Saturday, October 15, 2011

Time Out

I logged on to write a post called "Taking Care of Me," then realized I already wrote one with that name, just a few months ago!  As I said in that earlier post, I seem to have to keep learning the same lessons over and over again.

As I've mentioned here a lot recently, I've been feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and frantically busy.  I've had several mini breakdowns lately, including Thursday night (as I wrote here), when I said, "I just can't go on like this!"  Well, I finally listened to myself.

I am canceling my plans to go to the NJ CFS Association's annual Conference on Sunday.  Last Sunday, we went on a 4-hour college visit, and it took me most of the week to recover from that.  I just couldn't stand the thought of feeling so totally wiped out for another week, and the conference would be an all-day 11- or 12-hour ordeal (I live about 2 hours away) that totally wiped me out last year.  As soon as I made this decision, I felt an immense sense of relief, so I know it is the right thing to do.

The ironic thing is that I am doing much better health-wise and am able to do more these days, but I don't feel much better on a day-to-day basis because I am pushing against my limits constantly.  I have let my activity and stress level increase along with my stamina, so I am in no better shape overall than before.  As I said, I just can't go on like this anymore.

I feel lately as if my life is nothing but obligations and responsibilities.  When I look back over the past week (or any of many past weeks), I can't see anything that I did for myself, for fun.  My time is filled with must to-dos, and the pressure is starting to get to me.  I realized yesterday that there are lots of things that I used to enjoy, that I no longer seem to have time for: reading magazines, watching movies, reading my favorite CFS blogs, camping with my family.  Some of these things are trivial, some are important, but the point is that they are things I enjoy that I no longer have enough time for.

I set goals every year for myself and try to keep track of them on a weekly basis (otherwise, I write the list and forget about it until the end of the year!), and some of the items on my list I am failing miserably at.  For instance, I have recognized this problem in myself before, so one of my weekly goals is "Do something fun for myself."  Whole months go by when I can't think of a single thing I did toward this goal!  Same with "Go outside for 10 minutes a day," "Meet Ken for lunch," "Meet with friends," and "Do something fun with the kids."  See the pattern?

An online friend of mine includes progress toward her goals on her blog, and I was stunned when I saw that almost all of her goals were things for herself: learning new things, making time for things she enjoys, etc.  I tried to learn from her and added a new goal to my list: "Take one mental health day each month for myself."  I thought this was a brilliant, mind-blowing idea - to take a day off all to myself.  I tried it in May and was surprised to find that I had trouble thinking of what I could do with a day off.  Taking away all productive to-dos, I didn't know what to do with myself!  I did end up enjoying the day but have yet to find time for another one!

So, I am rededicating myself to trying to find some balance in my life.  I realize that I need to take better care of myself (another goal I am doing terribly at is "Rest when symptoms flare").  I have a tendency to spend all of my time and energy doing things for other people. I know that some of this is unavoidable.  I am, after all, a wife and a mother to two teen boys.  In addition to focusing on myself and my family, I also recognize that it is important to me to help other people, and I want that element in my life.  However, I am realizing that I can help far more help to people if I'm not constantly exhausted and overwhelmed.

THIS time, I am determined not to forget how horrible it feels when I am so frantically busy and overwhelmed.  THIS time, I pledge to take better care of myself and not get to the point where I am so wiped out that I am short-tempered and miserable.  THIS time, I am committed to take time just for me and discover what makes me feel relaxed and happy.

What do you think?  Will I be ranting and writing the same things a few months from now?  It's almost like another sickness - my need to be constantly productive, always accomplishing something.  I mean, granted, there is a LOT to do around here that often goes undone - it seems we are always behind.  But my husband doesn't have trouble relaxing or taking time for himself.  Maybe it's a flaw in our female psyches, this need to get everything done.  I thought CFS had cured me of much of this destructive drive to do everything, but as my health has improved a bit, it has snuck back up on me.  I know the computer is a big part of my problem.

I need help!!  Do you have these same problems?  Do you have any ideas on how I can learn to relax and take time for myself?  Any ideas of how to remind myself of what's important in the midst of chaos?

OK, I am logging off now (I swear!) and spending a relaxing evening with my family (really, I mean it!).  Enjoy the rest of the weekend.


At Home on the Rock... said...


Oh my....your post hit the nail right on the head for me. My homeopath talks on this very subject, at length with me, on almost every single appt. She can't seem to stress enough the importance fo this. In fact, my homework assignment one time was to go home and find something I enjoy doing and that is for me. Every visit, she asks "What have you been doing for you?"

When I discuss things with her she quite often points out that I am doing too much, too much for others and not enough for me. She said when I take time for me (and do things that fill ME up) then I will in turn have some energy to do the "must dos" for others. She also says days full of "must dos" and obligations (with no time for "me") causes my body to shut itself down (crash).

For me, it's wonderful that someone is giving me 'permission' to take a break from the countless amount of tasks/work that needs to be done in a day. I was raised with the idea of work first, then when that is all done it's time for fun. It gets very overwhelming though. Pacing (I believe)is two fold. It's not only about learning to not use all of our energy, but also learning to balance work/obligations with fun/time or ourselves.

Don't forget to take time for YOU :)

upnorth said...

Sue, I'm amazed at everything you DO do, despite being ill. You're amazing. One thought I had while I read this was some amount of fear that maybe you are playing too close to the edge. Of course you know yourself and the illness best, but I think that is what caused my worst year in years this year. Not one "over do", but lots of little ones piled on top of each other. So finding ways to make moments for yourself seems important not just for your mental, but also physical self.

While all this may sound like advice, I'm probably the worst at doing it myself which is why I'll come back and see what people suggest.

My M.E. specialist says every hour or so, close your eyes and ask yourself "body, in this moment, what do I need?" she it's important to forge those links between mind and body esp. for those of us who have this illness.

Elaine said...

Oh Sue, my heart goes out to you! I soooo understand what you are saying. I think its being a woman. The nurturer in us can be our worst enemy. Must do, keep going, they need us.... true, but we have to set limits. And that is HARD to do (at least for me).

I also suffer when I let myself do to many things. I don't sleep as well, I eat wrong, I am moody, and I am short tempered with those I am trying to love!!!!

I think just stopping and taking a good look at us is important. Maybe you won't find a whole day for yourself, but take that hour or two and watch that movie, or read that book, or take that long soak in the tub.... I think by doing that we can be refreshed and ready for what might be next. (Maybe planning that whole day for ourselves).

Blessings to you and yours:)


Baffled said...

OMG I was just thinking the same thing today. I was left in the house by myself and trying to think of what to do with my day and felt all this pressure that I had to cook lots of stuff. I finally just sat down with a cup of tea and gave myself permission to relax. I don't have to DO anything. I'm sick. I have to respect that and give it the space it needs. I made some carrot juice and sat on the deck for a bit to catch the occasional ray of sunshine and then went in and invented the most kickass dinner out of what was in the fridge just cuz I felt like it. For us A types this is so hard to do. I'm looking forward to what others have to say on this cuz I am terrible at enjoying myself. I turn everything into work/obligation and shouldas, wouldas, couldas.

X said...

I think you hit the nail on the head Sue. There is a (at least one?) difference between men and women. Men are much better at prioritising themselves, their work, their toys and their relax time.

We need to stop setting such high standards for ourselves and learn to chill out like them.

So go on, be a man about it and give yourself a break. If not for yourself then for feminism/equal rights.

;) X Sarah B.

p.s I am impressed by the weekly goals list review.
p.p.s Isn't it funny how often the feeling of relief follows a good decision, well done.

Sue Jackson said...

Oh, my gosh, I am amazed and thrilled by all the support from all of you!! I think a part of me was afraid, in writing this post, that everyone would say, "What's wrong with you? How can you not know how to relax?" Just having so many people say they understand and feel similarly is enormously helpful!

I also thought everyone would laugh at the fact that I have to set goals for myself to have fun - I mean, that sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? I know I'm a bit over-analytical, but without those goals, I really get stuck in the rut of just doing urgent stuff all the time. Besides any kind of spontaneity pretty much went out the window with CFS - when you have to rest before and after any activity, it's hard to just "go with the flow," you know?


Sue Jackson said...

At Home on the Rock -

Sounds like you have a fabulous homeopath! I used to see a psychologist who specialized in chronic illness and her favorite question was, "what are you looking forward to?"

You are so right about that mindset of "work first." The problem is that the work is never finished, so I never get around to me time! Thanks for the encouragement and the ideas!

Sue Jackson said...

Upnorth -

Wow, you really hit the nail on the head! Yes, I am definitely living too close to the edge. The edge has moved as my health has improved, but I moved my activity level along with it! In fact, being able to do a bit more has probably put me MORE at risk because the need to rest is not as urgent and constant as it used to be. When you spend all your time lying down, it's harder to overdo! Now that I am up and about more, I have lost sight of my limits.

I love your doctor's advice about asking what your body needs once an hour. That sounds like exactly what I am missing right now! Glad you have such an insightful doctor.


Sue Jackson said...

Elaine -

Yes, you are exactly right. And isn't it ironic that when we focus entirely on taking care of others, we end up treating them poorly because we get so exhausted and short-tempered! I have definitely fallen into that bad cycle lately.

I am trying to take time for myself...but I may need all of you to remind me of this again in a few weeks!! ha ha


Sue Jackson said...

Sarah -

LOL - love it! Yes, that should appeal to my need to be productive - taking care of myself in the name of feminism! I loved when you told me to "be a man." ha ha - that's exactly what I need. The funny thing is that I sometimes get annoyed with my husband when he just chills out on weekends or evenings while I am frantically trying to get stuff done...but I could actually learn something from him.


Renee said...

There is not much I can add to what everyone has said that would be different that what they wrote...Amen and Amen ~ my doctor and homeopath says the same thing as Linda's. I would suggest you take time every single day if you can...not once a month for a whole day although that is good too! Upnorth's idea of checking in with your body is great isn't it.

One practitioner told me to stop giving away all my energy. That my energy was soverign...and sacred and not to let others take it all from me. Also, she would ask the question, "How do you feel when you take time for yourself?"
We have all been trained it seems to feel selfish if we take time for ourselves and there is so much to do, right?
Sue, your quest seems to be one we all have. Even as empty nesters here with just the two of us and of retirement age, Joel and I both tend to have this mindset! It is deep within a great number of us!
Thanks for writing this a great reminder for us all!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Great blog, Sue! As we have talked before, you can't help others if you don't take care of yourself. You can do this. I am going to be sending you emails asking what you have done for YOU today!

Annie said...

Hi Sue
I'm a bit late to this post but I wanted to let you know about one of my best friend's hugely successful blogs Nic is an incredibly organised person with 5 young kids and she posts all the time about looking after yourself. Last month she had a lot of guest posts from mothers, many of them juggling full time work and parenting and I think you'd find some really useful stuff. (Although I know you really DON"T need another blog to read!) One thing in particular that Nic writes about is SMART you know about these?
I know I've already told you how amazing you are keeping up the parenting (of ill and emotionally vulnerable kids) whilst ill yourself. I can only say it're amazing. But don't feel that you always have to be. It's ok not to be amazing sometimes. It really is.

Sue Jackson said...

Thanks, Annie - I will check out that blog. And thanks also for giving me permission not to always be amazing!!

I had a terrible problem with perfectionism before getting sick - I thought living with CFS had helped me get over it somewhat, but you are right - it is still there sometimes!!


Keena said...

Sue, I have the opposite problem. I have no kids and no job and I tend to "rest" all day. I understand that that is not good for me physically or emotionally. I have no car so I cannot get out easily. So weeks I dont even leave the house. I am trying to make goals of trying to get out more, clean house, do laundry, and things of such. IF only we could mesh our life patterns together and get a more balanced life. that would be perfect huh?? I pray that you can learn to rest while I learn to be more active. :)

Sue Jackson said...

Ah, that sounds like the perfect solution, Keena! I'll gladly take some of your quiet time and rest, and you can have half of my activity!

Balance is always hard to achieve, but we will keep trying, right?