Extreme Self Care (Guest Post)

Today’s post is written by entrepreneur Glenda Waterworth (she and her husband own and run the stamp shop Chocolate Baroque, in England). When she told me about her take on extreme self care, I knew I had to share her ideas (and her art journal) with you.
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The last couple of years have been “difficult” for my husband and me. That’s an understatement, but that’s what I do – I put a brave face on it, smile and tell everyone I’m coping just fine. The reality would take too long to go into, but let’s just say it’s been a time of endings and loss and deep emotional pain.

I look back on the worst of that time now and see it as a storm. We had to turn and face into the wind with our heads down, battling against the obstacles churned up and thrown at us. During the storm, all you want is for it to stop. You think your problems will be over when the storm ends, but what actually happens is that the storm unearths and uproots anything that isn’t securely nailed down.

For me, the debris that was left in the wake of our storm – the issues I hadn’t previously “nailed down” turned out to be my own health. I was so busy being the tower of strength for those around me that I had neglected my own physical health and once exposed, it demanded attention.

I have lots of journals on the go, most without a specific theme, but this January I started a “health” journal and stuck in the words “Healthy, strong and active” as one of my goals for 2012.  The journal then sat around for months, untouched.

In April I went through a few weeks of intense pain that eventually resulted in me being given a shot of morphine and admitted to hospital.

I disagreed with the doctor’s preliminary diagnosis and discharged myself rather than go through a battery of tests that I just didn’t believe was right. My own doctor ran some simpler tests to rule out the biggies (cancer) and encouraged me not to cancel our forthcoming holiday.

So a few days later I endured a grueling 400 mile, two day journey to northern Scotland for our first proper holiday in five years and it was there that my real healing began. I rested and reveled in the silence and wild beauty and wrote in my journal about banishing pain from my body.

We drove to remote, windswept beaches and I would load up with painkillers and heat pads and walk as far as I could manage, even if it was just a few minutes.

Ten days into the holiday I woke up without pain for the first time in about five weeks. I wrote about that too, wanting to capture the feeling of ordinariness and the gratitude for it.

I apologized to my body and promised to look after it better in the future. I made a commitment to practice “extreme self care”.

When I got home, I came across my health journal and I realised the word ‘health’ was limiting and had been holding me back from using this journal.  I now call it my Extreme Self Care journal which covers so much more than physical health, though obviously that is a key part of the mix.

Based on some of the writing I had done on holiday, I wrote the mission statement. (Above, left).

I then revisited my ‘healthy strong and active’ page with a favourite journaling technique:

Hold a question, problem or a phrase (as in this case) in your mind then harvest old magazines for words and phrases that call out to you.

Cut them out and put them all onto a large clean piece of paper. Play around with them and see what words come together, what sentences you can form.

Sometimes I find words that I incorporate with my own writing, using the cut out words for emphasis, and that is what I did here to document my experience of fighting pain.

Other times I make a whole sentence from the words such as this example here. I may add my own writing or images to this page later –picking up on phrases that resonate at the time.

As 2012 draws to a close, we know that our storm is over and the bruises are healing, there’s still a little debris to tidy up, but now we can see we are facing a new landscape, washed clean and full of possibilities.  Extreme self care is now part of my life and my mindset and the journal, like me, is a work in progress.
Glenda Waterworth describes herself as “not perfect, never finished, always experimenting and endlessly curious”.  A desire for a more colourful life led her to quit her career in computing in her mid 30s and start her own creative business.  She now runs a stamp company called Chocolate Baroque from the historic market town of Barnard Castle in England with her husband, Adrian.

[Quinn’s note: Visit Glenda’s blog and her online stamp company and you’ll see that’s she’s another art instigator.]