Dear Self, then and now

Tracey, one of my favorite bloggers and fellow cripple, @ wrote a post the other day called “Dear Teen Tracey”. She wrote about 10 things she would say to her younger self, ten pieces of advice. She then challenged us to do the same in the comments section and now has a “Dear Teen Tracey” page on her blog where you see this (under Favorite Posts, left-hand side).

I thought a lot of about this, especially because one of Tracey’s really mirrored something I would say to myself even a couple years ago since we are both so much more physically limited now. Then I challenged myself to think about what I would tell my present self to appreciate if I was looking in from a situation that was even worse or just from the future.

To my younger self (from high school to age 23 even):

  • Appreciate what your body can do: don’t ever push yourself to do things that aren’t fun, enjoy every form of exercise that exists, eat well so you have energy to take care of your body and do all the things you want to do; go grocery shopping, go to as many festivals as you can, drive ALL over the place!, run with good fuel, walk your dogs every day, hike, go to museums, just stand on your feet for an hour for the sheer joy of not thinking about it, vacuum, don’t worry about what you are going to do for a workout when you go travelling (you can WALK anywhere you want to, you can SWIM IN THE OCEAN!, who cares where the elliptical machine is!), get out there and volunteer wherever you want, travel!, don’t set any limitations on yourself because if you can put two feet in front of the other, you can do ANYTHING!, stop worrying about the little things —> you have complete freedom!, go out to bars and hop all over the city, go horseback riding again, let loose, eat anything you want and then go on a long walk and talk with mom, kiss your boyfriend upside down from a tree just because you can (trying to keep it PG here).

Okay, to present self…These are things that I want you to know. Things that someone who was completely wheelchair-bound would tell you. Yeah, you know this could get worse. Do you want to look back if that happens and say the same things…”I wish I would have appreciated ______”? Or even if things stay the same, do you want to get old and look back and say, “Gee, I wish I wouldn’t have wasted my whole life mourning what I couldn’t do anymore and blaming myself for it.” No. I emphatically don’t want to do that. I am tired of thinking all the time about, “why am I like this? why did this happen? did i do something wrong?”

  • It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. You have fibromyalgia and some mysterious secondary nerve disorder that no one can figure out. They had both been going on slowly for years until you hit the cripple wall. This is what it is. I know you have dealt with it with negative coping mechanisms and by taking it out of yourself since it happened. But that is okay too. Just move forward from HERE. I am prettttty sure (read: positve) taking poor care of yourself isn’t going to help recover from anything from the common cold to cancer, and it surely isn’t going to help this.  Just take care of yourself from this point forward.
  • Just work on forgiving yourself and move on. That doesn’t mean eating such-and-such is going to cure everything. Stuff like that isn’t really the answer either. Just let it be and do the best you can. You can’t fix everything all at once, and you can’t punish yourself out of frustration either.
  • Swim – you can still swim in your modified way. Do things around the house. Do all the little things you CAN do and believe you deserve it. There are more of them than you think (swimming, walking around the house now, etc etc).
  • Don’t hold yourself back from everything just because of this. Force accommodations so you can still volunteer and eventually work. Get over your anxiety and take the bus. Rest when you need to.
  • Get everyone else out of your head and know you are the only one that knows what is going on, the only one that knows what helps and what makes it work. Don’t worry about what they think. Just love yourself and do these things. Just let that go.
  • You are doing better than a year ago. Stop being afraid of going backwards. Your body tells you what is too much and what hurts. Just listen to it. That is what you have been doing this whole year and that is what has worked. Remember how it goes up and down and refuse to get catastrophic. If something hurts more than usual today, it will feel better tomorrow or in a few days.
  • Stop thinking about how things are THAT much different. Think about what things are the same. Just think about now. You can’t walk for 15 minutes straight but you can handle three 5-min walks now. JUST STAY IN THE MOMENT (like you did Fall ’09) and each moment will be okay.

*Anyway, if I could tell more able-bodied people one things to appreciate, it would be the travel thing. Is anyone else like I was where all I worried about travelling was where I was going to work out and how I was going to get to do my routine, etc? I want to tell you, if you can just pick up and go somewhere, don’t think for two seconds about that stuff! You can sightsee and walk anywhere you want! You can ride bikes on the beach, swim in the ocean, do pushups in your hotel room, go hiking, walk around a museum all day. Just LIVE!

B is going to be home soon. I am working on so many things. I can do this. I just need to love myself and enjoy the good things I still have. B and I are going to start our life together so soon. It is going to be amazing. I am going to start volunteering out of the house. I am working on applying for jobs constantly. We will move near a bus stop so I am not so isolated. I can do this! I am going to be interested to see how taking better care of myself through loving myself, through letting the past GO, through not trying to be perfect but eating the things that help me will affect all of this. I am also really optimistic that I will feel at least somewhat better when B is home and we get things set up and I am happier. So much research shows that chronic pain, while not at all caused by stress, improves when you are happier. I saw that in Thailand SO much. It was crazy.

So much of this is hard to articulate on the blog but I can do it!

I am worrying so much about being misunderstood but that is one of those things I just have to let go!

I am very, very afraid a lot of the time about this. How could one not be? I just don’t want that fear to control my life any more. And I especially don’t want my frustration about this to turn into anger and punishment against myself. I didn’t choose to jump off a roof. Even then, even if you jumped off a roof because you were being stupid and broke your leg, does it help you to get better by hitting your broken leg every day because you are mad at yourself? No. I am tired of over-analyzing every little thing and worrying I am doing something wrong to make it worse. I just need to breathe and go forward with TRUST LOVE CONFIDENCE.

The point is this: take all those things that you would tell your teen self, and apply it to your life NOW. I bet a lot of them are things you are still doing. At the very least, think about what you would tell yourself now when you are old and follow your own advice!


6 thoughts on “Dear Self, then and now

  1. This is such a great reminder! I wish there was someone to tell us to make the best out of everything we got more often. And I seriously agree about the pain/stress correlation. At least I know that I always get migraines and stomach aches when I am stressed… So exciting that your SO is going to be with you so soon! 🙂

  2. I loved Tracey’s post and yours as well. Forgiving yourself and moving forward are things that I struggle with every single day! You are not alone – I hope that makes you feel a bit better?

    One more week – I am so excited for you!

  3. Pingback: Dear Teen Tracey — i'm (not) superhuman

  4. Ah, I was smiling at your letter to your teen self and then came the present one and–bam!–tears. I feel like you wrote that to me. I do the same things: limit myself because of my condition, spend most of my time with my mind in the past. I need to re-read your post and take it in. Because, no, I absolutely do not want to look back in 10 years and see that I wasted it on the couch because I was too afraid of the pain. You’re awesome.

    In other news, a link to your post is up on my original post. 🙂

    • Oh thanks Tracey! It really touches me that I actually helped someone. I know we have to modify what we CAN do, and accept that, but there are still so many things I could modify that I don’t even try for.

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