In the last week I have been on 8 planes, in 6 cities, been to 3 conferences and had 3 hotel rooms. I have been gone for a total of 9 days. I have collected at least twenty business cards and given away twice as many. I have met and presented to hundreds of people.
I was worried about this trip. I knew that there would be lots of time change as I went back and forth between Seattle, Charlotte, Houston, and Boston. I knew that I would be overwhelmed with the knowledge that I would gain from these conferences and the people I would meet. I knew that I have been fragile lately and that the last two trips before this tour led me to take a little step backwards in my recovery from this winter’s eating disorder. I knew these things so this time I was ready.
This time I packed four snacks for each of the nine days, and ate almost all of them, the only leftovers being there because I had other snacks instead. I watched myself and my energy level. I took breaks and I went for a run when I felt I needed a little time to myself. I learned that I could in fact do a conference tour without falling backwards on my recovery plan. I learned that I could do it as long as I took care of myself, and that taking care of myself was hard, but important.
Missing sessions on PTSD in returning soldiers and the newest in scientific brain research was hard, but I knew that I had to stop and take care of my needs. I knew that I needed to step away from this thing I felt I had to do to take a moment to myself.
It is hard for me not to do everything. I feel I have a duty to learn as much as I can and that I will be missing some important connections by not attending the nighttime movie or the afternoon snack break. I feel that mean voice of anger and sadness saying “you're not good enough” “you're not trying hard enough”. But this week I have found myself fighting back. Saying no.
It is often hard to take breaks when you live with a chronic health condition. You find yourself blaming yourself when it’s your body that is unable to do more. I find that there is an added burden when it comes to brain disorders where the stigma kicks in and you begin to judge your character for something you have no control over.
One session that I went to was by the author, Susan Rose Blauner in which she talked about the importance of taking care of yourself. She talked about being kind to ourselves and taking that time to pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you are doing a good job.
So this is what I did. I realized that I didn’t feel as prepared for my early morning session the next day so I skipped out on a session that I would have enjoyed. I told myself that I would learn this some time in my life and perhaps meet the presenter later. I skipped the night time movie about returning soldiers knowing that my brain was full and my emotions where about ready to spill over and went for a run and a nice long sit in the window seat in my hotel room.
It is so hard to take care of ourselves when we feel we that self-stigma creep in. But through hard work and time I was finally able to take care of myself, and though obvious I learned that by taking care of myself I was a better presenter, networker, and a stronger and happier me.