Isn’t that heart just the best image for when you keep putting others needs above your own? You just end up bleeding out.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am so guilty of this too. I think as people who suffer from chronic illness we have this awful tendency to try and put others needs first out of guilt that so often we let them down or can’t be there for them in the way that we would if we weren’t sick. It’s like we bargain with ourselves that if we push and go to that party or help that friend out, it will make up for all those times we couldn’t. The thing is it normally just lands us in a flare and has us cancelling other plans that we will feel guilty about.
Rather than this bargaining system we should be following the idea that we can’t pour from an empty cup or my preferred version of this which is ‘put your own gas mask on first’ (like they tell you to do on aeroplanes.) I find this helpful as it reminds me that not doing this could result in suffocation and really that’s what happens when you constantly put others first.
I also find the hustle culture and the idea that we must constantly be doing is so pervasive in this society that no matter how many times I remind myself that to be present for my loved ones I have to make sure I take care of myself. I always seem to get sucked back into this cycle. I am going to put a link to an excellent article on this that you definitely need to read. It talks about how self care is becoming all about consumerism and in actual fact it’s more about parenting yourself and making the hard decision (and the unpopular ones) to create a life for yourself that you don’t regularly need to escape from.
Now that concept can seem massive as someone with chronic illness. Sometimes escapism is all we have when the pain is too much but what we are talking about is the stuff that runs along side the pain. The life part, that no matter how sick you are, you deserve to have.
This comes from an article which was looking into how beneficial self care can be when managing a chronic illness but also why doctors aren’t able to supply more of these kind of resources.
Interestingly what the paper also hits on, other than it being time that is the reason that doctors can’t offer this, is that doctors themselves actually don’t have the time or energy to be doing this kind of self care either. Doctors are actually in the high risk category of getting chronic illnesses because of the amount of stress they are under. If they are unable to preform this kind of self care despite knowing the benefits and risk it shows why it’s so difficult for patients too.
The article actually goes one step further and suggests that the way around this issue is to have ‘health coaches’. This would be a restructure of the current medical system. These health coaches would deal with all aspects of self management such as exercise, diet and all the other ‘alternative’ medicines and they would then work closely with the rest of your medical team to provide the best care that isn’t just pharmaceutical. This is an important first step to enacting real change that would actually help the current health care system that is frankly failing those with chronic illness but it would also benefit the patients. Financially it also makes sense as the stats show that having education in correct movement and nutrition for example can really benefit the patient.