Who’s going to look after me? Well, I guess that’s Me!
(If you’ve got this far then you’ve got the answer now, so if you choose to skip the rest of the post below, I’ll understand ;-) )
I live on my own and have done so for a while now. Actually to many people’s surprise, I like it that way. And I’ve learnt how to look after me, simply because there is no one else who is going to do it. That means that I know how to do many things that others assume need two people. Chronic illness (and low income) mean I know how to fend for myself with whatever is in the house, and whatever is missing. Sure, sometimes it would be nice to have someone look after me, but I don’t need it. And that is a huge advantage in my life as it is right now.
Today was one of those days where I woke up immediately knowing that fibromyalgia was here for a visit. With an anthem of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy ringing in my ears (thanks to the still ever-present music hallucinations) I can’t say I was overly enthused about the day. Played once is lovely but when it’s gone on repetitively for about 30 times, any music turns to beyond ugly.
Add to that, a feeling around my head that brain fog was back (oh yay!) and my body feeling the presence of a hundred rocks and shards of broken glass. Nothing was looking good, although I don’t want to misrepresent things. There are plenty of days which are worse, I just knew that today I needed to rest. Otherwise bad would probably become worse.
As usual there were things that weren’t going to happen. Perhaps most important (to J anyway) was that I wasn’t going to get my nephew’s birthday present wrapped and posted in time for his birthday on Saturday. Sorry J.
And the usual support I give to another human being most days, was also not going to happen. She’s used to this. She doesn’t necessarily understand the existence of chronic illness in my life but she knows the consequences for her. And that’s what matters in her world.
I rang and made my apologies. Right now is the time I most need to hold onto looking after me. It would be very easy to give in, regardless of how bad I feel, when I hear on the other end of the phone:
What About Me?
followed shortly after by
Who’s Going To Look After Me?
Those are really hard questions to answer, especially when you’ve had almost a lifetime of wonky learning that I have had to re-learn for myself with many hours of therapy and self-talk. I should stick in right here that actually there wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with the teaching I got. It simply wasn’t detailed enough. You see I learnt half the message, and more often than not, failed to get the important part. While I don’t have children and so I don’t know a whole heap about teaching them, it strikes me that many times something I needed to learn as a child was simplified so much that I entirely missed the point.
I’m not blaming anyone for this. It just happened. I missed the point so many times, but I know many children taught the same lesson, got it. Maybe I just learn differently. Maybe I just needed more specifics. Maybe… anything. It’s simply that what I got in the way of teaching didn’t work for me.
One of the things I learnt, rightly or wrongly, was to put other people ahead of myself. My lessons with Christian based and there is plenty in the Bible that I could misinterpret to believe (as a child) that everyone else was more important than me. This isn’t a biblical post so I’m not going to get into what the lesson really was meant to be. What matters is what I learnt. Anyone on this planet was more important than me and I had to put their needs first. It’s just a shame that no one realised how wrong I had got this.
While I’ve now learnt that I matter and that I need to take care of myself, the damage was done and in spite of many hours therapy, and many hours talking to the person who taught me as a child, if I’m not careful I still find my thoughts going back to putting everybody else first. It’s nothing to do with selflessness either. Just me not realising that my needs mattered. Actually the line I learnt (from a Sunday School song) was “Jesus first, Yourself last and Others in between”. It spelt J-O-Y and I was under the impression that I would be happy if I put myself last. It is still very firmly stuck in my mind, and I have to consciously change my thinking. It’s really no wonder that I ended up deeply depressed years later.
So today when the question “Who’s going to look after me?” came through the telephone I had to consciously stop myself from leaping to look after her. I had to put my needs first, and I know that if I hadn’t it would be longer before I could be back to her.
Maybe it seems so simple, and I know there have been a few therapists in my time who didn’t seem to understand how much I had this stuck in my mind. I guess when I learnt this as a child, even though I got it wrong, I held onto it. Tight. So much so that many years later, it is a constant battle in my head to change that almost automatic thinking.
Today I’m looking after me. Tomorrow I will be too. And for the third person in this post? I left her with a few ideas of how she could care for herself today.
“If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less.
I’d do less correcting, and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less, and know to care more.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I’d run through more fields, and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging, and less tugging.
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I’d build self esteem first, and the house later.
I’d teach less about the love of power, and more about the power of love.”
— Diane Loomans