This week has been a bit of a doozy, and it’s left me thinking a lot about self-care. T1D is so relentless – so unforgiving – that sometimes it, coupled with an ordinary sort of difficult week, can be enough to really wear you down. There are no sick days. No vacations. No breaks from alarms because you’re tired or depleted. In fact it’s almost the opposite, because the less on top of things you are, the more the alarms scream out. It’s so easy to get caught up in needing to do such a good job of dosing/carb counting/correcting sugars that you forget there’s a person in there too, and that sometimes that person needs some help. Pancreases don’t have feelings. But humans do.
What feels like forever ago now, I trained as a Family Therapist, and one of the core lessons of my Masters program was the importance of self-care. The idea that you can’t fill someone else’s bucket from your own if it’s empty. They weren’t wrong.
With T1D, where it’s often so easy to feel like you’re drowning, self-care isn’t just a buzz word. It’s a necessity.
A necessity that I’m not always very good at. But T1D is all about survival, and survive we must, so I’m learning. Baby steps. Self-care for me these days looks like singing American Pie in the shower whilst the kids prevaricate over bedtime. A snatched chai latte before the children wake up in the morning, providing the floorboards of this old house don’t alert them to my plans on my way downstairs. A morning walk with my old, kind, canine friend.
It looks like pottering out to my little garden to tend to my flowers whilst everyone is quiet, or watching something that isn’t Daniel Tiger on Netflix whilst I prep the evening meal. Side note about Daniel Tiger here: I have so many questions. Why is his Mum the only one that wears pants? Why are their curtains made out of tiger skin? Actually just googled this and it looks like I’m not the only one wondering these things – hurrah!
Sometimes it’s just standing outside late at night, in our little corner of the sky, soaking in the mid-summer warmth and watching the fireflies twinkle in the darkness.
But some weeks call for more. Sometimes you need more than a snatched moment to escape, and so often I find the feelings of guilt bubbling up as I realize how much I’m trying to do just that: escape. Not because I don’t love this life. I do, with every fiber of my being. But sometimes the days are just so…long, and the kids are fractious, and frankly there are only so many alarms one can bear before one wants to hurl their phone off a bridge.
I don’t even think it’s just life with T1D. I think it’s having young kids. It’s being in the midst of this strange pandemic life, with all of its unknowns and considerations. I think it’s the universal parental pressure of so wanting to do the best for your children but rarely, if ever, having the energy to do it all. And that’s only exacerbated by being up multiple times almost every night.
So sometimes self-care looks like hiding in the bathroom eating the ice cream you pretended was all gone when the kids asked. It’s having
cookies and yogurt “bits and bobs” for lunch. It’s FaceTiming an old friend for a much needed catch up, or texting a fellow Mum-friend to dissect how exactly the baby ended up with an errant, frankly rather creepy, googly eye in his diaper. Or to ask how to get toddler portraits in the medium of liquid eyeliner off one of the most visible walls in the house, which also happened this week. Spoiler alert, folks: buy more paint. That stuff does not come off.
My point is that self-care doesn’t always look the same, from one week to the next. Sometimes self-care is leaning in. More little kid snuggles, more laughter. Sometimes it’s locking yourself away just to breathe. Which is 100% okay, in case you’re feeling guilty about it. Not just okay, but important. Sometimes it’s helping another person, or creating something. Baking, planting, growing. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re doing it. This life is hard. Pancreases are underrated. How many other people do you know who are surviving life and acting as an actual bodily organ as well? Not many. So eat the ice cream. Cry. Breathe. Probably don’t throw your phone off a bridge. But whatever you need to do to survive? Do it.