Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Learning Balance

I spent 2022 learning self-care after realizing I never actually given myself self-care before. I think this maybe actually could even be considered as fawning, a trauma response. I have dedicated my life to the service of others, focusing on their mental well-being and empowering them to navigate and succeed in their own chronic illnesses. I was so focused on how to help others, professionally and personally, for the last 13 years that I never stopped to think about what I need. Prior to entering the work force, my life focused on my sheer survival since the age of 9. There wasn't time to think about self-care, my body was just trying to live to the next day and my mind was just trying not to break in the process. 

Now that I've learned self-care, I find myself experiencing great moments. But they're so great that I forget to maintain self-care resulting in a backslide. And not just a mental or emotional backslide, but also a physical one. My physical health and mental health are so closely intertwined that if I don't feel decently, tolerably well physically, my mental health plummets. It may only last a day, or it may last weeks to months. It took most of 2022 for me to finally identify the cycle and its root cause. I feel decent physically and am content emotionally, I overindulge in activity and stop focusing on self-care, I start to have increased physical symptoms, I start to get depressed and then they feed off one another. It isn't until I decrease my activity and heavily focus on my self-care again that I'm able to start to stabilize once again. And then the cycle continues.

I identified the cycle and its source early in December 2022 and then stayed in a frozen state for a few weeks, terrified to resume activity because I don't yet know how to balance my self-care and my activity without spiraling again. And so, I was left being frozen with fear and feeling overwhelmed. When trying to stop a spiral, I don't do anything beyond working as regular and I only engage in a small activity once during the weekend. There's so much that I want to do, so much that I enjoy but something must give, must change. I knew I needed to evaluate and prioritize my activities to identify a working plan to maintain self-care and prevent continued cycling. The difficulty lied in finally sitting down to do just that. 

With the continued encouragement from my counselors for a couple weeks, I finally allowed time for reflection and evaluation. I decided to maintain self-care I will:

  • Stop trying to do so much because it is wearing myself thin. 
  • Weekend activities will be limited to either a) one full day of activity or b) at most, 1/2 day of activity either on one weekend day or both weekend days. The rest of the weekend time I will dedicate to either resting or my rare disease advocacy depending on what I feel able to do at the time.
  • I will no longer push myself to rare disease advocacy on weeknights and will only engage in advocacy efforts during these times if I feel up to it. 
  • I will take at least one day off work every month for myself, even if it is only spent resting at home.
  • I will continue EMDR therapy on a weekly basis and adjust my CBT counseling sessions as needed.
  • I will increase my antidepressant medication when needed (This was approved by my PCP)
This plan, I believe, will help take some of the pressure that I place on myself to engage in activities/advocacy efforts on a near constant basis and instead, allow me to benefit from recovery periods for longevity. And as much as I want to do things when I'm feeling well enough to instead of setting limits on myself, I'm going to have to respect these new boundaries for my well-being. I'm going to have to accept that I won't be able to complete as many things as I normally have the past. I'm going to have to learn to stop pushing myself past my limits and to stop judging myself for not accomplishing as much as I would like in a given period. This part of self-care though - setting and respecting boundaries, being kinder and more allowing with oneself. 

As you may have noticed, I haven't been creating a lot of new content - whether articles or Youtube videos. These are both things that I will continue to do and want to do. However, the schedule will likely be sparser than what it typically has been in the past. 
I will continue to post nearly daily on LAP Facebook, regularly on Instagram and Tiktok as well. 
I'm also remaining active in the FAP Facebook Groups and One Cancer Place and completing guest articles and podcast interviews when able. I would like to start regular Twitch streams but have not yet done so. 

So, while I may appear less visible in some ways, I have no intention to stop LAP or any of my other rare disease advocacy efforts. I'm just learning how to balance it all. I will remain here and available. Our FAP and Short Bowel Syndrome communities mean the world to me. And I have big things planned for this year as ways of fundraising for the NORD FAP Research Fund so that we may finally fully fund it!

If you're struggling with balance as well, I encourage you to take a well-deserved moment to give yourself the time you deserve for self-care so that you may achieve a greater balance. 


  1. Thank you so much for your story and your honesty. We're already familiar on our Facebook FAP site , and I enjoy your posts. Best , Bruce Nealley

    1. Hi Bruce! Thanks so much for the feedback and connecting with me here too!

  2. I'm glad you're now trying to think about what you want and need, and that you're making the time to prioritise your own self-care. So many people think of others first to the extent that their own needs just don't make the to-do list at all. What you've said about doing too much - "Stop trying to do so much because it is wearing myself thin" - is exactly the problem I have that I can't seem to find a way out of. It's an endless loop of doing too much because I have to (the way I see it, I can't do less), no time to do everything because I lose too much time being too poorly to function, and things just get worse and worse. There has to be a way around it, for both of us. Keep working at it and remembering to make looking after yourself and finding that balance a priority always.

    Caz xx

    1. Thanks so much! I completely feel you on the feeling like I can't do less, that it's all important and all needs to be done. This was something my counselor worked on with me - and when she asked me what I was willing to let go, I told her nothing. So instead, she had me look at the priority level of everything to help me see where I could and would be willing to change how I approached everything. Some things get delayed - like responding to comments - but it's something I'm learning to accept. Especially, since seeing that it's working for me. I hope you find what works best for you too!