Self Care

Google the term “self-care”.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

If you’re like me, reading just the first page of my Google results has my mind spinning.

Wikipedia

“Self care refers to actions and attitudes which contribute to the maintenance of well-being and personal health and promote human development. In terms of health maintenance, self care is any activity of an individual, family or community, with the intention of improving or restoring health, or treating or preventing disease. A holistic health approach is common in self care.”  Wait…what?

PsychCentral

“Self-care is a touchy subject. That’s because our society largely views self-care as selfish, slothful and overly indulgent.

Yet, it’s anything but. Taking good care of yourself not only makes your life more fulfilling and contributes to your well-being, but it also extends to others.”  That’s fine…but HOW?

Student Health Center of NC State University

“Self care is active participation in enhancing the quality of your health. Some people may think that nurturing the self is only for the fragile, the weak-willed, or the slacker–it certainly couldn’t be for strong, ambitious college men and women. However, it is a vital part of maintaining good health and a vibrant life. It’s not just an occasional manicure, “chilling out” or a six-pack. Building up a repertoire of reliable self care habits now can affect your quality of life both now and in the future.”  How do you know it’s not the occasional manicure?  Who makes up these rules?

Images

Arenas of Self-Care.  I’m dizzy.

  This just pisses me off.

  Tell me something I don’t know.

Self care has become kitchy and cute.  A trendy catch phrase.  “Don’t bother me now.  Mommy is practicing self care.”  Which leave the little ones thinking, “What the fuck is that?  I just want a cookie.”

Well foul mouthed little one, I don’t know.  And neither does your mommy really.  Because the thing about catch phrases and trendy “of the moment” practices is that they are worn out.  Everybody is doing it which means that everybody has an opinion about how you should be doing it and why.  While that might be fine for the mother of four who just needs a moment to herself before she starts dinner or the single woman who’s been on too many dates recently and needs to step back and regroup or the man who has taken on too many jobs and needs to get some clarity; but a simple catch phrase or sign or buzz word ain’t gonna cut it for a recovering alcoholic who is trying to hold on to her sanity with her expertly applied acrylic nails.

Thing is…I’ve been thinking that I WAS practicing self-care.  My family offers me all the time I need to “have a moment” or grab a manicure or soak in a tub (which I will not do because I hate baths…but I digress).  I’ve read more that I care to remember about how to “forgive myself” or “let go” and still I struggle.  (I have however ordered Brene’s book you all recommeded and I will read it when it arrives.  For some reason I felt the need to actual hold this book in my hand and put it on my shelf.)

So just what IS self care anyway?

One thing I’ll say for Psyche Central is that yes, it is a touchy subject.  Anytime I do anything for myself I’m filled with guilt.  But if I knew that what I was doing was actually going to work, I could handle the guilt.  I am a firm believer that I’m no good to anybody if I’m not well.  It’s how I got sober.  During that first year or two, I felt absolutely no guilt for doing whatever I had to do to get and stay alcohol free.  I plowed through like the Mother Fucking Sober Warrior Ninja that I am and laid carnage to whatever or whoever got in my way.

But now my attempts at self-care feel selfish and indulgent.  Why?  Because they don’t work.  They’re attacking the issue from the outside and, as Ellie said, this is an inside job.  Manicures and shopping trips and time alone with my thoughts are not the answer.  Manicures are a necessity.  Shopping trips are dangerous to an “aholic” like me who is in crisis. (Is that what this is…a crisis?).  Time alone with my thoughts is ridiculous right now when all I can do is think about disaster and dying and wallow in my depression.

The self-care I need has to come from inside and I don’t know how to do that.  I don’t know how to make that mind-body-spirit thing connect and, more importantly, I don’t know how to keep it connected when I do manage to accidentally connect to the mother ship.  It feels like when the lights go off in a thunderstorm and the power company is working to restore them.  First they flicker, then they come on for a few minutes only to go off again and dissappoint.  Getting those lights to stay ON is what I need to do.

Except that I don’t WANT to.  Right now self-care to me feels like eating comfort food and sitting around watching trash TV.  It feels like cooking and baking for my family and not facing the outside world.  It feels like redecorating my home to remind me of the beach where I feel most connected but have been away from for four years.  It feels like flying to Oklahoma or driving to Maryland to be with my children and grandchildren who reaffirm my reason for being.

Here’s the thing though…that is the selfish and self indulgent kind of self care.  On the surface it looks to the rest of the trendsetters like that is exactly what I should be doing.  But those of us who have been to hell and back know that those things are outside things and, once again, this is an inside job.

I have never been naive enough to believe that recovery was a “once done” thing.  I’ve always known it was an ongoing process.  What I didn’t count on was all the shit that created this place I’m in now being this hard to overcome.  Who knew I would just go through life trading one addiction for another all the while declaring that I was FINE until I reached bottom and realized that, guess what, I am not fine.  I’m not fine AT ALL.  I am sober.  I don’t smoke.  I try to eat well.  I control my spending habits.  I don’t sleep around.

But I am most definitely not fine.

The thing is, my body and subconscious know when I’m lying to them.  Stress and the act of stuffing down emotions manifests itself for me through depression.  Back before anti-depressants my hair used to fall out or I’d break out in a rash.  Now that I’m medicated it just comes through as a deeper depression.  Like a little Sherry way down deep who’s been yelling and yelling and has finally grabbed a microphone and a sub-woofer and started screaming – ALL IS NOT WELL HERE DUMBASS!!!!!

Dang – I hear you…you don’t have to yell.

Namaste

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20 thoughts on “Self Care

  1. Self-care at my treatment center meant doing the stuff we were meant to do – you know, bathe daily, shave (it was a men’s center), make the bed, eat brekkie…you know, basics. Most of us lost the ability to do those simple things.

    Now fast forward and we have much of what we need now – we have jobs, family, houses or apartments that need maintenance, bills to pay, food to cook, etc. We have responsibilities again. We have been given a new life (or a muchly modified old one). Then things start to creep in – stress, resentments, boundary issues, new (“safer”?) addictions, old feelings, old ways of thinking, etc. Some of us (like me) would turn to food or sugar. Some do it through work. Some spend beyond their means. Anything to get out of one’s self. It’s normal that we do it – not that it’s a grand idea – but it’s common.

    I went through what you’re going through not too long ago, Sherry. Nothing really wrong, but nothing really right. Slow death by a 1000 cuts. What I have seen, and am learning Sherry, is that we get very hard on ourselves. I know I do. Too much. i expect too much. I want it all now (serenity, the meaning of life, etc). I want to be chill forever. I want, I want, I want. And the idea of self-care becomes a guilt trip. i am not DOING enough, and yet I wonder why I don’t FEEL enough. Sometimes the best solution is to do nothing. Hard for a guy like me. So there is a balance – sure I have shit I have to do. i do it. Then, I take the moments I need to do a quick recharge – ride my bike, meditate, read the paper, zen out and clean the fridge (I like cleaning!), sit and play Angry Birds, whatever. I don’t have to spend a weekend at a retreat, but i get to remove myself from the craziness and recharge. I am no good to others if I am no good to myself.

    Find what works for you and you alone. Mani-pedis might be it for some, picking lint from a sweater and staring at the majesty of the stars might be another. Making sure we aren’t self-medicating (food, etc.) is key, but there is certainly joy in a good meal. In the end, I ask myself: what are my motives? What brings me ease and peace? If I am eating because I am enjoying something and I know it’s not because I’m bored or anxious…then hell ya, give me another plate! But we instinctly know. Talking to someone else also brings clarity, Sherry. maybe you’ll get some good words from someone here or out there.

    Take it easy on yourself 🙂

    Paul

  2. That sticky note reminding us to take care of ourselves sums it up in the saddest way. Like you, I’d rather not think it means rewarding myself with things. But it can be taking a trip to visit family or getting my cleaning done during the week so I have a clean house and the weekends free or going to bed early when I’m tired. Or maybe that is not self-care but just living in a way that feels enjoyable and healthier than not. Too bad self-care is also totally cookies sometimes. I cycle in and out but at the moment a little more content to accept that I’ll never get all my addictions under control at the same time, and maybe that’s not the real goal anyway.

    I hope you feel better and find what you need to get there. xoxo

    1. I know what you mean about cycling. Funny thing is, every since I started writing a couple of days ago…I’m beginning to feel better.

      Guess I’d better not step away too long anymore.

      Sherry

  3. Self-care really is tricky, isn’t it? It is different for different people at different times….argh! I think sometimes it is getting out of our comfort zones and sometimes it is staying in them. Serious self-care for me involves therapy, yoga, deep talks with good friends, writing, inspirational reading (brene brown is great!), prayer, enough sleep and some exercise. I don’t always do those things when I should, though, but they are the things that make me feel the best. Shopping, TV, gossipy talks with friends, trashy novels, junk food- those things make me feel better in the short term but don’t get to the root of my problem. Sometimes they are necessary, though! This is why self-care is so hard! Hugs Sherry! I am glad you are here writing about stuff and working through it. xo

    1. Ah therapy. I truly believe I need to find a good therapist but ugh! It’s so hard. I’ve had two in my lifetime and both were ridiculous. PLUS – that means getting naked (spiritually speaking) and we all know how much i LOVE that.

      You are a wise woman Jen. Thanks for the kind words.

      Sherry

  4. You continue to amaze and inspire, thank you, Sherry.

    Have your heard about the Metta Prayer? It’s a lovingkindness meditation. Here’s the variation I was taught:

    May I be safe
    May I be happy
    May I be healthy
    May I be content
    May I care for myself easily.

    When our meditation teacher introduced the prayer, she told us that the first four lines are easy to understand. The fifth? Not so much. She illustrated caring for yourself easily as doing the daily tasks that need doing to keep yourself in comfortable, clean, healthy and safe environments. Like, pick up the socks, take the garbage to the curb, haul your butt out for a walk. And try to do it mindfully and without begrudging yourself the pleasure or without stirring up resentment.

  5. Lol! Love love this! Self care… hmmm… I love your thinking process about it and I was nodding my head like, yep, yep! Yep. I can do relate!

    I know when I am doing it and I know when I am not! Or better yet, I feel it. And i have to pracice it daily or risk feeling miserable. For me it’s based on the 12 steps: 3rd- let go of control, 4th- don’t harbour resentments, 10th- keep my side of the street clean, and 12th – help someone else.

    And of course blogging is great too. I read a few posts a day and I get filled with hope and gratitude!

    Thank you Sherry! Hugs!

    1. I know what you mean about reading posts…I really feel like I’ve missed talking to my friends if I don’t come out and read. I don’t always comment…but I try to always read a few.

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Sherry

  6. Oh Sherry,

    Now that I typed this I can’t get that Steve Perry song out of my head! But I seriously digress…

    You and I are cut from the same cloth; and yet, you seem light years ahead of me mentally. I have been doing much of the same things this week, and yet I haven’t realized it until I just read this post.

    So thanks for sharing it, you have opened my eyes to my own behavior.

    I will offer as feedback (that I’m also giving myself): when I feel caught up in downward spiral, it usually feels so overwhelming to reverse it that I tend to stay in it for even longer. But when I pick whatever I feel is my most egregious behavior, and try to fix just that, it gets me going back on the right path. For me, that usually (and currently) is eating. So I just read this, and I say to myself, “Ok Josie, let’s not worry about anything else but eliminating the worst of the foods.” Typically, once I get that under control, and start praying along those lines as well, the rest falls into place.

    Kristen (ByeByeBeer) and I have spoken about this: the idea that we are magically cured of our addictive tendencies is unrealistic. The sooner I practice acceptance of this fact, the more peaceful I am going to be. I can rail at myself forever about my eating habits, and at the end of the day they are still there, so time to try something new… maybe some of that ubiquitous self-care, perhaps? Who knows, but I hope you feel better knowing that you are far from alone!

    Sorry for the rambling comment!

    1. You never ramble…you always offer kind words and they never fail to make me think, improve my mood, or make me cackle.

      All of which are good for the soul…thank you so much.

      Sherry

  7. Sherry, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I resent the idea of self care when it’s all about buying treats and eating cake, as though that were going to be the way to a rich and fulfilling life, though sometimes those are things that do help. And I know I have to be well so I can be connected to others, but that does not mean I always put myself before others, because that would get shallow and self-indulgent pretty quick. I don’t think I have anything too helpful to say, just that I get how frustrating this is, and I think in part that’s because our society has such a narrow idea of self and self care. Wishing you well on this one. Thanks for starting to take apart a subject I think needs a good bit more sharp critique. I’m glad you’re starting to feel better again, and I’m glad you’re writing again. xo

  8. Fine – you’ve no doubt heard many rehab and others (we aren’t allow to check-in on my course with it) ban the use of it as it conveys nothing emotionally. At my rehab you check-in with “fine” the group would ring out “Fucked up Insecure Neurotic and Emotional” 😉 be anything but fine …

  9. Sherry, I have been following your blog and was glad to read your posts this past week or so. 2 things, the weight is a tough issue, and the feeling of spiraling down is scary. I don’t usually make recommendations until I have tried the recommendation myself, but I just started reading a book called Intuitive Eating and the message is first of all dieting doesn’t work, you have to get in touch with yourself and find the intuitive eater inside. Also, another important point is, you and everyone are great at whatever weight you are at. This is where the book becomes about self care, taking care of and listening to your inner voice. In the context of the book, it refers to eating, but it really can refer to anything; image, self esteem, confidence.
    For me self care isn’t about buying myself presents, not that presents are bad, it is about taking time to meditate, do yoga and write in my journal and of course, the occasional manicure, facial or massage. When I do those things for myself, I feel like I am on the “path”. When I don’t, I find myself falling off the path and I want to stay on the path of knowledge and self love. After many years of blocking my feelings with drinking it feels good to let the feeling bubble up, well most of the time.
    Anyway, enjoy the weekend
    Jean

    1. Jean – Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. So much of what you say here rings true for me. I’ll look for that book after I read Brene’s. I’m a firm believer in knowledge is power. Something is bound to “click” for me sooner or later.

      I am also a firm believer that diets do not work…ever. I’m trying to find my way back to the healthy human I was before menopause and my drinking spiraled out of control.

      Maybe I’m not supposed to go all the way back there – maybe I’m supposed to find a happy medium. Whatever it is – I know I can’t stay here.

      Thanks again!

      Sherry

  10. I also have two books on eating I find helpful.
    1) Life is Hard Food is Easy by Linda Spangle
    2) The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual by Julie M. Simon

    Oh, and Cheryl Richardson has a deck of cards called the Self-Care Cards. One word on the front and a short saying on the back. Kind of pithy but gives you “something for pretty” as I once saw a woman say describing a quilt pattern she was making.

    Many of us need to replace ways of making ourselves feel better; something for pretty. You could do worse than art for that.
    Judy

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