Self-maintenance. #powerrehab

The good news is that my psychiatrist supported my decision to taper off one of my medications immediately.  The bad news is that in order for her to get behind discontinuing the other, maybe a month from now, she wants me to increase my (don’t throw up now) self-care *gag*.  Damned holes in my pants totally sabotaged my plans.

I hate the word self-care.  I feel about it the way lots of people feel about the word moist.

It’s not because I do not believe in it.  I do.  I’ve learned its necessity over the years of managing my illness and, you know, being a human being — but because it has the word self in it.  And that word makes me think selfish, something I am terrified of being called, mostly because I am.  I hate the word self-care because I am afraid I will be found out, accused, and all the things that make my life feel tolerable will be snatched away.  I prefer the word the “maintenance”, but it’s not catching on.

Self-care with children feels especially shameful.  Here you have these tiny, helpless people, forever hungry, damp, and half clothed, and you are supposed to take the time to put on a new outfit?  I frequently cannot get all my own children’s faces free from carrot stains and boogers at the same time, how am I ever to rid myself of guilt long enough to exfoliate my own?

I am excellent at telling other people what they need to do in order to feel better, to do their work, to be present to themselves and the people in their lives.  But for whatever reason I seem to require multiple professionals and post-it notes to drill it into my own head.  My husband has pushed me hard on self-care over the last year, since we had our third daughter.  I try not to let myself believe it is because I have become a disgusting slob.  He looks me in the face and says, “You are as important as our children.”  My therapist, and now my psychiatrist, have to shove me hard in this direction, too, and so I try very hard to listen.

Here are some of the things I know that I need:


As an attachment parenting, co-sleeping, homeschooling mother of three little girls, this is the most stretching thing for our family.  When my mental health fell apart earlier this year, it became abundantly clear that we needed to devote more resources to SPACE for my mind and physical body.  We rearranged our mornings to allow for me to have a solid hour alone (which is how this blog exists) and our finances to give us our favorite babysitter for two hours three times a week so that I can sit in my burgeoning studio and go to therapy.

Pen and paper.

A permanent fixture in my life.  I need to have a notebook on hand day in and day out.  I write to think, to communicate, to relieve stress, to plan, to process, to entertain myself.  I would call writing my primary form of self care.

A clean face.

Sometimes I feel like my face is shrinking and will swallow my entire body.  This sensation is incredibly unpleasant, so avoiding it is nice.  Also, sunspots that look like a map of the world on my forehead.  This is actually one of the hardest things for me to do every day.  It feels like pampering, but I know my future self will be so pissed if I don’t do this.  Unless my future self is a sailor lost at sea with with only a mirror.


We have covered this in depth, and I’m sure I will never shut up about it, so maybe I’ll spare you today.

Real meals.

Like many other mothers of little kids, and busy people in general, I frequently go all day without sitting down to eat. I require my kids to sit at the table.  I make healthy, multi course meals for their sweet little bodies and often light the candles on the table and put on fancy music while I stand in the kitchen scooping almond butter out of the jar with my fingers, eating olives out of the can.  Then I wonder why I cry and shove bars of dark chocolate in my face while chugging almond milk out of carton at 4pm, like a fine lady.

Every human is sensitive to the type and amount of food in their bodies.  As a person trying hard to maintain a very strict nutritional protocol in lieu of medication, advance planning and thoughtful execution is an extremely important part of my self care.  I’ve done this for many years and like to consider myself an expert, so it feels like I should be able to just wing it, but you know what?  THAT IS SO DUMB.

A clean kitchen.

Nothing makes a person want to just eat out of jars and give up on domestic life more than a sink full of day old dirty dishes.

And so, these, along with my ever present Life Rules (which yes, I am linking to again because I need permanent reminders of those, too), are the things I am continuing to work on while my brain and body (forever and always) heal.

What do you do for “maintenance”?

Also, where am I going to get a new permanent outfit?

New things. #powerrehab.

Emboldened by my little speech yesterday morning, I said all my prayers, gave my core muscles the pep talk of the century and went for it: two slow rounds of reverse lunges, pushups, and planks.  No grinding bones.  Minor electrocution.  Some holy crap, what the heck was that responsive inflammation afterward, but no spine crumbling.  No dying.  Just a girl who totally worked out like it was nothing.

Today will require just as much enthusiasm.  Today is the day I march into my psychiatrist’s office and tell her I would like to remove two of the pills from my very crowded pill box.  I have no reason to believe that this will be a huge conflict, my doctor is supportive, encouraging, and respectful.  But she is a psychiatrist and I am a psychiatric patient and there are very few ways around the expectation that, in that relationship, I need to be on drugs.  Lots of drugs.  I am willing to be on one, maybe two drugs (I’ve shared a little about my thoughts on my current meds here and here).  So we’ll see how that conversation plays out.

I am hopeful.

In general, I am more hopeful than I have been in a very long time.  It feels a teeny bit irresponsible to let you all believe that I have transformed into a bright beacon of glittering enthusiasm because, while I am awfully sparkly right this second, the light is still only coming in bursts.  I am only just sputtering sparkles.  Ninety percent of the time I am still lamenting the intolerable length of the days and missing gluten free zucchini bread.  I also only recently discovered that I have multiple holes in my three pairs of permanent outfit pants.  So I need lots of prayer.  And new pants.

Warmer. #powerrehab

Last night I fell asleep smiling, as one does, while reading the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.  Earlier in the day, while hunting in the garage for a lightbulb, I paused to wistfully pet my squat rack and run my fingers along my Ionely barbell, swat longingly at the wooden rings that hung from the high bar.  As he tends to do in the gym, the the Holy Ghost whacked me in the head and I began to wonder why I couldn’t, with my newest level of strength and pain, do upper body work on the rings?  And if I could do that, why I couldn’t do other challenging things that have felt beyond my reach for so long?

After everyone went to bed, I stayed up searching the journals for articles to help me find some perspective on what I should and should not expect from myself now.  I gathered all the evidence that proved that my body could do things, assuming I continued to build and protect my weakest places, right there in my garage, wrapped in the arms of my squat rack, on my rubber floor, surrounded by all my old iron friends.

And, of course, if you give a girl a squat rack, she’s going to want to coach…

That same charge I felt yesterday morning, woke up stronger this morning — an urge in all my parts to take off running.  My body is excited to move.  My brain wants to plan and build systems, re-work the homeschool plans for the fall, build a fresh budget, organize those crazy lightbulbs in the garage.  My heart suddenly wants to pray and sing into microphones.  I want to call up all of my old clients, or even find strangers on the street and just coach someone.  I will coach anyone on anything right now, I will say all the encouraging words. I will set up my studio and write a book, any book, about all of the things.

It is like old nerves regenerating.

Tender.  Could be temporary.  Could be wiped out in seconds with one wrong move.

But the sensation is so welcome and so ALIVE it makes me cry.  It flushes my cheeks red, makes my face hot, gives me Mosesface.

Why?  Why right now?

Am I manic?  You’re all thinking it.  I’m thinking it.  Because we’re good and careful and loving.  And because, maybe.

But I think that the grace of God, the final discontinuation of Neurontin (which I have slowly tapered over the last month), the literal nerve regeneration in my back and leg, and the release of this vice grip of pain have made room for a little more oxygen to feed my flame.  This isn’t a raging fire.  This isn’t a spark out of place.  It is simply a welcome flicker where I was worried about a smoldering wick.IMG_8733

Champion. #powerrehab

I think I am done writing about my pain for now.  It has gone quiet and if I keep pushing it, despite its convenient blog content, will blossom into a creepy vanity and untruth.

The real truth is that my body feels better.  The pain eased up about a week ago, leaving in big wooshes of inflammation as my body finally believed me about my nutrition.  All my rings started flying off, and I peed for three days straight.  The nerve pain, though just as intense when it hits, is less frequent.  It’s a jolt, not a vice, which is far less exhausting.  I can live with pain tantrums and fits of weakness, I could not live with incessant screaming and complete refusal to function.

I am being careful not to plow through what feels like a wide open door.  Last night I had a dream that I just took off running down the street.  I could feel every one of my bones smashing together and all of my muscles were like wet sandbags, but the movement was just so happy.  Clumsy and childlike to the point of stupid, but I woke up feeling like I had actually done it and it made me want to wear my hair down and put on mascara.

I smiled at my body in the mirror as I draped it in it’s permanent outfit this morning, laughing at our inside joke, thinking about the way all my parts and pieces fit together and how not one part of me is separate.  I thought about that lopsided, gleeful gallop down the street, all my flesh and sinew pushing away from a the pull of pain.  I thought about how my brain is in there, too, even if dulled by whatever it is that the tiny tablets are doing to keep it safe, wobbling its way around a corner.

I will take this toddling victory lap.  I will go right ahead and call it a #powerrehab win.  The walking and the writing, the eating and the core work, the prayer and the Life Rules.  Doing the plans and ridiculous Grace have brought me into yet another spring with a body and a brain that live and move and have their being when they really should not. How could I not press on in this race?


I am wrong about healing.

I am wrong about wholeness meaning a return.

We do not

oh I hope not

return to former glory.

So what is this homesickness?  What is this demanding flip through scrapbooks, driving through old neighborhoods, pointing out our old windows? They changed it. It used to be bigger. Where is the corner store?  The yellow house?

Everything was so much bigger.

I am wrong about healing meaning being put back.

I am waiting, an arrogant fool,

This is not right, this is not the way it was, I cannot live here.

Swallowing my pride.

Now I will tell you a secret.

This flat and quiet, this straight line silence.  This is the worst.  This is the fear.

This is the empty thing I take to the psychiatrist on Monday, the thing I hold up to her, shrieking, LOOK AT IT!

She will stare back, as blank as the page.

This is what I am always watching for, this and a waist that stretches past its welcome.  And maybe the hair coming out in clumps.  These are the deal breakers: I have to have my words, I cannot get fat, and I would prefer not to be bald.  All three lost together would seem to outweigh the benefit of psychiatric medication.

My hair seems firmly attached, my waist is not expanding, but it is as if my brain has chosen to fully occupy itself with the task of evaluating white paint samples.

 You’d think it would be getting fat.

Or maybe going crazy.

But I have been those things and survived.  I have never been without words.  I am scrambling, shaking them by the shoulders, pinching, slapping, throwing water in their face.  But they just keep A/Bing Confident White and Spun Cotton, holding them pensively up to the light.