I think it’s safe to say that the threat of snow is behind us. (If not, this cat is going to be pissed.) And now that the weather is improved and exercising outside can be A Thing, I’ve taken to long, fast-paced walks around my neighborhood in the late afternoon, spending about 45 minutes each night clearing my head and lowering my blood sugar.
“Bye, Birdy. I’ll be back in about an hour. I love you,” I say to my daughter, kissing her on the head as I put my headphones in my ears. “Are you sure you don’t mind if I leave?” I ask Chris, and he always says, “Of course not.” But still, I feel like a crumb because I’m headed out by myself, leaving my family at home. I’m removing myself from “family time.” It feels like I’m ditching them. (And I want to write that last part in a teeny, tiny font because it feels crappy to admit it.)
But it’s not like Birdy cries when I leave. (To be honest, she barely gives me the time of day when I leave, especially if she’s eating dinner or watching TV.) And it’s not like Chris can’t, or doesn’t want, to spend time with our kid. The guilt I feel isn’t handed out by my family, but instead it’s something I apply to myself, rubbing it on thick and heavy, like sunscreen.
I go because I know exercise is important not only for my physical body, but to help calm the circus that’s constantly performing in my mind.
When I run, I like to listen to music that my feet can keep pace with (this is my favorite running playlist at the moment), but for walking, I like to listen to podcasts. And lately, I’ve been spending my nighttime walks with the DSMA Live team (Scott, George, and Cherise, and occasionally Lorraine and Bennet).
Last night, I was listening to the most recent episode of DSMA Live, where the three co-hosts were chatting with one another (no scheduled guest), and the topic of conversation turned to self-care. George, Scott, and Cherise were talking about the tangled web of diabetes life in balance with non-diabetes life stuff, and how it can be a challenge to make sure your own oxygen mask is on first, so to speak.
I loved hearing this concept explored, out loud. Self-care is necessary for a healthy run with diabetes, but sometimes self-care is unfairly reassigned as “selfish.” I feel guilty about taking time to go to the gym or go for a walk or run, but I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t. I can’t take good care of my family if my own health is compromised. Self-care feels selfish when I’m leaving my family at home so I can go exercise, but I need to shake that sentiment off in pursuit of better.
“I hope my child learns about self-care,” offered Melissa. “My husband and I are from families where self-care was never modeled for us. We saw a lot of self-neglect at the expense of caring for others. Caring for yourself was considered selfish, but I hope that my generation of mothers is teaching their children that we care best for others when we meet our own needs, too. I want my children to watch me count my carbs and go to the doctor and meet others with my condition. I want them to know that we don’t hide in the dark with our worries or our obstacles. We take care of ourselves so that we can live life to the fullest.”
Her words stuck in my head for months and resurfaced again when I was listening to the podcast as I took my walk. It was easier to push any guilt away, knowing I wasn’t the only parent or PWD who struggled with self-care.
“Self-care isn’t selfish,” is something I thought about with each step, listening to my friends chatting in my ear while I walked, knowing my actions were rooted in the desire to become a healthy old lady who refused to give in to diabetes.