Honor Your Own Needs

heather plett, trauma, caring for yourself, self care, tiny buddha, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

Can anyone else relate? I sure can. This quote by Heather Plett & shared by TinyBuddha.com really struck me this evening. The art of caring for one’s self is a challenge for people like me – for many reasons. But among them, as I mentioned in a round about way here, being a people-pleaser can cause you to push yourself too far to make or keep everyone happy. And because you can’t actually achieve that, you keep pushing yourself to reach unattainable end. But what’s behind it? In this post, I wrote, “When I should watch and guard my time and well-being, I place others above myself to my detriment. Why? Good question. Why do you do it? Answering that question for ourselves is healing.”

This image above, with Heather Plett’s quote, perfectly answers why I have done it. It’s the trauma that taught me that I am only safe, accepted, loved, etc., when I behaved and spoke exactly as everyone else wanted. So naturally, being consumed by pleasing everyone around me was the result. I did so to my detriment for years on end. If you find yourself in this pattern, I hope this quote will be helpful to you. It was and is, to me.

How to be Unwell

brene brown, talk to yourself as you would someone you love, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, so that we can give from our surplus, our abundance. When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of.

Jennifer Louden

When I re-launched this blog a while back, I wanted to focus on wellness (alongside my fiction). It has been interesting to see where this wellness journey has taken me. I thought I’d figured some things out. But I learn the hard way. Oh how I learn the hard way. God made me a fighter. I don’t give up easily. Lordy, I do not give up.

This is a beautiful thing – to be so dedicated, to love so much, to care so much – that I fight until there’s a win. I don’t hate that about me. I’m proud of it. It’s also the bane of my existence. Hahaha. This penchant to stick to it until there’s change – until I’ve exhausted all resources – also sometimes means it is hard to learn lessons I desperately need to learn. I am a smart woman. But apparently, I’m sort of thick headed too. I was learning about wellness and what that means. I was working on it. But it hadn’t settled deep down into my bones.

I wrote in August about my health deteriorating. It is actually worse than I expected. I saw it coming. It’s like watching a hurricane, off our coast, in the Atlantic hurricane season. You watch that thing turn and turn as it gets closer to you, when you live in a hurricane zone. You know it’s coming. You do your best to brace for impact, but even still you can be caught unaware.

I have, even recently, feared what I wrote here. Even after promising myself I wouldn’t. But that’s pointless. If I can’t get a job because I’m a person who lives authentically and shares that, it’s not the place for me. If I write openly and if people somehow view me as less than or weak – because I write what I’m compelled to write, so be it.

It’s like a mother, when the baby is crying, she picks up the baby and she holds the baby tenderly in her arms. Your pain, your anxiety is your baby. You have to take care of it. You have to go back to yourself, to recognize the suffering in you, embrace the suffering, and you get a relief.

Thich Nhat Hanh


I’ve just finished Danielle Walker‘s new memoir, Food Saved Me. What I didn’t expect as I read this book, was to feel seen, hopeful, and also terribly fearful that it will take me longer than I can stand to think about – to find the solution to what’s happening with my health. But one thing the book convinced me of, was that I felt instant community with someone (Danielle) that I haven’t met. She wrote things about God, that I could have written. I felt less alone in this crazy mess, as I read.

As I finished the book the other night, I felt compelled to walk through this journey here – when I can. I’m working through the potential that I have new diagnoses that may come my way, or perhaps an incorrect diagnosis, leading me to be treated for the wrong thing for five or more years. I have three specialist appointments coming up at Duke – as I search for answers. I have things I’m changing in my “diet” and in how I manage the day to day at work and home. Thankfully, at work, I have some new help which is creating some space to reset.

But I believe we are whole persons. To treat one part of us when we’re sick (our bodies alone), I think we will ultimately fail. We are complex beings and I believe, spiritual beings, first and foremost.

I found a modicum of physical wellness in years past. But it didn’t seep into other places. I didn’t care for myself as I could have or should have. This last year and a half, on the heels of losing my son, was too much. The avalanche was too much – without caring for myself as a whole person – that is. There are some of you that know exactly what I mean. Right? You care for everything and everyone – except yourself.

Talk to yourself as you would someone you love.

Brene Brown


What does it mean to care for yourself? Self-care has come to mean bubble baths, dark chocolate, and a pedicure. It could be that. But that often grazes the surface, at least for me. Self- care means strong, deep boundaries. It means being protective of our time, our life, our home, and our hearts. It means leaving work at work. While my job requires interruptions at home, it cannot be as bad as it has for eleven years. I’ve allowed too much seepage. I care too much. More specifically, I care too much what people think. When I should watch and guard my time and well-being, I place others above myself to my detriment. Why? Good question. Why do you do it? Answering that question for ourselves is healing. For me, I’ve also allowed abusive behavior of individuals – one of whom even defined himself as a “snake” – to deeply impact my responses to things and to cloud my view of myself, my calling, and what I know to be true about myself, my expertise, and God’s call on my life.

Friend, I have shit to do. I have a calling. I have books to write, people to love, and hopefully a family waiting in the wings. I can’t get any sicker than I am in this moment. This is the end of the road on that front. But we are whole persons. So it can’t just be about physical healing. If you’re in a similar boat – whether you’re just starting out on a wellness journey, or you’re well on your way – the one thing I hope for you is that you will work on your heart and soul as you work toward physical healing.

I’ve learned in a painful way how great the fall is – when we fail that part of our lives. So where do we begin? Here are a few areas I failed in. Hahaha. These failures are where there’s goodness in our journey to wellness (if we do the opposite) though.

How to be unwell:
– Eat food-like substances, instead of actual food
– Move your body less & less
– Let other people’s opinions of you deeply impact how you view yourself
– Work late into the evening
– Work on the weekends
– Let abusive individuals impact you so deeply that you literally wither away into a person you don’t recognize
– Stop advocating for yourself
– If you’re a woman, letting men disrespect you without calling them out (not kidding – this is soul-crushing – terribly soul-crushing)
– Sleep less & less
– Don’t drink enough water
– Drink more alcohol
– Let the world cloud your vision of a God that loves you
– Don’t listen to your mama when she tells you to take better care of yourself
– Tell other people how to take care of themselves & then absolutely do not practice what you preach

That’s a pretty good list. But I’m sure we could add to it. What would you add? Next time I’ll share some of the steps I’m taking on the food front. But before I got to that, I felt the need to share this. If you’re reading along and you feel like sharing a few “things not to do,” I’d love to hear from you.

Take care of yourself this weekend. Outside of two errands tomorrow, it’s a weekend in bed for me. If your life won’t allow for that, I hope you will find some small way to invest in yourself – as you seek wellness.

Trusting Unsafe People

art Bless the Messy, Bless the Messy, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons in my life. In recent years, I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons about who I can trust. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a while – after the fog lifts – to realize that you should not have trusted someone (with your time, heart, support, or even your most carefully held secrets or thoughts).

The worst part of trusting unsafe people is that they often present themselves as the only one/ones you can trust. When you’re in the so-called fog of war, it’s hard to know for sure. So how do you know who to trust and who not to trust? So hard. It’s so hard. I have no degrees. I’m not an expert in any field of use (haha) here. What I do have is experience – hard core experience.

Experience that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.

– William Nicholson – from The Shadowlands

Here’s what it boils down to:

TRUST. YOUR. GUT.

What if your gut is telling you that you can’t trust anyone in a specific environment (professional, personal, your neighborhood, whatever), or situation? That probably means you might want to be very careful and trust your gut until you see otherwise. I have been there. I trusted when I should not have. The charming one may catch your eye. But he or she isn’t always untrustworthy. Except when your gut tells you not to trust him. When everyone else has a bad opinion of someone – but your gut tells you something else – you might just be right. Conversely, there are people who are well-liked who are absolutely, 100% rotten people, who shouldn’t be trusted under any circumstances. Your gut is telling you

If you’ve been through trauma, could your people picker be off? Could your gut be wrong? It’s possible. It could also be super aware, as a result of your trauma, of who to avoid. What should you do in these moments? Trust yourself. If you’re in an environment that isn’t healthy, this need to protect yourself, set strong boundaries, and know your worth – is absolutely tied to your ability to trust yourself, too.

Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.

– Dr. Joyce Brothers

Listen, this is a hard thing to figure out – especially in the murky, grey areas of life. But when you make a decision to trust yourself and your gut – when you come to a moment of acceptance that you actually know what the hell you’re talking about/feeling/knowing – things that once seemed so confusing, suddenly become clear.

If you’re on a wellness journey, or learning to set better boundaries, this is going to take some work. You may even make a mistake or two along the way. I have made more than I care to admit. And recently. When you get to one of those moments when you realize you probably shouldn’t have trusted someone with a part of your heart, life, etc., accept it for the lesson it is and keep moving. It’s hard, dude. But if you take the lesson with you, it becomes easier the next time around to invest your efforts, heart, etc., in people and places that are trustworthy. The first step is to trust that this is true and that your gut knows what the hell it’s talking about.



Just Around the Bend

robert frost, the best way out is always through, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

When I woke up from a nap yesterday evening, the world looked a little different. I’ve been closer and closer to that moment for a while now. I woke up this morning and that sense had settled in even deeper – though I’d had a weird {weird-bad, not weird-entertaining} dream that could have been unsettling. In the place of some of the hard stuff that I’ve walked through the last couple of years, is a quiet peace.

Perseverance is something that many of us probably feel we’re well acquainted with. I have often been told that I’m strong. But being told that got old a long time ago. I don’t particularly care for being strong. I have a similar relationship with the word perseverance. Obviously, you don’t learn to persevere or persevere well, unless you face your fair share of challenging circumstances.

Life isn’t ever going to be free of challenges, conflict, or pain. It ebbs and flows, right? So while I can’t really call this an end, it certainly feels like rounding a corner to see the most beautiful sunrise or sunset you’ve ever seen. I live near-ish to the coast. We have high rise bridges that take you over the Intracoastal Waterway. As you reach the top, the Atlantic Ocean comes in sight. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, my heart always catches in my throat. That’s a little of how I feel right now.

Here’s the truth about God, healing, hope, and working your way through hard things or difficult circumstances – sometimes it’s the littlest things you need to admit, confess, forgive, fully feel, or maybe even say out loud – that help you round that corner. If I can encourage anyone who comes across this, to keep pressing forward, I wanted to share. Life is weird and wonderful and I know when stuff is a mess, it’s hard to imagine it being any other way.

The thing is, your moment of clarity, peace, forgiveness, or healing – is just around the bend. Keep moving forward.