Friday, January 18, 2013

Self-Care: It's Not Just for Everyone Else

When we all showed up for Pharmacology at 8 AM on Monday morning, bleary-eyed and coffee in hand, it didn't take long for the room to begin to buzz with stories from break, exclamations over new haircuts and fresh tans, and plenty of hugs to go around.  There are 84 of us, and though it took us a few months to figure it out, we are a group now.  We have formed.  We are friends.  I went to what's considered quite a small college, and I graduated in a class of about 600 students.  No way did I know everyone's name in my class, let alone anything about most of them.  But I looked around the room on Monday as we all settled in for a long first day of class of our second semester and it hit me again, that this is all of us.  And it felt good.

Other parts about this week, not so much.  I got into what felt like a lot of nice, healthy patterns during the first two weeks of January after Puerto Rico and before school started.  I exercised almost every day, I did a lot of cooking of healthy meals (many of which are neatly stacked in my freezer for the coming semester), I cleaned and did laundry, I went to bed at a reasonable hour and got lots of sleep.  I also relaxed quite a bit, watched trashy television on my computer, went to the library, and read for pleasure.  And this week that all went to shit.  I didn't run, not once.  I ate pizza for dinner one night and then again for breakfast the next morning.  One night, I had three beers for dinner instead of food.  I drank enough coffee to dig a new ulcer, and I went from 8 or 9 hours of sleep a night down to 6.  My room is a mess, there are clothes on the floor, and I'm pretty sure I showered yesterday although I can't be sure.  And all of this would be one thing if it were finals week, or I had seven care plans due at once but no dice.  I had almost no homework this week, given that it's only the first week of class.  All of my textbooks are still in the mail and I don't start clinical for another two weeks.  Patterns of association can be hard to resist: it is school, therefore I must be too busy to take good care of myself so I will be too busy to take good care of myself.  I feel like crap.

The reality is that in two and a half short years, when I am done with school, there won't be any more academic calendar.  There won't be three or four times a year when it all eases up and I get two to four weeks to recharge and be ambitious about forming good habits.  I will be working, full time.  All year round, no vacations, babies being born.  So even though my potential excuses for slacking on exercise and self-care seem pretty flimsy now, they're going to be downright useless pretty soon.  Staying healthy and balanced and doing the things I know I need to do to take care of myself needs to a year-round endeavor.  And for me, perhaps more so than for other people, it's a bit more crucial to my mental stability as well.  When I start to slack on the basic self-care things, I feel bad about myself.  I feel sad, I get self-critical, and I start to spiral.  When I drink, and I drink even one beer too many, I beat myself up about it for days.  I start to glare at myself in the mirror and wear sweatpants to school and eat pizza for breakfast.  The inside of my head morphs into a dumpster, into which I insist upon diving, over and over again, to come up with fresh criticisms and nasty feelings.  It's not a good place to be, the inside of my head this week.

So tomorrow, I will try again.  I will take a deep breath, and turn out the light tonight.  Get up tomorrow, and go to the gym.  Not to go crazy, but to go for a run on the track, where it's not snowy and icy and 20 degrees.  Do some laundry, clean up my room, run some errands - and yes, do some homework.  See some friends.  Strike a balance, even if I have to keep reattempting and readjusting again, and again, and again.

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