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.
“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?
“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?
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.