Yesterday I explained to my Mum how I sometimes felt as though I wasn’t deserving of the kindness that comes with being unwell; gifts, rest, relaxation, sympathy. A form of imposter syndrome, fuelled by thoughts such as ‘I’m young and strong so the side effects aren’t as bad’. This feeling was present at a fabulous beauty and skin care charity event for women going through cancer*. Its purpose essentially is to help women feel pampered during a time when one can often feel like a withered upright cadaver, stripped of all sense of self. Looking around at the women in the room, varied in age and background, my ever helpful brain tells me I should feel bad for being here because look, my skin is fine! I don’t need these beautiful freebies because I’m not suffering like some others are! Out damn phony, you sham of an ill person!
My brain is exhausting sometimes.
Why do many of us veer towards treating ourselves so unkindly? Our internal monologue speaks to us in ways we would never dream of speaking to others. Perhaps a fear of not wanting to be perceived as ungrateful? And then there’s the terror of being branded weak! Heaven forbid a human going through terrible things admit to weakness!
When I got this diagnosis I decided to at least try to be gentler with myself. To not mentally berate myself and thus create an anxiety piloted state of fear. My fight or flight instincts have had a battering the past few years, my body is locked in a readiness for catastrophe. And fair enough, shitty things seem to keep happening! But enough. No more hard edges. Let’s try to correct unhelpful habits of a lifetime.
If it’s an oil scented bubble bath (with candles!) every night of the week, do it. Or voicing worries as soon as you feel them, no matter how ridiculous your tricksy brain tries to convince you they are, speak out. Having the right balance of being blissfully alone (pottering around in my pants listening to Stevie Nicks is a personal fave) and spending time with the babe-alicious people in your life. Get enough sleep when you can. My god when good sleep does happen it makes you feel as though you can begin to claw back your sense of self, your va va voom. Do nice things for your brain that don’t involve work or Netflix (not badmouthing Netflix, she is a very close personal friend of mine), which could be learning something new, reading for 10 minutes, sorting through old photos, chaotically attempting some culinary wizardry. I made baked goods twice in the space of a month and did not set fire to myself/the kitchen and did not poison anyone (to the best of my knowledge). Getting out and about in nature is a biggie; the combination of moving my bits about, breathing verdant, woody smells, hearing birdy chirps and gurgling streams really helps me pull my head out of whatever existential orifice it happens to be dwelling in. Doing anything that moves you around a bit is magic. I froze my gym membership as it’s a bit of hotbed of germs and potential infection, so I attempt workouts at home, flinging a few weights about and grunting my way through planks. Drumming up the motivation is challenging, but once I’ve sweated and wheezed my way through I feel more whole, a step closer to ridding myself of the ever present feelings of disconnect.
These things might not be up your street, but taking teeny wee baby steps towards looking after your insides, your outsides and your gooey centre is something everyone should probably have a go at, regardless if you’re feeling under the weather or not. It’s taken me the best part of 30 years to realise that making yourself the most important person in your life does not equate selfishness.
*event was by Look Good Feel Better ‘the only international cancer support charity that helps women and teenagers manage the visible side effects of cancer treatment. Our aim is to greatly increase people’s confidence and self-esteem at a very difficult time in their lives.’ It was a right giggle and the volunteers running it were fab. Would definitely recommend to ladies going through the cancer wringer.