Another View of Self Care

A bit unusual for me, I was sitting in a coffee shop killing some time. The café was located near one of the more prestigious universities here in Dallas and there were two young women, obviously students, at a table close by. It was impossible not to overhear their conversation and it was all I could do not to snicker when I heard one woman say to the other, “Well, if I ever get married then HE is going to have to be the one who cooks and cleans. I don’t do any of that stuff and I don’t like to do any of that stuff and I’m not going to learn to do any of that stuff.”

I am of the generation (and the inclination) that I think it’s important that people have certain basic life skills. Skills like balancing a check book, fixing a simple meal from scratch, knowing how to do laundry and wash dishes. So when I heard the young woman’s remark, I couldn’t help but think about the dire situation she would be in if she was ever diagnosed with RA or another chronic disease. Let’s face it – having RA is a lot of work.

There are a lot of great articles here on about self care. While we tend to think of that phrase in terms of being good to ourselves – perhaps even pampering, for me, there is a more literal definition. I think an important version of “self care” is just that – being able to take care of yourself. (And this definition, in turn, feeds into the basic definition for “caregiver”.)

Basic life skills and living with RA

With a chronic disease, you need basic life skills on steroids. You not only need to know how to balance a check book, you need to learn to read insurance Explanations of Benefits and understand copays and deductibles and out-of-pocket and out-of-network issues. In addition to knowing how to cook simple meals, you may need to know how to read nutrition labels, eat a balanced diet and understand the impact of gluten, alcohol, sugar and other foods that can trigger a flare. Your calendar must be managed with sometimes split-second precision to not only schedule your regular life, but also medications and multiple medical appointments like doctors, infusions, labs, and physical therapy. (That is until you have a flare and everything stops and you have then reschedule everything.)

Let’s face it, the better you are at managing your life in general, the better you’ll be at managing a chronic disease. While that can be a scary thing for a lot of people, the fact is the more compliant you can be with treatment plans (and insurance and keeping appointments and eating right and exercising), the better the outcome. It takes work.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally believe in the importance of taking time for yourself. With all that goes with RA, we all need to de-stress, to take a deep breath, to do nice things for ourselves. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with life and all the ramifications of RA and forget that we need to build in some balance with the good stuff as well. But I also believe that the "pampering" definition of “self care” goes hand-in-hand with the definition that starts with basically being able to care for ourselves.

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