Taking time off to take care of myself when I’ve had VWD-related issues, whether its an injury or a period, has always been a problem for me. I have always felt guilty about it. That I’m letting other people down, that it makes me weak, that it makes me unable to control my condition, that I can’t plan around it or out-think it. That I fail in my obligations – to work or school or friends, that I can’t function in the world. I’ve thought all of these things, often all at once.
As anyone with a chronic or congenital condition knows, recovery from an incident or flare up isn’t simple. Often, just taking a little bit of rest and your meds doesn’t quite cover everything. There’s the other ‘stuff’ – for me this means being exhausted from nutrient deficiency, among other things. Not that I don’t eat well, but I just loose so much blood on a period (the most recent one is between 4 to 5 times the average, its still going AND its actually better than it has been this year!). I was certainly hoping to feel better by now, given I’ve been bleeding for 8 days, but I’m still feeling really dopey. I got a good amount of sleep in, but today, Sunday, I still needed a 3 hour nap from doing pretty much nothing all day.
Where this becomes a problem is that I don’t live in the kind of world that makes allowances for illness. In Australia, if you’re a full time employee you get a maximum of 10 days sick or personal leave, which of course I never get to accumulate in any large amount, and then after that I either have to pay for time off out of annual leave or my own money (and who of us has a nice little sick fund put aside to cope with these absences?). The world forces itself on you, even when engaging in it is everything your body (and probably even your doctors) advise against. This has been a struggle for me – managing health in balance with being able to afford it. Its all well and good to take the time to heal, but what happens when that comes at the expense (literally!) of your health care? In order to eat well and rest and exercise for my health, I need money. But I also need time, and taking time prevents me from making money. Its quite the pickle.
This last week, I’ve been able to put this argument with my ego aside. I have had to do some saving up of additional sick leave for myself over the last few months, so I had, between the two funds, enough money to take all of last week off. It felt beautiful getting to take the time I knew my body needed. More than that, it felt right, like it was the exact thing I needed to be doing. Its taken me such a long time to get to the point where I felt ok with putting myself first and not feeling ashamed about it, and I’m pretty sure not stressing about it has helped with my symptom management, like I spoke about here.
So I’ve decided to do a similar thing this week. On Monday, I just worked for 4 hours, then took the rest of the day off, allowing myself to relax and snooze on the couch at home. I’m still feeling really drained (as evidenced by my need for napping!), and logically I know I’m of very little use to anyone when I’m like this. When I’m exhausted like this, remembering even the phone spiel for work is a struggle – even whether to say ‘morning’ or ‘afternoon’ when I’m staring at the clock can get problematic (I’m not the only one who gets this, right?).
Its such a hard thing to prioritise when you have a chronic or congenital illness – your own health, and to be aware that it may have to be a constant focus, not a temporary inconvenience. I’ve always struggled with accepting help, from others, of course, but I’m just realising now that I have trouble accepting it from myself. In giving myself permission to rest and heal I’m helping myself, which in turn means admitting that there is something wrong in the first place. Cue the crazy monkey chatter! I’ve learned so much this year about how my body responds to many things, like food and exercise, and now, I’m learning how my mind responds to things (thankyou Tara for your guidance and nudging in this area). Allowing myself time to heal doesn’t mean I’m a failure, in fact I think its really strong. It also doesn’t mean I’m doomed to be poor. (For the record, writing that last sentence was really difficult for me, so if you’re struggling with that concept, I’m right there with you!)