By Elisabeth Svanholmer
Yesterday self-care was like looking into the dark abyss – yesterday self-care meant making a painful decision. Only two-three options to choose from and they all sucked one way or the other… My head, heart and gut strongly disagreed on the way to go, so what to do?
When in doubt I listen to my gut.
Even though my head and heart make much better arguments, I have learned from experience that that wordless wrenching feeling in the pit of my stomach is the one to go with.
I cried and cried and cried last night, totally despairing that I had to make this decision. I wanted to stick my head in the sand AND soldier on pretending everything would be fine. But there was no way around it. While I was dissolving in tears I had moments of hoping that the crying would sort things out for me. Or that I would have some amazing insight into a way forward. But the crying didn’t change anything. I still had my crappy decision to make.
My back injury has flared up and it means that I am in pain from the chest down. Doesn’t matter if I stand, sit, lie or walk – it hurts all the time, just in different ways. Pain killers don’t make a difference and the pain affects my cognitive functioning leaving me in a bit of a haze. It also hurts emotionally because I’ve been doing well for more than a year now and been getting back into ballet, so it feels like a massive set back. And the uncertainty is painful as well; whether this will last for months or if it will get better within weeks. Once it took over a year and the fear is always that it won’t get better this time…
Thursday and Friday this week my partner and I have put on a two-day course in London on Compassionate Communication Skills in Mental Health Settings. We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and was excited when a friend, who is a certified NVC trainer, was up for doing this with us.
I woke yesterday hoping my back might get better during the day but as the evening came nothing had changed. I was feeling sad and moody, annoyed with myself for not having done enough to prevent this flare up… I’d sat down with my partner to find something to watch together when I suddenly found myself saying “I wish we weren’t going to London tomorrow.” Until that moment I had been in denial about the effect the pain had on me. And it wasn’t till the words came out of my mouth that I realised I had to decide whether to go to London or not.
My three choices were: 1) to go and do everything as planned 2) to go but be less involved in the training 3) stay at home.
My heart wanted to go. “Go!Go! Go!” It said. “Everything will be fine. You can’t miss out on this, there is so much to learn.”
My head wanted to go but take it easy. “You need to learn to be more resilient and this is a chance to thicken your skin a bit. You can’t keep bailing out when things get tough. You might always be in pain so you have to learn to deal with it”
And my gut… My gut was just full of this sinking, wrenching feeling at the thought of the long drive, sleeping in a different bed, being nice and sociable, facilitating training, negotiating space and roles with my co-facilitators and keeping my head focused while managing my pain.
I knew my heart and head were right. I could do it. But it would undoubtedly be at a cost. All three choices would have difficult consequences.
At the moment I feel like I am in shock from being in pain again and I know that I would have to dissociate in order to go and do the training. I don’t mind dissociating – it is very useful at times like this – but then there is always an aftermath that I will have to take care of. Maybe if I had had a week to gather myself it would have been more manageable.
So for now I have chosen to go with my gut, stay at home and get reacquainted with my pain-managing skills…
Also by Elisabeth:
Elisabeth lives in West Yorkshire but is originally from Denmark where she has been involved with the Hearing Voices Network as a speaker and trainer for the past 9 years. Her story features in the book ‘Living with Voices’ by Romme & Escher. She is passionate about emotional wellbeing, mindful communication and sensitivity. She enjoys bodywork, dance, gardening, being creative, listening to the rain and giving hugs. See more on her blog Living Life Gently or get in touch on twitter @svanholmer
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