Sometimes I need to give myself permission to be human
As an empath and therapist, I must give myself leeway to rest and get help
Since I had a double-lung transplant six years ago, my life has been a sea breeze compared with my life with lungs affected by cystic fibrosis (CF). Since everything seems easier now, I often forget that I still can’t handle everything on my own. I continue to need help sometimes, which means I need permission to be human.
I’ve struggled with the pressure to perform my whole life. When I’ve felt that I’m operating at a deficit, I’ve felt the drive to go above and beyond just to keep up with my peers. To me, that meant I couldn’t accept help, let alone ask for it. I know consciously that’s backward, but living in a society sculpted for the able-bodied has made me feel it’s impossible to have my own needs.
The “shoulds” have messed up my mindset. I should be able to do this by myself. I should be able to handle alone my health, job, home, and everything life throws at me. I should be able to perform at top level at all times. The list goes on.
The truth is that I won’t ever have perfect health. I know this consciously, but somehow the drive to go beyond my capacity is ingrained. It’s been a process for me to accept what is, even if my reality isn’t picture-perfect. I’ve learned the necessity of receiving help when I’m not feeling well, as well as listening to my body when it requires more rest than most people’s do.
Accepting my needs
This acceptance isn’t limited to physical health, either. It’s also a reminder that my mental and emotional health need attention, too. Living with chronic illness has brought its own challenges to maintaining balance when I’m trying to manage anxiety and depression during the aftermath of complex medical trauma. I’m not immune to the emotional swings that are a byproduct of lifelong health battles.
I’ve learned the hard way that I’m indeed human and have limitations. Sometimes I need a break. I have to say no to plans, reschedule time with friends, and shut down technology so that I don’t have to be constantly “on.” I need to cry, feel my feelings, and allow myself not to be OK.
Especially when I’m going through a tough circumstance, I can’t always be the strong one. As an empath, I feel everything deeply. That can get overwhelming, and the magnitude of what I’m carrying can get too heavy. It’s a blessing to have people in my corner to understand and help me shoulder the hard moments.
Life as a therapist is also difficult; I work to refrain from my tendency to help everyone who crosses my path. Setting boundaries around my time, health, and life is important so that I can be my best self. I’ve had to protect my mental well-being, physical health, and overall ability to function. When I do this self-care, I’m able to show up for others as a whole person rather than an exhausted and resentful woman because I’m working past my capacity.
I’m working on releasing the guilty feelings of not being able to show up for everyone all the time. I’ve learned over the years that I can’t carry the weight of everyone’s emotional needs; I can walk with them through trials, but I can’t be solely responsible for their care.
The example Jesus set by showing us he had limits, too, has helped me tremendously. He needed time to go to the mountains by himself for a break, to pray and just be. I’ve learned that I can take time away, too.
If you’re like me, then here’s your permission slip to be human, too.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.