I’ll share with you a little secret about health activists: many times we write about the importance of self-care whilst pushing ourselves to the brink. We work at times when we are physically and emotionally exhausted to push out the next blog post. To do another podcast. To say yes to another interview. I know there are times when I’ve done this too—when I’ve said yes to voluntary commitments that came at the worst possible time. I haven’t made a blog post in a few weeks because two things happened last month: My paternal grandmother passed away. Grief is hard. Bipolar disorder is hard. The combination of the two is well, very hard. After I felt better emotionally, I fell down late one night. Both of my legs were covered in bruises—purple, blue, black, brown bruises. I went against my own instinct and decided to rest—to really rest. In areas where I had a choice, I abstained from work. With my job-job, coaching debate, I worked. I had no choice. Certainly, many of us have been in worse positions—when we were denied disability and had to work full-time jobs regardless of the consequences on our health because the system screwed us over. But the question is: When you have a choice, do you push through the pain?
Old Habits Die Hard
Resting—like really resting and saying no—goes against my instincts. Growing up, my mom would often tell me, “Life is hard. Life is full of suffering.” I know she was just keeping it real, and certainly she is the most hardworking person I know. Sometimes, pushing through the pain is good. But sometimes, it’s not so good. Last month, I learned the value of not working through the pain.
Our Minds Need to Rest
My grandmother’s death was not sudden—she was 98-years old. We knew she was dying a week before she passed. I know from experience that loss can be a trigger for depression. So I practiced what I talk about in my TEDx Talk and I was proactive—I scheduled an appointment with my therapist as soon as I could. Coincidentally, my appointment with her happened hours after I learned my grandmother had passed away. (My grandmother lived on the other side of the world—I could not be there for her wake or funeral.) Talking to my therapist helped a lot. I was depressed after my grandmother’s death getting help reduced the severity and the length of my depressive episode.
Our Bodies Need Rest Too
With physical pain, I also learned the value of rest. Myasthenia gravis is no joke—while the fall (thankfully) was not the result of a myasthenia gravis attack, it was still an added burden to my daily battle against five illnesses. Here’s what happened in a nutshell: I was having some insomnia so I got up and made some hot cocoa (which usually helps me fall asleep) and opened up Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. I still haven’t read past the first two chapters, which shows you how effective that book is in dealing with insomnia. After I finished the hot cocoa, I put it on the table and got up out of my seat. As I got up, I tripped and fell on the table. Then I fell to the ground, which has no carpeting. I fell hard. Then, I tried to get up and ended up falling down again. Even harder. That’s how I collected all those bruises. The good news is my cocoa was finished so no hot water spilled on me. And I didn’t break anything. I know I didn’t break anything because I have had lots of experience in breaking bones and ER trips.
I abstained from blogging and posting on Facebook. My legs look much better now. I am getting better. Next week, I’ll be attending my college reunion. I know I would not be feeling better if I pushed myself to keep working.
How do you take care of yourself?
–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno