I am not an authority on self-care. How do I know this?
Well, for one, for a long time my definition of “self-care” was probably the buzzword definition you’re familiar with. It used to be my excuse to lock myself inside my room for daysto watch obscene amounts of anime and episodes of Ghost Adventures. It’s been my ticket to skip work for the 3rdtime in a month because I was “sick...” again. It’s the little voice in my head that tells me to buy that bag of face-masks at Target instead of groceries that I actually need. “Self-care” used to be my easy way out, and would leave me feeling guilty, broke, and angry at myself.
Today I know that I am not an authority on self-care because one week ago, I crashed.
Well... not technically… But I wanted to. You know those days that you have when you just want to crash your car, so you don’t actually die, but you have to take off work for a few months and you just get an excuse to sit around and have nobody expect anything from you because you’re suddenly victim of a seemingly random accident?
Untiiiiiil you remember that you would have to pay for the car, have responsibilities, can’t take pain medication for any bones that might break, and are too chicken to do that anyway. But you’d still be down for the trauma… because it would mean that you had an excuse to give up.
If you haven’t been there, then that probably sounded crazy… But just because most people are afraid to admit it, this podcast is REAL, and the reality is, that yeah, it was one of those days.
So this is an emergency podcast topic, as much for me as it is for you, because if I don’t get some self-care stuff down, I’m afraid of the consequences.
That bug that has labeled itself incorrectly as “self-care”- is loud today and it’s telling me to run, to numb, and to escape.
So, screw that.
Because, despite not being an authority on the topic, I have picked up a few things about self-care along the way. Mostly what self-care is not. That’s as good of a place to start as any.
Self-care is not:
3. Excessive indulgence (yes, I’m talking to you dairy-free ice cream gallon in my freezer right now)
4. An excuse to not do the hard stuff
5. Something I’m going to regret later (like spending money on something I can’t actually afford- speaking of I really need to unsubscribe from kraken dice’s email list...)
6. It’s not a cop out
7. An easy thing to master
But that’s about all I’ve got.
So, I decided to do some research on the topic and I’m here to let you know what I found.
The first question I asked was, where did the term “self-care” even come from?
Well, it turns out that the notion of self-care goes all the way back to the ancient Greece and Socrates.
The ancient Greeks viewed self-care and self-awareness as interdependent. To care for oneself, was to know oneself, and to do this, was the making of someone who was able to be honest and truly care for others.
“Self-care” was even a driving force in political activism for people of color who started speaking out about the importance of taking care of oneself when the government often denied their health and medical needs. It was adopted by women activist groups, women like activist and poet Audre Lorde who famously wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
I’m just barely scratching the surface here, but if you’re like me, you might be wondering, “How the heck did we get from that to self-care as intricate nail-painting, Harry Potter memes, and alone time watching TV sitting on Pinterest?”
A quick search on Instagram reveals that self-care can look like anything from puppies sleeping in beds, to buying scarves that wrap around your ponytail.
But since I don’t Instagram as an authority for anything, and neither should you, I decided to ask my amazing wonderful therapist what’s the deal with self-care.
We talked for a while, but here are the main takeaways:
Self-care is the answer to “what do I need right now?” Knowing what you need means being self-aware. Your body and your heart normally know what you need, even if you’re having trouble figuring it out. For example, if I’m overwhelmed by emotion and can’t tap into that question, sometimes I need a healthy distraction. If I’m having trouble making a decision, I may need time away from the question and really invest in my priorities, like my recovery and my family, to get things in line again. If I’m feeling run down or feel like it’s not worth it to go on, I may need to be around people that remind me who I am, or do something that reminds me the wonderful worthwhile things about life. If I’m struggling with depression, self-care can look like getting up and taking a shower that day. It’s not the glamorized consumer market scheme that I was familiar with, thank God.
My therapist also pointed out another good question to ask ourselves when thinking about self-care and that’s, “what’s missing?” Have I been lying around and breaking commitments to myself and can’t seem to figure out why I’m feeling so low? Then maybe what’s missing is structured productive time, making steps towards one of my dreams, or even a run around the neighborhood. Am I feeling run down? Maybe what’s missing is a full-nights rest every night (or maybe 5 out of 7 nights of the week). Am I feeling lonely? No, self-care does not mean a spa day alone in my room. If I’m lonely then what’s missing is genuine connection and maybe, it’s time to be brave and go hang out with some of Recover girl friends or my family.
The kind of unfortunate part about self-care is that it looks different for everyone, and we don’t always know what we need. Knowing ourselves takes practice. It’s going to be a process of trial and error, but the more we practice, the more we get to know ourselves, and the better we’ll get at it.
Self-care isn’t the answer to “what do I want right now.” By owning our intentions, we can really learn to love and know ourselves and answer honestly “what do I need right now.”
Ultimately- here’s my take on self-care. Self-care is anything that refills my tank. That’s going to look different for me than it does for you. For me, watching a show while distractedly on my phone doesn’t cut it. Doing school work while checking my work email every 20 minutes and trying to listen to a self-help book at the same time. Nope.
In an interview with the New York Times, Yashna Padamsee of the National Domestic Workers Alliance said that it is important to ask ourselves if our acts of self-care are “for all of our lives, not just ours.”
Planting flowers, taking a bath, dancing alone in my room the 1975 (even if it’s the song “I always wanna die sometimes,”) going to church in the morning, writing a post for my podcast, watching old family movies with Mom, playing DnD with my friends, snuggling up with my sister to watch Stranger Things while she holds my hand, going for a run so I’m energized for the rest of the day…
Self-care looks like putting the pressure to perform away, so that I can be totally present to myself and really live a life worth living. That cuts it.
So! I’m not giving us permission to give up. Nope. Sorry. Not Sorry. Even if we were to wreck our cars tomorrow and break every bone in our bodies, even we were diagnosed with cancer like my baby cousin Beau, even if our world crumbles down around us, we don’t have permission to give up. We’ve made it through tougher things than this.
Together, we will fight for the joy. We will schedule in time for ourselves and our health so that instead of needing a one week vacation break at the mental hospital (no judgement, I’ve been there girl), we can break that time up and spend one hour every day, or more, or less, taking care of ourselves and make it to that nice vacation to the beach this summer.
A Recover Girl is a force in the world. So, take care of yourself. You are worth investing in.