Month

May 2014

A different type of self-care

I have had some sort of sore throat/ears are full/swallowing gives me sharp pains/no energy/other pleasant symptoms going on this whole week.

And I haven’t gone to the gym, or exercised, since then. In fact, I’ve barely done anything after work besides lay on the couch and occasionally go into the kitchen to make more tea.

This will resonate with you in one of two ways. Either you’re thinking, “Well, that makes sense, I would hope she’s done nothing but rest” or you’re thinking “Oh that’s so frustrating to lay around and do nothing.”

When you’re sick, you need to rest. But that statement, which should be so simply interpreted, has so many complex layers. Like, my mom reminding me, “When you’re sick you have to take care of yourself.” But going to the gym IS taking care of myself! Working out, in whatever form, helps my brain calm down, helps my digestive system do its job better, helps me feel grounded and strong and solid. So my self-care IS going to the gym! How could I not do it? Plus, in the spirit of being real and raw, I will admit that a part of my brain did start asking me, “Do you need to worry about this? Will you lose muscle or gain weight from laying around on the couch and doing nothing?” The good news? The core part of me, the healthy strong wonderful part of me, that had taken a backseat the past few weeks, did feel a little apprehensive but spoke up and quickly answered, “No. It feels weird and it feels different but this is NOT something I need to worry about.” And for the most part, I didn’t.

Anyway, I guess what I’m mulling about in my minds is how important it is to remember that self-care takes many forms. And it can look different on different days and in different situations. So in this case? Self-care is laying on the couch and napping and eating a lot of brown rice pasta smothered with cheese. Another day self-care is a hard workout at the gym. And the same goes for anything – some days self-care is drinking two glasses of wine and other days it’s not. Some days self-care is calling a friend, other days it’s having alone time.

Re-reading that I’m struck by (duh – a should’ve been obvious conclusion) the word balance emanating from each of those sentences. And of course! Isn’t that what everything is about? Finding a balance between…well….everything?

I am finding balance. My tea and blankets and books and naps have served me well and I have stretched out my body before bed and in the morning and my body feels good and glad that I rested it and THAT was my self-care these days.

On being where you’re at

There is something powerful about being real. And raw.

About answering “Not good” to one of your truest friends who is asking you, and really truly wants to know, “How are you doing?”

About having your friend and teacher ask you, “What’s wrong?” because she just knew you were “in it.”

About cuddling up next to your fiance and saying your thoughts and fears, and having him pull you closer and making you laugh.

About telling a trusted co-worker exactly where you’re at, and having the response be, “You can always come to me. There won’t ever be any judgment.”

About just allowing yourself to BE, wherever it is that you’re at, without hiding, without pretending, without faking. No matter what that means, wherever that is for you.

We’re afraid to be judged, we’re afraid to be seen as “dramatic”, we’re afraid we’re complaining too much. We’re afraid.

But the fear makes us think that we have to BE in ourselves, as ourselves, BY ourselves. And we don’t.

p.s. There’s also something powerful about writing this blog post, and knowing you’re being real and raw in it, and knowing people will read it, and knowing they might have thoughts about it, and that they’ll make assumptions, but also feeling okay about that, because being real and raw is what you believe in, and you’re brave, and part of having this blog is to be true and honest, so knowing it will resonate with people and maybe not with others, but it’s all okay.

Clarifying

I would like to clarify a few things about my last post. Now that I’ve actually read what I wrote, heard some good feedback, and had a great conversation with my dad about it, I’m have a bit more clarity.

I’m going to start with an example. Examples and metaphors and comparisons help me fully understand things. So: imagine that, when I was born, there was some way of knowing that I was going to be a highly-sensitive introvert. Would I have wanted doctors to tell my parents, “eh, just let her be, it’s who she is and whatever that brings with it, she’ll deal with, it’s just her”? NO. What I would want them to say is, “Your daughter is a highly-sensitive introvert. Let’s give her support around managing her sensitivities and intense emotions, help her with her anxieties and obsessions, and capitalize on how this makes her who she is.” If those same doctors had said, “Your daughter is going to be a highly-sensitive introvert! Let’s help her recover from this so that she never feels extreme emotions and doesn’t have anxieties and quirks” then I would’ve lost who I am at my core. I would have lost my love for nature, my mixing of senses, my tearing up at a sunset or a song, my intuition around people, my understanding of the kids I work with…..it goes on and on.

That is what I was trying to get at in my last post. Do I want doctors to say, “Your child is autistic. Okay, good luck with that”? Of course not! I’m a speech-language pathologist. I believe in therapies, of all forms. I believe in therapies in all forms for all individuals, neurotypical or autistic. I believe in early intervention, I believe in getting children all the supports they need as early as possible.

I believe in helping them to be functional in their lives. Being as independent as possible. Being safe. Forming friendships. Connecting with others. Learning.

But I don’t believe in trying to extinguish their personal interests, their stims, their scripts, their quirks. That’s their core, that’s who they are. If we try to remove those (harmless) aspects of them, we remove their essence.

So when it comes to treating autistic individuals, there’s a difference between removing their core being, and helping them reach their full potential and quality of life.

And, as my dad pointed out, it’s also an issue of semantics. The term “recovery” is just a dangerous term here. It indicates that the individual is afflicted with something that needs to be fully gone. So, I’m particularly sensitive to the idea of helping kids “recover” from autism. Again, it’s an and, not a but. I’m sensitive to the term “recovery” from autism. And, I believe we should do everything in our power to support them to be the best they can be, as they are.

Babbles about autism

Warning: this is not going to be coherent. (Although, if you’ve read any of my posts, that won’t surprise you). This is a stream of consciousness, not edited, not thought-out, not planned. Just thoughts spewing out.

I was told about a woman who wrote a book called Autism: Pathways to Recovery. I was immediately apprehensive, because anytime the words “autism” and “recovery” are in the same sentence, my heart starts to beat a little bit faster. I glanced through the book, and I do like some of this woman’s thoughts. Being the daughter of a well-known, truly incredible (not just saying that….really) naturopathic/homeopathic doctor, who has helped countless people with various physical and mental conditions, by treating the whole person, the underlying causes, the deeper issues within the system, I do firmly believe in naturopathy. I also do believe that autism is a genetic/environmental interaction. Maybe some people are wired for autism and don’t present as autistic, maybe some are wired for autism and with toxins and environmental substances and issues, they do present with autistic behaviors. I think that’s part of it, and I also think there’s part we don’t know, and I also think that it’s more important to help promote autism acceptance and support rather than harping on a specific gene that may or may not cause autism. HOWEVER. I do not believe that every person’s autism is caused by environmental toxins. I do not believe that autism is something that can all of a sudden “disappear” with the right treatment. Yes, I think that there are some people (because I know of some) who do have a better quality of life with diet modifications, reducing inflammation, healing the digestive system, and treating various bacterial overgrowths. But doesn’t anyone?! I mean – my quality of life is better now that my digestive system is healing. Most people feel better when they stop eating refined sugars and genetically modified foods. So, yes, of course, autistic individuals will also have some improvement in their quality of life when those modifications are made. But there is a BIG difference between improving quality of life, and recovering from a disease. Autism is not a disease.

I know some may disagree. I know some see autistic individuals, particularly those who are completely unable to care for themselves, who can’t speak, struggle to communicate, hurt themselves, and think that autism is an awful affliction. And, I understand that. And, I understand that we need to do everything we can to make their lives as full of life as possible, whatever that means for each individual.

But it’s so dangerous when we start talking about autism as a disease, as something we need to recover from. And that’s what this author does. Over and over, she promises recovery, she promises that children will get the chance to get better, to recover, to be free from this condition. And that’s not fair to all of the autistic individuals out there. Autism is a part of them. It’s not a disease. We can’t equate autism to cancer, to depression, to Alzheimer’s. I think of my students with autism. Their lives are hard. I’m not denying that. These issues are not mutually exclusive. It’s not a “but”, it’s an “and”. It is hard to be autistic. AND, it’s not something we need to “save” our kids from. Autism is a part of who they are – if we took away the autism from them, I don’t know who they would be. They’d lose their personality, their characteristics, their amazing quirks and brilliant insights. They wouldn’t be themselves.

I stopped reading when the author wrote, “I will not give up until every child is given the chance to recover; until all of the
pieces of the puzzle fit together, and this chronic condition no longer threatens the next generation.” I was then fuming, and immediately started typing this blog post.

I have no doubt that this author is a brilliant doctor. I firmly believe, even without knowing her, that she means well. That she works hard. That she comes from a place of caring. That she has good insights. That she’s done years of research. That her research is substantiated. That she is a research-based doctor, not a clinical doctor. That that makes a difference.

But there’s danger in only seeing her side.

(I’m not even going back and re-reading what I wrote, because it’s likely so disorganized that it makes no sense, and I probably omitted key points and facts and I will likely get a lot of flack for it, but that’s okay, so here we go, posting it now. Please share your thoughts – I am certainly no expert, nor am I coherently expressing my thoughts, and I would love to hear what you think, whether you angrily disagree with what I wrote or whether some of it resonated with you. I’m all about the stream of consciousness)

 

Tainted

It is so hard for me, lately, to feel positive about one thing in isolation, without it being tainted by (my own doing?) negative feelings about something else.

That was not coherent.
(This – another level of understanding of my 5th grade student who, told me, “I know it in my brain but I can’t explain it.”)

Anyway. I feel good about having cleaned the kitchen, but then discouraged that I didn’t clean anywhere else. Good that I caught up with a friend, bad that there are 3 other people I need to call. Proud that I wrote a blog post, defeated that I didn’t respond to my emails. Accomplished and strong for going to the gym, discouraged that I didn’t do more there. It’s so easy to fall into that perfectionistic way of being. It’s so easy to let successes be tainted. Well – am I letting it, or is it just happening? Am I doing it to myself (blame?) or is it just occurring (cop-out?)? Does it matter?

For the record – staying present, in the moment, is not always as easy as we make it out to be.

If only I could capture it

Do you ever wish that you could capture other senses, the way we are able to capture sight with photographs?

I take so many pictures of flowers, sunsets, the sky – and I can always go back to them, which I do, and look at them – remembering what those colors and that light looked like. Anytime I want to.

But I wish I could bottle the other senses, too. I wish I could capture what spring air smells like, what a warm breeze feels like. When I step outside and the air is just….perfect, I drink it in. I take deep breaths and gulp in the sweet air, allowing it to course through my body. If only there was a way to put that smell, that feeling, into a cup or a bottle or a picture or a something, so that on a cold, dreary day, or when I feel run down or discouraged, I could have that air back, the same way I can go to my pictures and look at that sunset.

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