Digging In

The past week has been a pretty introspective one. I’m continuing to work on expanding my repertoire of self-care techniques. As I mentioned last week, I signed up for a three-week intro to yoga class, because it’s about damn time I started taking better care of my body. That started on Saturday. It came with the bonus of giving me free access to all of the other basic yoga classes at the studio for the duration of the three weeks, so I did yoga twice over the weekend, and am much less sore than I expected.

I’ve been continuing to try to reincorporate meditation and tarot into my daily routine. It’s been an anxious week, but I’ve been trying to give myself space when I need to in order to focus on my breathing and ground myself.¬†This, along with yoga, has made me very conscious of something I was only dimly aware of before:

I am really bad at breathing.

I’ve never had a huge lung capacity, but wearing a chest binder for five years did me no favors in that regard. Today marks seven months since I had chest masculinization surgery, but even though I haven’t been binding for months now, I haven’t gotten out of the bad breathing habits my body developed over those five years. When I try to breathe deeply, I find that it all feels stuck high in my chest. Belly breathing is a mystery to me. I can visualize how it should work, but in my body, it’s not. At least not yet. So that’s a major piece of grounding that I’m going to be focusing on for a while, I think.

It feels like my life is taking a very meditative direction lately, and my initial reaction to that was to feel guilty: after all, there is so much to be done, such chaos in the world around me that needs to be confronted. I brought this up in therapy on Sunday, and my therapist pointed out that self-care is essential to resistance. Resistance is in large part about stamina, going in for the long haul, and that’s not possible if you don’t take time to dig in and build a solid, sturdy foundation for yourself.

I still feel guilty, but I recognize the truth there: I’m no good to anyone if I’m not taking time to take care of myself. I’m acutely aware of the privilege I hold that allows me to take that time. I hope that I ultimately use that privilege for good.

Sick Day Guilt

I spent most of last weekend feeling like I was fighting off a cold. Monday afternoon, while I was at work, I started feeling dizzy and feverish, so I left a little early. Tuesday, I woke up still feeling feverish, and decided that, even though I need to be saving as much of my sick and vacation time as I possibly can right now, I wasn’t going to get anything done if I went in to work (aside from spread my germs around). I called in.

I slept until almost noon. I spent most of the rest of the day on the couch, where I knit, dozed, and watched¬†Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the eleventy-billionth time.

And it helped. I felt much better yesterday (even if I wasn’t back to 100%), and I went back to work.

But even though I know I made the right decision in staying home on Tuesday, there’s a part of me that keeps trying to feel guilty. Like, I probably could have sucked it up and gone in. I probably would’ve been miserable, but I could’ve toughed it out, right?

I wrestle with this guilt every time I call in sick to anything, be it work or a volunteer shift or even hanging out with friends. I think a lot of it comes back to having my authority on my feelings called into question as a kid/young adult. I worry that I’m overreacting, that I’m being too sensitive. Particularly when I take a day off for more mental health than physical health reasons, I feel like I’m just not being tough enough. I worry that it means I have a poor work ethic.

Which is all such bullshit, right? If I’m sick, I should stay home and not get my coworkers sick. I should rest so that I can come back to work on top of my game (or at least close to it), rather than getting less and less productive as I try through sheer will power to keep my immune system from failing me. I know all of this. I’ve told other people this I don’t know how many times.

The biggest reason I am trying to save all my sick and vacation time is that I’m planning to schedule chest masculinization surgery for this fall. I’ll need to take at least two full weeks off, and should probably plan for three or four. I’m hoping to be able to work things out so that my recovery falls in the month of All the Jewish Holidays (which is October, this year), where my office doesn’t have a single full week of work for an entire month. That will help with the being able to afford time off. And I should be able to work from home before I’m ready to come back to the office, which will also help.

But see? Even there, I’m thinking about working from home immediately after major surgery, rather than giving myself time to recover. I should know better. I pushed myself too hard after a minor surgical procedure last spring, and wound up missing more work than I would have if I’d just given myself a couple of extra days at the beginning of recovery.

I pride myself on the fact that I own my dysfunction and do my best to deal with it. I’m at a loss with this one, though. I can acknowledge that my fears that my worth is affected by how productive I am at work are irrational, but it’s hard to know how to reframe them into something more useful.

Guess I have something to talk about next time I see my therapist.