Reminding Others of the Importance of Self Care

In January, is focusing on #SelfCareAware, a concept that many of us ignore. We are too busy trying to make up for the get togethers, baseball games or work days we missed while incapacitated by a migraine attack. How can we possibly justify taking an hour or god-forbid an entire day just for us.

A chance meeting

I recently had the privilege to ride in an Uber with an amazing woman who clearly needed to be reminded to take care of herself. As we weaved through Philadelphia, traffic extended our time together to almost an hour, giving us time to get to know each other.

A woman in her early 60’s, my driver told me that years ago she was hit by a car while on the job as a crossing guard. Multiple surgeries, physical therapy and failed pain management left her disabled. Although on Social Security Disability, she is allowed to make a certain amount of money each month (just as I am) and she chose to drive with Uber.

I had mentioned I was in town to be admitted to the hospital for a week, without giving specifics. She opened up about how her family doesn’t understand the pain she deals with every day. She still had adult children living with her and grandchildren that she often cared for alone. Clearly a nurturing person, she felt unappreciated and taken advantage of by those closest to her. They did not grasp how draining it is to care of them all, make money on the side and deal with chronic pain daily.

Enlightening a stranger

She said she also needed a shoulder replacement that her doctor kept insisting that she wait a few more years. Yet, she said there were days she couldn’t do the dishes because of the pain. After listening to her, I finally cut her off. “Your doctor isn’t listening to you. You need a second opinion. There is no reason for you to be in that much pain for two or three more years.” I went on to ask if she got cortisone shots? She said she used to and they helped but she didn’t have time now. The idea of a second opinion or getting cortisone shots was enlightening to her. The thought of getting relief sooner rather than later lifted a weight off that I could feel in the back of the Hyundai Elantra.

Then I told her something she already knew. “You don’t take care of you. And you don’t ask for help. That plus constant pain can make someone resentful and angry.” I heard her sniffle as she marveled at how I hit the nail on the head. I reminded her that she is worthy of living a life with support of her family and a pain management program that makes life enjoyable again.

While she and I don’t share chronic migraine disease, we both have chronic pain. We understood each other. I opened up to her about the real reason I was going to the hospital. Of course she knew someone who had migraine and she immediately felt sympathy for me. While we were talking, I wrote down a few key points I wanted her to feel empowered to do.

  • Get a second opinion about shoulder surgery.
  • Call immediately to get a cortisone shot.
  • Read the Spoon Theory and share it with her family.
  • Tell her family she needed help and be specific on how they could help.

I handed this list to her as I got out of the car at the end of the ride. We hugged. I may never hear from her again or know how her story plays out, but I hope she heard my message; take care of yourself. It took me years to learn this. Once I began to focus on myself, I had gained the capacity to be a better person to those I loved.

Don’t forget that you are worth it. #SelfCareAware

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