When Pushing Myself Despite My Health Challenges Is Worth It
This year I decided to indulge in the Halloween spirit and buy pumpkins. I’ve never actually carved a pumpkin before and felt like I was missing out; my bucket list of things I’ve not done is so long that ticking this one off seemed pretty doable. Given my recent hospital trip, pumpkin festivities were a little delayed until the first week of November.
It was a lot of effort, especially with poor tools and no idea what I was doing. My arms nearly gave up trying to saw the top off; the joints in my right hand were screaming while I was fine-tuning my masterpiece. I put on some music, took a few breaks in between, and bought my mother a pumpkin so she could have a go, too. We both got to try something new and we had a chuckle doing it. I tried hard to lighten up and not be too much of a perfectionist about things, nor too disappointed when it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. I tried not to think of how much I would rather have curled up in bed, but I knew I would have regretted not trying. The end result? A feeling of achievement, and I was glad to be able to say I had done it, no matter how small and insignificant an accomplishment it may seem.
When your mood is set to depressed and your energy level barely moves above zero, doing anything out of the ordinary, out of your comfort zone or requiring extra effort is not very appealing. I realized I didn’t even want to carve the damn pumpkins. I didn’t want to drive over an hour to yet another hospital appointment. I didn’t want to face the cold and walk to a fireworks show. I didn’t want to deal with work worries. I didn’t want to tidy the house or go in to town to run errands. I’m exhausted, uncomfortable and, all too often, miserable. Why increase anxiety levels (the need to plan, be in control; repetitive thoughts, worries) and expend energy I just don’t have? But sometimes, pushing yourself just a little can do you some good, even if you have to “fake it ’til you make it” with a smile on your face and a bounce in your slumbered stride.
There have been a couple of things in November that I can say have been small achievements, times I have pushed past feeling lousy or have accomplished something.
I have done a couple of blog posts when my brain felt sluggish and unwilling to part with the words I wanted to write. I have done some tidying up, grocery shopping, errands in town.
I’ve tried to work with what I’ve got; I tend to feel a little better in the mornings so I do most physical things then.
I can’t seem to make it past 2.5 to three hours of sleep per night since my last operation, so instead of berating myself about it, I’m trying to be a little more accepting of the situation as it is at the moment. If I need to rest during the day I will, and I’ll try not too feel guilty for doing so. That said, last Thursday wasn’t a good day. I felt utterly exhausted, physically and mentally. I was a bit stressed out with overthinking things, my body hurt, I felt let down by people and I ended up doing next to nothing. And I felt guilty. Guilty for not being productive, guilty for not doing anything, but nor could I enjoy not doing anything and enjoy simply resting. I tried to learn from this and will remind myself the next time I have such a rubbish day that it’s not the end of the world to not be super productive. On those days, to simply get out of bed, showered, changed, fed and watered is enough.
Much to my surprise, I won some tickets to fireworks Saturday night. Despite feeling like I had to drag myself to go as I had zero energy and knew it would mean increased discomfort with needing to stand around in the cold, it was a decent night. For a few hours, I tried hard to let go of some of the anxiety and worry and shake the miserableness clawing at me. For a couple of hours I tried to put up with the pain, which wasn’t quite as bad as I had anticipated, and remember that the cold in my bones would ease when I got back home in a warm bed. Granted, I did struggle with standing around and tried to sit on a fence post every now and then, but it was wonderful driving home and getting to lie down afterwards!
Try to look at the small things you do as achievements, even if to others they would seem “normal” and nothing to be too proud about. Heck, getting out of bed, having a shower or brushing your hair can be a big deal on days when things are tough. Doing something different than the norm can be harder still because you have to push past exhaustion, depression or illness, and get out of your comfort zone. But small steps can get you there, and it may just be worth it in the end for that warm sense of accomplishment and who knows, maybe even a smile along the way when you realize it wasn’t as bad as you’d expected.
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