Knowing what your limitations are?

See the thing is this;  It’s my experience that we have surgery or an injury and we work to get better, We watch our limitations as we go through the healing process. I am watching my husband now recovering from surgery and being mindful of his limitations. No lifting or bending or straining for at least 3 months. He has a support group of family and doctors and nurses that make him mind himself.

Usually, people will heal from surgery and return to their past life and the pain and discomfort will be a distant memory, except for the scar.

Not So For Us

We will never return to our former selves. I will never be the person I was before my COPD diagnosis and my chronic illness. Sometimes that is  good  thing, I will never smoke again and now I exercise and I never did that before but sometimes it is a bad thing. No more impromptu plans and no more spontaneity. Every minute of every day needs to be planned.

I work everyday

I consistently push myself for just 10 more steps, just another 10 minutes of workout, just one less calorie, just a few minutes less sleep. Everyday I push myself to do a little more and every morning I wake up and I start all over again. It is a drag sometimes but then I remember being in that bed in ICU and being so weak that I was unable to push the blankets away. Of being so weak that I thought I would never again walk, let alone walking 5,000 steps in a day.

I also remember that the difference between recovery time after my first attack was so much longer and more difficult than the second one. One reason for that was that I had an exercise regiment after my first attack that helped me bounce back.  Although for us exercise is the key, we still have to  be aware of our limitations and remember that consistency is the key. If you do 30 minutes of cardio one day and 60 minutes the next day, expect to face the consequences of not paying attention to your limitations.

My family makes it easy for me to live a comfortable life. I also have a great work schedule that allows me to work for 4 hours a day from 1 to 5 o’clock. My city has an amazing transit system for people with disabilities but I can still drive when I want to, although parking is pretty expensive and hard to find. Everyday I wake at 8:00 am with the help of my alarm clock and I begin my daily regimen of eating well, exercising, socializing, blog writing, cleaning and finally coming to work. I come home every evening at 5:30 to an amazing home cooked meal, courtesy of my daughter. I eat and watch the news, finally finishing up my exercise and anything I have not finished in my day.  I am committed to writing in my journal every day and then my sleepy tea and finally bed so I can get ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Then someone at work says they are going on holidays and I pipe up and say, “Oh, I’ll take that week and work full-time for 1 week.” How hard could it be, I said? I have worked full-time since I was 14 years old, I said.  I have rarely missed a day at work until I got sick. Anyway, it is 4 months away. What can it hurt?

So the week before my full-time hours come up I start to feel very sorry for myself. So sorry that I have to tell everyone who will listen how sorry I feel for me. Then I start with the ‘woe is me’ with my family but they all work full-time and have little time to engage my pity party. All because I didn’t pay attention to my limitations.

On Monday I wake in a terrible mood. No time for anything and taking your meds and running out the door is not a good thing to do. So my day starts off bad. Then I walked into someone else’s classroom and the students take an instant dislike to me. Or maybe it was me that disliked them, I can’t really remember.  By 10 o’clock I am screaming for my mother and I want to go home and get some exercise done and check my Facebook account. I want to vacuüm the floors for the dog hair and come back at 1:00. I think I am getting a migraine.  The day creeps on and finally the day is over.   I am home at last and dinner is wonderful.

Tuesday is much the same, migraine is getting worse and Wednesday follows with what I think is blindness in one eye. No I am not going blind, I have a migraine of my making.  I actually feel like a balloon that has lost it air. Slowly fading with no life left. All because I didn’t pay attention to my limitations.

Why do I do this to myself? I didn’t have to do it. I volunteered to do it.  I do these things to myself, because they always sounds good at the time and I keep asking myself what harm could it do? It turns out lots of harm. My schedule is off, my exercise is sub par, I am sleeping more than I should and waking up exhausted. That makes binge eating necessary because the only thing that soothes me is sugar. Scrap the diet for the week. Scrap the exercise for the week. My use of rescue inhalers is at my all time high because I didn’t pay attention to my limitations.

Consistency Is Knowing & Accepting Your Limitations

They are the key to having a good life with a chronic illness like COPD.  I can no longer be the “team player” I once was. I can no longer make excuses for my limitations and I can no longer apologize for not being able-bodied. I am committed to working for the next few years and to do that and stay true to myself, I cannot forget my limitations. That means I have to do the same things everyday consistently. It means you cannot be flexible or lackadaisical because everyday you begin again and you start over.

Losing Sight

If I lose sight of my limitations to take care of others and what they want, I lose me and all the advances I have made in the last year. My breathing becomes more laboured because I do not have the time to do a proper amount of exercise. I cannot cook because I am too tired and that also suffers because I reward myself with the wrong kinds of food.  It is loosing place for everyone. Sometimes we forget about limitations and self-care. We forget about us because we find it hard to ask or to say, “I can’t.”

And don’t forget that others have limitations too. Not all our limitations are visible or physical. Do not judge others for their limitations as you would not like be judged.