Friday afternoon rolled around with Presidents’ Day weekend on the horizon. Traditionally, I worked either over the weekend at my part-time job or worked on Presidents’ Day since most mental health agencies did not contract to have it as a marked holiday. This year, however, I had zero clients scheduled on Saturday or Sunday, and my agency was to be closed on Monday. This was the first time in over three years I actually had three consecutive days off planned. I mean I had missed time here and there, but usually due to being sick. This was meant to be a real break in the action where I could spend my time how I damn well pleased.
As soon as I got done work, I drove down the road to my local massage parlor and got myself a ninety-minute massage. Feeling loose and limber, I went to my favorite sushi joint in town and ordered four of my favorite rolls. This was followed up by hanging out with one of my good friends watching “Russian Doll” and catching up after not seeing each other since around her birthday.
I rolled over on Saturday morning to see my clock peeking back at me. The number “11” peered back at me. With delight, I stretched out and prepped myself to go grab lunch with a friend and then play Pokemon Go for the afternoon (It is my guilty pleasure. I can’t help it!). I met up with a few others around dinnertime to grab pizza. I went home shortly thereafter to maybe play some video games or watch YouTube. My weekend was going to plan.
A little later that evening, my stomach started to rumble, and I felt bloated. It was not anything out of the ordinary. I figured I had gas from the pizza I ate earlier. I did not think much of it. An hour or two passes by, and the pain worsens. I felt what seemed like a burp come up, and there it was. Up came my pizza. I had enough energy to clean out the trash can and immediately laid down. This was NOT how I wanted my weekend to be.
The next day my symptoms got worse. I was curled up in agony. I felt my temples pulsating on my eardrums. My body waxed and waned between feverish and chills. I could only keep my head up for a few moments at a time. As Sunday morning came around, I slowly saw my weekend of bliss withering away into one of illness.
It was also around this time I realized that this was going to be longer than I wanted it to be. I had to prepare myself appropriately. I waddled over to the shelf in my closet to see if I had any medication and- Yay! Peptobismol! I had a full, unopened bottle that somehow had not expired. I shuffled downstairs to the kitchen to see what food and drinks I had that my stomach could tolerate. I opened the fridge and had next to nothing left. I crack open the cupboard. I had a box of Triscuits and some gummy treats. That was it. I had it on my agenda, but had forgotten to go food shopping prior to getting sick. I was in a tough spot. I was extremely sick. I had no food or drink. My roommates were out of town. I had nowhere near enough energy to go shopping on my own. I was far from being able to put the “self” in “self-care.”
I had to swallow my pride and admit defeat. I asked for help. I put a status up on my Facebook story asking if any of my local friends could go pick up some basics (i.e. Gatorade, soup, bread, crackers) for me just to get me through the next few days until I could shopping on my own. A buddy of mine stepped up to the challenge and got me my necessities. This was not before at least seven or eight other friends and family members offered their help. Some of them were willing to drive from over an hour away to help me out or to go online and buy me groceries. Money was not the issue though. It was just being able to get there.
I called my parents to let them know how I was feeling and that my friend stopped by. They insisted on coming up to see me. Keeping in mind that my parents had been separated for over ten years and lived over an hour away, I took what they said with a grain of salt.
Since sleep evaded me the night prior, I spent Sunday afternoon and evening catching up. My mom called me, “I am picking your father up, and we will be heading your way around five.” I muttered something along the lines of, “Ok, I am going back to sleep.” Thinking nothing of it, I curled back up into my slumber.
My dad calls me and says, “What’s your address? I’m with your mom.” He woke me up. I tell him that I will text him and follow up by doing just that. I perk up as much as my consciousness will allow me. It dawned on me. They were coming.
It got me thinking though. I had been living in the same house for three and a half years. My dad had only been to my house once. My mom never set eyes on it. Part of me kept it that way on purpose for reasons I am not ready to disclose. However, I was desperate and in need of help.
My parents took the hour-long trek up to see me after stopping by a local Walmart to pick up some groceries. When they arrived, I was expecting a bag or two to come in. Then, I remembered it was my mom we are talking about here. I am her only child. Here she comes with my dad and stepdad each carrying two to three bags apiece.
They followed me in, as I took a bag or two from my dad’s hand. They immediately commented on my condition and how I “didn’t look so good.” I looked in the mirror and saw how pale I was. I even had to sit down after putting away one bag of groceries. My mom even went out of her way to buy me a new blanket and t-shirt with my nickname on it. I could barely show my appreciation at the moment because my ears were beating to the sound of their own drum. One of my roommates walked in right in the midst of this extravaganza just getting back from New York City for the weekend. He introduced himself to my parents and looked in my general direction. He muttered something along the same lines as my parents’ initial reaction.
As quickly as they marched in, my parents paraded out mere minutes later. They could tell I barely had the energy in me for the brief interaction we had. As soon as they left, I went upstairs and unraveled my new blanket. I sat on the edge of my bed and cried.
I felt so defeated in that moment. After what I expected to be a break in the action turned out to added on stress. Here I was someone who preaches self-care and helps others to work on themselves down and out to the point that I was relying on others to help me meet my basic necessities. I had to talk myself down before my mind got the better part of me. I really had to remind myself of some basic self-care principles in that moment.
-This was only temporary. I am healthy enough that this stomach bug would pass and would have little to no effect on me in the long run.
-Accepting moments of weakness and vulnerability. It is what makes us human. We cannot be strong all the time. Even the strongest rocks wear down from constant erosion.
-Social support is an integral part of self-care. Human beings are social creatures. We depend on one another for the most basic of tasks. I utilized a strong support network of friends and family to help me out. They know how thankful I am and that it would be reciprocated if they ever needed it.
-Cognitive flexibility. After evaluating the situational context, I could not rely on my usual approach. I needed to adapt in order to have my needs met and take on a different problem solving technique.
-Acceptance of reality. I was sick. I was not myself. My physical well-being was in shambles, thereby affecting the other areas of my well-being. If I ever wanted to get back to my “old self,” I needed to accept the help and rest.
I was off Monday and took off from work on Tuesday to recovery. Whatever bug I had drained me dry. I needed that extra day just to get my energy back. It definitely helped me to get back on my feet.
I have to say I learned a valuable lesson about my self-care. Even in a moment of defeat, I was still able to hold onto the small victories I gathered along the way.
-The Caring Counselor