By Brittany –
All over the internet you can find article after article with different ideas for practicing self care and the importance of practicing self care. I may have some new ideas for you. My hope is that I may help you look at self care in a different light.
My journey with chronic migraine started three and a half years ago. I had been receiving little nudges from the Universe to slow down, take a breath, take some time for me, to start saying no to all of the things that pulled me away from myself. I continued to ignore these little nudges, sometimes acknowledging them and saying “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow”.
Finally, enough was enough and the Universe knocked me flat on my ass, literally. I slipped on the ice and hit the back of my head on the stone facing of a garage, resulting in a mild concussion.
My whole life was turned completely upside down. Bubbly, outgoing, motivational Brittany who was a social butterfly was confined to a silent, dark, lonely basement. Excruciating head pain and debilitating nausea were accompanied with 10lbs lost in a month, sinking into a dark depressive state and isolation from my friends, family and the world around me.
Now, if you ask me, I don’t think the Universe needed to go THAT far, but at the same time, I ignored it for far too long. The ideal happy ending would be that I recovered and now live a happy, healthy, prosperous life. Instead, it’s been three and a half years of chronic migraine, chronic pain, high functioning anxiety, depressive episodes and a massive change in identity.
I’ve been denied disability, been unable to work for the last year and have had some of my core relationships change drastically, and not necessarily in a good way. C’est la vie, but I’m happy to say that I believe this changed Brittany is becoming the best version yet.
You see, I’ve risen from the ashes. I’ve survived some of my worst days and come out stronger than I ever imagined. And I attribute so much of that to how high of a priority I put on self care. I’ll be honest with you, it hasn’t always been easy, and there are still days where I cry with guilt when I need to change plans because my body needs self care, but it’s getting easier.
I’ve developed a large toolbox for self care. Let’s begin with “taking something” (please consult your medical professional prior to taking anything new).
When I went to my doctor 5 weeks post-concussion in a depressive state, he diagnosed me with a mood disorder and prescribed antidepressants. This didn’t sit well with me, so I did my own research on some different alternatives. I also teamed up with my new doctor to improve my medical care. I knew my mood disorder was primarily linked to the confines my concussion put around me. In my research, I learned that taking a B2/B6 vitamin could improve the symptoms of depression. So I went to my local health food store and bought a complex called B Calm. Within 3 days, I was eating again, feeling happier and excited about life again. I took it on a regular basis for almost a year and it helped exponentially.
This is a natural muscle relaxant and can be prescribed as an over the counter migraine preventative. I take it at bedtime 4+ nights a week and notice a significant different in the quality of my sleep and the overall aches and pains within my body, especially my knees and hips. Magnesium Citrate is also the best kind to take for migraine prevention, as the body absorbs it in the proper way to benefit the brain, nerves, and vascular system.
Sleep has been one of my biggest challenges, and lack of quality sleep triggers a never-ending migraine cycle. I’ve tried countless over the counter and prescription medications, some that worked well for a little while and some that didn’t work at all. A few months ago my doctor prescribed Zanaflex (generic name, tizanidine) and it has been an absolute game changer for me! I’m asleep within 30 minutes to an hour, I sleep through the night most nights and my muscles get a much needed break from the spasms that happen continually throughout my day.
Extra Strength Advil Muscle & Joint + Coffee.
This specific combo I’ve found to work the best for the days I can barely function, but I have to. It can give me 3-4 hours of slight pain relief so I can power through my day when my to-do list simply can’t wait any longer. I need to be really selective when I use this combo though, since taking Advil more than 3 days per week causes rebound headaches.
Now onto some of the other self care practices I default to:
Treat yo self.
This can be anything from getting my nails done, to buying something new for my wardrobe, to going out for dinner or a treat, to going for a massage, and anything in between. Generally something I need to spend money on, which may or may not be the smartest financial decision, but it makes me feel good (within my means of course). Since I’ve been unable to work, I often carry guilt around this mentality because my finances have taken a big hit. However, I carefully calculate how important it is to me and make the decision to treat myself accordingly, giving myself permission to feel joy and gratitude instead of guilt.
Canceling or Rescheduling Plans.
One of the hardest things for me to do, because so many people don’t understand why I need to, or how hard it is for me to do, but something essential for me to do more often than not. Even if I know my limits (which a lot of the time is a very fine line and I easily cross it without knowing), I still push myself too far because I hate to let people down and suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). I now make it a regular practice to put a disclaimer of such with plans I make and I practice not taking it personally if someone gets offended or doesn’t understand where I’m coming from when I need to cancel or reschedule.
Whether it’s soft, instrumental music as calming background noise, to pump up music that makes me feel like an inspirational badass, to sad songs that make me cry and put words to the feelings I have. It’s something I can access anywhere at any time, for whatever I need at any moment.
Yes, you read that right…I consider ugly crying self care. We store emotion in our bodies, and it needs to get released somehow. For me, a physical release is almost always through tears. I’ve learned to not fight it, because I always feel lighter after a good cry. I consider it a good day when I don’t cry at least once, but a lot of the time, even if I do cry at some point in my day, I feel lighter than if I haven’t. Be where you are and feel what you need to feel for as long as you need to feel it.
Celebrate ALL Wins.
This can be something as simple as getting out of bed, showering or eating. Yes, those are wins!! So what if you didn’t get everything checked off your to-do list? Most things can wait until tomorrow, and although for us chronic illness warriors (and non-chronic illness warriors for that matter), there never feels like there’s enough time in the day to get everything done, be proud of the simple things you get done and ask for support for the things that don’t get done.
Self Care is Whatever YOU Need at any Given Moment.
I’m not your mom/spouse/boss etc. but I give you permission to do whatever self care looks like to you. Take a bath. Read a book. Binge watch Netflix. Eat junk food. Drink a green smoothie. Go for a walk. Sing at the top of your lungs. Laugh until you belly hurts. Cry until the tears run dry. Buy some new lipstick. Practice yoga. Pack a bag and take a vacation. Stay in bed all day. Hop in the car and drive. Have a spa day. Drink wine. Eat all the ice cream and junk food. Call someone and vent. Sit alone in silence. Be angry, sad, happy, grateful. Breathe.
Self care looks different for everyone. Embrace what it is for you.