Nat’s Bad at Self Care…But Keeps Trying Anyway
Self care, while important and helpful to my physical and mental well-being, is not something that comes easily to me. Fortunately, as I find myself frequently reminding myself, self care isn’t a one-time win or lose activity. I don’t have to get it right all the time.
I come from the prestigious university of “Suck It Up and Deal.” When I was a kid, if I sprained my ankle I was encouraged to walk it off. If I didn’t have a fever, I was usually sent to school. (I still feel guilty for taking sick days from work unless I am so violently ill there’s no way for me to function.)
It’s not that my parents weren’t concerned about my health. I definitely recall trips to the doctor; there was just a high bar to meet in terms of suffering before those trips were made. It conveyed a message that became ingrained in me: shake it off unless you absolutely can’t function.
The messages I received about how to deal with my physical health shaped how I deal with mental health, which was not really addressed at all when I was growing up. When I feel sad, there’s a little voice in my head still telling me to stop being ridiculous and to power through. It tells me that I’m lucky, because other people have it worse than me.
That’s pretty much what I’ve done for the vast majority of my life. When things get hard, physically or mentally, I push through. That isn’t always bad thing. At times, it’s served me quite well—but, as I’ve discovered in the last few years, it does come at a cost.
By listening to the “suck it up” voice, I’ve ignored the one saying, “this hurts, you’re in pain, you’re suffering.” After years of not listening to the latter, I’ve found myself dealing with a lot of unresolved anger, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. It’s also made it harder to for me to see and accept myself for who I am. (I have an image in my head of who I’m supposed to be, and that’s not who I actually am. I’m still struggling to unravel the two.)
Having come to the understanding the “suck it up and deal” model wasn’t sustainable for my well being, I’ve been working on self care. This has been a challenge, to say the least. And, as I said at the start, I still don’t always get it right. Instead of taking a moment to show myself compassion when I make a mistake, I still berate myself; instead of leaving work when I have a migraine, I wait it out for as long as I can.
However, when I do remember to take a moment, to breathe and put what I’ve learned into action, it does help. Taking the time to stop the brutal criticism of myself eases some of my suffering. (For example, taking a night off from kung fu because I’m just too damn tired to go, and I need sleep, helps me feel better the next day.) Practicing self-care doesn’t make me weak or lazy. It just means I’m doing what I need to do to feel better.
So, the takeaway, if there is one: keep working on the self care, even if it’s not always easy. At the end of the day, you’re the only one who knows what you need, and you’re worth taking care of.