rest of us it’s an up hill battle for elusive balance to fit in around my 4th coffee of the day and everything else I have to do that day.
Here is the kicker though, how do you find balance when you body is perpetually in fight or flight mode? Seriously? My condition means that my messed up nervous system is constantly screaming DANGER, DANGER. Because, as we all know, pain is one of your bodies defence systems. Pain is your bodies way of telling you something is wrong, but my injury healed a long time ago. Frustrating as hell that my body is still in danger mode.
So, like you, I face all of the usual modern life challenges plus the trying to pace myself and manage my illness. Now in theory it sounds so easy. Plan your activities (boring), take regular rests (when), don’t try to do too much at once (that’s what we all do) and try to manage your energy reserves (eh?).
For those of you not familiar with the Spoonie Theory it is an analogy used to help explain how people with disabilities or chronic illnesses only have a limited amount of energy to get the tasks of the day done before it can start to be detrimental to you. You only have so many spoons you can use in a day no matter how much you have to do. Now you can borrow from tomorrows spoons allowance but that will leave you short tomorrow so it’s risky. Basically our batteries never get fully charged and they are kind of leaky so run out a lot faster too. Think about how crappy the battery on your phone performs when you are desperate for an upgrade and you feel like you are forever charging it, rubbish right?
Well now imagine that the amount of battery you get to use changes from day to day so all that planning and pacing goes right out the window when you wake up with only 10% battery to last for todays activities. Now here is where I want to be crystal clear on what I mean by activities, I don’t mean the big things like taking the dog out, going to work, making dinner or cleaning the house. I mean having a shower, brushing my teeth, getting ready for the day, walking downstairs, walking from the sofa to the garden. I still have to pace even those mundane activities, like having to have a lie down when I get out of the shower or 45 minutes lay on the sofa when I unload the dishwasher.
This is my reality on the difficult days and it is the same for so many other people in a similar situation but, why is finding that coveted balance so difficult for all of us? As boring as it sounds it’s because finding balance takes hard work, commitment and some bloody tough decisions. Those tough decision can be the smaller everyday things like moving to online food shopping (even when you are a control freak), not unloading the dishwasher or deciding you can’t stand in the shower long enough to shave your legs (if you can take a shower at all). To the bigger things like cancelling plans because you know you just can’t manage, not going to certain places with friends because accessibility will be a problem or considering if you need to reduce your hours at work. These are the ones that can really hurt your pride and feeling of self worth.
I have been working on finding balance in my life for the longest time. I do mindful breathing, meditation, daily stretches and physio exercises and try as much as humanly possible to pace my activity without feeling like a sofa slob. I am certainly not always successful in these endeavours and being mentally prepared to prioritise self care is not easy. I want to go to that gig, have midweek dinner out with friends, party at the weekend, do day trips with the dog, have fun with family, go shopping and travel way more. In reality doing all of this while holding down a job and keeping the house in order is just not possible and something always has to give and I invariably don’t always make the smart choice. I try my very best but sometimes life is about having fun and I just have to accept I will pay the price for less than sensible decisions.
For now though my focus is all about doing the right thing. I’m on a phased return at work and I’m struggling even with reduced hours and it’s really disappointing. I have cut back on so many of my out of work activities and to still be struggling is a little heart breaking. However, I refuse to give up and it may take a little time but I will get to where I need to be. It’s a constant battle in my own mind to be better and do better and I will always feel like I am not doing enough. For now I am trying my best to ignore that voice in my head, take it one day at a time and hope that I find that balance I am so desperately searching for. In the mean time I have to forgive myself for not being perfect, accept where I am in my life and know that change is absolutely certain try as I might to control everything.