I ask myself this question a lot. The other day I drew the Ace of Cups Rx and The Empress Rx and they seemed to be addressing this issue for me. I’m one of those people who have loads of advice for everyone – ways to improve their lives, their health, whatever. Unfortunately, I am notorious for not applying such advice to my own life. I can be stubborn and hard-headed, or as my mother likes to call it – thick. I am a relatively intelligent person – or I at least have book smarts and know the answers to a number of Jeopardy questions. Common sense, however, does not appear to be on of my innate skills. Of course, life loves to throw us curve balls and I was finally thrown one that forced me to face a few issues that I’ve been trying to avoid.

I have Type II diabetes and until a few years ago I had it fairly well controlled. Once things got more challenging dealing with my mother-in-law, caring for myself was one of the things that fell by the wayside. Short-sighted and stressed, I chose to live in denial that this behavior would come back to bite me in the ass. Fast forward to July of this year (the day after my 51st birthday, in fact) and my chickens had come home to roost. I visited my doctor and got a call from his office the next day informing me that he wanted to up my medications adding an additional pill for diabetes, Lipitor and a prescription Omega 3 supplement. Now I hate taking more pills than is absolutely necessary but I also don’t want to suffer from complications due to diabetes later in my life. So I bitched and moaned and bitched some more. Then I talked with my hubby and we came up with a plan. I would give myself a specific time period to change my behaviors – eat healthier and exercise more. If there was no improvement at the end of this time then I’d have to start taking the additional pills.

It was difficult at first and I became discouraged and almost gave up a few times but I knew that if I began taking these additional pills I’d be psychologically giving up and I didn’t want to do that. So I hung in there. I’m finally seeing an improvement in my glucose levels and am definitely making healthier food choices. So I’m making progress but this made me wonder why I did this to myself? Why do so many of this do this to ourselves?

We bend over backward to care for others but ignore our own needs. We put off our own needs and try to ignore or avoid the potentially negative repercussions of these choices. Is this something we’re acculturated to accept? Are we programmed to think that our needs come last? I can’t claim to have all the answers but I will say that in my case it was simply a matter of not making myself a priority. I was programmed early on in life to do what was expected of me – to be the good student, the good daughter, the good employee. I craved the positive reinforcement and external validation. It was exhausting.

It took a long time but I think I’m finally reaching a place where my needs count too. They’re not necessarily more important than the needs of loved ones but they are as important. If I don’t take care of myself then I can’t care for them either. It’s a pretty simple concept but one that I traveled a long, winding road to reach. I’m sure I’ll still have days when I backslide but I feel more positive that I’m moving in the right direction.