As I sit here writing this, I find myself thrown right back into the darkness of my daughter’s eating disorder. I would attend support groups that would suggest how self care is so important during this time. I was like, “yeah, sure, I barely have time to shower and you want me to do self care?”. I’m sure many of you can relate to thinking this yourself as every waking moment is spent feeding, monitoring, watching, and losing all sense of self in order to keep your loved one alive.
The typical ideas about self care always came up and if I heard one more person suggest I take a bubble bath I thought I would scream. Putting self care into such trite categories always seemed to me to negate the importance of the true meaning of it. Bubble baths and walks are great but honestly, those just seemed like a normal part of life to me and didn’t really feel like I was doing something to take care of myself. You see, I always thought of self care as something much more important and something that can’t be pegged into any particular action. Self care was more of a mind set for me – how can I protect my own sanity while supporting a loved one through the darkest days of the disorder? I was in survival mode, and if I made it through a day without breaking down, I considered I had protected my own mental health enough to call it a win. For some reading or other activities do help replenish the empty tea cup, so to speak. For me, getting dressed was a chore some days and having to fit taking care of myself somewhere in there only seemed like another task I had to complete.
Give me a bed and someone to watch my child so I could sleep without worrying about self harm, now that is what I’m talking about. I always thought there was so much pressure and responsibility placed on me that I needed a break from that, not something more to cram into my schedule during which time I was constantly worried about whether I removed the pencil sharpeners and locked up the medications to enjoy myself. For clarification, pencil sharpeners are one of the most commonly used tools for self harm as they are easy to get. I never understood why she couldn’t have one in the hospital until I saw the broken down one in her room and blood on her sheets.
Self care became more of a living in a place where I didn’t beat myself up for things I may or may not have done. For letting things go that I otherwise wouldn’t have, like the laundry. And yes, I think I binge-watched every Netflix show around to numb my brain. That isn’t always healthy but that’s where I was at the time and I’ve come to accept that that was my self care.
I guess at the end of the day self care is important, but I believe we really need to stop telling people to take care of themselves. Like, don’t you think they already know that and are struggling just to survive? Find what you can realistically do and be kind to yourself and don’t let someone dictate to you what that looks like. And if after reading this, you have some fantastic ideas for self care, please comment below. xo