Progress Instead of Perfection

If you have high-functioning anxiety like me, you might find resting and relaxing a challenge. I can often tell when I am super stressed because my calendar is full. That’s when I have to do some self-reflection and say, “What are you running from sister?” 

You see, when my body isn’t running and my mind isn’t focused on a creative project for a client, I am forced to face my thoughts head-on. And on October 28, 2019, I ended up in the emergency room preparing for unexpected spine surgery. The day was scary. I was in debilitating pain. I couldn’t get comfortable and I was exhausted from trying to find a break from the pain. My body was filled with pain medicine, an anti-inflammation medicine, and fluids to keep me hydrated. When the chaos of lab tests, X-rays, and an MRI was over, I was alone in my hospital room. I couldn’t get up and walk to the bathroom because the pain was still unbearable. And every movement of my body would trigger a flare-up. I canceled my classes and client meetings. I removed lunch plans off my calendar with friends. I deleted everything off my calendar for the next two weeks. That calendar – the one thing I used to stay busy and distracted was wide open. I was afraid of what I would feel and find within myself. 

If I am being honest, the first few days home were brutal. I woke up having a panic attack my first night home and couldn’t breathe. I was scared and overwhelmed. I felt pain all over my body. I was discouraged. When everything is stripped away, you’re left with yourself and your own thoughts to power through. Those words can destroy you or motivate you. You have to write a new story for yourself, even if you never saw this chapter coming (despite living in pain, I had no idea how bad this fragment/calcium ball with a tail thing was on my spine). I fight through pain every day with PCOS – I assumed this was just another puzzle piece. When I came home, I slept for 100 hours straight (at least).  I didn’t feel guilty about it. I didn’t dwell on all the work that I was missing or the grading I have piling up. I gave myself mental permission to heal and focus on recovery. I knew that when my body was hurting physically, I needed my mental health to carry me through the pain. I didn’t my mind to be strong. I needed my thoughts to be encouraging and uplifting. I needed to focus to be in the right place. 

With each passing day, I am getting stronger. I am figuring out how to move and heal in a restricted body – but not a restricted mindset. I celebrate little wins a lot. For example, today, I got myself changed today. I brushed my teeth without toothpaste going all over me like a toddler. I packed Cooper’s lunch and wrote his lunchbox note. And I made myself a coffee. Those are 4 big things I couldn’t do last week without my husband  (and thank goodness for him being my caretaker – that’s a lot of work). I feel inspired to write today about this pain and journey thanks to an encouraging coffee mug from a darling friend that says “Only the strongest women become writers.” 

If you’re struggling right now, remember to honor progress instead of perfection. This morning, instead of crying in the mirror – I smiled and put on my “I am enough” necklace – because I am enough, even when I’m covered in bruises and walking with a limp.

So, how will you give yourself rest this week? Hopefully, it’s not a forced one like me. You deserve time to yourself to recharge, reflect, and re-direct positive energy into your life.