Self-care is a super hot topic right now, and rightfully so, as it’s a very necessary and often overlooked thing that people should be doing regularly. The definition of self-care is “any action we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” This can be practically anything from taking a nap, spending time doing your nails, going to the gym, practicing a little retail therapy, alone time, etc. Like I said, self-care can be anything, and everyone’s definition of self-care can be very different. At the end of the day, it’s about making the unselfish decision to something to care for you and you alone.
Self-care can often be looked upon as being selfish, but it’s actually quite the opposite. We’ve all heard the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup” which is the truth. If your cup isn’t filled, how are you going to pour yourself out to others? As we hear in the obligatory safety video every single time we’re on an airplane “please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” What good will you be to others if you can’t take care of yourself? Without making a conscious effort to make sure you’re mentally, emotionally, and physically at your best, you will not be able to be of much help to anyone, including yourself.
While I am an active participant in my own little self-care routines of at home manicures and facials, time to do what I want, lighting candles and diffusing essential oils, and treating myself to the occasional treat for no reason other than it makes me happy, I recently started on a much more complicated, time consuming, and physically demanding version of self-care, and it could quite possibly be the most important decision I’ve made in recent years.
I started physical therapy.
I should say I started it again, as my entire childhood was spent in physical or occupational therapy every week, sometimes several times a week, for the first 12 years of my life. As you know by now, I have Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (I did an entire YouTube video of my story), aka CMT. As you also know, I tend to be a reasonably active person, especially given my CMT status. Recently I decided it was time to go back to physical therapy just to check in on my body and see if any of the activities like walking longer distances or my beloved Bodypump class was actually doing my muscles harm rather than good. The same week I started PT I also started a very ambitious routine with my new chiropractor starting with 3 visits a week that include adjustments, occasionally massage and electric stimulation, and more physical therapy exercises. The last 4 weeks have been 4 days a week of visits to one of these two places, and placing a physical demand on my body that at the time seems so much easier than what I make my body do at the gym, but I’m working muscles I don’t normally work and changing things that my body has gotten used to, and the result is one exhausted Brianna.
Some of the exhaustion I understand. I haven’t been a “full calendar” girl in a long time (full to do list, always, but with minimal appointments), and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the car driving from place to place lately. Since I hate driving to begin with, this is tiring. The part that I don’t understand, but is becoming an obvious thing, is how wiped out I feel from the physical side of my chiropractic and physical therapy appointments.
At my chiropractor, we are focusing on getting rid of my back and neck pain and tension. I’ve been going for a month and a lot of my pain is already gone and my range of motion has improved dramatically. Epic win. A lot of this is due to the intense adjustments the doc is doing, but there are also so therapy exercises that I do every time I’m there that are simple but effective (and time-consuming). 3 days a week of spinal structure adjustments (my spine is actually curved and he’s straightening it out. In a month of treatment I actually grew 1/4 of an inch😂 ) and these exercises started to tire me out.
And then there’s actual physical therapy.
I’ve seen my therapist 4 times. As he’s learning about my bizarre body, my therapist is actually coming to conclusions about my restrictions that are completely different to what I’ve been thinking my whole life. For example, my arms don’t straighten all the way. I always assumed it was because I have strength in my biceps and I have 0 tricep muscle function to speak of. Turns out, my PT doesn’t think that’s the reason. (If you want more details about the crazy ways CMT affects my body, comment to let me know and I can go into more details later). So for two of the 4 visits I’ve had, I’ve actually laid there and done nothing while my PT and his student have been working to release my arms for 60 minutes. I literally do no work, and yet by the end of the night, my arms are so tired and sore (from doing nothing!) that I felt like I did a legit arm workout.
It is fascinating for me to see how my body responds to different actions. I have spent the better part of my adult life active, in the gym, doing cardio, and lifting weights to the best of my ability, but I have been doing this with the muscles I’ve trained to fill in for my muscles that don’t work. These therapies are focusing on the weaker muscles that I’ve chosen to ignore for 31 years and works them in strange and fatiguing ways. It’s an adjustment.
I say all of this with a point in mind, I promise. The point is, while it’s not necessarily a fun act of self-care, with instantly relaxing or gratifying results, the craziness I’m putting my body through is still self-care. At the end of the day, I’m going through this exhausting (and expensive..and not in the fun retail therapy sort of way) period of time to help myself become the best, most high-functioning version of me that I can be.
CMT is a disease that is supposed to get worse over time, and while there are currently no preventative treatment options (they’re working on it) available, it’s up to me to help my body do as much as it can for as long as it can. My goal is to be able to make that as long as humanly possible without feeling like I’m getting worse.
So the next time you’re thinking about self-care, think deeper than the at home manicure or taking a nap. While these things are important (and I actively participate in that idea of self-care as often as I can), consider that there is a deeper form of self-care that will really help you out long term. Have you seen all of your doctors for your annual exams? Gotten those blood tests to check in and make sure you’re doing okay? The best thing you can do for yourself is to take care of your health because without a healthy body, you’re not going to be able to go out there and live your dreams like you would like to.
I’m not exactly sure why I felt inspired to write about this. I guess this post was two-fold. On one hand, I’m hoping you got something out of this. On the other hand, I wanted to tell you that if you feel posts are lacking from me lately, this is why. I’m doing this intense, time-consuming thing for my body. It’s for me, but once it starts helping me to fill my “cup,” that will all come back to you guys in the form of more content. Thanks for sticking with me while my body battles through a process I admittedly should have started a decade ago.
Hindsight…. am I right?