I’ve often had people ask: “how do you do it?” They are referring to working full time, running a charity, starting one business while running a couple more, volunteering, taking courses, taking care of my kids and husband, and various domestic pursuits as well. Well, I usually reply, “I don’t sleep much.”
Now that’s true. But more of the truth is that I’m one of those people who was born with lots of energy and a big passion for life. If you knew me in my twenties, I did a heck of a lot more than I do now. Attended university while working full-time, and that kind of craziness. However, about ten years ago when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, my husband likes to say I slowed down to an almost normal persons’ pace.
The thing is, I’m used to being a bit tired now, and fighting off infections and that kind of thing, because rheumatism is an immune disease and I’m on immune suppressants. But in the late summer/fall, I got this horrible pain behind my ear and across my face. I’ve been sticking it out and battling my way through it, visiting specialist after specialist, none of which seems to really know what is wrong. The thing with chronic pain is that it starts wearing at you, and attacking your immune system even more. So I’ve been getting virus after virus, infection after infection… And I’m just plain worn out. The constant pain also aggravates my arthritis, so I’ve had a week or so when I couldn’t stand to teach in class. It mentally starts to wear at you too, so I’m less patient and more easily irritated, even with my girls.
Anyway, “superwoman,” as my husband calls me, hit a wall. (Of course I know I’m not superwoman, it’s just a metaphor for perceived invincibility.) The long and short is that I’m exhausted, from the inside out.
My doctor convinced me it was time to take a break and get well. She is right, of course… I won’t get well until I stop running on the hamster wheel. So I did the unthinkable for someone who barely takes a day off, and went on sick leave. I’m off until the end of the semester, and I’m trying to really concentrate on nutrition, pain management, and research to get well.
It’s a hard pill to swallow… I’ve had all these horrible guilty feelings, about leaving my students and not being “professional” enough to stick out the semester. Yet, I know I’m right to take time to get better. And as the doctor said, it’s only going to get worse until I take the time to get well.
The reason I’m posting this isn’t for a pity trip… Or for support, really, as I have that in spades from my family. (Like my awesome mom, who just stayed for 6 days and cleaned my house and folded a couple of loads of laundry before she left!)
It’s more just to debunk the myth of the superwoman. She doesn’t really exist. And if you, yes ladies, I am talking to you, are starting to go downhill, don’t wait several months to address it like I did. Because then you won’t have any choice on the timing at all. As I said to a student recently: “do as I say, not as I do: Take care of yourself.”