Just a quick post to flag up a tendency I keep noticing in myself when it comes to recovery, one that makes me want to say to myself (in a way that I will finally remember!) “stop orchestrating way too much, too soon”. Recovery isn’t a race, no one is tapping their watch so going back into “normal” activities too soon, too fast can be one of the commonest setbacks you encounter on the steady road towards the fully active life that you strive for. In other words, its utterly self-defeating to disregard where you are right now as you make those plans forwards; you can’t just wish your current reality away “as if” there’s nothing stopping you. To override the physical circumstances that you are dealing with is a gung-ho mindset (dragged over from so many “think yourself into whatever you want” coaching programs) that can prove way too much on the tender road of healing a chronic health condition.
Why? Because underlying all of the most resilient and sustainable recoveries from any health condition is a relationship between the left and right brained parts of yourself (you could say, head and heart); and its based on a strong and steady trust having been renegotiated between them, inch by inch. All the months or years you have been getting better, this is what you have been doing it, whether you realise it or not. If you are getting better then its fair to say that the part of you that was initially so wounded that it retreated deep inside has been coaxed out into the daylight so don’t scare it back into hiding by shocking it into action when it is feeling under par. Softly, tenderly, reasonably, flexibly works by far the best, in my experience. Think inner child or small furry pet when trying to coax out the part of you that has been unwell for so long; and time of day, month or season might well be a factor if these add to your challenge load. For instance, if evenings are the time of day when you still flip back into chronic fatigue, for heavens sake don’t agree to go on a night-out as your first toe in the water of “normal life”. I’ve just had this tester come up for me with a thirty year reunion happening in my toughest part of the year; so I’ve agreed to go to the daytime events but will be giving the evening part a complete miss. This is where “no” is such a self-loving word; one you shouldn’t ever feel bad about using (which is probably one of the key things this so-called state of illness will have tried to teach you).
In January especially, the urge can be to set up loads of things you want to do…aspirational things…which, yes (if they are appearing in your imagination) you are likely to tick off in the coming months since they are clearly wanting to come out to play! The pitfall is when you set them up too soon in the mindset of “if I want to do it enough I will MAKE it happen…immediately”, ignoring the natural (possibly seasonal) rhythms of your body. Why not allow that the fact you even thought of these things is just a preview of the coming attractions; a taster of what’s up ahead and no need to gallop at the fence. Allow them to unfold in right timing!
Point in case, I had the first tickling urges to start lots of new things this new year, one of them being sculpture, so I set up a meeting quite some distance away – in early January, one of my toughest times – to talk through having a one-to-one workshop to learn this new craft; only to have to cancel my appointment at the eleventh hour during a very rough week. When that happens, all you end up doing is tarnishing the glossy new idea with the feeling of failure, embarrassment and disappointment; as happened to me!
So yes, have the ideas, write them down, take those little steps towards them that are manageable…and flexible. For instance, I’ve also started several self-study courses from home but, since they are all online, I can pick them up and put them back down to suit how I’m feeling; yet they still give me that feeling of having got out of a rut and set off along some creative new pathways in the early part of the year. Whatever you burgeoning thing is – perhaps a longing to get out more socially – make it realistic and don’t try and set firm dates in concrete at times when you know, from past experience, that your health can be so hard to pin-down. The pressure to be on par will only add to any residual anxiety at stretching outside of your comfort zone, allowing you to tumble even harder if it doesn’t come off to plan.
I just want to add that knowing – and allowing – these seasonal or other variables in how you feel is OK and it is really a gift to yourself to admit that they exist. There is nothing at all self-loving about ploughing on with your “logical” plans regardless of very real and tangible rhythms in your physical health that bring unpredictability or challenge; especially when you have probably spent years having to become more sensitive to these rhythms and patterns in order to get better. Ploughing on in spite of them is a case of being as off-balance as you ever were prior to the health crisis that took you down at the very start of your big evolution and can be a snakes-and-ladders shortcut back to an earlier stage of your recovery so that you can learn to be self-loving all over again (believe me, your body will repeat this lesson as many times as it has to).
You could say, forcing yourself to do more than you are ready for is a classic case of the yang trying to dominate the yin, which will only make the yin go back into hiding…possibly for even longer than ever. Allow the rational side of you to gently support the softer aspects (by coming up with stratgies that are as flexible as you need them to be) and you can have both sides of your life back, working together…better than ever before… in no time and that’s what you’ve got to look forward to up ahead as they learn their new dance steps together. How do you do this? Well, showing yourself that you are in full self-supporting mode; that its OK if you turn around at the door and say “no, I can’t do this today” without getting into an inner shouting match or a bout of self-loathing is so important to recovery and the very fact you are stretching these boundaries, bringing them out to play (even at the conceptual level), is a sure sign you are now well on the road to recovery.