As I walked into rounds this morning, talk began immediately about a 4 day old baby with an undiagnosed congenital heart disease that will never leave the NICU alive. I was asked if I would go comfort the infant and parents, who are particularly having a hard time.
The child was thought to be "normal" throughout the entire pregnancy... when she was born, they whisked the baby off the the NICU within minutes, and the mommy only saw her baby for the second time yesterday evening...
... sounded just like Bella.
It was at this point that I had to disclose to my new treatment team my story. Only the chaplain knew my story, and I was grateful she was there to support me. I recused myself from seeing the patient given the proximity to Tuesday, and the heightened level of grief I am currently experiencing.
The team was stunned. They had no idea. I kept it brief, but simply stated that it would be professionally inappropriate for me to see this patient at this time. It will not only be appropriate, but amazingly powerful for me to work with such a family in the future when I am further along the healing process in the grief journey, but now is not that time.
I also told them that I wouldn't be in to work on Tuesday. Funny, I hadn't planned on making that statement at that time, but it seemed like the appropriate moment, and no one questioned it, in fact, I heard positive comments about boundaries and self care from a couple of the staff, so that was reassuring.
When I had a private moment a few minutes later, I hung my head against my guitar case, closed my eyes, and prayed to God, "Lord, I know you'll take care of that family, just like you took care of mine."
How do you "say no" to doing God's work?
It felt weird to do so, but self care feels weird to me in general. It feels self-ish, and we all know that word has pretty much a 100% BAD connotation in our minds! To me, self-care feels like someone, or many others, are missing out on my care because I am too busy caring me for me to care for them. That's what it sometimes feels like.
However, I am reminded that my capacity to care for others is directly related to my own well-being to begin with, and the fuel that fills my own well-being tank and allows it to care for others...
... is self-care.
If I run myself empty, what do I have to give? I end up needing others to fill me! Then, I'm not only NOT doing what I want, but actually causing the opposite of what I want! It's not that I don't appreciate and gratefully welcome others' love and support, don't get me wrong. It's just that the joy I get from contributing to others is erased when I sideline myself from not practicing self-care.
That's why I don't overlook the obvious basics.
1) Get a good night sleep
2) Eat healthy
3) Stay active/exercise
4) Engage and connect with my family every day
5) Take my vitamins and supplements (it's better than taking prescriptions!)
6) Talk and process my emotions with my Spiritual Advisor 5x a week
7) Say NO when appropriate
This is my basic self care list; and I'm proud to say that it isn't my theoretical list, it's what I do on a daily/weekly basis, and it's no mystery why I function at the high rate I do (without getting sick).
It's a pretty simple list, but following it sometimes takes more effort than I want it to take, and so I complain, skip one, or both. It's not perfect, but it works. Like me! Not perfect, more like a work in progress that also works in the present.
What's on your self-care list?