As I dashed to the toilet for yet another trip to embrace its cold seat, the thought crossed my mind that this is not what people think of when they talk of self care.
I was prepping for a colonoscopy, my first one at the age of 42, on this journey of something called self care. It was a foreign concept to me, something that seemed selfish even. I have often heard it in relation to taking bubble baths, developing hobbies, or eating chocolate.
I will tell you, while those things can be ways to care for yourself, they are not the foundations of self care.
When was the last time you had a physical? I often have asked this question to people, and the answer is almost always the same. “It has been awhile. I just don’t have time.” or “I haven’t found a doctor that I like, I should really do that.”
I like to compare it to car maintenance. While unromantic as that is, if we only take the car to the mechanic when it is running poorly, it is already too late. We missed catching the small things that could have prevented the big ones.
It is the same with physical care.
Are any of these things enjoyable?
- Preventative Testing such as Colonoscopies, Mammograms, Pap Smears, Prostate exams etc
- Daily Exercise
- Diet Evaluation
- Regular Physical examination
- Mental Health Support /Counseling
- Dental Care
They generally are not terribly enjoyable. I don’t know many women that would tell you, “I just love having my boobs squished in between plastic pieces while standing half naked in a cold room.” Or “Boy, that colonoscopy prep. That was so fun!”
I have heard of friends and acquaintances that have been diagnosed with life threatening issues such as cancer or other illnesses in the last while. For some, it was caught early during routine physicals. For others, it was sudden onset. And still others, it was not caught until too late as they waited to go in until it was emergent and treatment options were non existent at that point.
What does it take to take care of yourself? Is it taking a sabbatical from work, and resting by the seaside like the old fashioned people used to do?
Perhaps we could start with regular check ups, participating in tests that doctors recommend, getting daily exercise, eating a healthier diet, and taking time to get counseling/mental health support. In our society of go, go, go, we often don’t have the time, or take the time for these seemingly simple, mundane tasks. We put it off until we cannot anymore.
I was 21 years old when this reality hit me. I had spent the year pregnant, breastfeeding, and barely eating. I didn’t have money to buy food, time to cook what I had and it was just overwhelming all the way around. A fall down the stairs fractured a bone in my foot, and as I sat, confined to the couch with a toddler and newborn, I cried. When a doctor told me four weeks later that my foot was not healing because of poor nutrition, I attempted to listen. I live with pain in my foot because of the poor care I received, my choice to limit caloric intake for control purposes as well as lack of resources in my community. I also did not heal well after my birth of my son, whom is 21 now, and I still feel keenly the reminders that my choosing no medical care as it impacts not only me now, but impacts my son still.
Our choices to forgo self care impact others as well as ourselves. If we have a spouse, children or others that care about us, it will cause a fall out when we ignore these seemingly simple things. In the USA, these things are expensive as well. While some insurance plans cover prevention and maintenance, there are many that simply cannot afford it.
This is where the rubber meets the road, of how we lobby and vote as well. We should be aware of policies that cover or don’t offer coverage to the working general public to support these basic avenues of Self care. If we ignore that, we fail in our effort to give self care to ourselves and others.