Respecting My Body’s Boundaries
There was a time when I showed little or no respect for the boundaries that psoriatic arthritis and my other chronic illnesses had set. My mantra was that there was no way I was going to let any of those wretched diseases stop me from doing what I wanted. Then I would do what I wanted. Unfortunately, this also meant that I was always running myself into the ground. While it felt like I was getting a lot done on the days I pushed, the reality was that my down days were causing me to fall further behind. Sound familiar?
Cycle of pushing my own limits
To stop this vicious cycle of never-ending madness, I had to start showing my body some respect. Pushing past its limits did nothing but punish my body and me. My body didn’t ask to be riddled with disease. The problem with punishing my body was that I was also punishing myself. What needed a whoopin' was my chronic illnesses, but instead of physically beating them, I chose to beat them at their own game.
Now before I proceed, I want to be clear that I fully understand and acknowledge that not every flare or down day can be prevented. However, we often add to the number of days down or intensify a flare by disrespecting our body’s boundaries.
The first step I had to take in order to discover my boundaries was to listen to my body. I had to figure out how much physical activity was too much. Listening to my body’s demands can at times feel like a full-time job. It may tell me one thing in the morning, but quickly change its mind in the afternoon. Journaling and recording how much physical activity I am able to accomplish from one day to the next, along with how I felt that day and the day after over a period of time helped me define my boundaries.
Drawing lines in the sand
When it comes to setting boundaries I find soft lines to be the best for me. Experiencing varying degrees of pain or fatigue on a daily basis means allowing my boundaries to be flexible as well. I do have a hard line set for levels that I know will send me straight into a flare, but other than that I try to stay within my soft lines. These are lines that allow me to get up the next day and do something, rather than have to spend the day sleeping or medicating for pain.
Not a prisoner
Boundaries don’t have to feel like shackles. In fact, I find them to be freeing and liberating because they decrease how often I spend a day in bed or on the couch. Needing more than one day to do something I would like to accomplish in one afternoon doesn’t make me a failure; it makes it possible to get that job done without falling behind on everything else. Staying within your boundaries doesn’t make you a prisoner to your disease, being stuck in bed in a ridiculous amount of pain does. Pushing ourselves to the point of crashing doesn’t show our illness who the boss is, it just magnifies our resistance to making changes that will make living with them better. The day my outlook changed from despising my body’s boundaries to loving them was the day that I began respecting myself. I had to love myself enough to no longer want to add to the pain it was experiencing.
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