This summer has been a time of introspection for me. Between an injury that most certainly slowed me down to a minor procedure last week that wound up being not so minor after all, I’ve spent a lot of time on my butt. As someone who is constantly in motion, I’ve found this maddening and realized that some not-so-kind behavior occurs when I’m in this zone of discomfort.
As a child who suffered abuse for years, it’s taken me an entire lifetime to come to peace with being at peace. I was in my late thirties before I learned to fall asleep without some light or ambient noise or to sit in a room in silence with nothing but my thoughts. When I’m able to use fitness as an outlet for excess energy and/or life is going pretty well, I feel pretty fulfilled and balanced. I take regular bubble baths, I can spend hours happily writing in solitude with no need for company or distractions; I’m a peaceful, happy little creature.
But give me a good, long rough period and I can do some serious damage. I’ve caught myself practicing some old bad behaviors over the past six weeks.
I have to be aware of my default setting in uncomfortable situations, which is to turn nervous energy inward. So, when life got out of balance and I didn’t have the tools I’d developed to deal with excess worry and nervous energy, I become hyper-vigilant, my brain couldn’t find a moment’s peace with all the racing thoughts, and I started to do things to self-soothe, like online shopping and overeating.
I literally caught myself in the act. Right before my outpatient procedure two weeks ago, I was working on a bunch of articles for clients and sort of “woke up” with my laptop open to at least three different sites screaming, “BUY THIS NOW! EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED IS ON SALE AND YOU WILL FEEL HORRIBLE FOR MISSING OUT!” at me, and I was surrounded by ice cream bar wrappers. It was a scene out of one of those teen movies where the parents come home from a trip after leaving said teen in charge of the house to discover that the house has been destroyed by a wild party. I was shocked and dismayed. But, then I sat there and thought, “Now, why did I just do that?”
That’s a different path for me, that kind moment of observation. Instead of hours of self-flagellation that would eventually turn into a shame spiral with a toilet flushing sound clearly audible around my ears (because life WOULD be going down the drain with further self-admonishment,) I sat back and watched the racing thoughts and realized that I was actually afraid. I was afraid of having the procedure done. I was afraid of gaining more weight since I couldn’t work out. I was told my blood pressure was out of control at one point, and what was I going to do about that? The posts aren’t done for the blog, the photos aren’t edited, and all I wanted to do was take a nap, but how could I with all this work to do?
And so, for the first time in a really long time, I forgave myself and took the damned nap. I didn’t need more angst; I needed a break. When we don’t give our bodies the break it deserves, it will take the ones it can get. For me, if I’m not sleeping and managing anxiety, my body demands a moment of “feel good time,” and that usually means empty calories or clothes I don’t really need, neither of which I can really afford.
This is when I decided that I needed to back up off myself…period. People, we are so incredibly rough on ourselves. Many of us would never treat or speak to a friend the way we secretly treat the person who really matters most: us. We buy into this lie that we’re supposed to have it all handled, that we have to look a certain way or feel a certain way or it’s a sign of weakness or failure. When I thought I was failing, I turned against myself big time, and that is NOT the way to win at life or anything else.
So, I’m protecting myself from the part of myself that buys into the I Have To Be Perfect All The Time lie. I’m now the mediator between my emotions and my behavior, and negotiations have gone much better in the past few weeks. Instead of working out for three or more hours a day to make up for lost time or said ice cream bars, I’m slowly building strength and reducing unnecessary calories. Instead of trying to write nine pieces a day, I write two or three and then reward myself with something nice and calorie/harm-free, like new bubble bath from LUSH (the Blue Skies and Fluffy White Clouds Bubble Bar? I cannot discuss it without weeping —SO GOOD.) Ladies, we are our own best advocates, and sometimes you realize that the first person you need to champion yourself against is yourself.
Sometimes, it’s up to you to convince yourself that you need to take a breath, a vacation, a nap or just have a moment to feel your feelings and move on with life. No one will give you that break, gals and gents; you have to give it to yourself.
So, I’ve emerged from my injuries with a new understanding of my hidden harms. Maybe someday I’ll get to the point where I don’t have to mediate and advocate for myself against myself. But for now, all sides agree that I’m worth it, and we’re aligned to take care of me.