Okay, friends, grab a cup of coffee or tea. This post has been in the works for a while, and it’s a lot of personal insight. Typically, I try to write, not from a place of hurt or change, but rather when I’m on the other side of things, healed. But occasionally, I feel the need to share my real, raw experience because maybe it’s something that will resonate with you too? Every single one of us is going through something (or will at some point) … I feel like there’s no need to pretend otherwise. You know?
An Invitation to Change
Lately, I’ve been feeling … crappy. And by that, I mean my body (autoimmune symptoms flaring), soul (heaviness, depression) and mind (complete fog). This is nothing new. I’m well versed in the patterns that show up when I need to begin taking better care of myself … and also taking a good, hard look at my life’s inventory.
Maybe your patterns look different than mine? Still … going through rough patches, however they may show up, is an invitation to transform.
It’s easy to get frustrated with ourselves when we feel less than optimal. Those of us type-A people can feel like these symptoms are just another annoyance getting in the way of our goals. So we push them aside, push through … push, push, push. Always pushing.
Ignoring our hurts — whether physical, mental or spiritual — is about as effective as ignoring your child when they need you. They’ll persist, gently at first, and if they need to they’ll resort to tugging and throwing themselves on the ground in a full-on tantrum. Whatever they can do to get our attention as long as we’re ignoring their needs.
At some point, those cries for attention become full blown sirens and we risk breaking. I’ve broken a few times before, and what I’ve come to realize is that these symptoms are simply an invitation to wake up. And do things differently. Look at things differently. Offload anything that no longer serves my journey.
Being in the dumps can be an invitation to change. But we have to be willing to re-frame it that way. And trust me, some days I find it easier to wallow in self-pity or resentment, fanning the flames of discontentment, rather than pick myself up and try to see things from a higher perspective.
Currently, I’m still huddled under the cozy blanket of being generally pissed off about not feeling 100% myself. I can complain all I want in this place, but I know too well from experience that, if I truly want to move through this, I’ll need to put my big girl pants on and begin the work.
And the work begins by acknowledging the invitation to change. And then accepting it.
Here’s the thing with autoimmune disease: energy is a finite resource for us. It can vary widely by the day, but in a very simplified analogy, you wake with a set amount of fuel in your tank. Once you hit E, you’re empty. Done for the day. And some days for me, that was at 9a.m. at the beginning of a full day with two children. On rock star days, I could make it through till bedtime. It is as predictable as a two-year-old running amok in a crowded mall (insert heavy sarcasm here.) You just never know what you’re going to get.
When I am all tapped out, running on fumes, I’ve found the best remedy is to make my world small. By that, I simply mean letting go of anything that feels like too much … too negative, too demanding, too tiring. It’s like de-cluttering a closet.
As I move through my days, I’ll begin to realize the things that are simply hanging around and maybe need to be let go. I start to notice people or places or situations that make me feel heavy. Icky. And then? I kindly let those things go … maybe not forever, but for now.
Here’s what it looks like in my life currently:
Social media … sometimes, I. Just. Can’t. (Other times I can!) But if my life feels like a bit too much, then peeping into others’ lives feels like taking on way too much. So, I take a social media detox until I feel differently. I deleted Facebook from my phone recently. I resist the urge to get lost in the black hole of Instagram.
Social obligations … something in me feels like, in order to be liked or a good friend or mother or wife or whatever, I must always attend. And not just attend, but be there with bells on! With a bottle of wine and a Pinterest-worthy appetizer! At the class party with cute gluten-free cupcakes! And all this, having been showered and in something other than yoga pants! (And an actual shower and not just a deodorant band-aid situation.) But I no longer say yes to everything. I just can’t. And I accept that others may not get me or my situation.
Asking for help … this is something I cringe at doing. I’m not good at asking for anything. It’s something I’m trying to get over. I’ll be the first to volunteer to pick up your kid if need be, to host the playdate or dinner or bring dinner if you’re sick … but when the tables are turned, I just feel weird and needy. So I stay quiet and feel resentful. Yeah — that’s not okay and it’s entirely my issue to grapple with. So, little by little, I’m asking for tiny bits of help. Can my husband and kids help me clean the house? Can I call my brother and vent my frustrations when I’m feeling upset? My friend Heidi once said something that really resonated with me. She said, “you deserve to take up space in this world.” I think of that a lot and try not to feel guilty taking up space.
Letting things go … most of the time, my priorities are made for me based on the amount of energy I have. For example, today my house looks like a tornado whipped through an American Girl doll store and then someone came along afterwards and barfed on everything single surface. This is not an exaggeration. But, I have a full day of work ahead of me. In years past, I’d clean like a madwoman, then work, then make dinner. Today? I’ll work, because that’s my priority, I’ll probably take a nap because I’ll be very tired, and then bring my kids home to the barfed-on American Girl Doll situation and microwave chicken nuggets. We will all survive, and I daresay we will all be happier because I won’t be an exhausted, grumpy mess.
Often it can feel isolating or lonely to do the right thing for our health and well-being, because we live in a society that values productivity, energy, happiness all the time, etc. Those of us with autoimmune diseases may even feel an additional layer of isolation because, while we may not look sick, we certainly don’t feel healthy all the time.
My Silver Lining
But here’s the silver lining, friends: letting go of all of the things in our lives that weigh too heavily or don’t fit anymore naturally opens the door for the real gifts to shine. Through this whole process, I continue to be amazed at what shows up in my life as a result of me focusing on just the essentials.
I don’t have a huge social network as I once did, but I now have a handful of treasured friends who I consider family as they’ve continued to love me through difficult times. My husband has proven to be my biggest advocate and best friend, and it’s strengthened our marriage. I’ve learned so much about grace … going easy on myself. And oddly enough, this has translated to how I mother my girls as well.
And above all, I continue to be humbled in a way that brings forth gratitude. Gratitude for the days I feel like myself. And even for the rough patches because they continue to refine me in a way I’m really liking.
I saw a quote once that said something about, “Don’t try to be everything, all the time. Just be you … and see who or what shows up.” I just love that. Maybe that’s the whole point of a soul detox, seeing what shows up … and letting everything else kindly go.