Self-Care Of the Outside

I was really stressing about how to approach this topic, even though I had quite a mouthful to say in the last post. But it was because I did not want to simply rewrite the myriad of posts already out there. And no matter where I researched and looked, I kept revisiting the Mind, Body, Soul interpretations because essentially that is our true nature. And on top of that, there are many dimensions of self-care that are all interrelated and therefore I have decided to over simplify a very complex subject in my own unique way.

So what is Self-Care of the Outside?
It relates to what’s on the outside of us… Your Body! Physical self-care is all about our bodies and what we do with our bodies. How we interact with our bodies and how we treat our bodies.

I like to think that my Self Care started with the Physicality of Self Care. I looked at the state of my health and what I needed to do to get healthy. My body was exceptionally unwealthy (breast cancer, thyroid disease, etc…) and I needed to acknowledge that. The next step was to address the issues and then change my habits to healthier choices. This included a mindful nutritious diet, exercise (a whole lot), a regular sleeping routine and listening to my body’s needs.

I still struggle with a healthy diet – I don’t eat enough fruit and veg, but I make a conscious effort daily to include more green choices. I have managed to up my exercise game a whole lot and I am really grateful that I have. I have a rigid sleeping routine as my body needs at least 6 hours of sleep to function normally but 8 hours of sleep to function optimally. This revelation came to me after I had chemo and was sleep deprived for months… I am hyper aware of everything my body requires.

Listening to my body has come as a hard lesson for me. In June I got the flu whilst travelling. I was mostly bedridden with severe body aches and high fevers. Recovery was slow and the symptoms seem to return every time I exercise. I then needed to sit back and realise that I was not going to run my first marathon in September… I have still not returned to running yet!

Physical Self Care came easily, however in my opinion Practical Self Care is where the fun ends.

It relates to the interaction with your environment. We need to understand that our personal space is a reflection of our inner state. I know… no fun… Therefore a clean house and tidy drawers and cupboards reflect a level of self-control and order that is quite empowering… apparently!
I don’t know…
Not convincing Blah blah blahhh!!!

I keep telling myself ‘Remember this is Your space’. Clean it! Make it pretty! Make it serene and fill it with love. Add some green and maybe even add other living organisms – like a child, dog or a cat! Never live in an unclean environment because (that is yuck and gross) it will impede your health!

So let’s make this simple… Clean your body daily! Change your underwear daily. Change your bed linen regularly. Clean your floors and toilet regularly. Declutter everything everywhere! Donate what you don’t need – except the children and/or husband!

Now we get to the nitty-gritty… Ta da…
Social Self Care!
I am not very good at socialising. I am a highly sensitive person and an INFJ. Even though my few friends will argue that I am NOT INTROVERTED… I AM! I am terrified of people! My worst nightmare is going to social events where there are large masses of people I don’t know – like races or concerts! (And my thoughts race and I want to throw up and run away… but I am paralysed with fear! Shoooooooo…)

Therefore I keep my circle small and my time limited. I do however realise that I need other people (although in small doses) in order to function in this world and maintain a certain level of normality.

I joined a social running group and a CANSA wellness program to help me with my social anxiety. At least once a year I attend a conference or concert by myself to challenge my fear of crowds, and every now and then when I am feeling really brave, I will run a race by myself!

I do however love deep meaningful conversations and my ability to connect with people honestly – therefore I write! Writing this blog is such a huge part of my social well-being as it allows me to express my emotions with other’s in a safe friendly environment. I am able to interact in a way that does not stress me or make me feel unpleasant!

I am grateful, Thank You!

Until next time x

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What Self-care isn’t

I thought I would begin by telling you about what self-care is NOT! That should clear out a lot of perceived misconceptions you might have acquired. And most people think that self-care is related to personal hygiene… LOL! That’s not exactly right… Personal hygiene is your responsibility as a human being to honour your body (and those around you too) by living in a state of cleanliness, health and wellness.

To be really honest…Self-care is not a nice thing… or an ‘easy’ thing…

As one blogger vehemently states “Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing”.

Self-care is embarking on an intense investigation and interrogation of the state of your life. It usually meanders into your reality once you have literally hit rock bottom (well for some of us at least) or if you have come to the realisation that your life is not what you would like it to be… You are reminded of your failures and disappointments, you take a long, hard, honest look at them, and then you think of new solutions, instead of repeating your past mistakes. It is about choosing new and choosing different – its about a new vision, a new strategy, culminating in a new way of life.

Yes, it’s facing the ugly truth. The thing that will make you cringe and cry ugly tears. But it is also the thing that will make you realise your truth and your reality – which is why most people completely avoid it. True self-care is not a long warm fragranced bath accompanied by a beautifully scented softly lit candle… Rather – it is about making a choice to build a better life, a life that you value and love and don’t need to regularly escape from.

Yes, it’s hard work and it requires you to do all the things you least want to do, unfortunately.

According to the New York Times, “If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot to do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.”

So, No! Retail Therapy is not self-care either!

For some, it will mean a complete rehaul of their lifestyle. And for others, it could just mean nothing. One more thing to hide from in this very scary world we live in. I would prefer to think that people like to be challenged by constantly trying to improve themselves.

Self-care teaches you to rescue yourself, to be your own Hero and to let go of victim mentality. It means revamping what you have until your everyday life isn’t something you need therapy to recover from.

It is about feeling good about your life choices.
It is about giving up and letting go of things that don’t make you feel good.

There you go!

A month of Self-Care

It’s August – where has the year gone???

It’s also Women’s Month which is a well celebrated month to honour the Women of South Africa. I thought of various ways to contribute to this merriments and wondered what I could do to make a difference. Personally, I have always been firmly invested in caring for myself and thought I would write a bit about self-care. A very relevant topic (and also very woo-haa) and out there, but yet so many women fail to implement and include self-care into their daily routines.

What is self-care? Why is it a buzz word? Why is every self-help guru talking about it?

As women, we naturally see to everyone else’s needs before our own. We neglect to listen to our bodies, and end up feeling drained, unhappy and depressed. We give others needs more importance than our own needs. ‘What?’ you say with wide eyes? ‘How’ you say accusingly?

By ignoring your needs and putting them aside to see to the needs of others. By seeing to your husband and children’s needs before your own. For the first 10 years of marriage, I was enslaved by my family. I am serious. It stopped when I got diagnosed with breast cancer.

Seriously – Sister, you don’t want a disease to get you to this point of self-awareness …

And I really only became aware of neglecting myself and honouring myself once I got ill. I needed to realise that self-care was not selfish. I needed to realise that I had been neglecting myself and my needs over the needs of others. And I needed to understand that when I take care of myself, I am better at taking care of others!

I now self-care like there’s no tomorrow – left, right and centre. ‘My needs before yours’ is my mantra! You think I am lying? Laugh out very very LOUD! I AM NOT! I DON’T DO THINGS I DON’T WANT TO!

I let go of things that don’t make me happy. I don’t engage in things I have no energy for. I don’t hang onto people or things that don’t serve me… I could give examples but eish… you know what I mean! And… NO! I don’t feel guilty about it!

Seriously, I have consciously made the choice and decision to only engage in experiences that warm my heart, stimulate my mind and heal my body!

And I will definitely be telling Y’all about it!

Watch this space x

The Drought – whats this Madness?

I have been vigilantly implementing the recycling of grey water in our household. Self appointed because nobody else is willing to do it! I am the person who catches shower water for flushing, dish water for the few surviving plants we own, and laundry water for everything else.

I did not however realise how much work this entails or that policing this process is going to require ‘hare op jou tande’ and a sense that I should be remunerated for my efforts… Because I mean really – seeing that everyone’s business gets down the toilet pipes is a terribly shitty job! On a side note – Pay Me dammit!

And it doesn’t get anymore labour intensive than when you have grown adult ‘children’ who are in denial of said water restrictions because the ‘Government is plotting another deceptive conspiracy’… Refuses to catch laundry or washing waters because ‘Sies!’ and screams right back at me when I ask ‘Why?’ or launch a protest.

I get completely undone aka – lose my shit – and it all goes downhill from there…

And the worst part is my emotions goes and grows emotions! My feelings gets feelings in other words. So I get mad and then I get angry because I got mad…

And for the rest of the day I feel like the biggest Loser for being disrespectful and rude. I feel like I have been over thrown and I am terrible at defeat… I mean am I the only one who encounters this resistance to change or anything new and slightly challenging?

It’s like when I say ‘I have to have another mastectomy’…

Shit gets real and a screaming match ensues that ends with ‘Hou jou bek die cancer sal nie terug kom nie…’ and I mumble under my breath ‘If I had listened to you I would have been dead already! This illness comes back… that’s how it works! There’s no guarantees!’
I get stared at murderously! She explodes!
And I get thoroughly ‘uitgevloek’ and ‘uitgeskel’ from here till next year! There’s nothing like a good proper scolding from your Cape Malay Mother ooohhhh eh eh!
(She is probably gonna kill me or evict me when one of my aunties read this and phone her to tell her I posted this on Social Media!)

This is an Asylum… or like my Mother would say ‘Die’s ‘n Mul-Huis vol Mul Mense!

Daily Struggles

I used to think that there was nothing worse than dying of cancer…

After five+ years (and fast approaching almost six years) I have found that there is…

Cancer drastically changes your outlook on life and affects every aspect of your living experience. I think it must be the mortality issues it drags along with it – as if you don’t have enough to deal with…

Cancer… for me… has led to the absolute destruction of my creative confidence….

Nothing is worse than actually fearing EVERYTHING! Second guessing – mind games and then succumbing to reality that why bother cos none of this matters in the end… anyway???

I am convinced that I have PTSD. Other times I think I am just depressed – as in SAD… No! I am not suicidal thank you very much! I already have something waiting to kill me!

I do not want to stop living, on the contrary, I want to live and love and thrive! I don’t feel worthless or unworthy… I do however feel sad and afraid.

Afraid of everything… everything…

On bad days I sit and stare into space. A Writer who can’t write. A Photographer who can’t take a photograph. A Filmmaker that can’t make a film. Somedays I can’t even express myself and just nonsense (interspersed with expletives) pours out of my mouth!

It’s not that I don’t want to… I really want to but feel I just CAN’T – I feel incapable… And even if I try my mind tells me ‘This is Shit!’ I am often stumped by this behaviour – its destructive – self annihilating! Who is this person? Has my life come to this? How???

I look in the mirror and don’t recognise the person staring back at me. The physical changes of my body is a battle by itself but something I am learning to cope with. It’s terrible realising that you are aging and then ontop of that you realise that chemo has added another ten years of fat and wrinkles *crying face* to your physical being.

I often talk about the aging process with my husband. It usually starts with a look in the mirror after a shower and then escalates dramatically to going to Ma’ruf and saying: “Why the F#@$ has my underarms become so flabby (while flapping arms frantically back and forth) I have grown wings!”… Then proceeds to poke at inner thighs – “Look here man! What the hell is this Shit? Jelly wobble… Gross shaking inner thighs are going to kill me!” But best and worst of all… “Why is my Boob UNDER MY ARM?” That’s right – you heard me – “UNDER MY ARM!?!” – the HORROR!

It’s okay I tell myself. I research how to ‘unflab your body after 40’ and Google thankfully eases my already crumbling grip on reality by offering a myriad of solutions – quick ones and hard ones! So helpful! Apparently my wobbly problems are exacerbated by Running! Running makes me fat and jiggly because I am no longer considered a young person who tones up from cardio exercise! I have to weight train to build muscle – otherwise I must just succumb to being a loose skinned old person who insists on running!

*Laugh Out Very Very Loud*

But at least I understand that I will have to pick up heavy things such as weights, kettlebells and sandbags in the gym. So there is a remedy. A way to tone up my junk! I am very hopeful and excited about this new challenge.

I am however still lost on the ‘everything I do is Shit’ dilemma. The psychological effects are something else entirely and it’s not so easy to shove it aside and laugh it off. It’s a daily struggle and something I have to deal with every minute of the day. When I am inconsolable, I remind myself of what my closest friend once told me: ‘You are your own worst enemy… All you need is a little kindness… Be kind to yourself!’

I guess we could all do with just a little kindness because having courage is utterly exhausting.

Thoughts on LSD

So last Sunday I decided that I needed to get back to running. I was really eager but slightly anxious because I had not run in a few weeks… So yes, I was aware of how hard and challenging it was going to be. In retrospect I vow to never miss another LSD for this season because ‘Shit that was ruff’!

In passing other runners I often wonder what they are thinking about, because I know that running is a mind game and all you do is think… Running for some people is very cathartic and their minds remain calm – me on the other hand – haibo! Time to face the reality that I am not a meditative runner! I am a ‘work through the shit in your head’ type runner.  I have a full on battle with my mind! Aai yah… I guess I am never going to be that runner that just peaces out…

No Ways… There is a shit storm that happens in my head… and this is how it goes..

15 minutes before my run – Yes I can do this… I need the toilet! Slather on Sunscreen. Stuff handkerchief into bra. Water and lets go!

1st km – Oh my word! Why have I not run in so long? I LOVE RUNNING! It feels amazing!

2km – Yes! I got this! Warming up is so wonderful, breathing easy! Hey I can breathe through my nose! My legs feel awesome and my mind is calm and relaxed!

3km – Wait – where’s Maruf? What’s my pace? Oooohhh under 6 mins… gotta slow down… Gosh he is so slow today… What a beautiful morning!

4km – Slow down! Turn around wait for Maruf! Are you ok? How far we gonna go? What we going to do with the kids later?

5km – Oh Hell! Why are my legs burning? Or is it my butt? Yes why is my butt burning? Breathe deeply through the nose and slowly out the mouth! Control and focus!

6km – Gosh I need to just walk a little…. My feet are on fire. My shoes are finished. I need new shoes. Water!!! I need water! Maybe I should try Nikes. My shoes have holes all over and my toes are sticking through…

7km – This is SO HARD! I know I am not dying but yoh…why? I need to turn around! Stop it already… No dont you dare stop – gotta kill those hormones!

8km – Ok I really need to STOP! I can feel that chafe… Never gonna win the chafe battle. A shower is gonna kill me… Why does Vaseline only last so long? Disappointing…

9km – Why am I STILL RUNNING? I can’t breathe… My body hurts! Everything hurts!?! Am I grunting? Whats that smell? Is it me? Hey Maruf – is that smell me?

10km – I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN! The sweat is burning my eyes and face! No wonder some people say they are allergic to exercise!

1-2-3 In….1-2 out… repeat x a million

11km – My right leg is broken… Wait… could it really be BROKEN? No man – its my foot – the left one that always chooses to be an underachiever! Almost at home. My calves are rebels… they hate me!

Run-walk-run-walk-run-walk continue…

12km – I can’t feel my feet… there is searing pain in my hips… MY left HIP IS BROKEN! STOP THAT! Stop and stretch. Aaahhhh that feels soooo good. Hey why am I walking sideways? Why are you laughing at me? Run – its quicker to get home and it hurts a lot less than walking…

13km – Is that a Hill? I don’t wanna run up that hill! Nooooooooo!!! Almost there! Yessss! I don’t wanna run anymore… I am not running for the rest of the week! Ssshhhhtttttt just be quiet – I am not talking anymore…

14km – I am HUNGRY. I am STARVING! Can I have breyani when I get home? Or Pizza? No I want Cofffee!!! I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT FOOD! I WANT TO EAT EVERYTHING!

15KM – Last ppppuuussshhhhh aaannnddd DONE!!!

I feel so thin, healthy and accomplished… Yeah!!!!

Will Cancer ever be done with me?

Are you still sick?

I DON’T KNOW…

Is IT finished?

I DON’T KNOW…

Are you done with Cancer?

I DON’T KNOW…

I hope so. I pray so. I wish for health and longevity but I have no control over the inner workings of my body. The only control I have is how I live in this body with this reality…

This thought jumped at me when I heard of Olivia Newton-John’s recurrence. I was really sad to hear that her cancer had returned. This is not a new story for any of us living with cancer. The nature of this illness is such that no one knows if it will recur or why cancer recurs. The hardest part is dealing with the uncertainty of WHEN it will return…

Living under the dark cloud of cancer recurrence is horrifying. It can really paralyze you with fear. I know this all too well. I struggle with this… I cry about it… I laugh about it… I curse and swear at it…. But it is there… The difference between a healthy person and a cancer thriver is knowing with certainty that this THING can kill you… and it probably will…

Someone once asked how can I prevent Breast Cancer from happening to me? I scoffed at a reply that stated – DON’T GET BORN! Breast cancer cannot be prevented (unless you have both breasts removed before cancer occurs). You can try to reduce the risk but there is no way to prevent it. It can be detected early, treated early and may be ‘curable’ for a good number of years…

Breast cancer used to be a disease reserved for the old, declining in health and years, unfortunately this no longer holds any truth. Women and men are being diagnosed with breast cancer in the prime of their lives… and NO ONE KNOWS WHY! Science has STILL NOT FOUND A CURE because there is NO CURE to date! Doctors are still baffled with the mechanism of how cancer moves from a primary tumour to other parts of the body!

Huh?!? It’s true… And fucken Unbelievable…

And yes I believe a healthier diet and lifestyle can reduce your risk of breast cancer, but I don’t believe that it can cure you… It can make you feel better and help you cope with the stressors of daily life but not with the enormity of a cancer diagnosis. Truth is…

NO…BODY…KNOWS…

But for now… there is relief, reprieve, remission and hope.

And that’s all