Andrews: Take care of yourself and others
Last week, I found myself in a great deal of inexplicable pain. Normally, I would try to push through because there is so much to accomplish. Unfortunately, the pain became blinding, and all I could do was cry. This situation required medical attention.
I’d been dealing with the pain for a few weeks, so I already had an appointment with my medical provider — but it was two weeks out. Grasping that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and not wanting to add to the overburdened system, I thought twice about where I should go. I had to decide if my pain was emergent or urgent.
As I thought about our care providers across the state and how they haven’t had a break from dealing with the pandemic, it broke my heart, but I decided urgent care was required. Predictably, and sadly, when my husband drove me to the clinic, it was packed.
The friendly woman at admitting went through the protocol and provided me with a sanitized space to wait. All around, people were in various stages of illness; some, like me, were silently crying, while others sat watching Harry Potter on the monitors. After what seemed like hours, but was closer to 30 minutes, I was seen by a physician.
This doctor treated me with respect, asked questions and then told me that I needed to go to the emergency room. All I could think about was the number of clinicians, support staff and team of facilities workers who had been going nonstop, and now I was going to throw myself in the mix. Luckily, I was able to roll down the hall and get admitted to ER for further testing.
In addition to a mix of somewhat minor issues, the ER team discovered I had an ulcer in my small intestine which occurs when stomach acid damages the lining of the digestive tract. Treatment usually includes medication to decrease stomach acid production and active efforts to remove stress from your life. When you have ulcers, you should limit coffee, spicy food and caffeine.
In other words, my body was rebelling against my stress-filled, spicy-food eating, coffee-drinking self.
What was I supposed to do? I work a full-time job, have a 3-year-old son, serve on boards and commissions, have a spouse who I adore, and in my spare time, I am working on my dissertation. What more can I do? I can’t give up anything. Everything is important.
That is when I realized by doing less, I could have more meaning for the things I choose to do. The things I need to do. The things I want to do. By taking care, I can potentially lower my personal stress, which is feeling a bit off the charts lately. I can focus more intentionally on work projects, be engaged fully with my husband and our son, and even block out some time to work on my dissertation, rather than feeling guilty for not writing it.
By taking care of myself, I can model better behavior for my little boy and my coworkers. By taking care, I can honor the relationships that anchor my life (Chip Andrews, I’m talking about you). By taking care, I can cross projects off my list, not just the little fires that appear every day, taking time from the work I am hired to do.
I suddenly realized that by taking care of myself, which means saying no more often, I might also do better at taking care of the folks around me who are just as busy, just as stressed, just as tired and inundated as I am. Maybe when we start taking care of ourselves, before something becomes an issue, we will create the space for our bodies to heal from the trauma of the last 18 months.
Please learn from my actions and look at how you are dealing with your current needs. I dealt with the pain for weeks and still believed I could wait longer. I tried to kick the can farther and farther down the road. Don’t be me.
In other words, I am asking that we all take care. Eighteen months into this pandemic and I’m just realizing that if we don’t slow down, our stress will start presenting itself in physical ways. We have to take care — of ourselves and each other. To this end, maybe we all need to look at our pain points and, rather than pushing through, take a rest, especially those on the front lines of care. Shout out to physicians, nurses, support staff, technicians and all the folks working to make sure we stay alive. And, if you can, get vaccinated. Take care.
Adrienne G. Andrews is the assistant vice president and chief diversity officer for Weber State University. Twitter: AdieAndrewsCDO