My Own Good Advice

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Of course, if I improve my aim, I can probably use it to keep other people away, too.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Of course, if I improve my aim, I can probably use it to keep other people away, too.

As promised, I made an appointment with my general practitioner and didn’t cancel, didn’t reschedule, didn’t accidentally—or intentionally—forget. I kept the appointment.  I had an actual physical.

After a somewhat thorough examination, the doctor said, “Unless your blood work has a surprise for us, I’d say you are healthy.”

“What about my blood pressure?” I asked. I had turned my head when the nurse took it. If she called out the numbers, I had not heard. I really didn’t want to know at the time, but now, since the doctor was telling me how healthy I was, I became curious.

“111 over 60? That’s good,” she said.

Then, I told her that it was typically much higher and on a good day, it’s borderline. I’ve even had outrageously high spikes.

“Don’t take your blood pressure at home,” she said, and then in an effort to be sympathetic, she added, “Being a mom to two small children is hard work. It’s stress that makes your blood pressure rise.”

Grrr…you know I hate that! I hate it when I appear stressed out and people assume that motherhood is the culprit. So, I said to her what I am always thinking in these situations. “My children are the least stressful aspect of my life. When people say parenthood is hard, I tell them not to attempt elder-care because it’s going to kick their butts.”

Then, the floodgates opened and I told her all that had gone on in the past two years. I’m never very good at telling people why caring for my mother-in-law is stressful because I get caught up in the actual care—the physically strenuous, icky care, and never the emotional toll it takes on me, how it creates a time and energy vacuum, how it has put me in survival mode. I’m sure that when I talk about my mother-in-law’s care,  I sound like I’m just whining because other people’s bodily fluids are nasty, but that’s not it.

Her response was a ten question quiz titled Are You Depressed? I took it and the diagnosis was “mild depression likely”—which prompted another conversation. She told me that any depression I am experiencing seems circumstantial, and she would not be prescribing an anti-depressant. I agreed with her on both accounts!  She encouraged me to make some lifestyle changes, take better care of myself—you know, eat more fruits and vegetable, exercise, sleep, drink plenty of water—the kind of common sense good advice for anyone walking around in a human body.

She wasn’t taking my concerns too lightly and I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I thought her advice was meant to be trite. It’s just that I’ve heard it all before.  We all have. Take care of yourself. Make your well-being a priority. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know.

The problem is I don’t know how. I need a road map.  Or more accurately, I no longer know how. I’ve lost my road map—and I can’t get the GPS to work.

Sure, professional life-coaches do exist. They could show me how–draw me a map. At various points in my own life, I have thought, “Hey, I could be a life-coach! I’m really good at telling other people what they should do.”

The reality, however, is that I don’t have the money to hire anyone, and even if I did, I know that other people will only take you so far. Self-help experts can tell you what works for them, but they aren’t you. Their personalities and circumstances are different from your own. You might glean something useful from someone else’s approach, but your results will not match theirs. This is a lesson I have had to learn over and over again.

Just a few weeks ago, I was in the grocery store when I spied a magazine with the words “GET YOUR BODY BACK!” plastered across the cover. I picked it up and thumbed through a series of articles that featured women who appeared to be a lot like me—in their 40s with a lot going on. I bought it. Of course.

That night, after I slid into bed, I flipped through the magazine, looking for the pages that were going to tell me how to get my body back. Yes, the article featured six women all in their mid-40s to early 50s who were quoted as saying things like, “I lost weight and I’m sleeping better,” “I can’t believe how energetic I feel,” and “My hypertension is under control without drugs.” However, they offered no real details as to how they brought about these wonderful changes. The must-read article turned out to be a multi-page endorsement of two books—one on fitness and one on diet—both published by the same company that owns the magazine. So, yes, I paid $5 for an advertisement.

These experiences—my disappointing magazine purchase and my uninformative physical examination—have served as a good reminder: No one else can really show me the way out of my present funk.  I heard my doctor’s advice and it’s the advice everyone gives me. It’s the advice I give myself, and so it’s just a matter of following it. It’s a matter of doing what I can when I can and believing that things will get easier. Waking up at 4 am to do yoga? Maybe. Ending my love affair with the Internet because it sucks my time like my mother-in-law’s care sucks my energy? Good start.

So, that’s where I am. I know what I need to do. I just need to figure out how to take my own good advice. I need to formulate a plan—that’s the easy part for me. I need to implement the plan—and that would be the tough part.

Oh, and my blood work revealed no surprises. I really am a healthy gal despite the very sorry self-care.


3 thoughts on “My Own Good Advice

  1. Fierce Mama

    Good for you. Although I am not caring for an elder parent, I used to be a social worker focusing on older adults- it’s HARD even without the emotional part (love, guilt, etc.). I just started following your blog, and I look forward to hearing how you’re doing.


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