Warning: My streak of posts without any profanity has ended at one (yesterday’s).
In the last four years, I’ve read about the term ‘self-care’. It’s about taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Like eat right, drink plenty of water, get some sleep, and try not to let shit get to you too much. Yet a question comes up in response to this: why is something so good so hard for people to put into daily practice? Why would it be seen as wrong to take care of yourself?
Well, as I’m fond of saying, it’s a long story. So I’ll summarize it in a short sound-bite: for me, it’s learning how to stop beating the shit out of myself sometimes because other people have done it to me in the past for no damn good reason other than the fact they were being assholes. It’s me feeling like I have no right to be happy or even to relax and take care of myself because if so, then I’m an egotistical failure.
But I’ll tell you a bit of my story here in order to show what roadblocks are thrown up in the path of my self-care, and how to get around them.
In my twenties, I was a caregiver to my mother who was dying of cancer. Her treatments were as bad as the cancer cells rampaging through her. Her energy levels were destroyed and it was a constant battle for her just to get up and do what she could. I took on as much responsibility as I could and yes, I will freely admit I turned into a bitch at times about it. But in my defense I will say this: things had to get done. And I learned I had to take care of myself just enough to stay on my feet. Luckily I had a considerable store of fat reserves to draw on (as I still do now) so I could survive on barely eating and drinking, and function on four to six hours of sleep. I knew if I went down I would prove to the world that I was a useless piece of shit and I wouldn’t be able to help anyone, especially the person who needed my help the most, my mother. It’s not pride that kept me on feet, but need, not my needs, but the needs of others. I have no regrets with how I lived back then and what I did, and I don’t see as a sacrifice.
But the cost of that was horrible and enormous, and I’m still dealing with a few lingering effects of it. The worst thing wasn’t the physical demands made of me, but the mental and emotional isolation I endured back then. Back then, I felt like my thoughts and feelings didn’t matter to anyone, and that I had no right to express them or talk about them. I felt like I was told, ‘fuck your feelings’. I will freely admit I became a closed-off bitch who seemed cold and unemotional as hell. I got that way because I thought that was what people wanted of me, to be seen but not heard. Also, it kept people off my ass more often than not.
This is the biggest roadblock to self-care I’ve had to work through: taking care of myself mentally and emotionally. Telling myself I have a right not only to my thoughts and feelings, but the right to deal with them. If no one wants to sit down with me in person and listen to my bullshit, I can deal with that. I write about it to help others, not myself.
You have the right not just to take care of yourself physically, but to take time to sit and breathe, to ease tension from your body. You have the right to find something that makes you smile, and laugh, and feel happy. And you have the right to look at your life and see what you can do to make it better. You have the right to find your place in this world, and to find your own path.
So if someone throws a roadblock to taking care of yourself, remove it. And if they piss and moan about it, walk away without a word. I’m sure you’ll have the urge to say ‘fuck your feelings’ but that won’t accomplish anything. Instead, take care of your own feelings along with your physical needs. You may have to go it alone but that’s okay because I’m living proof that can be done.
Here’s my self-care guide in three simple sentences:
You don’t have to engage in an endless hustle of tension and bullshit.
You have the right to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
You have the right to make your life better in any way you can.
But I will also tell you:
Remember to eat before you get light-headed, stay hydrated, try to get some form of exercise if you have a job that requires you to sit on your ass all day, and try to get at least six to eight hours of sleep. And most of all, take care of your feelings and keep your mind from getting jammed up all to hell.
And if anyone says shit to you about doing anything in the above paragraph, just tell them to go to hell and fuck their feelings in the process.