“I need a self-care day. I’m gonna eat some popcorn, watch TV, maybe take a bath, and sleep all day.”
“It’s only 3pm and I have a lot to do, but I’m gonna nap. It’s been a long day and I’m taking care of myself.”
“I should be writing, but I’m gonna stay in bed. I need to take care of myself.”
I say these things to myself ALL the time. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. My good friend, who is a massage therapist, tells me to take care of myself all the time (she can feel all the knots). My therapist tells me the same. It’s usually tied into “You need to accept that you’re a human and you need to take care of yourself. It’s ok to need the time to rest and just be.” Yes, I know I’m human; I just would rather be an emotion-less one (if not a machine, I’ll take Vulcan) cause once those pesky emotions are out of the way I could get SO MUCH done! I won’t need to take a “break” after writing three lines cause a bad memory popped in my head and now all I can think about is how hurt I was/am. Instead of lying in bed and letting my brain play clip after clip of embarrassing and/or hurtful moments, I could be up at the gym, reading, and writing. I could clean my apartment, do laundry, maybe organize my jewelry so I don’t spend so much time untangling necklaces. But my body and mind are telling me that I’ve done enough and it’s time to treat myself and take a break. But sometimes, depression and anxiety lie. Sometimes, taking care of myself is getting my butt out of bed, putting on clothes (even if it’s just yoga pants and a hoodie), going to Starbucks and writing, even if it’s just a paragraph. Or, it’s getting off the couch, putting on workout clothes and going to the gym, or getting on my bike at home. It can mean working out for 1.5 hours or 25 minutes; it doesn’t matter as long as it’s done. Sometimes self-care is NOT calling in sick or cancelling class, but showering and going to work. A lot of days, nothing sounds better than staying in bed, sleeping and reading on and off. But that’s not living. That’s giving in. This isn’t to say that depression and anxiety are lying to me all the time; there are definitely days when even if I go to Starbucks to work I don’t make it more than 20 minutes without my heart rate going up or my palms getting sweaty or feeling the tears coming. There are times when I come home and I am just exhausted and an hour nap is what I need before I can do anything else.
I don’t think it’s a problem that we’re becoming a culture obsessed with self-care. Most of the time, we aren’t taking care of ourselves or think that by working ourselves to the point of exhausting IS taking care of ourselves. I just think that for people with mental illness we need to figure out truth from the lies, which is definitely not easy. It wasn’t until my therapist told me that depression can lie did I think back and realize that, yes, it does. I’m trying to become more in-tune with my depression and anxiety to figure out when it’s telling the truth and when it’s not. It’s not easy and, let me tell ya, my bed is really comfortable.