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Finding Self-Love and Compassion

I think most of us know the definition of self-care and practice it. Every day when I get up I know I have to use my inhalers. Following an exercise routine and eating healthy is also part of my daily self-care. I practice meditation to decrease my anxiety, along with breathing techniques  These are all the things I do to care for my body and live with COPD.

Other forms of self-care are more indulgent. Hobbies are an important part of my life for relaxation. Reading has been a necessity for me since I learned how. Dining out is another way to satisfy myself when I have the need to be nurtured.

We all have ways to rejuvenate ourselves and restore balance within our world. It might be a massage, manicure, a new blouse or flowers. My husband’s idea of self-care is a new tool. It doesn’t matter what the activity is. Self-care is necessary to find balance in our lives.

Finding self-love

Self-love and compassion is another issue and much more difficult to resolve. Our inner critic is always rearing its ugly head. I think most people at different points of their life have felt the impact of diminished self-esteem because of a quality they didn’t like. As I got older, I became more comfortable in my own skin. I had confidence in who I was and the direction of my life. Those things I didn’t like about myself didn't matter any longer. Then COPD happened.

I found myself getting panic attacks. I was no longer the independent person I was before. This was my fault. I was a burden on my husband. Going out took planning. Spontaneity was no longer part of my life. The confidence and wisdom finally achieved with age was gone. I was convinced I was a failure.

It took many self-help books, blogs about life with chronic illness, and soul searching to understand I still had a life that was fulfilling. My future and dreams were not gone. I was still the same person my husband had always loved. I could still be a loving grandmother.

Self-compassion

I learned the term self-compassion. I felt I was a compassionate person to others, but to myself? The first step was learning to treat myself with kindness. It was okay if I now walked slower because I was short of breath. I listened to my body. If your child needed to rest from an illness, you wouldn’t tell them no. Why do we insist we shouldn’t? It took a couple of years, but I learned to say “No”. It was the kindest thing I ever did for myself.

One of my favorite books that taught me to be kind to myself is When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. It is a book about healing through kindness to yourself. A quote from that book resonated with me at the time and still does.

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing.  We think the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen:  room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

It still takes practice to replace the negative mind talk with the positive. I work at it daily. I realized that being compassionate to myself is to allow all the emotions, good and bad to just happen. It is part of healing. It is part of loving myself again.

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